Destination - Zebrabar our 5 day getaway planned for April during the Easter holiday school break. It's a wonderful encampment in the Langue de Babarie a National Park just 20km south of Saint Louis.
Before we go anywhere now - item number one on the list - after confirming the reservation is the effort of securing our transport - this time back to finding a taxi for this excursion (instead of the sept-place). After contacting a number of drivers we were quoted anywhere from 35,000 CFA - 60,000 CFA from Dakar to the encampment. In the end we settled on Thierno - whose fee for the trip was at the low end - as it should be! We were educated that pricing should be about 8,000 CFA/person so to keep that in mind when working out the fee. Thierno lives in Saint Louis and was willing to drive from Saint Louis, meet us at 10:00 a.m in Dakar and basically drive us back in the same day. In situations like this, you just hope they show up! What a relief when he actually did and on time - being the plus.
Packed up and on our way - 3 1/2 hours later we arrived at the point where we needed to get off the main road (before Saint Louis) onto a gravel tertiary road and the driver didn't know this part of the trip and our google map we printed was limited in it's detail. Given the unknown distance ahead to get there and those random signs that only point you in the direction, we agreed on another 5,000 CFA - and hoped we'd arrive soon. He seemed to be concerned with having enough gas to get back (5,000 CFA or not - we might all be stuck) and as far as the eye could see it was pretty clear there would likely be no gas stations nearby.
Finally just after passing through Mouit we arrived, paid our driver and he seemed happy with the additional money, and it was a good thing that he knew where this place was now and a better guarantee that he would take us back a week later.
|Salt mounds along the way|
|Market stalls in Mouit|
The accommodations: The Magirus - for Parker and Addison - a bungalow that was originally sitting at the back of a converted Magirus truck and now converted and installed with a "double bed on the floor, mosquito netting and practical shelves." A pretty tight fit, but for two boys, what more do you need!
For us - The Small Bungalow - "for guests who want a certain comfort at a low rate" - honestly it was just our style.
Not much time is wasted for any of us - joining a group of travelers for a beer - or playing on the homemade swing set/net making new friends, getting into a good read, checking out the wildlife (birds, monkeys, crabs..), meeting the locals and taking in some fabulous views. And speaking of beers or any beverage available for purchase located in the cooler - they offer up a scouts honor tracking system - a piece of paper with your name and accommodations with a section for you to place a tick mark for what drink you pulled out. Computers here would just complicate matters ;+} The encampment is run entirely by solar power and gas. Each cabin had a small solar panel that charged a battery that allowed for a small lamp to be run in each cabin. The water for those using the communal baths/showers (that would be us) was fed by tanks on the roof of the bathrooms and seemed be have been warmed by thermal gain. Not much, but enough to take a quick shower.
"yeah, this is our kind of place".
|Parker and Addison and their new "girl" friends. And some are not in this photo.|
|Just outside the gate of Zebrabar - Manning talks to the local kids of the town of Mouit|
|They sang the Senegalese National Anthem to us and we taught them Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!|
|Martin, the owner, surprises us with his accordion playing|
|Sure am happy to have the Zebrabar cat on my lap. It's true I miss Houdi!|
|Our Houdi back in Berkeley!|
|Senegal River: Each mound = 1 crab "prison"|
|Sunset on the Senegal River|
|View from Zebrabar's Observatory|
|Depending on the number of travelers - Dinner would be served communally inside or out.|
We enjoyed a breakfast of omelets , bread, jam, butter, juice and coffee or hot chocolate - on their terrace that overlooked the River Senegal. Simply stated - and I know "breakfast" has a different definition here - I detest just 'bread' for breakfast, which is common so honestly I was so happy to see an option to get a little protein in the morning!!
Fascinating tidbit was all the nationalities we encountered during the week: German, Swiss, Dutch, English, Scottish, French, Senegalese and American. An interesting cross roads.
- A young couple from Germany who had taken a year off to travel by motorcycles and camp through all of Africa. They had been in Mali on March 21st when the coup occurred and basically fled to Senegal
- A group of folks from Scotland and England who road scooters from England all the way to The Gambia to deliver them to a hospital . This will provide doctors the ability to provide services to more remote villages
- A woman with the Peace Corp spending time with her boyfriend (working for the EU in South Africa) - living in a village nearby for her 2 year assignment.
- A young German guy who had broken up with his girlfriend was hitchhiking for a year across Africa.
- The owners and managers of a hotel in Mali (and friends with the Zebrabar owners) who fled Mali due to the coup and were waiting it out to see if they could return.
- German, French and Senegalese families living in Dakar and getting away for the holiday break with their children.
- A young German man participating in a 3 month volunteer project in Saint Louis to teach English and provide some level of nutrition to the Talibe children
- A French couple on holiday who owned a winery/chateau in the Bordeaux region of Sauterne
- A French couple from Nantes (we have fond memories of our 2008 house exchange there) - visiting their son who was doing a volunteer project in Mbour
- An American guy from Portland visiting locations around Senegal as part of his donations to a charity called "Plan." He didn't know much french, but was quite enthusiastic in trying anyway!
- A family from Dakar with small kids who made big fires at night (the only thing missing - marshmallows!). Popular with all the boys...
Zebrabar promotes itself as a meeting-point for African travelers, ideal for active kids and parents who want to relax at a price point that can't be beat! And after a fabulous week - we couldn't agree more.