The Iles de la Madeleine

Ananda Day - Senegal


October 18, 2009

Right now the rain continues to pound the tin over my room. Since last night the rain has been torrential, pouring over every crevice, dripping from each edge, and slowly seeping over every surface. To say the least, it was quite the opposite of my experience yesterday.

Saturday began like every other day this week- the same breakfast, the same walk to the Baobab center, and the same 9-1 French class. This was where the routine stopped though, for we were off to the Iles de la Madeleine this afternoon. Our first task though was to obtain lunch, as we did not have enough time to go home. So all of us set out-some to the nearest boutique and others to the super Marché. It eventually ended up that Alec and I went to the boutique-buying baguette like rolls, eggs, and onions (and he got a potato). We then continued back to the Baobab center and ended up making the most delicious egg sandwiches, and the others followed suit when they came back from the super Marché with whole wheat bread as their prize.

After our lunch of champions, we were off to the Corniche to meet Rachel, Mr. Diaham, and one of the French teachers, Oumoul. It was a beautiful day outside- the sun was shining, reflecting off every wave and there was the beautiful breeze from the sea- almost completely masking the tantalizing every present smell of burning trash. Into our beautiful blue boat we then went with a promise that if Mr. Diaham fell in the water, I would jump in to save him. Rachel had promised Oumoul the same in the back of the boat.

Pulling up to the islands, we went past the craggy cliffs which were full of massive black and white boulders… or as we found out massive black rocks with lots of birds flying over them…….yep. We then pulled into an inlet strait out of Treasure Island and jumped (literally) onto the rocky ‘dock’. Nico, the boat’s captain, then went to pick up a couple of the other people who had been on the island. With a vote of hands we all decided to take the tour of the island before giving ourselves the satisfaction of diving into the beautiful glistening cove. Highlight facts:
a) people don’t inhabit this island because there is a spirit that protects it, and which struck down a building that a missionary was trying to build here. Originally the missionary thought the fishing people, the Lebu, were knocking down his building. But he eventually realized it was the spirit. b) They have a lookout building that was recently built in order for the park service to watch out for people poaching or taking things off the island. It still stands because they made sacrifices to the spirit when building it.
c) People come here and poach the turtles for their blood, especially during mating season. It is supposed to be a good talisman. This is exhibit A for why the park service has to be vigilant.

As we made our final turn past the cove where birds go for safe haven, our view opened back up to the water we were about to jump into. The sun was just beginning to set, and the tide was rising by the moment. So we all ran in… After being told which way to get around the random algae covered rocks that were under water. Alec, Victoria, and I (the first ones in) reverted to the classic doggy paddle as a way to easily get over the rocks. Innovation at its best right there.

Eventually we all got to the rocky ledge across the water. It was only moments later that two things happened. First, we were doused with fresh seawater breaking over the rocks behind us. Then we realized that there were sea urchins everywhere, and that miraculously none of us had even touched one. Now we had been documenting our trip quite well up until this point, but none of us had really wanted to risk swimming with our electronics above our heads. The thing was, that it was just so beyond beautiful. Alec was then the super hero of the day as he swam back, and then trekked across the rock cliff/wall (safely) with his camera in order to at least document a bit of our adventure on the wet-side of things. Eventually we all decided to adventure a bit, and we carefully made our way up over the rocks behind us. There were the waves crashing into the island, a mere three feet away from us, and the water then being sucked back out like a reverse waterfall with the tides. Alec and I then made our way up a … hill/mound/cliff/ridge of rocks so that we could see everything. To our left was the cove we had just been swimming in. In front of us lay the whole Atlantic- and all of you back over in the US- and two sections of the island that reminded me most of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. There was the giant half of the island that had been split in half by the water, and every time a wave came the water would shoot up fifteen feet into the air as it burst through the tight space. Then there was the cave that had been hollowed, creating a gaping hole where the waves disappeared. To our left, was a peninsula on the island that was completely covered in birds! Yes, all the rocks over there were white. Then we saw Nico enter the cove, we were summoned, and we descended back to reality- swimming back to all of our things on the other side of the beach. Going back to Dakar everyone was winding down and watching one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have seen in my few years of life. After an amazing day, all we had left was a race to get home before the lighting cracked open the skies.

Ananda Day