In the typical sept place, a 70’s station wagon, we strapped 10 bikes to the roof, loaded camping gear in the back, and squeezed 11 bodies into the car. The hour-long ride was quite cozy. The bikes were stacked high and started resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa by the end of the ride. We made it to Dindefello just in time!
From Dindefello, we had 20k to bike along bush paths to get to the waterfall. We divided into multiple biking groups and biked single file along the narrow, rocky paths. Every once in a while, we’d run into a stream or thick patch of mud to bike or trudge through. A ride that should have taken an hour or two turned into a 4 hour saga. I was injury number 1 as I hit a rock the wrong way and flew over my handle bars. Luckily my right arm broke my fall, and I didn’t have any serious injuries. Just scrapes and bruises. Injury number 2 occurred when a member of our group fell off her bike. She got up, brushed herself off and thought she was fine. A few seconds later, she noticed her hand was wet, and we all saw blood gushing out of it. She had a deep cut that must have hit a vein. Luckily some of the volunteers were prepared with a medical kit and were able to wrap up her hand and get the rock out of it as well. Since it’s the rainy season, skin infections are easy to contract, and it’s important to keep all wounds clean. Lots of volunteers even put antiseptic in their bucket baths to keep clean. All of us with cuts cleaned them out thoroughly. Our third major stop occurred when one of the volunteers was extremely dehydrated and fell off his bike and had to lie down and drink oral rehydration solution. As a group, we were a train wreck, but we made it!
By the time we finally got to the waterfall, we were all drenched in sweat and ready to jump into the river. The cold water felt amazing! The waterfall was beautiful, and I sat on a rock in the middle of the base, surrounded by lush, green jungle around me. It’s the most beautiful spot I’ve seen in Senegal so far. We were the only people there and set up camp right next to the river. Camping during rainy season is a gamble, and of course it started pouring around 6pm right as the fire was lit to start cooking up our chickens. The rain only lasted a couple hours though, and we cooked up a late, delicious dinner of chicken and pasta. We even roasted marshmallows!
The following morning, most people were anxious to start biking the 50k back before the heat got too bad. I hung around with 6 guys, and we decided to climb to the top of the waterfall and swim around. Rock climbing and hiking in flip flops was a challenge. I definitely need to rethink my shoe choices better on the next adventure I go on. I got some beautiful pictures at the top that I’ll post here once I can get a fast enough internet connection.
After making ourselves some lunch, we began an intense bike ride back. Since it had rained the night before, we had to bike through thick mud, and there were lots of streams to cross. At one point, we had to unpack all of the stuff on our bikes and wade across a river, while carrying our bikes. There was a precarious stick bridge that we did not think would hold our weight. Ian tried it though, and he survived! Through many of the muddy streams, I went barefoot since my flip flops kept getting sucked into the mud. It was a crazy bike ride, but it was a blast! We were riding at sunset, and I wish I could have filmed the ride, because it was inexplicably beautiful. I kept wishing I had my camera handy so I could snap pictures of the fields and jungle we were biking through. We finally made it back to the regional house after dark, and everyone was exhausted and dirty. It was quite the adventure!
My life here seems so bizarre sometimes. Two days ago, I was biking to Saraya, and I kept running into families of baboons along the road. When else in my life am I going to be biking through families of baboons on my normal route into town?
Yesterday, I took the Niokolo from Kedougou back to my site, and it was a true test of patience. The Niokolo has no glass around the sides to form normal windows, so it is open on all sides to the elements. There are 6 rows of 2-person benches on each side of the truck, and the middle is packed with rice sacks and other cargo. During rainy season, the open air aspect means that everyone is going to get soaked. Sometimes they use a tarp to cover the sides, but with the amount of people they pack in, it gets very claustrophobic if they cut out all the airflow. Yesterday, the truck was packed to the brim with men, women, and lots of screaming babies. Rain was flying into the truck, and whenever we’d get too close to the trees along the side of the road, branches would hit people inside. For some reason, Senegalese people enjoy spitting a lot. I was sitting in a window seat getting drenched by the rain, dodging tree branches, and trying desperately to avoid having all the spit fly in my face as everyone around me kept spitting out the window. I was amazed at how much spit some of these people could produce throughout a 3-hour ride. Why can’t they just swallow?
Towards the end of the truck ride, I started thinking about how all of these things have become so normal to me now. Horrible transport, weird smells, treacherous roads, etc. I’ve become very calm in these situations and even made some friends in the car. The lady sitting next to me gave me one of her bracelets to add to my growing collection on my wrist. Then I got to Nafadji, and the kids on my compound came running to help me carry my bag and walk my bike back to my hut. Sira, my favorite little girl, came running towards me and jumped into my arms. She’s 2 and was initially afraid of me, so I feel happy to have finally earned her affection. She’s such a cutie! After a long day of travel, it felt good to be back in my hut.