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 Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012

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GirlChild
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:12 am

28th December 2012

On Boxing Day, we departed Dakhla for the Mauritanian border – a mere 350km away. On the way, we stopped in to have a coffee with Crystal and Francesco (in their camper van) and then stopped in at Ocean Vagabond to say goodbye to Freya. Then, onto the open road and head south.

We didn’t want to arrive at the border in the late afternoon and try to cross before dark, so we stayed at Hotel Barbas (N022 03.190’ W016 44.841’), about 80km from the border. This was a lovely hotel built around a canopy covered courtyard, the food was tasty and the beds comfortable. After a good night’s rest, we started early the next morning to reach the border and cross by lunch time.

So, imagine our surprise when we reached the border and were number 125 in the queue! Shock. After 2 hours, we had progressed to about 85 in the queue, with about another 50 cars joining the tail end … clearly going nowhere fast. Yes, it was unusual. For some reason this day was the day the Senegalese were heading home … and they were less than impressed that time was being wasted in a queue. However, we did meet up with Nicky and Rolf again (who we had met in the visa queue in Rabat) and Julian, Thomas and Michael – Austrians / Germans heading to Mauritania. It all helped pass the time, having others to chat to.

Without going into the gory details, we queued for 7 hours, finally entering the Moroccan border post at about 5pm. To add insult to injury, the Moroccans kindly let another 50 cars into the post before closing it. The rest had to wait until morning. We finally exited the Mauritanian border post at 8:45pm – tired, sense of humour waning and very ready for bed. Thank goodness for our new Austrian / German friends – they lead the way to Chez Abba where we reheated some food and collapsed into bed – sleeping through the thumping club music from the establishment next door.

Welcome to Mauritania.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:13 am

31 December 2012

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Our stay in Mauritania can be summed up as:

WINDY – Mauritania was still as windy as we had experienced the last few days in Dakhla. Never fear – at some point this wind must surely die down. Camping, cooking and living outside the vehicle is somewhat less enjoyable with winds whipping up the sand. Clearly the Mauritanians have learned to live with it: they wrap themselves up with almost no skin showing! They have also come up with ingenious methods to protect their cars, including covering the bonnets and headlights with plastic to prevent the sandblasting.

CHARLIE – Checkpoint Charlie, that is. While I realise it is for our own safety, being stopped repeatedly by the “Mummy with Sunglasses” does become tiring. Most of the time they were very friendly and courteous, but still. In total, we handed over more than 15 fiches in Mauritania.

SAND: Everywhere! Every little nook and cranny. It is a desert, is Mauritania. The whole way we drove was almost unchanging scenery, continued from the 1,000km of it we passed through in Western Sahara. In the National Park we stopped at. In every campsite. Blowing across the road. In the car. In my socks.

We left Nouadibou and headed on beautifully laid black tarmac to the Parc National du Banc d’Argiun (see separate post) for 2 days. After our sojourn, we headed to a campsite 15km north of Nouakchott (Les Sultanas), and had planned to stay a few days. It was in a lovely location overlooking the ocean, and the people were very friendly (as we have found most Mauritanians to be) – they even boiled water so we could have a warm shower (or rather, a bird bath out of a bucket). However, I had a serious loss of sense of humour: I don’t mind very basic living conditions, but they have to be clean. This toilet really wasn’t.

And so, with the wind and the sand and the checkpoint-charlies and crossing-my-legs, we headed to a guesthouse in Nouakchott frequented by French travellers – Jeloua (N018 06.066’ W015 05.733’).

Bliss.

A charming spot, out of the wind … finally. The high walls calmed the howling wind into a gentle breeze. We had comfortable chairs on the patio, where the hours passed by as we read books, cuddled with cats and snoozed. Their washing machine was a real bonus for weary, sandy travellers.

We were within walking distance of what we needed – bureau de change at Societe Generale (the ATMS all out of cash), little supermarket where I even bought Weetabix, and a few cafes and restaurants. Best of all, across from the guest house was a French restaurant – Le Saloon – run by a Frenchman who was a cake chef in Paris for 22 years. The dinner was excellent and the deserts to-die-for!

A little indulgent, but worth every penny. It awarded us a chance to rest and relax before our next border crossing – Senegal here we come.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:14 am

31 December 2012

Nouckchott, Mauritania

One of the motivators for our adventure is our love of wildlife and the natural environment. Unfortunately, human activity is decimating both – rapidly – and so we planned to experience both where we can.

Parc National du Banc d’Arguin (PNBA) (pronounced locally as bun-dar-gin with a hard g as in gull) is a World Heritage listed site, and it is on the migratory route for birds between Europe and Africa. Conveniently, it is located 200km from Nouadibou on the way to Nouakchott, so we thought we would include it on our Mauritanian itinerary. We also discovered that December / January is the prime viewing time – perfect!

There are park headquarters both in Nouadibou and Nouakchott to buy park permits, but you can also buy from the park office at the entrance at Chami. There is also a park map available (which has both routes and GPS waypoints) – but the park office had none, and wanted us to take a guide (for a fee) instead. After much discussion, and a promise that we had a GPS and routes, we escaped with only the cost of the park permits (1200UM per person per day – about 3-4 euros).

