My time in Saly was running out. I needed to get down to M’Bour and meet with Diallo, so I can see some of the major attractions within the axis before I head up north to Saint Louis, the former capital of Senegal. I had called Diallo and asked if would come and pick me up, but he told me he was engaged at the moment, that I’ll have to come over. He assured me getting to M’Bour was no biggie and I would find him with relative ease. All I needed to do was pick a cab.
The problem was getting the cab. One, I spoke no French beyond “bonjour” and everyone here speaks that or Wolof. The other snag was that I was practically lodged on the beach. Baobab Belge, the B&B I was staying was a mere two-minute stroll from the waters, and there was no taxi rank around. The only way you get a cab was either you call one – the cabs are usually stationed at Place des Bougainvillées, which was like the city centre, and not more than a 10mins drive away, mind you.
The other option was to spot a cab driving by, perhaps after dropping off someone at one of the hotels along the beach road. Aside that, your feet remain your only carriage. Anyway, I remembered Yahya, the young cabbie who dropped me off around 03:30hrs earlier when I finally left one of the clubs at Place des Bougainvillées. I had gone out the previous night with Diallo to explore the nightlife, and he had to leave me there, after finding Yahya and instructing him to look out for me and drop me off whenever I exit the club.
How I got up by 09:00hrs, I really can’t tell, but I guess the fact that I was on an official duty and not on a vacation did the trick. I took a stroll down the beach, just to see the area before returning to my room to freshen up and meet up with Diallo. It was past 11:00hrs, and although Yahya picked the call, I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying. Too bad Yahya, never spoke English. I also suspect I may have woken him up, seeing that he worked late driving his cab.
Anyway, I stepped out of the gate of Baobab Belge, my phone pinned to my ear while I tried to explain to Yahya that I want him to come and pick me up. A white 4WD drove past and I didn’t really pay it any attention as I moved along, getting frustrated with my futile attempt to communicate with Yahya. I may just end up walking all the way to Place des Bougainvillées and then get a cab to M’Bour from there – if I don’t lose my way. Give or take, I doubt that. I may just take longer than necessary.
I dropped the call and noticed the 4WD had stopped. It reversed and the driver beckoned. He said something in a language I assumed must be Wolof – could have been French. I shook my head and asked “Parlé vous anglaise?” – Okay, I guess I know a bit more than bonjour.
“Where are you going?”
Hallelujah! English! I told him I was going to Saly. Technically the whole area is Saly, but he understood I meant Place des Bougainvillées which was in Saly Portudal. The Baobab Belge was in Saly Niakhniakhal while there is also Saly Nord. He opened the door and I got in. I realized he could just drop me off at M’Bour, so I told him. He turned around and we drove off, via another route.
There were no spider senses tingling. Obviously, I didn’t need to get to Place des Bougainvillées first before getting to M’Bour.
He told me his name was Mamadou as we drove along a dust path with the inevitable calèches going past us. There was not much to see along the way except a primary school which he pointed out to me. He pulled up suddenly in front of a house, got down and asked me to come. I didn’t feel any sense of danger, so I did. It was his house. He introduced me to his small family and showed me around his home. About 5mins later we were back in the car and on the way to M’Bour.
When we got to M’Bour, I called Diallo and I gave the phone to Mamadou to describe where we were so Diallo could find us. I took Mamadou’s number and he left when Diallo arrived.
After I left Diallo, I returned to the Baobab Belge and Dominique – that’s my host and owner – told me about Reserve de Bandia. It was past 15:00hrs, so I called Mamadou. He arrived and we were off. We got to the reserve and found out they were closing for the day. I was gutted. I was leaving the next day, so no safari for me. Mamadou told me not to worry, that he’ll take me somewhere else. Yes, I thought about the money spent to get down to Bandia as well. Mamadou, said I should worry that I don’t need to pay him again.
We left Bandia and he took me to La Somone. Pretty much like Saly, La Somone is also a beach resort area but smaller. Still not sure what there was to do, I let Mamadou lead the way. Soon we were on a pirogue sailing on Lagune Somone. It was such a calming experience on the lagoon watching the sunset, the fishermen, and the birds of the reserve fly about. Like Saly, La Somone lies on the Petite Cote with the sea on one side, but it has the lagoon.
We returned to shore and drove back to Saly as dusk set in. Mamadou even bought me dinner at Place des Bougainvillées before dropping me off at Baobab Belge.
The next day, after packing my stuff, I recalled Dominique saying mornings and late afternoons were the most ideal for safaris, so I made an impromptu decision. After breakfast, I called Mamadou and he came over. He knew I was leaving Saly and figured I wanted him to drop me off at la gare routière. We ended up at Réserve de Bandia and I had my first safari experience after all.
Afterwards, Mamadou took me to the bus park, where I took a sept-place to Saint Louis via Thiès. I asked him if he would drive me to Saint Louis. He told me it was too far and he’ll have to charge me double – that is a return trip fare. I understood the situation. It would be meaningless for him to get to Saint Louis without a guaranteed passenger to pay for the return journey, because he ran a charter service. I long to visit Saly soon again and look out for my Wolof friend, Mamadou!