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Kat and Ben

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Kat & Ben's World Adventure

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Retracing our steps

Mbour, Senegal

After finding out that there were no cash machines further south we had to go back up north to Mbour. Walking out of the hotel it dawned on us that all our walking along the beach was in vain and we had to get a taxi back (we certainly were not walking the 14km back). Knowing it would be difficult getting a cheap taxi from outside the hotel complex (we were quoted an extortionate 10,000cfa) we started to walk and hitch back to Mbour; after only 5mins of walking we got picked up and gave the guy 1000cfa. He dropped us off outside the bank and we got enough cash out to last until we got to Gambia. Walking back towards the main road to get a lift to Joal-Fadiout, we got talking to a Gambian man called Essa. It was lovely to speak English for a change and he invited us back to his compound to talk about Gambia and meet his sister-in-law, nephew and friends. When we got inside the compound, the heavens opened so we sat in the dry iron house and we shared our rola-cola with everyone and listened to Essa talking about Gambia. It was funny that he kept saying how the Gambians are honest and that the Senegalese always try and cheat you. As it was still heavily raining we were kinda stranded; Essa kept trying to persuade to stay for weeks with him and he would travel with us to Gambia and show us all the sights, he even offered that we could help do some agricultural work in own compound in Kartong, Gambia. Essa was in Senegal to save more money to buy a new boat, as his was written off in a accident. Whilst we were there we shared a Gambian dish of rice, fish and veg, we left the fish but the rice and veg was good albeit slightly fishy.

When the rain eased up Essa wanted to show us his passport so Ben followed him to his room in another compound leaving Kat reading French magazines. On Ben's return it was Kat's turn to see the other compound she was gone ages and Ben was starting to worry. Essa showed Kat where he slept, his friends compound where he had helped with the soil for a veg plot; 'did you know it only takes 40days for a cucumber plant to grow from seed to fruit', he told Kat what plants were good for the body - basil for digestion, henna for tummy upsets, etc. He was growing couscous, bananas, pomegranate and lots of herbs. He also took Kat other places to see a huge building that his rasta friend had built and decorated all with stones the size of her fist – it must have taken ages! They also walked to the beach where he kept on at her for us to stay but Kat made excuses as we didn’t want to stay in Mbour.

Back at the compound where Ben had been left trying to talk French with a family friend, Kat returned and we had lent Kat's fan to the Essa's sister-in-law to help fan her child but after breast feeding she had left the baby playing with it and now it was in pieces. The storm was over and we asked Essa for directions back to the road to which he reluctantly agreed and walked us back to the road where we all walked to the outside of the town; saying our goodbye's and Essa headed back home. We flagged down a taxi which took us straight to Joel-Fadiout for only 2000cfa, he also helped us find a place to camp although we decided to stay in a hotel which was good value. What a day.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 19, 2009 from Mbour, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Finding Eldorado

Pointe-Sarene, Senegal

After a rough night of camping and an early start, we got to Point-Sarene at about 8.30am. Walking up a path lined with palm trees either side we were suddenly approached by a security guard blocking the way. As we appeared out of nowhere he seemed shocked when told him that we had walked with our bags from Saly, feeling like we had to explain ourselves and motives for turning us at the hotel. Letting us pass, he directed us to more security men in a hut on the beach whom we asked where reception was. From the hut, the hotel complex looked pretty small with small huts that were apartments. The guards said reception was on the other side of the road and one of them said to follow him, not having any idea there was a road so close. We decided that rather than lugging our bags and finding out it was too expensive, Ben took a seat and stayed on the beach bag watching while Kat trotted off following the 6'5'' giant though the huts and plant life. Kat seemed to be taking ages and Ben started to worry, but in the distance he saw her coming back. Explaining that it was miles away and she didn't have any ID or credit cards with her she had to come back. We got our rucksacks on and walked the distance to reception.

The place was massive and it expanded across the main road (a parc complex and a beach complex that we stayed on), which we had to cross to get there. Kat had already said it was expensive and there was an all inclusive deal for only 6000cfa extra. We both agreed that we could certainly drink that in soft drinks and being there meant alcohol was included too and Ben, knowing he could eat way more than 6000cfa worth, we went for it and got our little pick bracelets.

We really shouldn't have stayed there as it cost about £100 a night for the full wack, but because Kat was feeling exhausted and still a bit under the weather she said it would be her treat to pamper us both. So we dumped our bags in our gorgeous and romantic little hut, showered and pegged it to breakfast before it finished at 10am.

Ben was in his element and became bossy at this point, demanding that Kat eat properly. So she piled up her plate with the burntist toast she could find and really good scrambled eggs, whilst Ben filled up on... Eggs, crispy bacon, spicy sausages, toast, cereal, an American pancake, waffle, croissant and a load of fruit juice. He definitely got our money's worth in that sitting.

As we both felt so full after, we just chilled out around the pool before swimming our breakfast off and then returning to the dining area for round 2, lunchtime!

Still stuffed but refusing to be beaten, Kat had some veggies and rice with cheese to finish and Ben managed a fat steak, rice and pudding. He gave up on eating the cheese and bread after he nearly choked to death. Kat thought he was ok and then joking as he was pulling a funny face, but it wasn't until he was pointing to his back did she respond saying 'seriously?' With him nodding in between coughs, she quickly went round to beat his back, thinking he's going to be sick on his plate...

After that little drama we swiftly left and thought it wise to sooth Ben's throat with cocktails and cold beers by the pool. Kat's tummy was still struggling so we didn't drink that much that evening so rather than hanging out by the bar we went to explore the complex and find the crocodiles we had heard about...

