Daredevil Takes Dakar

Victoria Korosi, Eco-Adventurer Extraordinaire

Victoria Korosi, resident Jaunt Magazine Contributor and Eco-Adventure junkie extraordinaire, has hit up hamams in Syria, swigged Pepsi in Petra, and flung her flair from here to Beirut, Africa, and well… everywhere. Now, she fills in our wise and wild Eco-Adventurers on the mysteries of traveling to Dakar, Senegal… solo. Yes, she’s one badass chick that makes our top ten list of all things Eco-Adventure.

Into the Desert and on to Dakar…

Determined to trek Desert Lompoul without a guide or a group, I was given explicit (see also: vague and questionably accurate) instructions from Babacar upon leaving Saint Louis. They were as follows, in a combination of English, French, Wolof, and charades:

Babacar: Get yourself to Kebemer.

Me: ok

(Inside my head: Must find map. Where is Kebemer?)

Babacar: Once in Kebemer, hitch a ride to Lompoul Village. Down the dirt road to the right.

Me: ok

(Wait, they’re all dirt roads?)

Babacar: Once in the village, wait for a “cat cat.”

Me: ok

(?????)

Babacar: Ask them to take you into the dessert to Amad….

Me: ok

(What was his name? Ugh, I should have been writing this down)

Babacar: He will have a tent and blanket for you and show you where to sleep

Me: ok

(Horrified)

Driving Dakar

Somehow I did make it out into the desert and – generally – unscathed. Once I met Amadou, I realized that any introduction Babacar may have sent was clearly coming via messenger pigeon as he had no idea who I was or why I was there. And really… I didn’t know myself. After several rounds of Pictionary in the sand (though I was able to explain to him that yes, I could see he had a camp already set up for tourists, but if possible, couldn’t he just drive me a bit further out into the sand, leave me with a blanket and a tent, and pick me up in the morning?) And, because it’s Africa, and liability guidelines are seemingly just a suggestion, we set out into the desert.

A NYC girl at heart, my camping skills are deplorable at best, but as soon as dusk started to fade into night, I knew I had no intentions of sleeping anywhere, but out in the open. This was convenient too as the rusted apparatus left with me and meant to pass as a tent, which I’m still certain was missing a few very strategic poles, imploded on itself three times before I thought better to just leave it in a pile on the ground.

The Dunes of Senegal

Lying awake on the sand, swimming in an endless expanse of a thousand stars, everything felt perfectly in place. How had I forgotten my love affair with Africa’s night sky? To bask completely alone under the layers of constellations, enveloped in the cavernous swells of the wind whispering through the dunes? As a traveler, it was one of those moments when the sense of accomplishement collides with the natural beauty around you and you exhale, completely content and sure again of why you do this.

Waking up in the desert, I took a quick inventory of the damage: 328 mosquito bites, 27 minutes of sleep, a still pristine pile of unused tent, and sore lungs from far too many nervous cigarettes in the middle of the night. Mosquito bites and sore muscles corralled, I set out to leave Lompoul, which somehow proved to be even more of a escapade than getting there in the first place.

The ramble back began with a cat-cat to the village, which, as decoded by one of my fave French travelers, is slang for quatre-quatre, ie) a 4×4! From there, it was a sept plus taxi to Kebemer. Sept plus translated means “7 people,” but clearly the conversion on this is loose as we were 10 people, a baby, and a goat, all crammed into a station wagon with wood slats holding the floor together.

The Beach of N'gore

The next step back to Dakar was a Car Rapide. These are colorfully decorated mini buses with “Alhamdoulilai” written on the front. The phrase mean Thanks be to God – for not dying on the ride, is my guess.

A claustrophobic ordeal at near death speeds during which my lap was interchangeably used to hold chickens, coconuts, and other people’s children, the Sept plus was, in some strange way, a luxury. Figuring out that this specific Car Rapide was no longer headed for Dakar, and that I urgently needed to transfer “ici”, was a swirl of chaos – bags thrown from the roof, people climbing on top of each other to get out, me trying to find the French word for “Seriously, whose kid is this?” and, fortunately, a kind man next to me to grab my arm and get me onto the already moving bus headed to Dakar.

Another half dozen car rapides, local buses and taxis later, I made it back to the sandy streets and bustling chaos of Senegal’s capital city. Understandably bedraggled from my forays into and out of the desert, I took some time to recover before tackling the next adventure. At the time of writing this I was sitting on the beach in Dakar’s northern neighborhood of N’gor watching the sun sink into the darkness of the sea while the fishing boats rolled back onto the shore for the night. It was an indulgence just to be there – and clean – at last.

Alhamdoulilai.

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