In March, I traveled to the Casamance region of Senegal for work. I didn’t realize until I was making the plans that I had actually been to the Casamance before, as Kolda is technically in the Haute Casamance. But the area of Senegal that is reputed to be the most verdant and beautiful is the Basse Casamance, the western section on and close to the ocean. And this is where I would be heading for work. I was pleased, to say the least. Some pictures…
I flew into the biggest city in the region, Ziguinchor, via Senegal Airlines, which had not been operational when I was living there last time. Now that it is back in business under new ownership, regional travel possibilities have exploded in ease and affordability.
I had the afternoon to wander around, but it was too hot and inhospitable for walking, so I headed for the riverside and read a book overlooking an embarkment point for pirogues.
On the way back to the hotel I passed this colonial-era charmer.
Leafy green trees that never lose their leaves, bougainvillea, and a plaster-walled house with long rows of Mediterranean-style shuttered French windows is my retirement fantasy, in a nutshell. I could do without the sweltering temperatures, but considering that March in New York is frigid, I wasn’t complaining.
The next day we started the shoot in Sédhiou, the region between Ziguinchor and Kolda. Every day we drove about an hour east to a different town or village in the region, and every evening we drove back west to stay the night in Ziguinchor, which has better accommodation options.
On the first day in Sédhiou, we had introductory meetings and of course, before leaving we were invited to partake in a shared lunch. Teranga at its loveliest. It was a variation on yassa poulet, and it was served in a jumbo bowl, which I photographed atop a computer box so you can get a sense of the scale.
One day we went to a tiny village deep in the bush. We met these women who were gathering bissap aka hibiscus leaves. Bissap leaves and flowers are used in Senegal for juice, tea, and sauce.
On a quiet pathway from one house in the village to another, we noticed a boy sitting in a baobab tree like the Cheshire cat.
Then someone in the group spotted his friend in a bough like twenty feet off the ground. See him? He was just chilling out up there. I guess this is what you do for entertainment if you’re a kid in the Casamance.
Before leaving town, I did two things, one big and one small.
I checked out the Alliance Française in Ziguinchor. It is a remarkable structure, and photos do not do it justice. So, so awe-inspiring and beautiful.
Then I took a cab an hour west to the beach at Cap Skirring. It sounds crazy to take a taxi a full hour’s drive away, but we negotiated a good deal for a roundtrip that would leave a few hours for me to explore Cap Skirring and for him to visit his family and friends there. I was impressed by the complexity of human nature represented by my taxi driver’s windshield paraphernalia, which, if you can’t tell, includes a skeleton-bedecked rearview mirror, a stuffed cat with lacy straw hat, and three different air fresheners. He was also listening to reggae, if that helps form an image.
I decided to walk the length of the Cap Skirring coast, from a stone’s throw north of the Guinea-Bissau border all the way to the other end of town. It was only a few miles but I saw a lot along the way, including:
a sacred forest,
tons of cows,
a woman gathering seashells,
some pretty rock formations,
and a fishing village that looked adorable and smelled super fishy.
I ate my lunch at a tasty restaurant just beyond the smell’s reach and then I headed back to the taxi, back to Ziguinchor, back to the airport, and back to sandy Dakar.
One week later, I left for Sierra Leone (also for work). I will post those pix soon, too!