Like most of Mauritania, the park is mainly a desert habitat – small dunes, scrub bush, lots of sand. Oh yes – lots of sand. Only passable with a 4×4, and even then we had a few pretty hairy patches of deep, soft sand. The hard driving, though, was worth it – it was rather picturesque. Notably, also, it was mostly litter-free! There was evidence of animals – likely jackal and mongoose – as well as herds of camels.

The waterbirds are varied and numerous, and if you are an avid birder, I am sure you would have appreciated it far more than us amateurs. The lagoon near the camp had hundreds of birds – a little far out since the tide was out. There were flamingos, pelicans, egrets, plovers, stilts, redshanks, gulls, terns … we struggled to identify everything we saw!

Within the park, there are a few local fishing communities who also run the campsites. The one we stayed in at Iwik was very basic but clean and pleasant. There were low white tents (typical in Mauritania) with a simple mattress on the floor, a communal dry toilet with sawdust, and a warm shower (for a small fee).

We met 2 French couples in Iwik who loaned us a map for a few hours so that we could get our bearings and plot our stay. We also managed to pick one up at Telloit campsite, where a very helpful park official broke away from his village duties to search his little office for one. With our new found freedom (!!) we explored the park a little more, managed to almost get stuck and also found our way out through a more southern entrance, which isn’t marked on the main road.

We certainly are glad we took the time to visit the park. However, it wasn’t necessarily quite what we had expected, and our advice for future visitors is:
1.Only passable in a 4×4
2.Obtain a map. Try to pick up in Nouadibou or Nouakchott – don’t assume the park office at the entrance has one. Some camps may also have maps. (I’ll be making GPS waypoints available to download – yip, I typed in all 70!)
3.Ensure you have sufficient fuel, food and water. You are in the desert!
4.This isn’t the east African or southern African national park animal watching experience – but a good place for watching water birds.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:15 am

New Year’s Day 2013

Public holiday pretty much everywhere … so we thought it was a good day to travel! And surely leaving Mauritania should be quicker than the 10.5 hours it took to enter.

Nouakchott at 0730 on the-morning-after-the-night-before is deathly quiet … with small signs of a city coming to life. Even with the relative quiet, it still took us 45 minutes until we had passed the final police checkpoint (yes, still more) and were properly out of the sprawling city.

It was a relatively long day ahead of us – just over 300km including a border crossing. We had decided against the infamous Rosso crossing in favour of Diama Dam. Importantly, we had a set of waypoints to follow … As we ventured southwards out of Nouakchott, the roads deteriorated, and at times the viable tarmac was only wide enough for one car to pass, with large potholes. Good thing (again) that it was a quiet day.

We reached the final police checkpoint and were directed to a road off to the right to reach Diama Dam. Friends of ours had got lost on this road, but others we have met didn’t have a problem. (See border crossing information). Instead, we continued another 10km and turned into a small national park to start our dirt track route of 70km to the border.

It was very beautiful – winding through the small national park and tiny villages – but a bit slow going. For me, it was starting to look like Africa: Acacia trees and small bushes reminded me so much of travelling in southern Africa. We even saw a warthog! The second half of the route ran adjacent to the Djoudj National Park in Senegal with lots of lakes and rivers. The birds we saw were amazing – we kept stopping to look, and then reminding ourselves we had a border to cross. Aaarrrggghhh – we had to keep moving. Never mind, Djoudj National Park was added to our Senegal itinerary.

We arrived at the border at 1300 – and sighed a huge sigh of relief: we were the first in the queue. We entered the Mauritanian post straight away, and completed all formalities (including insurance) within 1.5 hours.

A welcome benefit for travelling on a public holiday.

All that was left for the day was the 50km or so down to Zebrabar.

And an ice cold beer.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:16 am

6th January 2013

Zebrabar, Senegal

Sometimes it feels good to stop.

Zebrabar was just the place, space and set-up we needed when we reached Senegal. Neither of us realised quite how fatigued we were after nearly 3 months on the road, and entering our 12th country and 4th African nation.

We slept.

And slept.

We made no plans until we started feeling like we had emerged from permanent sleeping sickness.

Then we noticed our new surroundings! Senegal yielded long days with hazy sunshine, warmer temperatures, and finally relief from the incessant wind. Sandals and short sleeves were the name of the game.

St Louis was not too far away, and we took time to visit – partly to see the town, and partly to take care of our list of things to do! We sat in the Hotel de la Poste, enjoyed our fruit juice while catching up online. We ambled to the Hotel Palais to have lunch – traditional Senegalese rice and chicken. We visited Elton’s Garage to purchase a new 2nd battery (ultimately this will need to be a Leisure battery). Once, we negotiated our own way – then decided that a taxi was a far better option!