The grounds were crawling with wildlife, we had monkeys roaming around our room and posed for our camera;
loads of beautiful birds
and a huge lizard strutting his stuff by the tennis courts. It looked more like a dragon that could not only run really fast, it could swim as well which we later found out.
The crocs were kept in a pool on the other side of the complex and we only saw one out of the 7 that were hidden in the depths. Looking at the map of the grounds, we found out there was more animals kept further up into the parc side of the complex. On the way we saw a guard who had a gun and were wondering why he needed one until we turned the corner and saw two hyenas, one male and one heavily pregnant female. They were in separate cages that had a door at the back that went into a large enclosure, but still not as large as the hills they’d be roaming if they were free. Kat wasn’t impressed with the hotel’s mock-up of a zoo and Ben wasn’t impressed with the huge erection that the male hyena was sporting. Penis envy springs to mind… Walking further on, we saw huge turtles and sleepy baboons who had human looking teeth and signposts all around the place saying that they were aggressive.

Although we were wearing trousers and deeted up to the eyeballs, Kat felt like she was getting bitten alive in the long grass we were walking in so we started heading to the bar on this side of the complex. The bar manager told us to hurry up and get our butts over to the other complex for our complimentary aperitifs. It felt like a long way to go for a drink seeings we were already at a bar, but we went over to check out the freebies…

Traffic light drinks that were well and truly spiked with alcohol and peanuts classed as the aperitifs, we had a feeling there was an ulterior motive to basically trying to get everyone shit-faced, something that became clearer when the entertainment started after dinner.

After only a few sips of the awful drinks, we returned to the parc side of the complex, feeling like we had well and truly worked up an appetite. Pigging out on the amazing potato gratin, green beans and carrots for main (Ben had Chicken with his), with cheese and puddings to follow and a splash of wine. Kat’s head was feeling the effects of the earlier drinking during the day and the entertainment after dinner was the icing on the cake.

A Frenchman in his late 50’s was up on stage miming to songs whist a handful of Gambian staff were half-heartedly dancing in the background. We could only bear two songs before going back to our hut for a much needed sleep as we’d been up since 5am.

The next day Ben had a plan up his sleeve whilst Kat contemplated packing up her bag. Cooking the books, Ben said that looking at our payment book with a record of all of our spendings, it wouldn’t be so awful for us to stay another night, just to make sure Kat was 100% of course. Kat didn’t need much convincing, but was questioning how people choose to go on all inclusive holidays for more than a few days as everything, from daily activities to when you can swim in the pool right down to eating times, were all scheduled.

Going to tell reception we were staying another day, they tried charging us for the next day’s breakfast saying they wouldn’t know whether or not we would have it as we were only entitled to one breakfast, but we refused to pay it saying we wouldn’t stay if that was the case. Another man stepped in and adjusted the bill for us, taking off the additional 12000 cost so all was fine in the end, but it did mean we had to rush back over to the beach side dining area to have breakfast. Kat had the same again plus a yum yum donut thing to finish and Ben did his usual self and went the whole hog by having eggs, bacon with onion, toast, cereal, waffle, American and English pancakes and a yum yum as well. Where does the boy put it?! He eyed up a girl in a bikini during breakfast so Kat wasn’t best pleased when he denied it and also said he felt ill after eating so much, suggesting we went back to the bedroom. It gave Kat a chance to ignore Ben for a while as she fell asleep for a good 2hours. Once waking up and sorting out our differences, we went for a dip in the pool, played cards and went for a very small lunch this time. We got dressed into trousers a little earlier this evening and went back over to the parc side again, trying to spot some more crocs as we had heard there were two really big ones in there. We saw the head of a huge one just below the bridge in which we were standing as it came up every 7minutes for air before lowering it’s head into the green water and becoming camouflaged.

Making up for lost drinking time, we abused our pink bands to the max this evening. Before dinner we were on beers and cocktails as we watched a fashion show with the hotel guests modeling the clothes that were for sale in the hotel’s shop. Talk about a marketing ploy. It reminded Kat of the holiday to Turkey she went on with her family when she was about 8 and her mum took part in the hotel’s fashion show, modeling leather jackets etc. It made us giggle though as some people, especially one woman in particular, took it very seriously as if there was a talent scout in the audience.

Dinner was Spag-bol and cheese…. Cheese…..mmmm. We still couldn’t eat loads but we managed to put some drink away. Getting squiffy, laughing at the Frenchman doing his miming act and feeling embarrassed for the single women groping and gyrating up against some of the male staff. We continued to drink the bar dry until they closed and remembering that the complex had a nightclub onsite, we giggled like excited school children at the prospect of doing some funny dance moves and stumbled with our drinks to where the music was now coming from.

