For our third Saturday outing, Serge and I made plans to go to the nature reserve (otherwise known as Ile de la Madelaine) with some of his friends from work. However we woke up to a very wet and very windy morning… it stopped around 9:30, but we figured that it probably wouldn’t be wise to be crawling around on slippery rocks or to trudge around in icky mud. People have also said that the water can be really choppy and fairly dangerous between the mainland and the island on days when it has been raining. So we didn’t go. I was pretty disappointed because it’s supposed to be really beautiful on the island. But there will be another time to go.
Not content to spend all Saturday cooped up in our respective apartments, Serge and I decided to go to the marché Sandaga on the Plateau (downtown Dakar) and then visit the zoo. The market extends for several blocks and you can find practically anything you want there. Purses, clothing, cloth, jewelry, sculptures, paintings, traditional masks, electronics, shoes, etc, etc, etc. I knew that I wanted to pick up some material to have some boubous made, and Serge wanted to get some nice T-shirts/polos and some button-down shirts. Holy cow, it was crazy. There were so many people it was hard to move, and everyone was trying to get us to buy something. Some people were kind of annoying, and other people had the task of finding potential buyers for one particular item and then guide them to the boutique. You have to bargain for everything. When you ask for a price they quote you an outrageous figure, and then you cut that at least in half, and they’ll try to get you to go higher. I was really glad that Serge was with me because he’s a really good bargainer. I need to take lessons from him so when he’s gone I can get the prices I want. He helped me pick out two fabrics and I helped him pick out 4 shirts. We made a pretty good pair. Now all I have to do is find a seamstress and have the dresses made.
The zoo is located on the southern side of the peninsula and its surrounded by the only green space in the whole city. By that I mean that it’s the only thing that can sort of be labeled as a park. There are tons of trees, a small lake, some benches (the only ones I’ve seen on the mainland) and then the zoo. We saw a bunch of big, white birds that had long necks roosting in the trees. I think they were storks, but I’m not sure. Many of the nests had babies in them, and I thought that was strange because it’s not the spring season… but I’ve seen enough things here that go against the norms that I’m used to, so maybe I should stop being surprised at such things.
The zoo was quite small, but we saw lots of crocodiles (they were really ugly) and monkeys. The cages weren’t too far away from the guard rails – sometimes there was a little moat between the sidewalk and the cages – and if someone really wanted to, they could reach out and almost touch the bars. We were looking at some monkeys and a Senegalese man with his two little boys were watching a monkey in the cage right next to us. The dad had a bag of peanuts and one of his boys suggested that he feed some to the monkey. So he put a few in his hand, reached across the moat, and offered them to the monkey. The monkey stretched out his hand, ate them, and stuck out his hand for more. Serge and I asked for some and we fed him, too. His little paws were soft and leathery to the touch. And it was fun to FINALLY be able to feed the animals!! Probably our most interesting monkey encounter came about 10 minutes after that. I don’t know what kind of primate he was – he was either a chimpanzee on steroids or a very small gorilla – but he was really muscular. Serge and I had just stopped in front of his cage when he stood up on the little platform he was resting on and began hopping nimbly from foot to foot. After he finished hopping around, he pulled his arm behind him, charged the bars, and flung a melon at us! Here we thought he was doing a cute little dance, but nope, he was trying to kill us. Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but he certainly did not want us to be there. He threw the melon with such force that when it hit the bars, it made a really loud popping noise that reminded me of the sound a BB gun makes when it’s fired. I flinched and turned my back to the melon pieces that flew through the air, and poor Serge had to duck and cover his face because the monkey had aimed right at his head. It’s a good thing that Serge has quick reflexes, and it’s a good thing that melon shattered as it went through the cage. The weird thing is that neither of us saw anything in his hand. It’s like it appeared out of nowhere. I’m sure Steroid Monkey thought he was pretty funny and that he smiled to himself as we quickly went away. In the end we ended up laughing about it and we kept referencing back to it throughout the day, so you can see that it really got our adrenaline pumping.
We saw an 20 foot python as thick around as my calf scaling his chicken-wire enclosing. I hate snakes. And this was a big one. He was close enough that we could have easily have touched him had we wanted to. But I didn’t. I don’t think Serge did, either. Then we saw a bunch of animals that, thanks to Disney’s The Lion King, we were able to identify. Namely Simba and Pumbaa. The tigers refused to come out of their cement houses, there were water buffalo, a big ugly lizard thing, goats, sheep, and even a camel, but he must have been hiding in the tall grasses that were in his enclosing. Too bad.
Overall it was a very good day.