The reason why I chose Senegal was because, first of all (and always), it was surfable, and also because (I thought) Senegal would be a good hub for me to travel to a few other countries in west Africa.
Furthermore, one of my best friends Sakura's husband is Senegalese. I simply wanted to see what his country was like.


While being stuck for two days in Washington D.C. (Refer to the previous article "SA208" for more details), I got to know Senegalese guy Seydina who was living and working in San Francisco. He was now on his way back home in Dakar for Christmas by the same flight.

Despite full of passengers on SA208, our flight was smooth and we arrived in Dakar early in the evening - about 8 hours from Washington D.C. And the fleet would continue to Johannesburg after Dakar.
I was worried about whether or not my luggage arrived in Dakar after not seeing it for two days. Luckily enough, mine was there, but Seydina's wasn't....


Seydina and Seydina's brother were kind enough and gave me a lift from Dakar's shabby airport to the hostel called Annex Kingz Plaza - seemingly the only hostel in Dakar.
There was, however, one problem then. My surfboard bag was too big for his brother's car. So we carried it from the airport to the hostel on the rooftop of the car without any straps on it, but by holding it with our hands out of the windows. No police stopped us.

Welcome to Africa, hahaha!



It's dry hot during the day, but it cools down a little bit after sunset in Dakar.
The sky appears to be hazy or almost sandy every day as some sand is blown in by the dusts from the Sahara desert.
The hottest season around this region of west Africa is said to be between April and November when the temperature often reaches over 40 degrees. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about the heat as for now.




Honestly speaking, my first impression on Dakar was;

" Ahhh.... Is This It ? ? ? "

I wasn't expecting much, but the name "Dakar" had done a huge influence on my imagination about the city due to one of the world's most famous rallies - Paris & Dakar Rally.
In reality, however, Dakar was still very impoverished, much more than my imagination. There appeared to be lack of infrastructure, many buildings and roads under construction or undone, and lots of kids begging on the streets. I'm not judgemental about Senegal. This is just factual.


Nevertheless, the bright side of Senegal is that although poverty is clearly evident, there are hardly any dodgy people here such as thieves, muggers and alcohol/drug addicts. Senegalese people seem to me very disciplined.
Additionally, most of them are super slim and super tall like my friends' Senegalese husband - Michele. I see quite a few semi Naomi Campbell and semi Usain Bolt everywhere!

My new friend Seydina who I got to know while we were stuck in Washington D.C. for two days was very helpful, giving me a lift from the airport to the hostel the other day, e-mailing me at times to make sure my stay in Dakar was Okay, etc, etc.
One night he even invited me to his parents' house for dinner, and the photo below shows what I had with Seydina and his brothers all together around this bowl of rice.


This dish was called "Thebou Diene" - perhaps, the most common and traditional (?) Senegalese food with rice, fish and steamed veggies.
You might think that it doesn't look good (I also thought so in the beginning), but it was actually really good. It tasted a little similar to the Japanese dish called "Takikomi Gohan".


Seydina's younger brother made tea for me by pouring it into a shot glass and then into another shot glass, repeating this process for a few times in order to make the tea fluffy(?).
It tasted to me like weak coffee with lots of sugar in it, but he claimed that it was tea.


Seydina spoke very good English, but his other family members spoke Wolof and French (the official language), both of which I did not speak (just a little bit of French).
I really wish that I could have some decent conversations with Seydina's parents and his other brothers. Still, I felt very fortunate to be invited to a local Senegalese family and to have dinner with them.

Gochisou-sama, Seydina!

Although the city of Dakar isn't impressive to me, there is one thing in this country that's blown my mind since I came here.
It's the Senegalese cuisine and the photos below show what I have tried so far;

1. Thebou Diene


This is the same dish that I had at Seydina's parents' house the other day (Refer to the previous article for more details).
The one pictured above is what I had at a local restaurant. It appears a little better than the home-made Thebou Diene served at Seydina's parents house (just came in a big bowl then), but they were equally good and tasty.The one in the above photo was only XOF2500 (about EUR3.80).

2. Maafe


This dish is quite famous in and outside Senegal. Even I knew the name before but never tried it until now.
It's basically peanut-based sauce with beef in it. It looks and tastes a little similar to Japanese Curry-rice. The sauce can be quite thick.

3. Yassa Poulet


Arguably, this is the most popular dish amongst Senegalese people and it's also my most favourite dishl.
It's a combination of spicy onion sauce with a piece of chicken and rice. Very simple, yet delicious! I can have this dish for lunch and dinner every day.

4. Unknown


I don't remember the name of this dish now (Can somebody tell me the name if you know it?). It was one of the daily specials at a local restaurant and a lovely Senegalese waitress highly recommended that I should try it. So I did with a little suspicion in the beginning, but it turned out to be very good.
The sauce was quite sticky: there might have been Okura used in it (?). I absolutely loved it, but it was in the daily menu. Thus. I never had another chance to try this dish again afterwards.

All of the above dishes are between XOF2,000 and XOF2,500 (about EUR3 ~ 3.50), and they come with rice whose grain is as small as a Japanese rice grain but not that sticky when cooked, It's almost like Basmati rice, but not that long. Do you understand what I mean? A great benefit of this type of rice is that I don't feel too heavy even after I had a huge portion of it. Having this quality rice in Senegal is not really what I expected!