On entering, we were drawn to the neon lights everywhere and a woman sat up at the bar on her own. Other than the barman and the DJ the place was empty. Taking a seat, we shouted to each other over the music about the women who were dancing earlier and then realised the woman with the white shoes at the bar was the one who was taking the fashion show pretty seriously. It all became clear when one of the men who worked at the resort entered and she went to hit like a fly to shit. He had to prise her arms from his waist before disappearing out the door again. It was only a few minutes later when one of the female gyrators came in looking for someone…. It was entertainment to watch in between Ben barring his teeth and says Kat’s have a competition to see whose teeth shine up the most in the UV light. Kat won hands down, but not before taking some funny photos…

Deciding it was time to go to bed, we went back to our hut stopping when Ben had to pee in a bush. He was soooooooo drunk and proved it when he disappeared into the bathroom and a retching sound could be heard. Kat went into give him some water and was presented with the image of Ben’s head in the sink. What 28year old throws up in the sink?! Kat wasn’t impressed as it was all clogged up and told Ben to puke in the loo from now on whilst she tried to unblock the sink. Pleased for her stronger stomach now, she cleared up most of it until Ben insisted that he finsished clearing up his mess. Kat was just getting back into bed when she heard a tap running, so entering the bathroom once again she found Ben next to the sink that was filled up to the brim with boiling water and sick. Kat went nuts as all of her hard work at emptying it was wasted so she let Ben sort it out and only stepped in when he was using his penknife to try and unscrew the unit under the sink to unblock the U-bend. It wasn’t until she confiscated the knife and told him to use one of the glasses to empty the grose water into the toilet did she leave him to it and return to bed. It was 2am by the time we both went to bed, not a great finish to an amazing two days rest.

We were up at 7am the next morning and Ben had his head down the loo one last time before we checked-out and had the ordeal of finding out the only bank around was back in Mbour…

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 18, 2009 from Pointe-Sarene, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Camping on the beach

Nianing, Senegal

The village like many along the cost in Senegal was a fishing village, but what we found was it’s where they skin and dry the fish for popular Senegalese dishes. The smell was awful, ten times worse than the port we past in the morning, as dead fish were laid out to dry in the sun and flies were everywhere. As we walked towards the village leaving the beach, the stench increased to the point that Kat was retching and holding her nose so we hurried to find somewhere quite and smell free to rest. She was very upset with herself for not being able to control her body’s reactions, Ben thought of the scented Chinese fan to help Kat with the smell which she had to told to her nose.

We asked a local man where we could buy some water and food and he kindly showed us to the local shop, having to past the fish stalls again Kat discreetly continued to hold the fan to her nose as we walked past. We sat on the bar stools and ordered some soft drinks and water then went to sit in the shade on a wooden bench outside the shop. The strangest thing happened while we sat playing cards a radio crackled on and the soothing sounds of "Whispers in the morning" song came through then the radio then was turned off – obviously not a fan. We brought some snacks and headed to the end of the road where a huge tree stood giving a massive shadow.

We sat down to rest but within minutes a group of kids came running in our direction; no chance of that sleep we needed as the kids pestered us for 3 hours! It’s was Kat’s living nightmare… One of them even had a Shepherd’s machete. Ben was quite upset that he wasn’t able to eat the snacks purchased earlier without having to share them with the group of kids; we had a little breather when they went off to pray but left us with a guy who was waiting for something, we were not sure what. After our rest/pest we headed back to the beach and continued walking to Point-Sarene, grabbing more water and food for the walk ahead.

A few miles on we found a little beach hotel and it looked idyllic it was 7pm by now so we asked how much it would be for one night, the prices worked out to be 25,000cfa (₤33) but we only had 18,000cfa cash on us and they didn’t or didn’t want to accept payment by card claiming it was broken, mentioning that the nearest bank was in Mbour which we had left that morning. We continued our walk alone the beach after having a couple of well earned beverages.

The next hotel we found just around the alcove of the coastline looked to be abandoned, we asked the only person there if it was open and he said yes when we asked how much he didn’t know and said he would get some one to help, after waiting half an hour a receptionist turned up and said it was 60Euros and breakfast was included, we explained that the place was abandoned, the pool looked like a swamp and we would be leaving at 5am so didn’t need breakfast. The price was not negotiable so we left and tried to find somewhere safe to camp.

Our first night camping had to be on a beach. It was 8.30pm when we found an open part of land just off the beach behind a wall so the tent wouldn’t be visible by the ramblers on the beach. It was dark and windy now and we pitched the tent ok making sure the guide ropes were out. We hadn’t eaten dinner but decided it was too dark and far too windy to start cooking. Kat had the last 2 cookies Ben had left her and Ben ate the slightly stale bread. It took ages to get to sleep getting used to the surroundings, the strange noises and listening to the sea and wind. Slightly scared we fell asleep only to wake up at 11:30pm thinking we had slept for hours; it was so hot in the tent our body’s dripping with sweat and Kat needed the toilet as she still had a bad tummy. Ben escorted her to keep watch/guard but it was a good chance to get the see breeze. We finally fell asleep again setting our alarms for 5am, wanting to be up early to pack up before being seen and get walking while it was cool.

We left at 6am after Ben getting frustrated with his broken boot laces and difficulties packing bags and the tent in the dark. Kat needed the loo one again we started walking, wondering how there was anything in her to come out! About half an hour walk we came to an old fortress jutting over some rocks which we had to clamber over and around, it was a good job we didn’t leave any earlier as doing some of the maneuvers in the dark would have been too risky. We had to walk across a small ledge with the sea crashing against the wall of rocks that we had to walk over, timing our footsteps with the waves so not to get too wet. Just past the fortress we met some beach combers who were looking at what’s been washed up over night, we said bonjour and got grumbles back. A little further on we came to a bunch of fishermen preparing their boats for the morning catch. Walking past the boats out of no where a dog goes for Ben’s leg making us both jump which luckily scared the dog back, after walking on a bit the dog then went for Kat’s leg but she turned around and shouted viscously back as the owner came to call the dog back before anything bad happened to us or the dog.

