To get to the other end of Gambia and then back into Senegal we need to cross the river by ferry, we arrive at the ferry spot along with what seems like another hundred or so trucks, buses and cars all lined up for many kilometres waiting to board the ferry to cross. It's a pretty lively place with the streets lined with shop after shop doing quite a good trade as are the street sellers who are wandering through the crowds selling Nescafé, thongs, beanies etc. we are fortunate enough to be bumped up the line a bit given we are tourists and need to get to the Senegalese border. Lucky we are bumped up the line as we are still in the queue for five hours, whilst there is lots to keep us occupied especially people watching and watching what comes off the ferry, at one stage there is both a giant herd of donkeys and immediately following a large herd of cattle, 5 hours in 45 degree heat is definitely a different version of fun and a good reminder of African time. For all that wait it's a very short river crossing and only a short drive across into Senegal, this time we get through the border easily and quickly now that our paperwork is sorted.
An overnight stop about 40km from Dakar, camping at a hotel overlooking the ocean and with a really refreshing and large pool is a nice way to end this leg of the trip from Freetown to Dakar, we head into Dakar using a really modern multi lined highway (you don't see that every day in Africa) where everyone who joined in Freetown and quite a few who have been travelling from Accra also get off, we are joined by a few new passengers travelling the last 4 weeks from Dakar to Marrakech.
We arrive into Dakar on Easter Sunday and even though it is predominantly Muslim they still recognise Easter and also have a long weekend, so when we get there it is awfully quiet, the difference between when we arrive and Tuesday when everything opens again is like being in two different cities, I do manage to celebrate Easter Sunday with a pizza and. Ferrero Rocher, clearly the Easter bunny doesn't travel this far.
Dakar is a bustling modern and clean African city with some really nice coastal views and a good range of both local and international restaurants, it's easy to walk around with the only 'hassle' being local lads coming up and saying they know you from Liberia, Gambia etc or sellers trying to lead you into the market but generally a polite 'no messieur' is enough for them to wander away. Dakar has managed to retain a lot of its colonial architecture but in a modern setting so as you roam around it really feels a bit in African like until you go around the next corner where the street sellers are peddling random household goods or you see yet another little Nescafé cart to get your caffeine fix.
We stay around the corner from Independence Square, which isn't anything to special just a patch of grassed area in an otherwise fairly concrete city, in fact I didn't even realise that is what it was until I took a guided walk of the city, the guide books make it sound a bit more interesting.
Dakar has a lot of graffiti along it's public walls it's not an offence here and actually seems to be encouraged as a form of art so some of it is really quite well done, particularly along the outside of the jail the graffiti or murals along the walls add a really good splash of colour against a pretty grim building (as you'd expect). The guide we get to take us around the city is an African-American Senegalese woman who took a holiday here back in the late 90s and loved it so much she packed up her life and kids and moved to Senegal, her knowledge of the place is really good and she even took us in to have a look at her home so we could see what a typical middle class Senegalese apartment looks like, for those who are wondering it's really not different to ours except her outdoor pergola area is covered in mosquito netting.
We visit a lot of the local artisans plying their trade, turning recycled scrap into works of art seems to be big business whether it's converting old soft drink or beer cans into useful items or turning old wood, broken computers into abstract art.
One of the things that does surprise me about Dakar is the number of fitness fanatics (I only missed the Dakar marathon by a day), along the beach there are hundreds upon hundreds of exercise equipment and as the sun sets the beach is packed with hundreds of Senegalese going about their fitness regime, quite unusual to see this in any part of Africa. The other is the free accommodation provided to teachers which means many end up using their wages to buy lots of property or some even open up their own private schools.
Just outside the city is the African renaissance monument a 49m high bronze statue to commemorate 50 years of independence it's right up on the hill providing stunning views across Dakar and the Atlantic Ocean, it's apparently the 15th largest in the world, it also is another place for runners to get their hill workout in.
As we leave Dakar behind and head further north it gets a lit drier and we even sly our first camels. We stop in Touba a very strict Islam town with no drinking or smoking allowed within its boundaries. We wrap ourselves in several sarongs ensuring us ladies are fully covered from top to toe to visit their mosque, which they've been constantly renovating since 1927 they are now in the process of not only making it more ornate but adding another 2 minuets they are a bit disappointed they can't add any more else they'll have more than Mecca. It's the largest mosque in West Africa and well worth the visit.
St Louis, a small fishing village on an island in the Senegal river is our last stop in Senegal. St Louis has a bit of 'old world' charm to it with horse and carts roaming the streets, hauling fish, carting locals or taking tourists like us on a tour of the old town. The streets are lined with older men sitting in small groups on the side of the road chatting and watching the world go by, washing hanging from the old crumbling colonial homes and goats, so many goats roaming around the streets and of course the colourful pirogues with the men either casting our their nets or bringing in their catches for the day to be loaded up and taken abroad. It's a great little spot to wander around and a really perfect way to end our time in Senegal and West Africa.