We also met lots of interesting people at Zebrabar who were passing through on their way elsewhere. These included: the banger rally multi-national group of 13 on their way to Gambia; Elena and Aldo with their 2 young boys taking a long weekend break from Dakar; Monica and Job escaping the European winter and exploring Senegal again; Anna and Alex backpacking southwards; Dakar Challenge Rally from Portugal who were heading to Dakar; Wolfgang (the only other overlander) returning northwards after venturing as far as Benin; … we picked up so much information, and enjoyed relaxed chats. But sadly missing were the other overlanders heading in our direction. The political instability in the region, and economic problems in Europe have certainly impacted the number of fellow travellers.

Zebrabar also gave us the first taster of birding in Senegal. We spent one morning wandering around the campsite looking at birds. Another afternoon was spent wandering from the one lagoon to the other lagoon near the campsite looking at the many new species. The nearby lakes also provided a few hours of viewing.

And after 6 days, we decided it was time to see what Senegal (outside Zebrabar and St Louis) was all about.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:17 am

8th January 2013

Campement Njagabaar, Djoudj NP, Senegal,

It is sunset, we’re about to have dinner, and I’m sitting at our campsite looking out over the pond. In the tree just 10m away we have spotted a Yellow Crowned Gonolek, a group of Longtailed Glossy Starlings, three Pied Kingfishers, and a group of Blue-Naped Mousebirds. And a flock of about 100 Flamingos just flew overhead. This is a great place for birding!

Parc National des Oiseaux de Djoudj is a RAMSAR site, and it is easy to understand the importance of this site on arrival. It is 6,000ha of wetland, and is the first real wetland stop for the migratory birds after crossing the Sahara desert.

We accessed the park from the N2 just outside Ross-Bethio, as we arrived from Podor, and from here it is a 18km drive on gravel to reach the park. There is another road which is more convenient if coming from St Louis. Once we reached the park entrance it was clear why this is such a great place to spot birds: there were Pelicans and Cormorants in flocks, and more Wagtails than I have ever seen in one place. It took us about 45min to drive the 400m from the park entrance to the Campement – we had to put the binoculars down in the end!

There is a Campement run by the local village very near the park office. Although very basic, it is clean, and we decided to stay there rather than the hotel. With three hours of daylight left we decided to head into the park. We completed the formalities at the park office, and took a slow drive towards one of the lakes. At the first hide we stopped, and quickly added Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, and Osprey to our growing bird list. In the distance we saw a pink sheen – Flamingos. Heading back we spotted Malachite Kingfisher, the Little Bee-Eater, and the Squacco Heron. We inched our way along the final lake about 100m from the campsite, adding Stilts, Avocets and Mallards.

Next morning we drove to the park office to organise our “pirogue” – which in reality is a glass fibre boat with a 15hp motor. We shared ours with two other couples so there was plenty of space for us. An initial slow meander took us past flocks of African Darters and diving Pelicans, with a flock of Whisked Terns following the wake of the boat. In the treetops the Cormorants were watching us go past as they sunned themselves, and overseeing everything was a lone Sacred Ibis. As we closed in on our main destination for the trip we noticed the smell before the sight – the smell of bird droppings! We rounded the corner of the channel and were met by an island full (and I mean full) of Pelicans; we had reached their breeding spot. For the first time, we saw the grey juveniles, not quite ready to take flight. Much jostling, squawking. On the return we passed under the watchful eyes of both an Osprey and an African Fish Eagle.

After the boat ride we jumped back in the car and set off for a slow drive to see what else we could spot. As the park has several hides it is relatively easy to find one not too far away. We found one overlooking water in the shade, and decided it was a good spot for lunch. Little did we know that this hide was next to a tree full of Black-Crowned Night Herons! We were now relatively tired from the spotting and the sun, and decided to head back to camp for a sit in the shade and a cool drink. We thought we would be able to put our binoculars down for a while, but soon realised that the birding from our campsite is as good as in the park.

Facts & Figures:
- The local Campement just outside the Djoudj NP is nice and quiet. It has a few small chalets with shower, and it also has some space for camping. Facilities are basic but clean. Current rate is 2,000CFA pppn for camping, 12,500CFA pppn half board, 16,000CFA pppn full board.
- The park office is situated just 400m away from the Campement, and here we bought our 24h permits to enter the park (2,000CFA pp + 5,000CFA for vehicle).
- Next to the park office is a small shop where you can buy “pirogue” tours, and organise a guide. These pirogues are from the village and are 3,000CFA pp, as opposed to the ones from the hotel next to the park office that are 3,500CFA pp.
- Guides are 5,000CFA, and even though you share a “pirogue” with other clients the guide will stay as “your” guide. Confusing – yes.
- Our French neighbours rented a boat for half a day – to do spotting and serious photography – and paid 50,000CFA + guide + park entrance.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:19 am

OK

I think that should bring everyone up to date!

Please scroll back up the thread to see the last 5 posts.

And yes, we have unfortunately seen the state of emergency declared in Mali this evening.

Annoying.

We had planned a quick dash through south Mali, but now we're considering other options.

until next time everyone!!!!!!

rgds
African GirlChild & Viking Explorer

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:23 pm

Wow, a great catch up. It's hard to believe you've spent nearly 3 months on the road - incredible!

As of yesterday it appeared the south of Mali was still okay, but now the French military have arrived it's obvious the entire country is about to explode. Reckon Guinea and the Ivory Coast are your only option, although even then I'd suggest keeping away from the northernmost borders of those countries as the refugees will soon start pouring across to make the region utter mayhem.