At 8:30am we started walking on a man-made path not sure where it was leading and in desperate need of showers and a good night’s sleep…

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 17, 2009 from Nianing, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Trekking along the beach

Mbour, Senegal

We got to Mbour town center and Ben’s T-Shirt was dripping wet, it was 9am by this time and it wasn’t that hot in the sun, so we sat on a park bench to cool off but yet again when wanting our space we were joined by a guy who spoke to us for a while. When we finished talking he just stood next to us expecting us to accept an offer of a tour, before he took the obvious hint of us saying ‘Au revior’ to him 5 times until he went. We had been waiting for the bookshop to open to see if they sold maps, but got fed up of waiting and started walking towards the port where the fish market was.

Mbour is a fishing port and around the corner from the square we had sat to rest was the port itself. The port was busy with market stalls and boats unloading. The smell was so strong and it made Kat heave. With the smell of rotting fish and animal excrement in our noses we hastily moved on towards the beach to get past the smell.
We walked south along the beach stopping frequently in the shade; it was around eleven when we found a little village just out side of Nianing to restock up our supplies and to find somewhere to rest out of the midday sun.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 17, 2009 from Mbour, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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2s, 8s and Queens

Sali-Portugal, Senegal

We are starting to really hate the “Garages” from where the long distance commuters go to and from, we got dropped off and were immediately hassled, for taxis bus and food. We walked straight out of the car park and headed down the main road to put some distance between us and the hustlers. We had written down the directions to the hostel we found on Hostelworld.com and tried two taxis before getting one that would help. The phone number we had written down from the internet seemed to be for a fax machine and the driver needed to speak to several people to help with better directions. It wasn’t and comfort that the taxi we were in had a slow puncture and he needed to stop to get it re-inflated. When we finally arrived and paid, he gave us his contact number and said if we needed going anywhere to give him a call. It was later when we found out that we paid too much for the taxi, but we didn’t mind that much as he helped us and had to use his phone credit to call people.

Walking through the gates to the Auberge Africa Thiossane and waving goodbye to the taxi driver, we saw that it looked rather empty and it was very quite. Opening the door to the house itself and not being able to see a receptionist or desk we called out “Hello” a few times before somebody heard us. We asked if they were open and he said yes of course, showing us to the room which had mosquito nets, bathroom and a balcony with furniture to sit out on. The price was 13,000CFA (₤17.56) and we stayed two nights. On that first day the gardener kindly showed us to the local shops so we could buy water, once we got settled and the sun was a little less hot, it’s noticeably hotter the further near the equator we get, we walked to the beach.

On the way to the beach we saw loads of different coloured lizards, Ben likes the yellow and navy blue ones. Walking along the beach to find a good spot to sit and people watched for a moment, it appeared that the only thing to do in Saly Portudal is run on the beach - we must have seen hundreds of runners some even running backwards in the heat! It was so hot we were sweating just watching them. As always no peace and it wasn’t long before we were approached by two guys, one saying he makes hats like Bens for a living and the saying that they lived a little further up the coast and invited us to join them in the evening for lobster and music. We explained that we were vegetarians so there was no need for lobster, but we might pop over for the music depending on how tired we were.

On getting back to the hostel we needed a cool drink so we sat at the bar onsite and started talking with Zorro, the main guy in charge. We took our drinks and sat down, played a few hands of cards before Zorro and the Gardener joined us and played. We taught them the 2’s, 8’s, and Queens (Beat Your Neighbour) game and they became addicted to it; it was getting late at this point so we excused ourselves and asked if we could use the kitchen to cook. Zorro said no problem and he even let us use their big bottle of gas to cook on in the kitchen area which was crawling with cockroaches and bugs of all sizes. We didn’t take our time and it wasn’t a banquet, we had Chinese noodles with miso soup and dried mushrooms that we had been brought with us all the way from the UK; Zorro tried some and didn’t seem too impressed, perhaps because of the date of the mushrooms or just not used to Chinese noodle soup. After dinner we went back downstairs but Kat being paranoid of being bitten by mosquitoes put her jeans and shirt on, pulling her collar up and doing all the buttons up so she looked ridiculous, but it proved a point as later in the evening whilst playing cards again a giant cockroach over an inch long (no we are not over exaggerating) flew straight into Kats face, bouncing off and landing on her shirt before being swiped off by Kats flailing arms. Kat still to this day thinks if she didn’t look such a knob that night it would have landed down her top and it would have been Bens fault for sure.

The second day we walked to the shops for some food to cook that night, we stayed in the hostel most of the day reading and Kat doing some urgent sewing repairs to clothes. We chilling out when we were interrupted with a knock on the door and it was Zorro asking if everything was ok, he noticed that the bathroom door handle was broken and he said he would fix it. He spent nearly 2 hours trying to fix it and it still came off in Kat’s hand after she went to the loo and nearly locked herself in the toilet. The whole knocking on the door thing happens a lot in Africa, which becomes really annoying as it means there’s little chance to relax completely before you have to get up and answer the door.

This evening after cooking spaghetti with tomatoes and sweetcorn in cockroach central, we went down to the bar and continued to play cards with Zorro where they allowed us to play our Ipod over the bar tannoy system. Ben ordered a beer which Zorro helped himself to a glass out of the bottle, thinking it was rude then thought that the drink was on the house. We retired to bed to pack as we had an early start in the morning because we wanted to walk to Mbour town before the sun got too hot. Whilst we were packing there was a knock at the door with Zorro wanting to take our photo. Disappearing we continued what we were doing when a few minutes later, there was another knock on the door, it was Zorro again asking for payment for the ‘free’ beer and a further 200cfa from a previous tab. We paid up and hoping he wouldn’t knock again, we went to sleep.

