Friday, June 14, 2013

Jazz in Senegal

      The deadline to my PC bucket list is approaching with the last 5 months I have left in Senegal. I was able to make another tick mark with my most recent trip north to the annual Saint Louis Jazz Festival. Five days of African infused jazz took me to the affable side of Senegal I don’t see often and was just as wonderful as I imagined. I passed through St.Louis during the off-season and learned to appreciate the carefree atmosphere and European architecture. While everyone commented that there was a smaller crowd this year due to the unfortunate Mali travel advisory, top jazz artists still poured in from the U.S, Germany, Tunisia and other countries. 
Our trip started out slowly, a pace that nothing can escape in this country, even though we were the ones travelling by LandRover for once. Instead of the car being our saving grace to Dakar land, it was just the opposite. There was a reoccurring problem with the fuel injection that cost double in fuel along with two flat tires, one of which was the spare. In hindsight, it could have been worse... but those words are hard to utter for fear that “Inshallah” wouldn’t go far and a lightning storm would come out of nowhere.

While we waited for the second tire repair, we searched for lunch. Travelling in company not accustomed to daily scheduling outside of the big city, we missed the street lunch window. At an awkward 3:30 we found this tucked away home with a "Resto" sign out front that happily bought and cooked more rice for us and served dinner chicken.Robert took full advantage of the down time with a quick laundry session. Our humble resto owner provided a bucket, fetched water, and hung a line; southern hospitality has nothing on that. I still think this interaction is at the crossroads of an (somewhat) acceptable task and getting away with doing crazy things. Plus, they dry time was cut short and supplemented by the “holdin 'em out the car window” technique. This pick-me-up wore off as we trudged on to Dakar and just made it before midnight. 
After a few days of Dakar business, never the cheery kind, we drove a few hours north to St.Louis for the first day of Jazz Fest. We made hotel reservations a few weeks earlier, a rookie mistake preceding any international festival. So we took the last place available at the central location. It was a little grungy, a little buggy, and in the heart of downtown. Maybe Im too forgiving or maybe it was the night band, but it grew on me. Opening night starred Baaba Maal, a Grammy Award winning Senegalese musician, and his Dande Lenol (Voice of the People) Band.
Tourist shopping! 

Langue du Barbarie National Parkjust 18 km south of Saint-Louis in the “onion capitol,” Gandiol, is at the intersection of mangroves, sand dunes, tidal wetlands, the Senegal River and the ocean. The park was established well before my time as a sea turtle nesting area. We came by to check out the hubbub on the nesting island for migratory birds. We took a pirogue down the river and looped the island to see billed gulls, Caspian terns, royal terns, and others taking their turn at this stop along on the European route.