Bon chance mon amis!

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:33 am

Thanks Tom!

We'll see how it all goes ... but yes, no travelling through Mali.


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:37 am

9th January 2013

Heading off the beaten track.

Our trusty little guide book promoted Podor due to the restoration of its fort and nearby quay. People we met at Zebrabar also suggested it was worth a visit – and our new 2nd battery needed a good long charge – so we set off.

Podor itself is a quaint little town – but the people are so very proud of their up-and-coming tourist town. There are 2 hotels on the quay – both renovated warehouses – but neither was happy for us to park and flip open the tent. However, a young chap hanging around directed us to La Terrasse which offered simple rooms and camping. The restaurant (its primary business) was apparently very good too.

It didn’t look promising when we arrived – no real camping to speak of, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around. But shortly, Kaz appeared, all smiles. Of course he was keen for us to take a room – and proudly showed us his offering. We were keen to camp and after some explaining about our maison with the chambre on the roof, he took down a section of his fence so that we could drive into the back of the property and park. Of course, the whole extended family and anyone else around came to see as Viking Explorer flipped open the tent, and I showed them where my kitchen was. Much head shaking, open mouths and laughing followed!

Kaz was an interesting man. He spoke a little English – and was keen to practice – so I understood more of the conversation. His one sister lives in Germany and is a professor of sociology. His other sister lives next door, and works at a hotel south of Dakar. In particular, he commented on the European style of marriage, where it is more of a partnership, than the Senegalese style (where I believe there is still an element of polygamy practiced). He certainly seemed more worldly than either of us really expected, possibly partly due to the French satellite TV he was so proud of!

We wanted to see the fort and so headed out for a stroll. In the late afternoon, the village slowly started coming to life! Where previously the doors had been shut, and few people around, doors were flung open, students from the college and school emerged, a soccer game began, business resumed.

The fort itself was closed (helpfully with phone numbers written above the door if you wanted to go in). We stopped a smartly dressed, very tall man to ask about the building opposite (which looked like it was a hotel, but also closed). As it turns out, he was a musician who had performed at La Terrasse and knew Kaz very well. He had also performed in St Louis, but wasn’t planning on anything that evening. He decided to escort us back, and chatted to us, telling us about the town. He even complemented Viking Explorer on his French. Much smiles and laughter and Dembe delivered us back to Kaz.

We ate a delicious dinner at the restaurant before collapsing into bed … for one of the worst night’s sleep! Aside from the mosquitos which seemed to have found a backdoor into the tent, the household and village just seemed to become more active as the night progressed. It seemed that goats, dogs, cats and various villagers wandered casually into and out of the property throughout the night, and occasional big trucks rumbled past. Eventually, to our disappointment, dawn broke and any chances of sleep evaporated.


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:38 am

10th January 2013

Ile a Morphil

The next day we started our journey back towards St Louis. Of course, we took the scenic route along the Ile a Morphil. This is an island that runs for about 100km and lies between the main Senegal River and an adjacent channel. From what we could see, it was primarily agricultural in nature, with many people working the lands. We waved as we passed by, and received large grins and energetic waves in return.

Eventually, the road ended. Literally. Stopped.

There was a small track which we progressed down, until we thought it best to check we were going the right way. Turns out – not quite. We were advised to return to the village and take the ferry across the river. After passing the village again, we were directed through the village down to the water’s edge – and saw the little flat bed ferry attached to a rope spanning the river. Priceless.

First, though, we needed to wait for the ferry to return. And the ferry needed a full load to return. So we waited. In dribs and drabs the ferry filled up. Soon it was on its way back.

The ferry emptied as only it could have – the guys started jumping from the edge of the ferry to the riverbank as soon as it was almost leap-able. The ladies – in their long skirts – waited until a little closer. However, with everyone pushing forwards on the ferry, the ferry became slightly “nose-heavy” and so was beached before actually reaching the riverbank! A little organisation ensued, and soon the ferry was correctly moored and the remaining passengers – those with shorter legs, longer skirts or just more patience – headed into the village.

The ferryman was all grins when he saw us. Not in a “here are tourists I can make a quick buck off” sort of way. He was proud of his ferry and the service he was offering and would only accept a very minimal amount to take us across. He said a ‘thank-you’ was enough. Our second attempt at boarding the ferry was successful, followed by us gently traversing the river. The locals on both sides of the river were amused – loading and unloading the vehicle was clearly the best entertainment they’d had in a while!

A short kilometre to the tarred road, and we were back on our way to St Louis.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:42 am

16th January 2013

Campement Hotel de Wassadou

Paradise exists. It is on the banks of the Gambia River at Campement Hotel de Wassadou.

We are so glad that we have taken the time to explore Senegal, rather than merely rushing through. And yes, there are little annoyances and irritations everywhere – the rubbish and litter being a significant one. However, arriving at Wassadou makes it all worth it.