Waking up at 5.30am and snoozing till 6am we finally left half an hour later to begin out walk to Mbour. Just around the corner from the hostel we were approached by a man saying he was the gardener at the Auberge and needed 1000cfa for a hospital bill; we explained to him we already met the gardener of the hostel and had heard of the scams going around involving hospital bills and prescriptions so were unable to help him. He then asked for 500cfa for a taxi to get to Mbour hospital, which we said there was a hospital in walking distance around the corner and we were walking to Mbour to meet friends because we didn’t have any money. He even offered to pay for us to get on the horse and trap to Mbour to get money of our friends. We gave him some water (which he didn’t say thank you for) and eventually stopped following us and got on a donkey and trap. We found out the reason why he stopped following us when we asked a man for directions and it turned out we were going in the wrong direction. We can’t believe the bastard didn’t tell us we were going to wrong way!

We started walking…

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 15, 2009 from Sali-Portugal, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Crossing Borders

Rosso, Mauritania

The hotel receptionist in Nouakchott flagged down a local taxi to take us to the main taxi rank, we think he felt a little guilty for pestering us so much as Ben had previously told him to stop knocking on our door because Kat was ill.

We pulled up at the taxi station where we were bombarded with drivers arguing over who's going to take us and for what price. Men were trying to take our bags and shove them in the bags of their car; it was a bit of a tug-o-war match but we got a good price, 7000ogli for us and our bags for the 2hr journey to the border.

It was 1pm when we arrived and lots of people trying to 'help' us which left us feeling disorientated. It's illegal to take Mauritanian money out of the country and there is no official place to change it into CFA, only a run down shop with a man and an old calculator. We'd gotten the conversion from Oli's West Africa book so the one the man was giving us was way off and we felt the dread of being seriously screwed over. Arguing it the man who had shown us the shop took us round the back of it and down an alleyway. There were a few men sat in a lean to and one came out with a load of money in the breast socket of his shirt. We told him how much we wanted to change and what we wanted in CFA in return and he gave it to us no questions asked. Our next obstacle was the guard at the border gate... To give you a clear representation of Mauritanian police force, the guard said the gate was shut until 3pm so we'd have to wait for 2hours or pay him 3000oglis even though he was letting people in and out of the gate. Kat was feeling weak again and we just wanted to get through the border and into some shade so we paid the corrupt bastard. If Kat wasn't ill, we so should have given them hell as it's outrageous how much they try to take from you and we have a right to question it.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 9, 2009 from Rosso, Mauritania
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Crossing the River

Rosso, Senegal

We found shade and Ben sorted out getting the passports stamped whilst Kat stayed with the bags. It was another hour or so until we were rested enough to make the journey across the river in a pirogue in the blazing heat. Having gotten rid of the tag-along one side, we managed to get another guy follow us the other. We lost him when we jumped into a taxi to take us to the grand taxi station and didn't give him the tip he was demanding from us for basically following us. We had decided to go to Dakar, the capital, as we thought it was only a few hours away and held more prospects of having a good and cheap place to stay so Kat could recuperate. Go the 3hours we were waiting at the taxi stand waiting for our 7 seated taxi to fill up with passengers, we met an English couple who were heading to St. Louis, 2hours along the coast. Just as we were thinking of changing our destination the taxi was finally ready to leave. We didn't realise how far away Dakar was as the ride turned out to be 7 and a half hours long, dropping us off at the city's outskirts at 11.30pm.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 9, 2009 from Rosso, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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More hassle than Marakesh

Dakar, Senegal

After getting dropped on the outskirts we had to get another taxi to a 'petit' (cheap) hotel. The taxi was surprisingly expensive even though we had haggled it down. However the hotel he dropped us off at was even more of a surprise being £40 a night! Senegal was supposed to be cheaper than Mauritania! We took a look at the room anyway and noticed that there were no mosquito nets and saw 3 cockroaches running across the floor. When asking if there was a cockroach free room with nets, the receptionist said no so we left.

Walking down the road the taxi driver started following us on foot down the dark street until a security guard stopped him. We got talking to another security guard who directed us to a 'grand' hotel as that was all there was in the area and it was getting late.

We found a Novotel hotel round the corner and walked round the back into the ice cold reception. Not realising how hot it was until we'd stepped in the large foyer with a bar area, sculptures and desks, we immediately felt out of place. We went to the reception desk and the guy was very helpful. We asked what time checkout was, explaining we needed a lay in as it was currently midnight and we'd been traveling all day, he told us we could stay in our room till 4pm rather than 12. So we snapped up the offer and headed, paid the 96000CFA - we know, extortionate but we were pretty desperate, and headed to the 7th floor. After showers and watching some news on TV we fell asleep a little before 2am waking up at 8am with a hammer drill going off. Ben being half asleep told Kat it must be the aircon unit so Kat got up and turned it off only for the drilling to continue it's rude awakening. Ben waking up fully at this point called down to reception to complain. He was told the hotel is having renovation works from 8.30 to 3pm each day. Ben asked to speak with the manager and the receptionist informed him she would call up in 10mins.

