Gettin’ dusty in south-east Senegal / bicycle disaster!

Heading eastward from the tropical coast of Casamance, the temperature rose sharply and we found ourselves completely filthy at the end of each day – mainly thanks to the huge road construction project ongoing all along our route. Luckily we found that local villagers are more than happy to provide bucket showers from their wells, for which we could never express enough thanks (or communicate in general). We have rendezvoused with a fellow British cyclist, Mike, and cycled together for this leg of the journey.

Our route eastward from Casamance was almost entirely like this.

Our route eastward from Casamance was almost entirely like this.

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Most of the bikes here have what must be over 100 spokes on the back wheel, presumably because people carry ridiculous amounts of stuff on them. (For non bike nerdz our bikes have 36 spokes...)

Most of the bikes here have what must be over 100 spokes on the back wheel, presumably because people carry ridiculous amounts of stuff on them. (For non bike nerdz our bikes have 36 spokes…)

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A large papaya.

A large papaya.

Termite mounds are everywhere.

Termite mounds are everywhere.

Crazy African flower!

Crazy African flower!

Hippos in the river Gambie!

Hippos in the river Gambie!

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We crossed the monkey filled Nikolo Koba national park. Didn't take any pictures as we were too busy frantically slapping at hoards of biting horseflies. We left the park into the foothills of the BLAH in south-eastern Senegal, our first hills since Morocco.

We crossed the monkey filled Nikolo Koba national park. Didn’t take any pictures as we were too busy frantically slapping at hoards of biting horseflies. We left the park into the foothills of the Fouta Djalon in south-eastern Senegal, our first hills since Morocco.

Disaster struck as we left the national park. Alice's rear derailleur got snagged in her back wheel - perhaps it got knocked on one our many recent boat voyages. We took it off and shortened the chain to crawl single speed to the next town. The derailleur looked terrible, and the frame was badly bent. Convinced it was a write-off , we set to work straightening bits of metal with hammers of various sizes, and thanks to the efforts of two Senegalese mechanics the derrailleur was forced back onto the frame. It looks awfully wonky, but somehow it works! (Sadly we didn't take any pictures of this endeavour, but it was quite a sight)

Disaster struck as we left the national park. Alice’s rear derailleur got snagged in her back wheel – perhaps it got knocked on one our many recent boat voyages. We took it off and shortened the chain to crawl single speed to the next town to assess the damage. The derailleur looked terrible, and the frame was badly bent. Convinced it was a write-off, we set to work straightening bits of metal with hammers of various sizes, and thanks to the efforts of two Senegalese mechanics with pliers, a length of wire, and of course more hammers, the derrailleur was forced back onto the frame. It looks awfully wonky, but somehow it works! (Sadly we didn’t take any pictures of this endeavour, but it was quite a sight)

A few posts back we gave you double banana...  now behold, bum tomato!

A few posts back we gave you double banana…
                                      now behold, bum tomato!

Purple glossy starlings.

Purple glossy starlings.

We have joined with another cycle adventurer, Mike.

The bodged derailleur repair thankfully seems to be holding as we take a detour up to some waterfalls in the hills close to Senegal’s mountainous border with Guinea .

A lovely cold swim at the Dendefelo waterfalls.

A lovely cold swim at the Dindefelo waterfalls.

Our detour to the falls took us close to the mountainous border with Guinea.

Khar... what used to be a tiny village has ballooned to a shanty town of over 50,000 people attracted by a gold rush in full swing on the Senegal-Mali border. One health shack,  one water source and lots of shops selling spades.

Kharkhena. What used to be a tiny village has ballooned to a shanty town of over 50,000 people attracted by a gold rush in full swing on the Senegal-Mali border. One health shack, one water source and lots of shops selling spades.

Dust covered miners on their way home.

Dust covered miners on their way home.

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Basse Casamance: trapped in a tropical paradise

The tiny dug out canoe from The Gambia dropped us on a small beach amongst some mangroves. Heading for the small town of Abene, we heaved the bikes down hot sandy paths under the blazing afternoon sun. This became a running theme of our time in the beautiful Basse Casamance region of Senegal.

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Palm wine tapping.  The sap ferments into a delicious, milky white drink. Sweet and fizzy in the morning and becoming stronger as the day goes on. Even the kids drink it.

Palm wine tapping. The sap ferments into a delicious, milky white drink. Sweet and fizzy in the morning and becoming stronger as the day goes on. Even the kids drink it.

Pirogues with colourful net flags in Abene

Pirogues with colourful net flags in Abene

The lovely compound of Khady and Simon, we spent a happy few days relaxing in a treehouse with hammocks

The lovely compound of Khady and Simon at Abene, we spent a happy few days relaxing in a treehouse with hammocks

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Big tree! Actually its many trees growing into one big mass of tree.

Big tree! Actually its many trees growing into one big mass of tree.

Antie the parrot.

Antie the parrot.

A great bridge on the way to the beach, made of out bits of old mangroves. Male passersby often like to insist on escorting my bike over obstacles for me.

A great bridge on the way to the beach, made of out bits of old mangroves. Male passersby often like to insist on escorting my bike over obstacles for me.