From Kael, our next aim was Tambacounda, the last big town before Niokolo Koba. We set off early to avoid driving in the heat of the day – and were rewarded with a fantastic site: a flock of about 150 vultures were resting near the side of the road. Some were in trees and the rest in a large group on the ground. All were waiting for the thermals as the day warmed up so that they could take to the air. Magic.

On to Tambacounda, where we stopped at the Oasis Oriental hotel (N W ). They kindly let us camp in their car park – although the bungalows set in gardens were very inviting. Here, while relaxing next to the pool, we met a local artist – Mara. Such an interesting chap to chat to. Amongst many topics, he similarly shared our concern about the environment, and expressed his opinions about tackling the issue of rubbish and litter. A bit later, he told us about his work and showed us some of his pieces. Truly beautiful African artwork. I look forward to seeing some hanging on our walls.

Next morning, after a stop in the local market to pick up some food, we headed for Wassadou. But not before we passed the almost obligatory vulture on the side of the road (new species this time). Soon, we left the main road, and wound our way between palm trees and other lush vegetation – to arrive in “north of the equator” paradise.

Wassadou overlooks the Gambian River – with chairs and hammocks strategically positioned for your best viewing. It has numerous bungalows nestling under the trees, and they kindly offer camping – on the proviso that you eat dinner at the restaurant. In case the view of the river becomes boring, there is a covered seating area. The staff are proud of the campement, and very friendly.

And of course, the birds oblige too – we identified many new species without venturing too far in the afternoon heat. Not only were us amateurs peering goggle eyed, but many far more serious birdwatchers were also adding to their birdlist.

So, we soaked up the luxury for a few days – taking a brief break to visit Parc National Niokolo-Koba – before starting the route onwards.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:05 am

Hotel de Wassadou, outside Nikolo-Koba NP, Senegal,

It was Blaise, our mandatory Senegalese guide for Nikolo-Koba, that initiated the conversation; The dilapidated state of the Simenti Hotel is due to it being run for the last 10 years by a Senegalese. Changes are about, though, as a new white manager has been appointed…

The Nikolo-Koba National Park is the biggest in West Africa, measuring about 1million hectares. It has a population of about 180 lions, leopard, hyena, buffalo, hippo, crocodiles, and various other mammals and reptiles. And birds. The park also has a network of roads, an airstrip, several lookout towers, a few Campements with small huts and space for camping, and the Simenti Hotel. Simenti was build and is owned by the Government, but run privately on a lease contract. It is evident that this situation causes a huge challenge in how to run the hotel profitably under the management of the park (or lack thereof).

We entered the park at noon, and were immediately made aware of the somewhat peculiar situation that the park entry and the guide are separate. Park entry is based on 24hrs, while the guide, which has nothing to do with the formal park management, is per calendar day. For us, as we wanted to stay overnight, it meant buying access for 48hrs to marry access up with the two days of guiding we also needed.

The roads are bad, and in places we could hardly fit Brodie between the tall grass on the one side and the trees on the other. It is 35km from the gate to Simenti, a distance it took us 1hr 45min to cover. The bush is dense, limiting the view significantly. And we were there in the dry season! I cannot even imagine what it is like when it is the wet season. On the way in we spotted 3 antelope, and at the campsite I spotted a Honey Badger just as we were about to go to bed. The only other viewing we had was a small herd of Waterbuck at the Lac de Simenti. Very disappointing for a park of this size.

At Simenti we stopped to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat, and to enjoy the view from the deck – and to experience the first disappointment: we had to search for the bar-keeper so that we could buy a cold drink. The second disappointment followed straight after: we noticed how neglected the hotel looked - no handles on the toilet doors, cracks, holes in the roof, leaking pipes… Blaise told us that Simenti once (under previous white management) had a fully working airstrip, with four 4x4s to ferry clients and to do the safari rounds . Under the following period of Senegalese management this deteriorated, and at one point there was only one working lorry left to undertake all transportation needs. Now, with a new white manager, Blaise said he himself had already seen a change in the running of Simenti.

From Simenti we went to Camp de Lion, where we spent the night. It is a lovely little campement with spaces for vehicles and tents. Facilities are basic, but they look clean. There is another campement not far from Simenti, Gue Damantan, which also has small huts, but less dedicated space for camping. It is also possible to camp at Simenti, but for us it would probably the last choice of place to stay. At Camp de Lion we again ran into a problem that seems to be all over Senegal: change for payment. There was no money at the camp, so they could not give me back change. We ended up having to buy extra drinks so that they didn’t owe us money… not how it should be.

The next day we tried to reach the Grand Mirador but the road was impassable. I could have pushed Brodie through, but there was no point as it would have been very hot and very slow going. We headed back to a hide at Simenti, and after sitting out the hottest part of the day we exited the park.

Nikolo-Koba has huge potential, and it could become a park on par with many of those in Southern Africa or East Africa – but investment and work is needed. When we arrived back at Wassadou we met people who were thinking about going into the park and that asked if we would recommend it. It was very hard to not outright say no, but to try to give a more balanced account of our stay. Two days for us was enough.