We waited 20mins before calling again and saying we hadn't heard anything. She said another 10mins so we waited, at this point we had dressed and were ready to go down and speak with the manager directly when the phone rang. It was the manager who said there was nothing she could do when Ben asked for a full refund or an extra night for free. We said it was not good enough and we would come down and talk to her directly. Kat still looked pretty awful which helped with the sympathy vote when we spoke to her in her office. We told her that we were backpacking and because Kat was poorly she needed a good night’s sleep, so there was no issue about paying the 100euros for the room as the guy at the desk last night said we could lay in until 4pm. She said the staff member would have told us about the renovation works when we looked surprise and said if we had known this, we would have gone elsewhere because that’s how important a good night rest was for us. She called the night shift receptionist on his mobile to confirm this which he did-it would have been easy for him to say no so we were pleased he told the truth and said we didn't want him to get into trouble or anything. Her answer was that she wasn't going to hit him, which didn't bring much comfort but caused us to reply with an awkward laugh. So begrudgingly she let us stay another night for free on the condition that we checked out by 12 the next day.

We ventured out of the hotel in search for water and food which was a mistake as we were swamped first by taxi drivers and then street sellers. It was too much and even though it was a quick half hour outing, Ben ended up losing it with one guy selling rugs who was stuffing them in our faces and following us down the street. It was so bad that Ben took one of the rugs and wiped the sweat off of his forehead with it. Kat was mortified but not as much as the man trying to flog it. Let’s just say we quickened our steps and Ben got a bollocking when we got back to our hotel room...

The next time we re-emerged from our room was early evening and we headed to an internet cafe before going back to the hotel to eat. It was almost a celebration as it was Kat's first proper meal in over a week. It was only pasta and tomato sauce but it was better than Ben's citron chicken and not too rich for her delicate stomach. It was odd as smells were starting to make Kat feel really sick and Ben's chicken was one of those smells, so we left for our room once Ben had finished both dishes.

That evening we called Kat's dad from the hotel room's phone to say 'call us back!'
As Kat was feeling down in the dumps, speaking to her dad cheered her up loads. She managed to tell him to pass the number onto her mum who was in England staying with her sister for a few days. So after a while she gave up sitting by the phone and just as she was getting into bed the phone rang again! It was so lovely to hear everyone's voice but unfortunately the conversation was short due to the call being made from Georgina and Alec's home phone and it was most likely an expensive call.

The next morning we were off early to an internet shop to find a cheap place to stay in the city. It was a mission as the connection kept messing up and we were up against the clock to get back to the hotel in good time. Kat found one eventually that was only about 20mins walk away and although still a bit pricey, was cheaper than where we were.

Hotel Farid was about £40 a night and in the heart of the city near Independence Square, the markets and had a Lebanese restaurant across the street. We wondered around the town getting our bearings and dodging all of the sellers as best as we could. They actually have charity street workers (chuggers) here who all seem to be really tall and physically grab you when you pass. There were a few times when we nearly smacked them one as the harassments were getting a bit too much for us.

The hotel had free internet so we got stuck into doing our blog and didn't realise the time until we started getting peckish around 8.30pm. We'd eaten in a fast-food Lebanese place around lunch time and had given us a taste for falafels so we popped across the road to the restaurant. We sat down and Ben's face looked all of a sudden quite serious as he said he'd just ripped his trousers on a nail sticking out of the chair next to him. Kat told him to show his rip to her which was on his knee and fairly large, big enough to draw the waiter's attention so he could explain how it happened. Next minute the chair was taken away and the manager came out to apologise whilst we could hear the banging of a hammer coming from the kitchen. Accepting her apology and Kat trying to sooth Ben's somber mood, we tucked into a Greek salad, hummus, babagonoosh (amazing aubergine dip), flat breads and flag beers. All of which turned out to be free of charge as compensation for Ben's trousers. Two freebies in two days wasn't bad at all, even if it did mean Kat had to sew up the gaping hole in Ben's trousers.

It felt like de-ja-vu when we got us the next morning and went in search for another cheap hotel. A man started to follow us and told us that he knew of a cheap place to stay and led us to the owner’s house first before taking us to look at the rooms in the hostel. We would have never found it on our own and without a guidebook, the entrance was tucked away and we had to go up 3 floors to an apartment with several rooms in. Deciding to stay in the minimalist double room with shared bathroom for £15, we arranged to return in an hour with our bags. The man walked us back and waited outside our hotel. We knew this meant trouble because we knew he would demand payment for his services even though we had decided to tip him for his help. On returning to the Auberge Vieria, we paid the woman whose name was Binta and waited for the 800CFA change to give to the man who started to complain that it wasn't enough. Shocked by the reaction we gave him the 200 coin Ben had in his pocket to round it up to 1000CFA. However on reflection of this only minutes after he left did we find our balls and realise we should have probably told him to stuff it and say that what we gave him would have supplied us with water for 3 days! It's a shame how we can't get close to anyone here as they all want something from you.

It was that day when we met a German guy called David who was staying in the same hostel. He'd traveled a similar route to us from Morocco and on listening to his stories, was really unlucky at times. Finding out about his bag being stolen in Mauritania with his passport, camera, bank cards etc in, had trouble with police at the border whilst transporting a car for a man he met, giving 600euros to a diabetic man who may have been a con artist and getting the same illness as Kat. Although we were sorry for him to be poorly still, Kat was relieved that she wasn't alone and having someone relate to the symptoms. We told him about the antibiotics which helped a little but that it seems to take forever to be 100% again.

After taking some time out to relax we went in search of the Mali embassy where a kind old security man informed us that the embassy was where we were now standing but had moved over 10years ago. Looking at when our hotel map was printed, we spied a tiny date at the bottom saying 1988!
The man was really sweet and flagged down a taxi explained where we wanted to go and agreed a local, not tourist, fair for us.

