Saturday the 15th marked my second weekly outing with Serge. We’d decided last week to take a trip up the Cape Verde Peninsula to one of the more popular tourist attractions in Senegal: Lac Rose. Evidently, a bacteria that grows in the water during the non-rainy season turns the water a vibrant pink. We’re currently in the rainy season so we knew that the water wouldn’t be as pink as it is in this picture. However, Serge is going back to Switzerland in a couple of weeks and he wanted to see it before he left. We asked the Jones family if they wanted to go with us – we figured that rather than making our trip a 2-person YSA activity, we should make it an 8-person ward activity. They said yes, so we piled into their suburban and headed off. It was the first time that I’d seen much of Dakar outside of the routes I take to work and to Church on Sundays. Since the lake is only about 20-30 kilometers from Dakar, we figured it would be a fairly quick trip there and back.
Yeah, right. We all forgot that we’re in Africa and nothing happens the way it would if we were in the States or in Europe. First, unless you leave at the crack of dawn, it’s nigh impossible to get out of Dakar on a Saturday morning. The autoroute is completely packed. Buses, cars, scooters, taxis, car rapides, you name it swarm the road and to top it all off, the sides of the highway are lined with vendors trying to sell their wares. In fact, some even venture out into the road and try to sell window-to-window during the moments that the traffic stops. Then when we got to the little villages, we traveled on tiny roads that had pedestrians, horse-drawn carts, cars, buses, etc. It turned into a bumpy ride because the roads aren’t made well and potholes are everywhere.
It was kind of like an out-of-this-world experience watching the Senegalese go about their everyday lives. Rusty, dilapidated shacks served as homes, stores, boutiques, etc and everywhere you look there’s a fine cloud of dust that just hangs in the air. We saw fruit, vegetable, and fish stands at every turn. The colors of the fruit were bright and happy (which was quite an anomaly in the dust), people dressed in ragged clothes and others dressed more in the brightly-colored traditional boubous. But when we passed artisan shops, I was always impressed with the quality of the craftsmanship, especially in the woodworking or jewelry.
It took us 4 hours to get to Lac Rose (a 20-30 km distance from Dakar, remember). At times it was frustrating getting stuck behind animal carts, buses, or throngs of people. Our heads and bodies swayed side to side as we crossed over the uneven pavement (when there was some) and it really could have been a terrible experience. But I just had to laugh at how ridiculous some of the things were that we were experiencing. I mean 4 hours??? At the same time, though, it made me realize how much we are truly blessed back home. I mean, that’s what these people go through EVERY DAY of their lives. The next time we feel like complaining, it might do us some good to think of what other peoples’ situations are like and then thank God that we have what we have.
In the end we found the lake. Just before we found it (we took the back roads) we found a resort-like development that was in the process of being built. The builders and the people who were squatting in the unfinished condos tried to sell a unit to the Jones family. Their efforts failed to convince Dan, so unfortunately, I won’t be able to visit anyone in a (near) lake-side resort in Senegal… Sad day. As I said before, the lake wasn’t a brilliant pink – it was quite muted – but it had a touch of pink nonetheless. We saw several men in boats on the middle of the lake who were harvesting salt. Some women on the side of the lake helped them take it from the boats and dump it in huge piles. Due to the grayish color of the piles, we weren’t quite sure that it was salt. But we stopped and Darla took a small handfuls of the granules and sure enough – it was coarse salt. The crystals were very large and very square – a tell-tale marker of NaCl. We drove the length of the lake (it’s not very big), got out, had a picnic lunch, and walked out onto the drier part of the lake. The shore is made up of thousands and thousands of little shells.
There really wasn’t much to see, but in the end, it was a good excuse to get out of Dakar.