Facts & Figures:
•The park office where we bought our permits is at Dar Salam, just off the road on the right hand side.
•Park entry is 2,000CFA pp per 24hr period from time of entry. In addition, there is a one-off charge of 5,000CFA for the vehicle.
•Guide is mandatory, and is supplied by the village. Payment goes to a communal pot. Current rate is 10,000CFA per calendar day, regardless of what time of day entry is. This payment includes food, which the guide eats at the campements.
•Camping at Camp de Lion was 5,000CFA per night for the tent. On top of this is 600CFA pppn in tourist taxes. Breakfast is 1,500CFA.
•“Wild camping” is possible at designated places, but the client must then supply the guide with a place to sleep (tent) and with all food.
•Basic room ensuite at Simenti starts at 15,000CFA per night, and breakfast, lunch and dinner is about 12,000CFA.

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:06 am

To Anne, Vic, Jackie, Phil, Elize and anyone else contemplating an adventure

As you are preparing for your own adventures – however they look - we thought we’d send a few words of encouragement to you.

We have been on the road for a little over 3 months now, and to be honest, it is very different from what we expected. But then every adventure is unlike those adventures gone before, and those still to come.

It is so easy to look at other people’s blogs and websites and see where they have been, what they have done, who they have met and how long they have been on the road for. And it becomes very easy to think that this is the “standard” that you should also adhere to.

You “have to”:
- wild camp
- travel to remote areas
- travel for a year

A word of advice – you don’t!

While we have met relatively few – OK, almost no – people who are embarking on a grand tour of Africa, we have met rather a lot more people who are travelling parts of Africa for a length of time they are comfortable with – 3 or 4 months sometimes.

There are many Europeans who return to Morocco each year for 2-3 months in favour of the warmer winter temperatures. A lot of them travel in camping cars with no need for 4x4 and huge off-road experiences. It works for them.

There are some Europeans who venture through Morocco and Western Sahara, dash through Mauritania and spend 1-2 months exploring Senegal and The Gambia. And they return to do it again and again.

We have even been fortunate to meet a few travellers who venture into Mali (in the good ol’ days), Guinea, Burkina Faso and then return to Europe afterwards. They have given us a wealth of information – and many positive words of encouragement.

The key really is – do what you are comfortable with.

We have been tweaking our way of travelling as we go. We are in awe of other travellers who are currently on the road in West Africa – they have ventured into Sierre Leone and Liberia for goodness sake!!! Yikes! I thought we were adventurous when we decided to explore Senegal and The Gambia for more than 2 weeks. We have discovered that we quite like to spend more than a mere few days in a country – but rather take the time to see what we can. Of course, we may find we start running out of time … but we’ll deal with that eventuality when we reach it.

So if the idea of a year-long journey through Africa is daunting, I’d encourage you to start with something smaller and more accessible. Try Morocco. If you’re up for it, head down to Senegal. Try it on a timescale that works for you – whether that is 1 month, 3 months, or longer.

But do get out there and see this beautiful planet we live on.

Good luck!

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:06 am

Lots of updates posted - do scroll up!


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:10 pm

Great updates as thoughts as always. I am enjoying heraing about these little gems you are finding along the way. Too bad about Mali, my advice has changed obviously that it wouldn't be a good idea at present. Burkina and Niger would be definitely out as well. Travel safe and keep the reports coming!

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sat Jan 19, 2013 7:50 am

Tembo - thanks for your note.

Please do keep us informed of any changes in neighbouring countries. We were still considering travel into Burkina although Mali is out.

Sigh.


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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:17 am

At first I thought it was travel fatigue. Then I thought that the new country was causing me some anxiety. I also thought that maybe I was a little bit homesick, which was making me feel a bit down. A casual discussion with a chap at Wassadou was the final nail. If only I’d had the hallucinations, I would have known instantly …

… Lariam and me aren’t exactly in agreement.

Once I had read the pamphlet, I realised I had a number of the symptoms, in varying degrees. I really should have known that the amount of anxiety I was experiencing just getting out of the car to go to the market wasn’t normal. I did realise I wasn’t quite as upbeat as when we travelled in Morocco and every day was hugely exciting.

Noel and Ping, the fortuity of having wifi at the campsite, and the wonders of Skype meant that I could at least chat to someone about it.

Now, I am trying to rid my system of Lariam, find an alternative anti-malaria medicine, and find a quiet place to recover.

Throw in the chest and throat infection, and I am not a terribly happy bunny at the moment.

Oh yes, got a pimple on my chin too …

(PS I have used Lariam without incident in the past. We are carrying malaria test kits and treatment)

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:58 am

22nd January 2013

Our new home for the next little while is Djidjack, a delightful campement run by a Swiss couple in Palmarin which is on a long spit on the edge of the Sine-Saloum delta, south of Dakar.

Campement is a term used frequently in Senegal, for which there isn’t really a suitable English translation. Essentially, it is a property which typically has some type of hutted accommodation and usually allows camping as well, although camping facilities vary hugely. They also usually offer meals in addition to accommodation. It would be too simplistic to call it a campsite.