At the Mali embassy we asked the diplomat what type of visas are available. He said that we're able to get a 5day transit visa at the border but didn't know the price. We had all ready done a little research into prices and he confirmed that the 30day visa was the same price as quoted on the internet, so we left our half filled in forms with him and decided the 5day transit visa would suite our needs better. We got in another taxi and asked to go to the Nigerian embassy this time. The driver didn't know where it was and had to call a friend and we were not sure if it had moved like Mali so couldn't gauge how far it was and ended up paying more than we should have. The Nigerian embassy was lovely and cool inside, but unfortunately the guy we spoke to about visas was not very helpful. His attitude was like he couldn't be bothered and it was confirmed when we told him we were traveling south and asked if we could get the visa from anywhere else. He then exclaimed that it's easier to get the visa in Benin or Togo and then turned his back on us and walked away. End of that conversation.

We walked back to our apartment from the embassy as it was only a few kilometers and stopped at a bar for some cold drinks along the way. When we got back to the apartment Binta was playing ludo with some friends and we could hear them all laughing as we laid down for a rest in our room, but the noise from the dice outside was too noisy to sleep.

It is was after 3days of being there that Kat realises the really pathetic fan in our room that was on setting 5 was in fact the slowest speed and 1 was the fastest. It was literally the day before we left so she wanted to cry at her stupidity at not checking it sooner as the room was still so warm with the fan going. We guess that because there was no electric or running water when we checked in and when the fan was first turned on, we just automatically assumed the fan was shit like the rest of the place so didn't question it. Not even when Ben went into David's room and realised that his fan was moving faster than ours. Idiot.

Pleased that we didn't need to stay in Dakar any longer for visas, we did some last bits and pieces on our last day like posting off Lizzie and Jenni's birthday presents and Kat's dad's father's day present-all were very belated which we apologise again for; went into an internet cafe to speak to our parents over webcam and lastly, find the fast-food place we had previously been to at Ben's desperate bid to have another veggie burger which consisted of the following: falafels, fried egg, cheese, a little salad, chips and ketchup all in a bun. It looked awful and how he is not fat Kat doesn't know.

Saying goodbye to David and Ben returning the key to Binta who was just sat in her bra, we made our way to the grand taxi and bus depot. Talk about being thrown to the wolves! We should have gotten used to it by now but it's tough when men are surrounding you and your bag demanding where you're going and are so close you have to push yourself out of the tightly knit human circle they form around you. Another technique we've found that helps clear some space is to turn around pretty forcefully with our rucksacks on.

Getting some breathing space we began walking down the road to a bank and were being followed by a few of the men who wouldn't take no for an answer. Stopping to have some water and to see if they'd also stop (which they did), Ben told them to stop following us because it was pissing us off. They backed off, but we still had to return there after we popped to the bank. Dread. Eventually after a bit of confusion regarding destinations and haggling over the cheapest way to get to Mbour, we boarded the cramped and battered 14 seater minibus. We were sat in the front seat and noticed a large hole in the floor where the gear stick was as we watched the road whizzing by underneath us. It took us 3 long and hot hours to drive the 83km to the outskirts of Mbour.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 9, 2009 from Dakar, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
tagged Dakar

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What a let down.

Nouakchott, Mauritania

We arrived in Nouakchott in the dead of night. The journey was long but the roads looked captivating with the sand blowing in a sea of waves across the tarmac. We almost ran over a camel earlier on during the day so we were keeping our eyes peeled there weren't any ready to jump out and surprise us. We stopped outside a big house / compound where the guys could eat and Kat could use the loo. The place was like an abandoned hotel where people were living in the run down rooms. We went up to one apartment that was full of mosquitoes and some men were asleep in mozzie nets in a room. Kat's tummy was hurting and the toilet happened to be one of the worst we've been in yet. It was pure filth! There was no running water and looked like it had never seen a bog brush. That wasn't the only problem though. Kat used the last of the loo roll and Ben had to go as well...

After Aziz and Habib had finished eating, we returned to the camions where Ben made his excuses to go on the hunt for tissue. Kat had disappeared off to bed at this point as it was 2am and a cold had also broken with her, so she missed it when Ben collected bottle labels to wipe his arse with. The sad yet funny part was that after squatting and doing a shit that resembled a cow pat, he tried picking up one of the labels out from under a rock which caused them to all blow away in a gust of wind. As if someone above was humoring him, a pair of Bermuda shorts were blown his way in the same gust of wind. The opportunist he his, he snatched them up and wiped away.

Having to endure the toilet again the following morning, Kat was feeling lousy. The day unfortunately didn't improve when went with Aziz and Habib to get their lorries unloaded and then went into town with Aziz. We smelt something fishy then as Aziz had told us to leave our bags. Why go all the way into town and not get dropped off?! Well we were right to trust our instincts as he drove us to a cash point. We had already decided to give 12,000ogli so got out that and some more for the money belt. Driving back to the depot we felt sick to the stomach as we were worried what was to come. On arrival Habib came to say goodbye to us and after hugging and shaking hands he said "Aziz drop you in town and you give him 1500 dirhams". WHAT?!? That's 150euros! We explained that we had some money for Aziz but not that much because we were hitch-hiking and the buses were too expensive. On telling him and Aziz who turned up at this point that we were going to give 12,000 ogli (£28). After much debating and we saying that a price wasn't mentioned to us otherwise we wouldn't have rode with them, the 2 men walked off to talk. We had another 4000ogli in our wallet which we previously told them was all that we had left and gave it to them to smooth things over as much as possible. In the end they accepted the 16,000ogli (£37) and Aziz drove us back to the derelict house on the outskirts of the town. We said our goodbyes, Aziz taking us up in a big bear hug and forced Kat to take 1000ogli note for a taxi. We decided to walk with our rucksacks instead and head to the shops for much needed loo roll and water.

