Dakar to Banjul via a scary sea voyage

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Sandy piste on our way to Dakar. The only thing that improves dragging a loaded bike through sand is being chased by hordes of screaming children.

We took a small detour to the tourist spot Lake Rebta or Lac Rose, a super salty pink lake, where we had a good time floating around (impossible to sink!) while people tried to sell us things.

We took a small detour to the tourist spot Lake Rebta or Lac Rose, a super salty pink lake, where we had a good time floating around (impossible to sink!) while people tried to sell us things.

We reached Dakar, where this tiny bar became our haunt. For Edinburgh people, this  place is the equivalent of Burlington Berties!

We reached Dakar, where this tiny bar became our haunt. For Edinburgh people, this place is the equivalent of Burlington Berties!

Cycled out to see the statue of the African Renaissance, controversially expensive and strangely communist-style.

The statue of the African Renaissance, controversially expensive and strangely communist-style.

Black kites circling over downtown Dakar in the early evening.

Black kites circling over downtown Dakar in the early evening.

Senegalese public transport!

Senegalese public transport!

The village of Toubab Dialaw where we had a nice swim after a particularly hot and sweaty day.

The village of Toubab Dialaw where we had a nice swim after a particularly hot and sweaty day.

Flower strewn steps to Pomeguine beach.

Flower strewn steps to Pomeguine beach.

Baobabs at dusk!

Baobabs at dusk!

We cycled through a strange landscape of baobabs and very tall coconut palms like lampposts.

We cycled through a strange landscape of baobabs and very tall coconut palms like lampposts.

The largest baobab in Senegal! It wasn't particularly tall, but is as thick as a small house at 32m in circumference. It's apparently 850 years old. An enthusiastic man beckoned us round the side to an improbably small hole and helped Zak climb inside. Dark and cool, with the shrill squeaking of agitated bats clustered in a furry mass on the ceiling and flitting about my head. The floor was thick with bat shit, crawling and heaving with unidentified creepy crawlies.

The largest baobab in Senegal! Not particularly tall, but as thick as a small house at 32m in circumference. It’s apparently 850 years old. An enthusiastic man beckoned us round the side to an improbably small hole and helped Zak climb inside. Dark and cool, with the shrill squeaking of agitated bats clustered in a furry mass on the ceiling and flitting about my head. The floor was thick with bat shit, crawling and heaving with unidentified creepy crawlies.

The road to Palmarin.

The road to Palmarin.

Bike under blossoms...

A baobab fruit

A baobab fruit

The inside of a baobab fruit. The seeds are encased in chalky white stuff which tastes a bit lemony.

The inside of a baobab fruit. The seeds are encased in chalky white stuff which tastes a bit lemony.

Nice camp spot near the village of Palmarin.

Nice camp spot near the village of Palmarin.

We're in mangrove country.

We’re in mangrove country.

We decided to get a boat across the Saloum delta to Banjul, The Gambia - but first we had to find a boat in the small, bustling fishing village of Djiffer. We bumbled around confusedly for a bit, attracting hoards of snotty faced kids who attached themselves to our legs. Eventualy we found a guy, who in broken Franglish told us that we could, maybe, get a boat to a village across the water and then go direct to Banjul tomorrow. We bought some supplies and hurried to the shore to await our vessel.

We decided to get a boat across the Saloum delta to Banjul, The Gambia – but first we had to find a boat in the small, bustling fishing village of Djiffer. We bumbled around confusedly for a bit, attracting hoards of snotty faced kids who attached themselves to our legs. Eventualy we found a guy, who in broken Franglish told us that we could, maybe, get a boat to a village across the water and then go direct to Banjul tomorrow. We bought some supplies and hurried to the shore to await our vessel.

A DOUBLE BANANA! Noone else seemed very impressed though

A DOUBLE BANANA! Noone else seemed very impressed though

Dawn as we left the pretty fishing village of Dioneware for our terrifying voyage Banjul. After a 6am start with the first call to prayer we packed up hurriedly and followed our host through the dark streets. The tide was out. We waited and watched lights in the distance, made a coffee on the stove, and vaguely worried about what was going on. At last it was apparently time and we set off, pushing our loaded bikes into the river mouth bed, still in the dark. Sand turned to mud, mud to deeper mud, until the bikes dug deeply and pushing barefoot in the slippery quagmire was exhausting. Finally we reached firmer sand, and a few other people with luggage and children awaiting the voyage - a relief! Our pirogue lay on its side in the water ahead of us, with the crew bailing water out while the boat slowly righted itself. Sunrise was beautiful as we navigated the shallows. A man back on shore waved, and we waited as he waded across the  bay and clambered in with a huge gas canister. We taxied out of the estuary and the crew hoisted a large, battered sail. Initial enthusiasm wavered as we hit increasingly hairy seas, our low boat tossed about by huge waves thrown up by the meeting of river and sea.

