Tue 2 Mar
With time to kill before my visa’s ready, I decide to go up to St Louis for a couple of days. Françoise comes too.
Long distance transport can be by bus, but is quicker and more comfortable in a shared taxi or "sept place" as they are called here. Our sept place is suffering, I think, from a leaking radiator. We are forever stopping, and litres of water are disappearing under the bonnet. After a few hours we reach Thiès where our driver "sells us on", that is he gives us and the remainder of our fare to another sept place. The second vehicle makes good progress on good roads until we get a puncture, just 5km short of our destination. Actually this provides a convenient toilet stop before having to negotiate the bus station, a ride into town, and the search for accommodation.
St Louis is 260km north of Dakar, situated where the mighty Senegal River reaches the Atlantic Ocean. A bridge, designed by Eiffel, links the mainland to the former French capital: an island with sandy streets and crumbling colonial buildings. From the other side of St Louis Island several bridges cross to the Langue de Barbarie, a spit of mainland less than 500m across running down the Atlantic coast from Mauritania. There’s a large fishing community called Guet N'Dar along the Atlantic beach but apparently there’s not enough fish for all. St Louis is also home to an annual jazz festival, which would surely be more of an adventure than its Missouri namesake?
The first guesthouse is full with kids from an international school in Dakar; a party I wouldn't want to gatecrash. After various other unfinished or unsatisfactory alternatives we check into the slightly up-market La Louisiane, right at the north end of the island.
That evening we seem to spend the whole time trying to fit in with each other; this relationship is getting strained. We end up eating late in a local alcohol-free café after most of the dishes have been wiped off the menu. However things cheer up when we find a late night bar with live music and lots of bright-young-things celebrating the end of their voluntary teaching stint.