Posts Tagged ‘ Kedougou ’

My 2nd 4th in Senegal

Last week I made the trek down to the southeast corner of Senegal for the annual Peace Corps 4th of July bash. I spent a few days in the city of Kedougou, which is a regional capital a little north of the Guinean border. I went last year, but of course I had to go again. It was FAR though.

Sokone to Kaolack: 1 hour
Kaolack to Tambacounda: 4 hours
Tamba to Kedougou: 4 hours

We left at 6:00 am on the morning of the 2nd, and we arrived at around 2:30 pm. It was an exhausting trip overall, but it was good to see people that I don’t see that often. The 4th was spent eating pig (which was roasted in the ground!), drinking beer, and dancing. Typical American stuff.

As fun as Independence Day was, the 5th of July was actually more fun for me. We decided to be adventurous and go tubing down the Gambia River.

Step One: find tubes. We ended up going to this junk yard filled with old car parts and asking the men working there to sell us tire tubes. New tubes were around $12, which was pricey for us, so we decided to buy used tubes for $3. Of course, the men had to patch each tube up, and there were eight of us, so a lot of the day was spent loitering around a junkyard, basically.

Step Two: walk to the river. A PCV stationed in Kedougou gave me specific instructions on how to get to the river from the regional house. After two minutes, we were completely lost. We ended up walking into a lot of people’s compounds, which was weird because none of us speak Pulaar, and we were carrying huge inner tubes. People were polite though and helped us out. We DID end up in a thorn forest though, and I was wearing shower sandals (my footwear of choice) I got a few scratches, but these were nothing compared to what was to come.

Step Three: get in the river. So there were eight of us, and I’m pretty sure only one person didn’t eat shit trying to get into that river. I’m sure if we had gone the right way, we could have easily slid into the river, but we ended up in this jungle of thorny tree species with lots and lots of mud. We get in the river and try to get out of this jungle. These trees were highly deceptive though. We’d come up on a small twig sticking out of the water, but that twig would end being the thorniest bitch yet. It’s like these trees were icebergs. Most of it is under the water.

Of course we got a little separated, and if you were in the back, you’d hear screams up ahead, and you knew there’d be trouble. The people up front would scream “AVOID THAT TWO FOOT TWIG! IT JUST SCRATCHED UP MY ENTIRE LEG!”

We did well though, and I had a lot of fun. I didn’t see any animals (I was told hippos hung out in the river a lot), and thank G I didn’t see any snakes. Woulda freaked.

So to get back to lovely Kaolack, we decided to change it up and take the night bus, which leaves at 6:00 pm. It’s supposed to take around eight hours, but it ended up being 11 because we, SOMEHOW, had to stop every 20 minutes for no reason. We also got pulled over by the local police and discovered that our driver didn’t have a driver’s license. Everything a mother wants to hear, right? A random man driving a bus filled with 50 people through the jungle in the middle of the night. So we sat on the side of the road at 4:00 am and chit-chatted. Finally, we got back on the road. I’m assuming the driver either bribed the cops, or they just let him go. Either way, the system is sketchy.

Anyways, so I’m running on three hours of sleep, which is strange because normally I sleep about 12 hours a day. I’m exhausted, and I also have cuts all over my body, some of which are infected. Just a heads up: if you want to go to the jungle, avoid going during the rainy season. Things get infected SO FAST.

I’m gonna wrap up this post by saying this: in 10 weeks, I’ll be in America!

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Le 4 juillet 2011

BAM! I’m turnin’ out these blog posts like there’s no tomorrow. I guess this is because I am having a busy summer (lots o’ work and lots o’ play).

Well, yesterday I returned from a mini vacation to the region of Kedougou for the 4th of July. It was probably one of the most fun times I have ever had in my life. Kedougou, if you didn’t know, is down in the southeast corner of the country. It’s so far away that you can see the country of Guinea from the city of Kedougou (“I can see Guinea from my house!”).

Sorry for the back-to-back Sarah Palin jokes. I’m done now.

Anyways, so Kedougou is like a different world. Below you will find a map of Senegal. I am being wildly high tech and fancy doing this, but I feel like this post requires visual aids in order for it to be understood properly.

Okay, so Kedougou is that city really far away in the bottom right corner. I drove from Kaolack to Tambacounda, which took over four hours. We stopped in Tamba to stretch our legs, and then we moved on and drove the four hours to Kedougou. After we left Tamba, the world suddenly changed. We entered the Niokolo-Koba National Park, which is a World Heritage Site that is so insanely beautiful that I forgot where I was for a second. It’s so incredibly green, and there was MOUNTAINS. I saw warthogs frolicking and baboons (TONS of baboons) running across the road. They’d be chillin’ in the middle of the road, and our driver would get so mad because they wouldn’t move as he honked furiously.

Luckily, we only had one car problem, which arose as we were entering the city itself. We were crawling at a snail’s pace.

Us: Um, chauffeur. What the hell? Why are we going so slowly? It’s hot.
Driver: We ran out of gas.
Us: Oh…is that why we’re COASTING down this hill?
Driver: Yes.

Finally, we puttered to a stop right on the outskirts of town. The driver took a can and walked to the nearest gas station. As we waited, I decided to walk to the nearest boutique to buy water. I quickly encountered a problem when no one in the building spoke Wolof. I had stepped into Pulaar country and completely forgot. I did everything in French, which was bizarre. Good practice for France though, I guess. Luckily, I did find a lot of people who spoke a little Wolof, so I could easily get around.

Kedougou is an interesting town. It’s not very big, but it’s really spread out. There are no taxis, so you either have to walk or ride your bike. I was told this beforehand, so I brought my bike with me.

The 4th of July was really fun. We all hung out at the Kedougou regional house. Two pigs were roasted, and there was lots of delicious food. We set off fireworks, which was scary. It was probably the funnest (yes, FUNNEST) party I have ever been to.

The next day, we all walked down to the Gambia River to go swimming. We forded the river, which was scary as hell because the current was REALLY strong. Like, my friend got whisked away and had to grab a tree branch in order to stop herself. Several people lost shoes and other items.

So we swam in the river. There was a massive tree that had branches hanging over the river, so we climbed it and jumped in. Apparently there are hippos further down the river. I saw none. I did see two snakes though, which was awful and horrible and scary. I held my cool, and everything was fine. Maybe I am growing up. Hopefully.

Overall, Kedougou was a lot of fun. As a rode around the red dirt roads, staring at the greenery around me and mountains above me, I realized that this sort of scenario is what I thought Peace Corps Africa was going to be like. Biking around and greeting people in a beautifully lush environment. My Peace Corps service is drastically different from what I expected. Luckily, I think it’s better. As quintessential as Kedougou is, I’m glad I don’t live there. It’s so far away from the rest of the country, and there are scary animals (i.e. scorpions, huge spiders, snakes). It’s a wonderful place to visit, but it’s definitely not a place I would want to live for two years. I was glad when I pulled into Kaolack and the smell of garbage met my nostrils. I was home.