Dawn as we left the pretty fishing village of Dioneware for our terrifying voyage to Banjul.
After a 6am start with the first call to prayer we packed up hurriedly and followed our host through the dark streets. The tide was out. We waited and watched lights in the distance, made a coffee on the stove, and vaguely worried about what was going on. At last it was apparently time and we set off, pushing our loaded bikes into the river mouth bed, still in the dark. Sand turned to mud, mud to deeper mud, until the bikes dug deeply and pushing barefoot in the slippery quagmire was exhausting. Finally we reached firmer sand, and a few other people with luggage and children awaiting the voyage – a relief! Our pirogue lay on its side in the water ahead of us, with the crew bailing water out while the boat slowly righted itself. Sunrise was beautiful as we navigated the shallows. A man back on shore waved, and we waited as he waded across the bay and clambered in with an enormous gas canister. We taxied out of the estuary and the crew hoisted a large, battered sail. Initial enthusiasm wavered as we hit increasingly hairy seas, our low boat tossed about by huge waves thrown up by the meeting of river and sea.

The bikes safely stowed for our voyage.

The bikes safely stowed for our voyage.

Finally the sail was furled as we approached Banjul and The Gambia.

Finally the sail was furled as we approached Banjul and The Gambia.

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Senegal!

We finally left the desert and found ourselves in West Africa. A couple of days wandering St Louis du Senegal provided a welcome conclusion to sandy cycling, with crumbling French buildings covered by cascades of flowers, and refreshingly cold and cheap beers! We then kept up a new found trend of cycling a relaxing 20km a day instead of 100+ and spent a few days camping near the Langue de Barbarie national park.

The fishing fleet at Guet Ndar, St Louis du Senegal.

The fishing fleet at Guet Ndar, St Louis du Senegal.

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The view of the old town from the Faidherbe bridge, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel and somehow shipped to St Louis during French colonial times.

The view of the old town from the Faidherbe bridge, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel and somehow shipped to St Louis during French colonial times.

If you ever wondered where discarded charity shop clothes end up... It was difficult to leave this cavernous shed of wonders without an entire new wardrobe.

If you ever wondered where discarded charity shop clothes end up… It was difficult to leave this cavernous shed of wonders without an entire new wardrobe.

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Back in the land of beer!

Back in the land of beer!

The other side of the bridge

The other side of the bridge

Cat in a bowl!

Cat in a bowl!

Crazy toucan thing! (Yet to find out what this is...)

Red billed hornbill

Nice camping spot.

Nice camping spot.

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Canoeing around the Langue de Barbarie natural park.

Canoeing around the Langue de Barbarie natural park.

A European roller.

A European roller.

This monkey honestly stole one of our bananas.

This monkey honestly stole one of our bananas.

Trans-Saharan Puppy Special

We left Dakhla, Western Sahara, and headed south down the desert highway into Mauritania. By now the continual buffeting from strong winds and penetrating sand was getting to us, and we began to yearn for some greenery.

On the way we met lots of puppies.

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The steeds looking resplendent as we left Dakhla.

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A brief windy stopoff and some awkward posing for a selfie at the Tropic of Cancer!

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puppyspecial

Petrol station pups – how many can snuggle in a bucket?

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Oh just one more…

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Lichen on gemstones yo

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Domestic bliss.

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We found paradise in Mauritania. Also home of the largest and tastiest grilled fish of the trip so far.

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Nothing like (another) sleepy puppy for some good R&R

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Naww

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Diawling National Park, Mauritania. The bumpy track made for slow progress, but with just 40km to the Senegal border where we planned to spend the night and an incredible array of wetland birds, we were happy to dawdle.

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Warthog!

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Senegal coucal

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Yellow-crowned gonolek

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Lunch, more puppy love…

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The piste to Senegal

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Border puppies at Diama…

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and just one more to sign off…