This particular campement feels like luxury to us! The owners have preserved the aged boababs when building the accommodation, and even have a table set up for breakfast in the arms of one of the baobabs. The central communal area is relaxed and inviting – a large roundhouse with natural light funnelled into the middle. There are a range of seats – from comfy leather sofas to traditional wooden stools. Catering for children too, there is a library of children’s books (French) in addition to other books and travel guides. It is very inviting, and we spend the evenings in the roundhouse, and are most welcome even though we don’t eat all our meals there. We have set up our tent under a large leafy tree, and have a clean ablution block close by, which also has facilities for washing dishes and washing clothes.

The birdlife is lively – although not quite as varied as Wassadou. We have revived a little bird bath near to our vehicle, which offers us spectacular sites of the many birds coming down to drink or have a bath. We have spent many an hour reading books while keeping a beady eye on the cordon bleus, firefinches, bulbuls, hornbills, starlings, sparrows and weavers which jostle for their own space at the bird bath! It is not unheard of to refill the birdbath 2 or 3 times a day!

Directly to the east, not far from here, is the edge of the mangroves which make up the Sine-Saloum delta. One of these days we’ll take a pirogue trip and explore the waterways and mangroves. The western boundary of Djidjack is the Atlantic Ocean – not quite warm enough for an African GirlChild to swim!

Since we’ll be here for a little while (still in recovery mode), we’ll be able to catch up on all the photographs we have taken – so watch out for new albums!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:59 am

Standing still is travelling too

27th January 2013

Djidjack, Palmarin, Senegal

It does just take time. Unwinding, relaxing, recovering, emerging from Lariam delirium …

We have been here at Djidjack for a week now. It has truly been a week of very little activity. We have mainly been reading, and reading and reading … and watching the birds drink and bath in the improvised birdbath we have resurrected near the campsite. As health and welfare has improved, we have ventured into the nearby village a few times, and managed the 100m walk to the beach (once).

We have hardly been alone though – it has been quite busy in the campsite. There is a French couple in a Transit van who have been here for almost the same length of time. They have been really active, and been out every day in their vehicle to visit nearby villages, explore via pirogue, go on fishing tours – and then tell us all out it in the evening. It makes us feel a little guilty at times for being quite so lazy. We have also been chatting about onward travel options with them.

We were also joined by 3 overland vehicles with 5 Austrians. They were here for a few days, catching up, doing vehicle repairs and relaxing. Till & Carmen and Rene are travelling for a year, while Deborah & Oliver have to return to Europe by March. It has been wonderful to have the company. As is always the case, talk always turns to vehicles and who has what, who has done what. They are in a Mercedes truck, and Steyr truck and a Land Rover. Interestingly, while we would love the privacy a self contained vehicle, they would love the convenience of a smaller vehicle! I guess no matter what you have, there are always compromises! (More about that in Viking Explorer’s coming post).

On one day, the 7 of us pooled resources and hired a pirogue to tour the mangrove delta nearby. It was very interesting to explore the mangroves on a boat – there is very little visible land, and the tree roots appear to disappear straight into the water, with root tips occasionally appearing like snorkels above the waterline. We didn’t see a huge abundance of birdlife – perhaps with a bird guide it would have been different. We stopped on a little island and our guide scaled a baobab to pick a fruit for us all to share. It was tasty, but a bit chalk-like in texture.

Once again, we continue to be humbled by the friendliness and generosity of the locals. We wandered in today to find a dressmaker to turn a piece of funky Senegalese fabric I bought into a skirt. A young chap in the village directed us to the man with the machine and I explained as best I could what I wanted. Then, the young man, Dominique, insisted that we return to his house and join him for tea, which we duly did. We sat and chatted – in both French and English – he brewed tea and we learned about his soccer playing in Dakar, and how he is training the youngsters in the village now that he has returned. We met other various family members – including a few small children who really were a bit fascinated by our white skins! After we enjoyed tea and were preparing to depart, a large bowl of millet, fish and vegetables appeared – and we shared in a delicious lunch prepared by his step-mom. Very, very kind.

And so we relax and enjoy. I am learning that this is a part of travelling too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:33 am

More commentary from Viking Explorer ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Inside or Outside

30th January 2013

Campement Djidjack, Palmarin, Senegal,

We were sitting behind our car, watching the birds at the birdbath, reading, and listening to the sounds of nature. Then, our campsite was not so quiet any longer. In came more overlanders. Not just one couple, but two couples and a guy.

We have, since our journey started, wanted to meet up with other overlanders. Both to share information with, and maybe to spend some time on the road with. Noel and Ping were our travel companions for a week in Morocco, and we had all intentions of spending some time with Jupp and Doro whom we met at Wassadou. To our surprise, the roads are otherwise very quiet; there doesn’t seem to be very many overlanders around. And further, most of those we meet are either on their way north, or just staying in one country.