While Senegalese cuisine surprisingly delighted me, I made a move to a small island located north of Dakar. It's called N'Gor and I had very little information about it other than the fact that somewhere around the island was surfable.
The island has a little tropical / exotic feeling and is only accessible by boat (XOF500 for a return, You could try paddling with your surfboard if you don't want to pay the fare). There appeared to be quite a few tourists from France on the island and it was very difficult for me to find decent and cheap accommodation except one surf-camp.
I had never stayed at any surf camps before in my life (I don't really want to), but this time I had no other choice. The surf-camp was owned by Danish surfer Jesper, and after I negotiated the price with him, I decided to stay in a dorm with a shared bathroom at his camp for EUR30.00 per night including breakfast and dinner. Not cheap at all for a shabby traveling surfer like myself, but thanks goodness that Japanese Yen was quite strong against Euro.


I came to Senegal for surfing. So I kept an eye on the forecast and it showed some swells to reach the coast of West Africa over the next few days.

N'Gor island basically has two major breaks - N'Gor Right and N'Gor Left.
N'Gor Left was completely blown off by onshore winds, but N'Gor Right was often light cross-shore winds or occasionally no winds with 4 to 6ft swells, plus a period of 14 to 16 seconds.
The photos below were taken by Jesper.




Honestly speaking, I did not expect waves in Senegal to be this big. Moreover, they were not only big, but also heavy then. I had a couple of big set-waves on my head and got quickly washed away to the rocky inside-section.
It actually took me a little while to figure out where to position myself - if I sit too deep, I will easily be sucked in by set-waves, and if I sit on the inside-section, the fast-breaking shoulder will throw me out. N'Gor Right wasn't easy for me in the beginning.



Besides the challenging waves in N'Gor, so far so good since I came to Senegal. However, on my third day on the island, everything turned upside down for me.

Being well informed by Jesper about where to paddle out and where to NOT paddle out, I unwisely chose a short-cut and accidentally stepped on to what appeared to be two nasty sea-urchins.
What was even more unwise of me then was that I didn't treat the wound either at the scene or after I came in. I was stupid and I completely disregarded Africa's sea-urchins, which I later regretted so much.

Late in the afternoon I started to have a shooting pain through my right leg and then I had a fever during the night. I could not sleep at all and I was in agony.
On the following day my right foot became badly swollen as shown in the photo below.


Unable to walk without some help by other guys at the camp, I miserably left the island for Dakar on the forth day and took a taxi straight back to Annex Kingz Plaza (Dakar's only hostel).


I initially thought that my right foot would eventually shrink in a couple of days, but it never did. It became bigger and bigger! It was definitely time to go to hospital.
Unfortunately, I had to wait for two days to go to see a doctor because it was Saturday when I left the island for Dakar. You might say that I could have gone to the emergency medical service on the weekend, but I realized one BIG problem.

I do not speak French and, presumably, most hospital workers in Senegal do not speak English. Ahhhh....

Very very fortunately, there was one French-Canadian girl who happened to be staying in the same dorm at the hostel. Her name was Ann Marie (pictured below on the right), a university student from Quebec and she was working as a volunteer in Mali, finished her work there and came to stay in Dakar for a few days.
She must've seen me being so miserable and barely walking. She offered me some help by going to hospital with me by taxi on Monday and explaining to the hospital workers what had happened to me.


Clinique de la Madeleine (shown in the photo below) is the hospital I went to and there I had my right foot X-rayed (not necessary actually), had the wound properly treated and obtained prescriptions for my medicine.


All and all, with some help from lovely Ann Marie, I neither had to be hospitalized nor did I have to go under the knife (No way!). Ann Marie and I went to a pharmacy in downtown Dakar and I bought whatever was written in the prescriptions.
In the end, the taxi-fares to and from downtown Dakar, the treatment at the hospital and the medicine including crutches cost me almost USD300 in total! Ooooouch!
This medical cost was actually more painful than the actual pain that I suffered from sea-urchins' thorns.


I don't know why I was smiling in the above photo. This was the first time ever in my life to use crutches. I must've been smiling at Ann Marie's charm which actually made me forget about all the pains.

Mercie beaucoupm, Ann Marie!

It was not easy at all for me to be in infra-crippled Dakar with crutches. It took me almost a week to be able to walk without using them.
For the past few days I mostly spent my time at the hostel. Otherwise, I went out to nearby cafes or restaurants to eat. A lot of Senegalese people asked me about my leg and I tried to explain to them (in English, of course), but they didn't seem to get what sea urchins were....


I'm now writing down a few procedures to be taken if I ever step onto sea urchins again (I seriously hope not):

1. If you get thorns in your foot, ask somebody to help you walk without using the leg whose foot got the thorns. The more you walk by using the foot, the deeper the thorns go into your foot.
(If you get thorns in both of your feet, Ummm.... Try to fly then)

2. Put your foot into clean warm water and leave it there for a few minutes in order to soften the skin.

3. Get a needle (Senegalese people use a big thorn of a desert-plant) and dig the skin (where the thorn is) from the side with the needle.
(ie) if a thorn is stuck from the tip of your toe towards your foot, insert the needle either from the right or the left side of your toe and push it until it reaches under the thorn.

4. Push the needle up in order to "dig up" the whole skin-part where the thorn was stuck.

5. Normally, there is not only one thorn, there must be at least a few in your foot. Then repeat the above procedures.
"Once you succeed" in getting all the thorns out of your foot, apply anti-septic accordingly.


!!!!! Note !!!!!
* Try NOT to insert a needle into the same angle as how the thorn has gone in. Always insert the needle from the side.
* Try NOT to use tweezers because they could easily break the thorn up inside the skin.
* If the thorn's gone in too deeply and cannot be taken out, just apply anti-septic over it and see a doctor if necessary.
* I take no responsibility for what's written above.