Thursday, June 30, 2011


I start the morning out with a pink torso behind me in the bush taxi. The problem with these seven-seater cars is that you have to wait for a passenger in every seat before they'll leave. We're down to one person left, and we wait and we wait. I volunteer to pay for the extra seat so we can leave, but I want the two dollars back I paid for my backpack to ride with the torso in the rear. This logic confounds the driver and about a dozen other people. "The pack will ride in the empty seat next to me--consider it a person." This is in bad French, mind you. Negotiations are quite frenzied, but they won't budge over returning the luggage fee, and I tell them to forget it. Finally, a huge Senegalese woman arrives, and she will fill the last seat. Lordy is it cramped in here!

Today is only five hours, and after a while I fall asleep because roadside Senegal is full of dead cars, occasional dead animals, and some stretches of spectacular trash on the side of the road. Please, people, any Senegalese reading this, don't trash your country; have a little respect for it.

We arrive in Saint Louis--just a short distance from the Mauritanian border. This, by far, is one of the more interesting places in Senegal. Founded in 1673, it was the capital of the French colony of Senegal for nearly 300 years. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's got a weather-beaten, dilapidated look, like something you'd see in Cuba or Haiti, but there's a hip vibe to it with an arts scene and even a yearly jazz festival. Best of all, you can walk around without crafts touts dogging you.

I'm riding with a torso behind me.

A street in Saint Louis

More Saint Louis

I have a very cool room at the Louisiane Hotel. Its owner, Marcel, is one of the nicest men in Senegal.

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