Once we got supplies, we walked around looking for a hotel in the blazing heat. Kat was feeling pretty light-headed and seeing little paws belonging to cats facing upwards and embedded in the sandy streets. It was pretty awful and an image that'll stick with us.

We were stopped a few times by street sellers and one man who approached us insisted on giving us gifts. A bracelet each and invited us into his shop to meet his family. Giving the man the benefit of the doubt we went with him and listened to him tell us about Mauritania and his family in Senegal. He cut to the chase after a while and asked us to buy a bag of rice for his baby's naming ceremony the next day. Hearing about so many different cons, we told him we didn't have any money on us and couldn't help for the moment. Trying to give the gifts back he wouldn't accept them and wanted us to return later for food. Once we eventually left and found the road with hotels on we were pestered again by a man trying to get us to stay at his campsite. Kat was ready to lie down and never move again at this point so we swiftly went through the hotels trying to find one with the lowest price after some serious haggling. 14000ogli was the very lowest and the room looked more like a suite so we agreed to the price. It had air-conditioning, TV, seating area, balcony and an ok bathroom which became essential in the following 72hours.

Kat got from bad to worse so we stayed there for 3 days until she felt a bit better and the antibiotics kicked in, which Ben painfully got from the local pharmacy. We say painfully because Ben's French is really bad so with embarrassing hand and body gestures he managed to get the Doctor, pharmacist and a helpful assistant to understand Kat's condition. so we decided to risk the journey to Senegal.

We didn't get great vibes from Mauritania and it didn't help with the hotel receptionist constantly knocking on our door to take payment - Ben's cash cards weren’t working and Kat's cards were not accepted which caused a few problems but were solved with the thanks to Ben's dad. So after those few days of illness, watching lots of TV and Ben trying his best to play nurse to Kat (with only a few mishaps), we were ready to move on and decided to risk the journey to Senegal.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 5, 2009 from Nouakchott, Mauritania
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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Off Road Truckers

Nouadhibou, Mauritania

The border crossing from Western Sahara to Mauritania is quite difficult to describe. To get though the actual border itself you have to fill out a form, then wait..... For some reason our English passports had been put in a different pile and there seemed no order of a queuing system and without Aziz stepping in and asking why the English are still waiting 2 hours after turning up, we could still have been there. After the first stamp you walk 10yards to a police check point, then another 10yards to the Army check point, at this point there is now no road and at the last check point we got another stamp and sent on our way.

We got back in the lorry and Aziz starts zig zagging though the sand with no road or signposts just bumpy, sandy, rocky desert. A car had over taken the convoy of trucks that Aziz and ourselves were leading. The cocky car then got stuck in the sand and 4people got out the back seat with spades and started frantically digging like it was some kind of gumball rally. Still driving in zig zags the path now indicated by loads, and we mean loads, of abandoned vehicles.

From cars to trucks, they had evidently broken down sometime ago and were now stripped of all their interior leaving behind a metal shell. It strangely enough didn't look too much out of place with all of the rubbish that surrounded the dunes.

Finally we reached tarmac and yet more police checks. Only this time there were 3 types of check points-one for police, one for gendarmarie and one army. When asking Aziz, who was losing his patience and his money by this point from all of the bribes he was paying, why are there so many checks so close together when all there is around us is desert? he replied it's because they want money. We've no idea what to believe but what we do know is what we saw and that was people giving 'gifts' to the uniforms from their cars. Whether this was to speed up the process or to avoid the vehicle from being completely unloaded like some of the trucks that obviously couldn't pay up. We had our passports checked and stamped again before we drove about a mile and stopped at what looked like a derelict town where several trucks were parked up.

In the village that consisted of about 5 recognizable buildings still standing, one of them claimed to be a restaurant. Inside the restaurant it was a shoes off jobby and to our disappointment it was just a resting room with cushions and a rug. To our delight they had showers and a sit down toilet which was pretty disgusting with it being a truckers stop.

On chatting to the owner, Mohammeda, who sat in the corner of the main room and stared a lot. We found out that he was the cook, waiter, cleaner and shop keeper, his shop consisted of a silver lockable briefcase (the key around his neck) that contained a bureau de exchange, tabac, mobile top-up, and soft drinks. He was a nice guy that seemed to stare a lot and he even shared his traditional Mauritanian fish'n'rice lunch with us. However we were charged for using the showers and he did want us to sleep in the restaurant come hotel from probably an added cost but we declined, sleeping in the camion for another night.

That evening we got to see the other restaurant/hotel which was a cook your own. Habib taking over the cooking prepared a tagine and it was looking vegetarian as we watched Habib peal tomatoes but when it was dished up Kat was mortified as a leg of lamb came out. We stayed two nights in Nouâdhibou resting from the sun in either of the guesthouses. We made friends with other truckers, Kat tried to play rummie with a guy who was playing hearts and she still beat him.

There was another guy called Omar who kept wanting his picture taken with her. By the third day she was fed up of being the play thing and looked forward to leaving once Aziz and Habib got their papers.

Whilst we were there though we managed to see the longest train in the world (the Iron Ore Railway) a few times during our stay.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 3, 2009 from Nouadhibou, Mauritania
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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