Also, since our journey started, we have had a good look at what vehicles other people are travelling in. I think this is natural. It is a topic of conversation, and it is a way to learn. From the top of my head, this is what we have seen:
In St Jean des Aupes we met a Swiss couple in a Toyota LandCruiser 7-series 2-door stationwagon. They were only travelling Europe, but had the ability to sleep inside the vehicle.
In Sale in France we met a Dutch couple in a big truck. They have been all over the world over the last 12 years, and their truck is their home.
In Spain we met Noel and Ping in their Iveco van. Kitchen and bed inside, and the ability to hide if needed.
At Chefchaouen in Morocco we met a couple of Italian/Swiss guys in an Iveco truck. It is not the big truck version, but it has a box on the back with a pop-up tent.
At Chefchaouen we also saw another truck, an Ireland-registered Unimog.
In Agadir we met a Dutch couple at the campsite. They had a big truck, complete with everything needed – it looked like an IKEA showroom inside.
In Agadir we camped next to a German couple in a Toyota LandCruiser 7-series pick-up with a small box on the back.
In Rabat we met a German couple at the Mauritania embassy. They were in a big truck.
In Merzouga we met a French couple in a Toyota Landcruiser 100-series, tent on top.
In Dakhla we saw an Italian couple come in late on evening. Their vehicle: a big truck.
In Dakhla we also saw to other overlanders that had come into the campsite late the last night. They were both in Toyota LandCruiser 7-series pick-up, both with a box on the back. This gave them the ability to sleep inside, and to cook out of the rain and wind.
In Mauritania we met two French couples living in Morocco. They were both in Land Rovers with pop-up tents, doing shorter trips into Mauri and Mali.
In St Louis we met Wolfgang from Germany. He had a Nissan Navarra one-and-a-quarter cab with a box on the back.
At Wassadou we met a French couple in their 7-series Toyota LandCruiser with a box on the back.
At Wassadou we met Jupp and Doro in their 35-year old Merc truck. They have been all over the world over the last 8 years.
At Wassadou we also met a Dutch couple in their massive Merc truck.
On the way to Tamba we met a Belgian registered truck.
On the way out of Tamba we saw a French-registered 80/100-series Toyota LandCruiser.
Here at Palmarin we are camping with Two Austrian couples. One couple is in a Merc truck with a Russian telecom box on the back. The other couple is in a huge Steyr truck. Their friend is in a Land Rover 110 with an IterCamp pop-up tent.

So, where does this leave us? It certainly seems our vision of old Landies or Cruisers with the Howling Moon or Eezy-Awn fold-out roof-top tents, parked under a Baobab or Acacia in the middle of nowhere is somewhat outdated… Now, it seems travelling is done by truck, or by a vehicle that has a door that can be closed to keep the world out and to create a much more private (and secure?) space inside.

Is this a sign of travellers wanting more privacy? Is it an indication of how the world has evolved recently?

Or maybe it is both?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:33 am

Hi all!

3 posts from the explorers! Do scroll up to have a read!

rgds
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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:26 am

Fascinating as always.

"Now, it seems travelling is done by truck, or by a vehicle that has a door that can be closed to keep the world out and to create a much more private (and secure?) space inside.

Is this a sign of travellers wanting more privacy? Is it an indication of how the world has evolved recently?"


Yep, think it is. It has to be a security thing. As I've often said, I wouldn't want to stuck up in the clouds in a roof tent when a gang of local tea-leaves are downstairs stealing your wheels. The ability to simply jump out of bed, hop in the cab and drive away seems the most logical approach ... surely? That's why I bought the Range Rover soon-to-be-camper, as it's big enough to do just that, yet not too big that you can't drive through the narrow back streets of villages. Then again if I was travelling around the world over an 8-year period, I might well opt for the truck method too. Horses for courses, but still don't like the idea of roof tents.

As for you Sheelah, poor girl. The Larium was bad enough, but a zit on the chin must have been the last straw. Not good, no wonder it's taken a week to recuperate! No

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:07 pm

More great updates...was overseas for a few days so had some good ones to catch up on, thanks! Interesting about the types of vehicles out there...my first thought is that having grown up next door to America, the bigger-is-better concept isn't new to me. There are some pretty big numbers of people in the Americas that sell the house and live out of a massive RV, moving in groups to follow the sun through the year like migrating herds. I think that idea of checking out of the 'normal' world for a few years, selling the house and buying a big truck to see the world can be seductive. Especially if you want to get off the tar and see some less-touristy spots. Security is also an issue I guess, but a big truck is also a big target with lots of juicy mechanical bits to steal and sell in the local market.

As to the absence of old landies and 70 series Toyotas...yep, that is the future. Landrover lost the plot years ago in terms of their overseas marketing and support and the 70 series were never common outside commercial agriculture, aid organizations and the military, so they can be hard to find in decent shape. My hope is that this last Landrover of mine will see me through to my grave and then the generations that follow can do as they will...assuming there is anything left to see by then and not covered by mounds of garbage and beset by touts chasing your vehicle...

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:55 pm

Thanks for the updates it's always good to hear about others trial and tribulations, I spurs me on to get off my ar5e and travel.

Interesting about the move from small vehicles to larger trucks, it's always been the lure of better weather and a love of camping that has excited me but I suppose tents are not ideal for longer trips the continuous packing and unpacking can become a chore and if your travelling with your house (so to speak) a permanent bed and kitchen set up has its attractions.

Good luck and don't forget more posts for us stuck at home thumbsup

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PostSubject: Re: Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012   

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Kapp 2 Cape: Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas starting Oct 2012
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