Monday, March 17, 2014


The border-crossing to Senegal was easy. Border police, normal police and customs. Everybody was holding their hands open and asking for an administration fee. They were pretty sharp with that thus not asking for a gift, but seriously demanding the payment without receipt. First I was very unwilling to pay and then I demanded a receipt. No luck. Then it was time to get our carnets stamped and I went to customs office. 

The guy in the jogging outfit wanted to have a small-talk and too bad that I was too tired and in no mood for small-talk as it turned out that this guy was the boss, not the guy in the uniform! Inside the office the boss had “no competence” to stamp our carnets. Instead we got "passavants" and needed to be within five days in Dakar to get our carnets stamped. Damn! The whole crossing costed us 35 EUR/bike and we bought a 6 month insurance (brown card) for 90 EUR/bike (would have been cheaper in St. Louis).

We entered Senegal and smooth asphalt road was waiting for us. What a delight! Shortly after the border we had a small break. There was a lake! There were trees with green leaves. It looked first like a paradise and we took a deep breath. The joyful moment did not last too long. A closer look at the place revealed trash everywhere and we became really doubtful about what all was there in the water.

Goats came to feast on our banana left-overs and Skippy had to made them clear they needed to wait until we were gone :)

We went to 7palava camping place near St. Louis. The place is rather isolated and a good place if you seek some solitude. Lucky for us we were the only guests besides one other German guy – Alexander who planned to ride his bicycle to South Africa.

My flu entered the next stage and I got really sick. During the day the temperature rose to +38C in shade and the meter in the sun was +55C at its maximum. In this heat I could not do much of anything. Going shopping was consuming all my energy. We needed to find a solution on what to do with the carnets.

The ocean conquered the land, one other camping place and the rest what was there.
Cool birds.
Skippy - relaxing with a view :)
Wildlife at the camping place.
Skippy loves birds!
First things first. On Sunday I was feeling better and I used my energy to check the needle bearings of the rear swing and the axle drive. When I changed the rear shock in Mauritania, I realized they had some tolerance. Sven (the owner of the camping place) gave me a hand and borrowed his hot air pistol (as it would have not been hot enough already) and I got those bearings adjusted. One issue less to worry about.

Obviously some people before us had the same problem with the carnets and they applied for some extension in St. Louis and got it. We could only do that on Monday with the risk that they denied the extension and then we would be in a hurry to ride to Dakar. Since I felt a bit better on Sunday evening, we decided to move on. I found a hotel at Lac Rose some 35 km outside of Dakar. Hotels in Dakar were too expensive and as I told earlier camping and leaving dogs alone in the tent during those hot days was not an option!

The road was quite ok. Plenty of small villages with even more speed bumps. We arrived at the hotel, checked-in and I continued instantly to the customs office in Dakar. I found it easily and started my next round of paper hassling.

Hotel Tool Bi and somewhere here is the Finish line of the old Paris-Dakar rally.
Some sweet girl came to me and asked me for my papers so she can take care of it. Of course another agent and there will be a fee attached to it. I thought how much can it be and I started mentally to prepare for bargaining already. I followed her on each step she did there and we ran from one office to the next until one hour later I had the carnets stamped.

I told her thank you very much, have a nice day and went to my bike. I was just about to put my helmet on when she came and said that this service costs ;) I played innocent and shared my impression that this service was for free to help the poor officers in the customs and not have to deal with the tourists ;) Ok, it did not work. We settled for 8 EUR – half of what she asked originally. She was happy and me too.

For all who need their carnet stamped in Dakar, here is a hint. Enter the customs building, go to the second corridor on the same level (15m), turn right and after some 20m right again. There you will find some kind of inner yard/waiting area. There I got our carnets stamped. Everything before this is just checking and checking the checking the checking and so on ... you get the picture (with another fiche i.e., paper called “Fiche de circulation”). Good luck!

After that experience I returned to the hotel and fell dead tired to bed. Later on I learned that just in front of our hotel was the Finish-line of the famous rally Paris-Dakar. Yeah we made it !!! :D That explained also why there were soooo many hotels in that area and why almost all of them looked like ghost hotels.

From Wikipedia: “Lake Retba or Lac Rose (meaning Pink lake) lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, north east of Dakar., in northwest Africa.

It is so named for its pink waters, caused by Dunaliella salina algae in the water that produce a red pigment that uses sunlight to create more energy, turning the waters pink. The color is particularly visible during the dry season. The lake is also known for its high salt content, which, like that of the Dead Sea, allows people to float easily. The lake also has a small salt collecting industry and was often the finishing point of the Dakar Rally, before it moved to South America in 2009.

The horror with the trash continued for us. It was everywhere in the surroundings and it was not possible to ignore the trash. What kept us somewhat going was the fact that we got fresh and delicious fruits. I was still pretty sick and we extended our stay for a few days until I felt ok again. Those rides to Dakar downtown in this heat, dust and smog were certainly not helping the healing process. We were wondering how the locals can live in this environment. Apparently it does not bother them a bit. How beautiful those countries would be with some waste management in place!

