Recent trips

One of the great things about Kedougou is the fact that we have a few waterfalls in the region. Up until a few weeks ago I had never seen any of them. However, I had the chance to go to another volunteer’s site and check out one of the waterfalls. Now before you go yelling at me for not going sooner you have to realize that these falls are not close to me, the closest one is 25km (about 15.5 miles) away. Those of you who have cars are thinking what’s 15 miles, well unfortunately the only mode of transportation the Peace Corps will allow me is my trusty bicycle, so now you can see why I wasn’t very gung-ho about checking out the falls. But seeing as how this opportunity to help a fellow volunteer with his project, see another area of Kedougou, and check out one of our waterfalls presented itself, I decided I’d bite the bullet and go. Luckily, my site mate, Melanie, and another volunteer decided they wanted to go and they both told me they were not known for their biking skills. We decided to try and leave early to miss the heat of the day (average day is high 90’s) and after putting together some sandwiches for the road, fixing my flat tire, and making sure we had enough water (thank you Brandyn for the camelback) we were off.

Now there are two ways to get to Segou, the village, one is the dry season raod and the other is the rainy season road. We are in rainy season but we figured it might be too early in the season for the road to be washed out completely and dedcided to take it. Once we found the dry season road, things were easy sailing, actually no not really, the dry season road isn’t really a road, it’s more like trails that people, bicycles, and motorbikes have carved through the jungle. So off I went on my first off-roading adventure! I have to admit, at some points we had to get off our bikes and walk because the road was too scary to ride over, either due to the fact that it was downhill at about an 80 degree angle or that the rocks were about the size of me. Either way we managed to get through all the steep hills, the huge rocks and cross a couple of rivers to make it to the main dirt road for the rest of our trip. Once on the dirt road it wasn’t too bad except for these sneaky little hills. You can look down the road and it appears to be flat, but as you continue along you realize that you’re getting tired and it’s getting harder and harder to peddle, that’s when you realize you’re going uphill. The last 5 km of the road was a sneaky hill like that and I just about had it, luckily my friends informed me that we were there, Hallelujah!!!

We arrived at my friends campement (it’s a set of huts that you can rent for the night) and were immediately put to work. The two tasks were to either lay rocks on the side of the hill so that the soil wouldn’t erode and ruin the foundation of the camp or move rocks to create pathways from the bathroom, main area, and the huts. I decided to help with making paths, but I can honestly say I wasn’t very much help in the moving rocks part but I was helpful in managing people 🙂 In my defense though my whole body hurt from that bike ride, surprisingly my legs were the least of my worries, my shoulders and back were where all the pain was, I never realized how many muscles you use to support yourself on a bike!!!

After all the work we finally got to just sit around and enjoy the beauty of Segou, which is surrounded by lush vegitation and mountains. After lunch my friend and I decided to go and check out the infamous Segou waterfall. Melanie and I were going to walk there because the thought of getting back on our bikes was just too painful. However, we were told if we wanted to get there before dark it was best to take our bikes, so we hopped back on. It took us about 45 mins to get to the beginning of the trail and about an hour to hike to the waterfalls. Luckily, I had Melanie with me who has camped and hiked before because I had no idea that a pile of rocks could be a trail marker!! The hike was quite a workout, we had to go up hills, down hills, through water, and hop rocks. By the time I got there I was drenched in sweat and I was ready to go for a little dip to cool off but we set off too late and if we wanted to make it out of the jungle we had to take a few pictures, marvel at the beauty, and head back.

The next day we slowly got ready for our trip back to Kedougou. My back and legs were not looking forward to it but if I ever wanted to see my own bed again I had to get on my bike. The ride back was much easier because it was predominately downhill and it only took us about an hour to get back! On the way back I was riding and jamming out to my music when I approached a group of kids on the side of the rode and prepared myself for the onset of “Toubab, Donne moi de cadeaux” (Foreigner, give me a gift) which is the usual greeting I receive while riding around Kedougou. However, as I passed the group all of the sudden I hear “Ania?” (my Senegalese name) I look at who is talking and I find it to be my namesake! As it turns out I was passing through the village that half my family lives in. I stopped for a few minutes to talk to them and to check out the place that they kept asking me to visit. After our short renioun I got back on my bike and continued my trip.

I am very proud of myself for biking 25km (15.5 mi) and for my one hour hike. Now to all of you who have wanted me to go camping, do NOT assume that this is something I am going to want to do when I get back home!! However, I am very glad that I went and got to see the falls.

My second trip was a little less adventurous as I took public transportation to get there. However, just taking public transportation here is an adventure in and of itself. After July 4th my friend and I decided to head off the the coast, it took us all day and three different cars to get there. We got up bright and early (4am) to take a bus that would take us to the next largest city that has cars that go all over Senegal (unfortunately you can’t get a direct route to anywhere directly out of Kedougou). So after walking for a half hour to the morning bus we got to sit around for about an hour praying that the bus would start, luckily the Gods were looking down on us and decided to let us leave. There isn’t much to say about the trip to the coast except that I still think that 8 adults squeezed into a station wagon from 1970 is NOT a fun way to travel. We couldn’t make it all the way to the coast in one day so we spent the night in a town close to the shore. We got up early the next morning and set off to our final destination. Now this was an interesting ride we had 8 adults, 4 children and a chicken all in the station wagon and to top it off one of the kids got car sick. Sometimes I love my life 🙂 A two hour ride like that is not on my Top 10 things I want to do list. We finally made it to the coast and hung out for a few days, during which time my brother came to hang out with us. After a few days we tired of the beach we decided it was time to go home. As I mentioned it wasn’t all that note worthy of a trip except to highlight how I get around Senegal!

I’m glad that I got to get out of Kedougou for a bit and I could see some of Senegal but I do not plan on leaving again until I go up to Dakar in September so I can take my GMATs and meet up with my family in Portugal, it’s just too tiring traveling here.

A real Senegalese traffic jam!! Hit it on the way to Segou

This is the nice dirt road that we took most of the way to Segou.

Melanie, Leah and I stop for a quick bite to eat.

Women from one of the road side villages to the nearest large town, probably Kedougou, at least a 15km (9+ miles) walk

Working at the campment. Some of the volunteers are putting rocks on the side of the mountain to help prevent erosion.

Working on putting the rocks down for the trails. Every rock had to be moved by hand!

Here Melanie and I are trying to find the start of the trail to head off to the waterfall.

Stopping to enjoy the beauty around us.

Can you find the trail? Hint – It’s not that line of rocks that you see 🙂

Getting close to the falls!!!

Taking a look back at what we had to go through to get to the waterfall.

We’re finally there!!!

Picture of Segou.

Even after biking all that way I’m still all smiles 🙂

A fishing village on the coast. They still do it old school style with a rickety boat and fishing nets.

What do you do if you’re on the beach and you hear the call to prayer? Stop what you’re doing and pray!

Shrimp anyone?

Cooking on the grill old fashion style. They take coals and put them in the box under the grill and then fan them to keep them going.

Getting ready for lunch. YUMMMM!!!

Chilling on the beach 🙂


One Comment on “Recent trips”

  1. Nicole Piotrowski says:

    So that “unseen hill” that you mentioned – the Dutchies call that a “false plaat” meaning “fake flat” – a stretch of road you think is flat until your thighs tell you different. I’m proud of you munchkin.

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