Today was everything I'd hoped West Africa to be. I caught a taxi to the Gare Routiére and found a Camion Bâché (kind of a cross between a van and a pickup truck) that was leaving "immediately" all the way to Djifere. I got on at 11:30, at 1:30 I got off for lunch, at 2:30 they started the engine and by 2:45 we were on our way. I'll describe the vehicle a little more carefully now. It's about the size of a large 15 person van, but it's open on the sides. Inside there are 4 benches (2 parallel to the drivers bench in the front, and two along the sides in the back. I figured they would cram us in and get four people per bench, I was wrong, they got five. Then they slid in another bench between the two in the back and put in an other four people. We left with nearly thirty people on board - I was amazed. But the main rule seems to be there is always room for one (or one dozen) more. The most I was ever able to count was 38, but I'm sure we went well over 40 (I wasn't able to see how many people were on the roof). We were stopped by police nine times to check the driver's papers.
Here's the strange part, this ride was great! The people were so friendly and all smiles everyone was so cheerful. The scenery was unreal. Immediately outside of Dakar we went through dense jungle that reminded me of Tahiti or Hawaii. Spaced through the blinding green were the bright earthen red mini-volcanoes of termite nests. Where land had been cleared for farming the plants were obviously tended by hand (no rows), and it looked to be a constant battle to keep the jungle back. Further South of Dakar the vegetation thinned out to vast plains stretched as far as I could see to the East and right to the sand a few hundred yards to the West. Randomly spaced across these planes are the giant trunked, fantastically shaped baobab trees. After passing through Joal the paved road ended as we entered the Saloum Delta, a region of planes broken up by creeks and marshes. This region belongs to the birds (bright red and yellow, large white and black - all beautiful), and the mud crabs (some of these are big and make me worry about walking around in sandals).
Near the end of the trip we stopped to let at least a dozen women on. There were dressed in brilliant colors and just babbling away in (I'm guessing) Wolof. I was so reminded of a flock of tropical birds that I was laughing. It was ok though, because most people were laughing as we tried to fit everybody in. Lot's of people climbed on top, at least six hung off the back, everyone else was sitting on laps and whatever else worked. I definitely know what the inside of a clown car is like! It was interesting to note that there was no problem with women sitting on strange guys laps. I can't imagine that happening in Morocco without the guy taking advantage of it, but here everyone seemed to behave themselves. About fifteen minutes later the women got off en mass and it was back to normal, but the smile never left my face for the rest of the trip.
Djifere is a paradise. A small village of mostly grass and reed huts located on a narrow spit of land just inside the North boundary of the Park National du Delta du Saloum. Two Italian guys were on the same Bâché as me, I'm pretty sure we're the only foreigners in town. I've got a grass hut on the beach with a bed, mosquito net, and locking door (not sure what good a lock is on a hut made of grass). No electricity so light comes from a kerosene lantern. By the time I settled in it was after dark and I couldn't bring myself to be adventurous enough to try the local cuisine when I couldn't see it, so diner was a baguette and margarine.
The only problem is there is a disco (for want of a better word) near my hut. Around ten they fired up the generator and the music didn't stop until nearly four am. Hopefully it's not like that every night!