The Gates of Paradise
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that we had a handler for 2/3 of our journey through Senegal and the Gambia, and back to Senegal. His primary job was driver, but he was also bodyguard, shopping host, art curator and restaurant connoisseur. While we were protected by this gentle giant, we did not have a single bad meal or a single bad experience, even while crossing two African borders and dealing with numerous police checkpoints.
And finally we were delivered to paradise, a little gem of a gated villa enclave called Amigo Bay Villas in Cap Skirring, one of the most beautiful and raw beaches in the world.
There was fresh lobster and tilapia, grilled to perfection and served with a lime pepper salsa and a side of my favorite pimant (aka “kani” in Wolof), accompanied by a chewy, doughy and moist French baguette delivered to a gorgeously set teak outdoor dining table on our sea view terrace to dine al fresco.
There was no need to leave the gates of paradise. But I wanted to be free, to explore, see what was outside the gates… Find the sleeping place of these roaming bulls and female cows with horns a big as the boys’, and the pack of wild dogs that seemingly owned the beach. Where was the odd piece of plastic or the dead fish head washing up from? Where were these fishermen, far out on the horizon on these long wooden hand-carved boats, going home at night? So we took a walk.
First we walked to the right, and found more bulls and cows with their baby foul.
Then we walked to the left, and there it was. A fisherman town, with loads and loads of dead fish heads and fish guts piled up on the beach as women were flaying the fish fresh off the boat. Not too many but the odd plastic bag or so scattered about on the beach along with nylon netting and hooks.
We were approached by a tall lanky local man with a big smile who spoke English that started telling us about the town… The central nursery where all the village kids were dropped off every morning, as the men went out on the boats and the women starting tending to the fish. The huge stockpile of gargantuan snail shells cracked open with a hammer and put aside to be used as construction material. And of course rows and rows of drying fish… And sharks!
There were mako sharks, baby big whites, and rows and rows of baby hammerheads. A local man said the sharks were caught nine kilometers away by the Guinea-Bissau border, and urged us to take photos, explaining that while the locals did not eat shark meat the Chinese relished the fins. Then we suddenly noticed that all the sharks lying there were missing their fins already. Then the man showed us a huge skate, as long and tall as himself, and we posed together holding the skate. The poor chap was also missing its fin, likely passed off a priceless mega giant shark’s fin.
And as we were led to the local man’s restaurant, probably the only tourist trap existing in the little village, we saw a government poster hanging on the wall with a picture of a fisherman boat creeping up against a shark and a big X on top of it.
Lesson number eight: outside the gates of paradise, you will find vice and sadness, which may amuse and excite you. Your choice.
All images courtesy of NewsWhistle
A GUIDE TO SENEGAL