We arrive in Dakar late in the evening. Françoise and I get a lift into town with the Belgian couple, their children and their neighbours who have all come to meet them. At first we go to their house in expat-land and try calling some place that Françoise has in mind. They are full so we set off into town to find a budget hotel. What I am not mentally prepared for is her eagerness to share a room, but I soon realise this is more to do with her budget than any interest in me.
Sun 29 Feb
Dakar is a lively, a modern city and port with street hustlers just to make your day. We find a nice downtown patisserie, where we take coffee and croissants. We enjoy the hustle and bustle of the market, but I get slightly hassled when I am accused of being racist by one young man for not adopting him as a guide. Françoise makes another phone call and manages to check us into the Dakar Sailing Club for a third of the price of our budget hotel. She's tighter with her purse than a Scottish ex-girlfriend of mine. Apart from that she's good company (especially seeing as how the locals all speak French).
The "Cercle de Voile, Dakar" (CVD) is a bit of a French enclave and a little out of town, but never mind it has pleasant gardens, a white sand beach and the cost saving will easily pay for taxis.
Mon 1 Mar
The next morning we head off to the Mali Embassy and Françoise helps me to apply for a visa. I am told to return on Wednesday afternoon, which will mean missing the mid-week train. I can try earlier but they'll make no promises. We move on to the railway station and learn that the Wednesday (Senegalese) train is cancelled anyway. I reserve a couchette on the Saturday (Malian) train and they tell me to come and pay before 6:00pm Friday otherwise they'll release it. This is frustrating; I want to be on my way. The Sahara's getting hotter all the time and I feel I can come back to Dakar any old time.
We spend the rest of day on the beautiful offshore Ile de Gorée, one time centre of the slave trade, and subsequently a colonial stronghold. It's now a leafy, hassle-free, lazy-day place to hang-out and enjoy the local art and refreshing sea breezes. Living amongst the bunkers and gunning placements of the old fort are a number of people from the Baye Fall sect (a mystical Islamic brotherhood founded in Senegal). Their main income seems to come from selling much the same paintings as you can get across Gorée, Dakar and no doubt Senegal. However, we meet one chap, an artist called René Ale Mauro, with some refreshingly different pieces, more like collages utilising cowry shells and scrap metal. He says these pieces are inspired by traditional medicine.