Sunday 17th January
Went to bed after my watch ended at 4am with nothing to see. Woke up at 8 and there was Africa. From the ship the coast looks very industrial, dusty and polluted. We sailed as close as we could before turning on the engine and putting away the sails. I went on look out. Only had look outs at night so far but there is so much traffic with ships the size of housing estates down to small fishing canoes.
Dropped anchor at 4:30. We spent the last hour in the company of the local customs people circling us in case we dropped anyone or anything from the ship. They looked very official a bit intimidating.
We could not check in and go ashore as it was a Sunday. instead the Captain put on a play during the evening about a black American who decided to visit Africa and came to Dakar and Goree Island. His experiences were so interesting to listen to. It was made even more so as we have the sound of African drums and music as well as the call to prayer drifting across to us from the shore. All 40 of us sitting round the mid ships captivated by the story eating popcorn.
Captain and a few others went ashore early next morning and spent most of the day checking us in. At 3pm those not on watch got to go ashore.
Girls travel,in 3’s and 4’s, men always in pairs or more. Watch your pockets and just be careful.
Well 7 of us jumped in the first skiff run ashore and got taxi’s into the centre of town. It was absolutely beyond anything I have experienced before. Loud, pushy people all trying to take you to there stall to buy from them. Everyone shouting, hundreds of mini market stalls everywhere. The local people of Dakar have the most beautiful faces. So much poverty but they have a stall so they are rich in there minds.
After the total bombardment of the streets and markets we went for a beer. There we were joined by another 5 of the crew.
We as a group all ended up in a Senegalese restaurant , I ate a dish with couscous , sweet potatoes, carrots all spiced to perfection with a huge lump of fish on the top. Such a great meal.
The last skiff run is at 9pm so we all jumped in taxi’s again back to the port. Our taxi driver didn’t know where he was going and although we showed him the address written down we discovered that he couldn’t read either.
We made the skiff with a minute to go, the other two taxis that left before us, arrived later still, they all have the same experience as us. The cabbie turning round, stopping to ask directions, doing u-turns in the road and reversing back up roads it was quite hilarious.
The cars in Dakar come in one model- bashed. The driving is atrocious, they don’t stick to a side of the road, they cross lanes if the think the other side looks clearer than the side they are on. The cars are in such bad condition, you wonder how they are still moving. Broken down heaps with the bonnets up and men waving there hands around was a common sight.
After the first experience in a very mad place, I, then went on 24 hour watch starting at 8am. This involved a days work and a one hour on deck watch during the night.
My day was quite different. After various chores I was then asked to help John the sail maker for the day. We started making a new top sail. It is made up of 10 pieces of cloth that are 5′ wide by 17′ long. We started cutting these out, then had to make up and seam two full length pleats on each piece. We were using the biggest singer sowing machine ever. It was a very long day but enjoyable,doing something different and clean for once.
My night watch was from 6am-7am. We maintain a presence on ship at all times, so I just wonder around making sure that we aren’t getting attacked by pirates. It was incredible. The call to pray chants start at 5:30, then they start up every 15 minutes in different places round the coast. I was 1/4 a mile off of the coast of Senagal, standing alone on the ship listening to about 10 different wailing calls. It as so amazingly uplifting.
Day two on shore. A whole crowd of us got taxis to the ferry port to take a trip to Goree Island. This is the place that the slaves got there last glimpse of Africa, before being shipped across the ocean to foreign lands. The slave house was totally inhuman. They were taken to a sorting room first. Men were separated into size. .if you was over 64kgs then you could be shipped. if you were fit and well but under 64kgs you would be put in a fattening room. The holding rooms are only about 8′ by 6′ and they house 20 men at a time. No room to lay, they just stood pushed together, only let out to go to the loo once a day. They were kept here for up to 3 months.
The children were put in another area, and the women again were in another, some put in separate place for breeding, some because they were pretty were kept for other purposes.
The town itself is full of old French colonial houses., The slaves that were left behind once slavery was abolished took up residence and swatted in the houses. The houses are still lived in today.
Such a pretty place but such an emotional history, I let the tears run down my cheeks in sympathy for the atrocity of what one human can do to another.
Day three on dry land. Hanna, Bronwyn and I went out for a day just the three of us. We went to visit the statue of the liberation of Africa. It’s a huge bronze statue of a man, woman and child saluting out to sea.
After this we went to find the Dakar fabric market. I have never seen anything like it. Thousands of small stalls selling material in every colour and pattern that you could imagine. The brightness of the place, the friendliness of the ladies, no hassling just letting us look. We just kept walking and looking, we all bought different fabrics to bring home. Then as we got to the heart of the market, we found the workers who were sitting behind sowing machines, making dresses, sowing patterns onto plain fabric. All cottage industries, making a small living in circumstances that would be outlawed in the UK.
It got to lunchtime and we asked a lady where we should eat. We had relocated to the Medina(old town) She advised us to go to Riz Neuf. We walked for about an hour, stopping to,ask where it was. Everyone knew it and showed us the way. Eventually we asked a lady who,said your here, and there, in a shack, attached to the side of a building was a small traditional Senegalese restaurant. I don’t think these people have ever had three blond westerners turn up before. They seemed quite excited and bemused at us turning up. We were shown to a bench with a table screwed to the wall and given the plate of the day. Out came a tin plate for each of us with the most delicious couscous and vegetables and a thick lump of fish that tasted like mackerel. We were also given a Tin mug of water. We looked at each other and decided in for a penny in for a pound and ate and drank like the locals. It was fantastic.
I can report we had no side effects or unfortunate happenings afterwards.
On our way back to the ship we got the cab driver to take us to a supermarket. A major culture shock. After the dust, pollution, noise, cars and mini street stalls and thousands of people everywhere in a very third world society we were taken to an air-conditioned modern westernised shopping centre complete with multi screen cinema. It felt so wrong to be there knowing that over 90% of the local population would never step into such a place, and never have the money to by a single thing. This was just there for the tourists from the nearby holiday resorts.
So to sum up Dakar. Yes it was dirty, dusty, noisy but it also had so much life, the people were so friendly, there was so much colour. An amazing adventure that I was so pleased to experience.