Tasty breakfast

Tasty breakfast

These tiny pine cones really hurt with bare feet.

These tiny pine cones really hurt with bare feet.

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Beach cows

Beach cows

Seed pod owl... one way of passing the time in the middle of the day when its too hot to cycle (or move)

Seed pod owl… one way of passing the time in the middle of the day when its too hot to cycle (or move)

Camping in a family compound in the tiny and (according to our map) non-existent village of Saloulou, somewhere on an island in Casamance.

Camping in a family compound in the tiny and according to our map non-existent village of Saloulou, somewhere on an island in Casamance. We had a brilliant idea of island hopping down the coast, by the time we had realised this was a very sandy mistake it was too late, we had to go on.

The bikes take a boat trip through the mangroves.

The bikes take a boat trip through the mangroves.

New island, unchanged amounts of sand. This particular path took us nearly 5 hours to traverse, dragging the velos all the way.

New island, unchanged amounts of sand. This particular path took us nearly 5 hours to traverse, dragging the velos all the way.

It just got sandier and sandier... we eventually ended up at a remote farm where everyone was very surprised to see us . The next morning they walked us to the nearby(ish) village of Hitou to find a boat across the main river. Hitou is a sleepy place, with no electricity or shops and a long-closed bar. We spent a lot of time eating coconuts.

It just got sandier and sandier… we eventually ended up at a remote farm where everyone was very surprised to see us. The next morning they walked us to the nearby(ish) village of Hitou to find a boat across the main river. Hitou is a sleepy place, with no electricity or shops and a long-closed bar. We spent a lot of time eating coconuts.

We hung out with a great gang of kids in Hitou who enjoyed commandeering the camera and taking pictures of bits of people's faces.

We hung out with a great gang of kids in Hitou who enjoyed commandeering the camera and taking pictures of bits of people’s faces.

They also liked trying to plait my hair... which was very painful.

They also liked trying to plait my hair… which was very painful.

Hitou's landing stage, where we kept a weather eye open for boats for 4 days.

Hitou’s landing stage, where we kept a weather eye open for boats for 4 days.

The gang assemble for a goodbye portrait.

The gang assemble for a goodbye portrait as at last a boat arrived

We eventually managed to find a ride away with some palm wine traders. The boat was full of people and barrels, and they distracted us from its heavy lurching by insisting we hold out our cups for refills every 5 minutes.

We eventually managed to find a ride away with some palm wine traders. The boat was full of people, barrels, and a bewildered goat. The crew distracted us from the heavy lurching by insisting we hold out our cups for refills every 5 minutes with the cry “Drrrinkingg!”

Deposited on the south bank of the river, told we were somewhere near the village of Nikine.

And so we were deposited on the south bank of the river, completely skint, with no water or food, and hammered on palm wine at 11am. Told we were somewhere near the village of Nikine and that we should “ask the population” for instructions on how to find the path.

Resting in  Cap Skirring. Puppy in a box!

Resting in Cap Skirring, in civilisation once again. Puppy in a box!

Chilling in Ziguinchor.

Chilling in Ziguinchor.

A peaceful night's camping by the river Casamance.

A peaceful night’s camping by the river Casamance.

Injured in The Gambia

We emerged from our ridiculous boat journey unscathed if a little soggy into Banjul, the dusty ex-British colonial capital where no one wants to live. While attempting to buy oranges at a market stall, Alice took a concrete block to the foot and was rushed back to the YMCA in a taxi with a bag of frozen spinach. After a few days healing we headed on down the coast to Senegal, via a couple of sweltering days in beautiful Gunjur with Lamin and Bunja.

Strange mango graphics  looming over our bed in a Serrekunda guesthouse...

Strange mango graphics looming over our bed in a Serrekunda guesthouse…

How strange it is to leave francophone Senegal and arrive in English speaking Gambia. Banjul and Serrekunda have a bizarrely London style, old men greet us with "Alright boss, howzit goin?" in genuine Cockneyish accents. Lancaster Place, Gloucester Drive. The 'pie' is a popular street food, though it's pasty shaped, deep fried, and a bit spicy.

How odd it is to leave francophone Senegal and arrive in English speaking Gambia. Banjul and Serrekunda have a bizarrely London style, old men greet us with “Alright boss, howzit goin?” in genuine Cockneyish accents. Lancaster Place, Gloucester Drive. The ‘pie’ is a popular street food, though it’s pasty shaped, deep fried, and a bit spicy.

Guiness is huge in West Africa

Guiness is huge in West Africa

Batik workshop

Batik workshop

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Gunjur beach

Gunjur beach

Camping at a Gunjur beach bar, with puppies and drums.

Camping at a Gunjur beach bar, with puppies and drums.

Good catch!

Good catch!

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Heading towards the border with Senegal along the sand, we passed a gigantic mosque still under construction.

Heading towards the border with Senegal along the sand, we passed a gigantic mosque still under construction.

Gringo safari.

Gringo safari.

The bikes take their second boat trip, this time in a dugout, crossing the river that acts as a border with Senegal.

The bikes take their second boat trip, this time in a dugout, crossing the river that acts as a border with Senegal.

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