Sunday, 14 January 2007

Kedougou and the 'Spanish' side of Niokolo Koba

I found a lovely place to stay in Kedougou but it had a guy there who pounced on me each time I arrived back, forever asking me to buy something from his group of carvings that were on the floor of the restaurant area. The first day I was so tired from the journey, I just wanted to chill out and get my washing done; neither task was easy ... I met David & Valentina, an Italian couple who had just arrived and wanted to explore the Pays Bassari - the region I'd just driven through.There was a group of three Spanish, Iberia employees from Madrid staying as well, otherwise it was fairly quiet. The following morning I got up and organised a black market exchange of most of my left-over Guinean Francs that I hadn't changed the day before. Coming back to the auberge I saw a Barcelona registered Unimog coming up the street. It stopped and a guy got out to talk to a few people opposite. I went over to speak to the two Spanish guys in it. One was Frances, he owned Niokolo Samoo, a newish campement just west of Wassoudou and he and his friend from the Barcelona region had just come back from Burkina Faso & Mali in his Unimog. They asked what I was doing in Kedougou and I said that I really didn't know what I was doing or where I was going next. They offered me a lift and I jumped at the chance; ran back to the auberge, packed up very quickly and paid for the night. Getting into the truck, the guy with them, Abulaye told me he was Guinean and that he'd just heard that I'd arrived the previous day from Guinea and had told the Senegalese that my 'husband' was joining me ... so what would he do??? I laughed and told them that when I arrived at the gare routiere I was 'married' but today I wasn't ... everyone doubled up laughing and it set the tone for the rest of the journey! Abulaye was on a months trial as a mechanic and driver. A lovely guy, typically Guinean we had a long chat about the differences in attitude between the Senegalese & Guineans! After a pit-stop at Abulaye's old employer on the edge of the Niokolo Koba for lunch we arrived at Frances' lovely home. However, he wasn't pleased to find his neighbours cattle all over the property!
Frances friend & I walked a few kilometres up the road to the next village and just before it, the Pierre Fabre Hospital, an incredible new complex. We asked to buy water; the shop was shut but the man would be back 'soon'; I asked if we could buy water from the kitchens, they told us that they had bottled water, but I was a little suspiscious and asked if it was mineral water. 'No' was the answer, but 'it's clean, we've cleaned it with bleach' - we turned down their offer much to their suprise!
Frances' property backs onto the Gambia river, there's a small stream alongside it separating him from the nearest village of Wassadou. A lovely place to walk around and easy access down to the Gambia to see hippos.

The following day we set off for Tambacounda, they dropped me there, I was again sad to say goodbye to another lovely Guinean who thanked me several times over for the remaining 23,000FG I hadn't been able to change. I got a 7-seater 505Peugeot taxi to Kaolack with a bit of an argument over the luggage price and got into Kaolack at night; I immediately found an honest taxi driver to take me to the Catholic Mission, Maison des Ouevres and got a room for 3,000CFA. One of the guys offered to show me a good restaurant and I stupidly went with him, believing him to be a member of staff; he was a tout ... after ordering the meal, I had him talking incessantly to me about various tours he could take me on (back toward the Koba Niokolo Park!) when David & Valentina walked in! I was thrilled to see them again and they were very suprised to see me and wondered where I had vanished to!

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