On one of those rides to the city I saw suddenly bright lights behind me and was wondering who local can afford such bright lights? Well, it was a guy from the UK on his way back to the hotel. I waved hello and continued. I was dead tired, could barely breath and swallow after all that smog. The next day he came to our hotel searching for us (he was faster then me ;) ), we had a good chat and I agreed to visit the gang the following afternoon. Those guys (2 Brits and 2 Italians) had a funny story of finding each other on the way to South Africa. Have a good ride and safe travel. Maybe we meet again on the way down.
Rode and found each other.
Two Italians on one bike on their way to South Africa.
One of the other amazing thing in Senegal were plenty of beautiful ladies in even more stunning outfits. For us western people, those dresses would clearly belong to the either party or special occasion category.

And then I decided to have a walk with the camera in the neighborhood.
Just outside the hotel, the first sales girl Aua(?) approached me...
followed by Aisha.

Vultures at Lac Rose.
Strange foam - natural or pollution?
Kids are having fun.
Spooky hawks and we were worried about our little girls.
Skippy and me discussed where to go next. Originally (very very first plans) we wanted to go to Mali and Burkina Faso but changed that plan due to the civil war activities in Mali. Instead we wanted to go through Guinea and Ivory Coast. Now when it was time to get the visa and we had a closer look at the map, we realized that long passages of the major roads would be gravel roads (meaning we would share the dust with all those trucks) and the no-mans-land between Guinea and Ivory Coast was to our knowledge some 20 km long (Morocco-Mauritania was still fresh in our memories). The level of corruption was supposed to be higher in Guinea compared to Senegal and even higher in Ivory Coast.

On the other hand other travelers went to Mali and the corruption level should be lower compared to Senegal. Other travelers reported that Burkina Faso would be one of the hidden jewels in Africa. We changed our plans and we took a visa to Mali and if that would work out fine, we would continue to BF.

We left Lac Rose and for some reason the traffic during the first kilometers felt really bad and costed us a lot of nerves. We had barely moved and I was already done to call it a day. Somewhat later the street opened up and we rode the N3 (missed the turn to the N1 due to this traffic) to Kaolack to find an accommodation. The first one was fully booked, the second did not take dogs and finally we ended up in the Maison des Œuvres – a missionary station. Well, it did the job, the bikes were parked safely and we got some rest.

The next morning was again attraction day. After we bought some fruit we went to the filling station and became the attraction. It was one of the “worst” human crowds I had experienced so far! All five of us were so happy to get out of there. This was most likely the closest encounter to how zoo animals must feel like!

Nightmare for us - we could hardly breath not even thinking of moving!
The road to Tambacounda was full of potholes and this mandatory slaloming brought a little bit of distraction of the otherwise monotonous road. Well either that or tiny tiny gravel trails. After some search we found an auberge for a decent price. Good enough for one night. The Niakolo National Park was on our explorer list. We rode the 70 km asphalt & pothole road to the only hotel my GPS could identify. Well, the hotel was there, it looked nice and peaceful but the price was ridiculously high. Either we took a double room or camping with mandatory dinner, so either way the costs would have been nearly the same! We turned back, rode via Tambacounda and Bala to Kidira at the Senegal-Mali border.
Baobab tree and bus stop.
When one stops at a bus stop people will come and look at you.
Break with privacy - that's the way we prefer it.
Stunning baobab trees.
The road was a disaster and required regularly full breaks to avoid potholes. The city announced itself by the endless queue of trucks on both sides of the street sometimes only leaving one driving left lane to squeeze through. The city was shitty as hell and it took us some time to find the only hotel in town.

Shitty ways at Kidira market.
Just outside the hotel.
TV and electronics disposal - the Senegal way.
Many houses in the state of "building in progress and forgotten"
We were really exhausted and stayed there for two nights to get some rest and recharge our batteries. The first night was again without mosquito net and thus we did not get much sleep. Skippy suffered a lot from this. Fresh and different blood is always better then the old known one ;) After we finally got a net for the following night we got some sleep between the moments when the disco music stopped and the muezzin was calling in the morning. And then off to Mali.

Skippy made this time two travelogues. Enjoy number nine and ten.

~ Wolfi


  1. Yksi vinkki tuohon kodintunnun kaipuuseen: monet ystäväni ovat käyttäneet WWOOF eli World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms -palvelua. Ehkä tiedättekin sen jo. Siinä saa asustaa jollain farmin tyyppisellä paikalla ja työpanosta vastaan saa asunnon&ruuan. Googlaamalla löytyy.. Eikä ne aina ole mitään farmeja kai vaan hyvin erilaisia hommia saa sitä kautta. Esim. Ähtärin ekoyhteisössä asuessani siellä oli aina joku tota kautta tullut tyyppi hääräämässä keittiössä :)

    1. Hei, kiitos paljon vinkistä! Jostain tuommosesta oonkin haaveillu jo vuosia! Tutkin asiaa ja toivottavasti löytyy jotain mielenkiintoista ja saan Wolfinkin innostuun... :D