We left the town of St.Louis in Senegal on Sunday the 3rd of February to cycle the estimated 265km to Dakar. Our plan was to cover the distance in 2 and half days, to arrive in Dakar on the afternoon of the 5th, thus giving us that afternoon to find accommodation which would then also allow Kumi a full free day before her return to the UK on the 7th.
As usual, it was very hot, and we cycled most of the day in temperatures above 40 degrees. We were really tired by the time the sun was setting and needed to find a secluded place to camp for the night, but the area was very populated with no long distances between the villages. There were signs of people everywhere , so Pablo asked one the locals walking on the side of the road if we could camp somewhere for the night. There were obvious language constraints as Pablo doesn’t speak French or any of the other Senegalese dialects, but he made good progress using hand and face gestures. The unfortunate walker seemed to vaguely understand what Pablo was saying, so promptly passed the problem onto someone else in the closest entrance from where they were talking.
This created a spectacle and it wasn’t long before the entire female population of the ‘chosen family’ was out laughing and giggling (the way young woman do), all dressed up in their colourful Senegalese dress. So, while Pablo was in his element, entertaining and possibly selecting his future bride(s), the sun was setting and I was awkwardly positioned holding both of our bikes. After a long while and some suggestion from me and Kumi, Pablo regained his focus, and we were invited to the inner living space of the family – the so called Kraal or communal yard.
After some more misunderstanding, they brought out mattresses and placed them under a tree indicating that we could sleep on that for the night. I eventually showed them that we all have our own tents and all we needed was a safe place to place them. They all laughed and agreed, and we proceeded to put up our own camp site within their boundaries. The young boys in the camp were eager to help us erect our tents and the whole village seemed excited by our presence. The area was abuzz so to say.
Not that I’m a pessimist, but I was waiting for the curved ball of the evening – this was all going way to smoothly. What would it be? A sudden surge of wind blowing our tents down? Angry warrior husbands returning home wanting to know why we were on their land? Perhaps a Bull Run, or swarm of spiders? No, don’t be silly! it was on a schizophrenic neighbour that seemed very upset about our presence. He was leaning over the fence, barely 5 meters from where we had erected our tents and he was shouting, hands waving and pointing and performing directly at us. One the villagers that arrived later spoke some English and he assured us that the man is ‘just crazy’ and we should ignore him. The performance went on for ages and was troubling. I had visions of midnight machete attack, but eventually fell asleep from exhaustion. We all woke up alive and unharmed the next morning and we were on the road again by 8 AM. We made a small donation to the senior of the village to thank them for their hospitality. It was a real pleasure staying over and we are always overwhelmed by the
kindness of people. Thank you to the Senegalese villagers.
The previous day we covered just over 125km, so we had about 140km remaining. We decided to attempt to reach Dakar by the end of the 2nd day, but had to reach the city early enough to avoid an after dark arrival in an unknown city that has a reputation for crime and knife point muggings.
This meant we had to be focused and push hard. We needed a good average speed and would have to cycle for about 8 hours with only very short stops, perhaps once every 2 hours. The first 2 hours went well and we covered a good stretch. The day was still cool and things were looking positive. I was looking forward to our 1st stop of the day. As we arrived at our rest point, the precise point I must add, I had a flat wheel as we were pulling off the road!!! So, while Pablo and Kumi rested, I had to unload my bike and fix the puncture (only my 3rd on the trip, so not complaining – but I was really looking forward to the rest :-()
Once fixed, we got back on the road and we were now running behind. The temperature started increasing quite rapidly and it wasn’t long before we were riding in the early 40’s. We stopped frequently to buy cold water from local shops and Petrol station convenience stores. My Garmin GPS died out during the ride as I had forgotten to charge the battery the previou night, but before it died out, it displayed a road temperature of 45 degrees. Kumi mentioned to me that she almost fainted from the heat and I had a few nose bleeds because of the same.
Later that afternoon we had a good tailwind and a good downhill section, so we started feeling confident about reaching Dakar in time. The last 20km was difficult and very dangerous. Twice Pablo was almost knocked down by large trucks– I was riding behind him and it was close. He is really lucky!
The entrance into Dakar is treacherous. We arrived at peak hour on a Monday afternoon and it’s pretty much each one to his own and survival of the fittest. I vowed to not use my bicycle in any capacity once in Dakar.
We arrived in the city about an hour before Sunset, so started looking for accommodation. Providence guided us to a man who asked u to follow him a ‘short distance’ to a ‘beautiful place’. Half an hour later we were still cycling behind his car through what seemed like one of the dodgiest parts of Dakar, the areas by the docks and industrial refineries. Pablo and Kumi were visibly exhausted and I felt responsible because I was the one that had initiated the conversation that led us down this road to nowhere. We stuck with the Samaritan as it didn’t make sense turning around and riding back. A short while later we arrived at a true oasis – Voile D’Or. It is one of the most beautiful hotel beach locations I’ve ever seen. Soft white sand,
hanging palm trees, all within a naturally protected and private beach. The terrace is right on the beach and the view is spectacular. The cost was way higher than any of our budgets, but the sun had now just about set and Pablo also discovered that it was his turn for a flat wheel. I negotiated a good discount and so we ended the journey as a rio. That evening we celebrated on the terrace with a 3 course meal and recounted the day’s events. It was the end of a chapter for each of us. We would now each go our own way.
A tribute to Pablo
The next day we saw off Pablo as he went to meet up with someone he met in St Louis. Pablo’s journey continues in Africa. He hadn’t decided his precise route yet, but I think he wants to head further South, closer to the equator and jungle areas. Kumi and I were pleased to have Pablo along. Even though he was only with us for a short time, he added another dimension to the mix and we all had some good laughs. Pablo, as me, has a slight addiction to sugar and bread. Let’s see how he abstains without me tempting him with my bad habits and generosity :-). Go well Pablo Borelli – man of
A tribute to Kumi
Two days later, I said goodbye to Kumi at Dakar airport as she flew back to London. She has now arrived safely and is enjoying all the creature comforts that you get from your own home.
This journey was only possible because I had the support of my friends, family and cycling partner Kumi. There were many challenges and obstacles, and we remained together as a team throughout the journey, enjoying the good and enduring the bad.
Kumi and I did not always agree on things and we had many quarrels and fights along the way. Endurance challenges brings out the best and worst in people, and this trip revealed many parts in each of us that I think made us realize there is room for improvement and change. I leave Kumi with a sense of sadness because she has been my only friend for such a long time. We often laughed together, sometimes we disliked each other, sometimes we were angry with each other, but she was always and will always be my friend. I have the utmost respect for Kumi. What that woman did on a daily basis, against all odds, under the most extreme conditions imaginable, is astounding. She never gave up. She is super tough. Kumi Tashiro is a Japanese legend. Go well Kumi Tashiro - woman of steel!
The next chapter
I fly tomorrow (10th Feb) to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia to continue and finish my trip in Cape Town. It’s a long flight with 2 stopovers and 23 hours of wait time (Dakar to Dubai, Dubai to Lusaka, Lusaka to Windhoek). I plan to be back on the road and cycling by the 14th of February. This time I'll be on my own. Feel free to join if you are in the vicinity or near the route.