A day of accidental adventure and dancing

The morning started lazily, checking emails and generally sorting things.  Just before lunch I headed out from Cap Skirring to the north with no specific intentions in mind.  On the way I stopped by the local bike repair guys and after chatting a bit they told me I should visit an Irish guy called Eddie who lived up in Diembereng, the village where the road ended.  Underneath the tall tree in the village, I asked some women where Eddie lives.  Eventually one knows, and points me along one of the tracks.  After disappearing up the track, I ask some kids.  One guy willingly hops on my bike and says he’ll show me the way.  We set off leaving the village in our wake, the boy enjoying the ride. It started to get sandy, then more sand, and before long we were in up to our necks, riding over the dunes.  After a few sketchy moments we eventually head towards the beach, exiting onto a beautiful section of shore line.  Eddie’s place is a small bar further up the deserted beach, tranquil as you like.  After some time chatting, I figured it would be good to stay here for a while and the boy seemed pretty happy to walk back in exchange for some coins.

Eddie's place on the beach.  Tranquil

Eddie’s place on the beach. Tranquil
Outlook from the window

Outlook from the window

After putting the world to rights, Eddie pointed me in the direction of another village that he reckoned would be doable on my bike.  He said I was the first biker to make it out to his place – wasn’t sure what to make of that comment!  I was soon to find out, as I returned to the village and wound my way through the sandy back streets, popping out into the bush on the far side.  It all started with light sand, a few tracks etc, but this soon gave way to deeply rutted 4×4 tracks in soft sand, surrounded by scrub and trees that made avoiding the nightmare almost impossible.  Persevering with little worry, I pushed on until I got it wrong and ended up crashing.  I then looked down at the scrapes on my leg to realise I hadn’t exactly set out to do this: no protective riding gear and more importantly, no supportive boots.  No Satellite tracker in case I ended up with a broken leg!  What to do?

Convincing myself I’m ok, post crashing

In for a penny, in for a pound!  I looked at my GPS which suprisingly showed this track, and realised I still had 4km of the 10kms to go!  I started off again, and trying to avoid the sand, I ended up in the brush.  Except this time I didn’t see the rice paddies looming!  Thankfully I stopped, before being “fully committed”.

Nearly ended up in a rice paddy with few easy exits

Nearly ended up in a rice paddy with few easy exits

I stopped the bike, got off and walked a few paddies to see if there was an easy exit.  Nope.  Hauling the bike out was slightly easier than anticipated although unfortunately I had only just filled her up.  20 odd litres of unnecessary petrol on board.  Not the best idea!  After another km of trying to ride on the soft sand in between the two wheel tracks I was getting quite good.  Gentle movements.  Gentle movements and weight shifting. The track started to flatten out a bit and I could ride by the side, sliding around trees!  All fun.  On arriving in the village I asked for the encampenent, and a little guy hopped on the back again to guide me there.  Slightly overwhelmed, I went inside and down to the lovely little bank overlooking the island of Karabane.  There were a few older French ladies there, who quickly integrated me into the celebration that was just getting started. They were dancing to celebrate the good crops that had been yielded thanks to the French helpers who had been living there for some time helping out. IMG_3455

The chief dancer

The chief dancer

The first Mamma tried to push me into the centre of the dancing circle to have my turn, but I somehow managed to gracefully decline!  A few minutes later the second Mamma pulled me in and I was now committed.  This lady was awesome, all going well with me trying to do my stuff and imitate her until she started knocking my arse with her ‘rather larger’ one!  Everyone was hysterical until in the end the little arse lost and I ended up being nearly knocked over!  What fun, my time in the dancing ring was over and I was happy to join the edge again and let the professionals get on with the job.  As a friend said: “the hips don’t lie”!  My, I wish mine did.  Hopefully by the time I leave Africa they’ll at least be a bit better at lying!

IMG_3461
IMG_3451 This little man was dancing around and loving my helmet.  He worked out how to use the visor, and was so charmed with his new toy that I ended up with two little guys on my lap and when I tried to get up they just grabbed my legs and wouldn’t let me go.IMG_3441Eventually the ceremony wound down, and everybody was all smiles having had a good time.  These people were so friendly and peaceful.  Somehow I just didn’t want it all to end, after only an hour or two, felt like a member of their big family.  Sad to go, we all walked out to the motorbike and the little man got to sit on the bike and make broom broom noises.  After hearing the French ladies had taken a Pirogue (boat) to get to the village, rather than go by road, I manned myself up for the adventure home equipped with only my shorts and T-Shirt!  Dodging through the trees, the tracks flowed and so did my riding.  Everything was smooth, skirting around the trees with a bit of rear slide. I took a detour and all of a sudden I was riding on a little path through the paddies, 50cm, no wider!  Committed again.  I slowed down, wobbled and realised there was only one way out: gas and go!  Fortunately after 500m it wound it’s way back to the main track again.  All was well until the going got tougher and then…. bang!  Narrowly missed the bush!

IMG_3465Dusting myself off, I persevered again, winding my way back through to the outskirts of the village. I ended up by the big tree where I got into discussion with some of the elders sitting in the sun.  I ended up being asked where I was going, and consequently if this guy could get a lift to work!  We rode the 10km back to Cap Skirring, the guy uttering a very polite “Salaam alaykum” to the Gendarme as we rode into the hotel entrance, helmetless.  I ended up with a tour of this amazing Hotel, and in another life, on a different budget, this would be a luxury not to be missed.IMG_3476

What a day!  I set out with no particular goal in mind, and ended up riding through the bush to a remote village of awesome people.  Wherever you go in Casamance, the people are open, friendly and social.  If only my French was better.  If only.