As I am writing this, it’s raining for the first time since I left Boston a month ago. Inside my house. The way the house is structured, the staircases leading from floor to floor are essentially outside. There is no roof above them, so it is raining INSIDE MY HOUSE! There are sheets of water flowing down the staircases! This is pretty cool, but I can’t even begin to imagine living here in the rainy season. The floor outside my room is already starting to become wet and I fear how it will be if the rain keeps up.
Today we went to the Iles de la Madeleine, a small island off the coast of Senegal. There are pirogues you can take to get there. The waves got a little intense during our ride, especially on our return trip to the mainland. My poor French teacher had come along and was not enjoying the turbulence. I, on the other hand, love being on the water and was standing against the side of the pirogue so I could fully take in the view. It was beautiful.
The island itself is also absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. In all honesty, I was a little disenchanted by the fact that the first thing we saw as we floated into the inlet was a small horde of European sunbathers in bikinis and Speedos. Nevertheless, that was quickly forgotten as we met our guide and started our trek across the island. There was plenty of plant life to move aside as we made our way on the barely discernible path, and plenty of interesting bugs to look at (none of which Hilary enjoys). The panoramic views from the highest accessible part of the island were incredible. Aside from the endless Atlantic, you could see Dakar and also the westernmost part of Africa, the Pointe des Almadies.
The baobab trees that grow on the Ile de la Madeleine are incredible. Branches and trunk alike sprawl in a massive labyrinth across the ground because the sea winds stopped them from reaching their full potential height. It is said that spirits, or jenn, live in the baobabs, and they are the reason that the island remains uninhabited. I was dismayed to see that people had carved their names and even obscenities into one of the largest trees. Apparently, before the vandalism, one could explore the Ile without a guide, but I loved our guide so that was okay with me. It just made me sad to see that people could do that to the baobab, which is not only magnificent but considered both sacred and an emblem of Senegal.
After we finished our tour, the Fellows all slid into the ocean to swim in the natural pools and coves that the island created. We were all amazed to see sea urchins everywhere! We also ventured up some cliff sides and had spectacular views of the rocky island and all its stone crags and caves. By the end, we were all very tired, but still reluctant to leave a place of such untouched natural beauty. Ananda and I both felt extremely rejuvenated by our fresh-air respite from city life, and I’m now revitalized to take on the rest of my stay in Dakar!