With all my current adventures with the Wizard of Oz, I almost forgot to continue telling you the story of our unforgettable trip to Senegal. By now we are day 6 of our beautiful vacation and I am totally relaxed. And I mean really completely relaxed. I have left my computer at home, for the first time in 10 years of being self-employed. We have limited access to wifi. This technology detox is doing me a world of good. I am spending the best quality time ever with my littles. I am enjoying great food and lots of gin ‘n tonic. The views are breathtaking. Every day new activities and new wonder to discover. Loving it, every minute of this marvelous African continent.
Today we are going to go kayaking in the mangroves, we have been told. Now this is the one activity I am really on edge about. We are talking about taking to the water with all my littles. Meaning that the little control freak that I am will not be able to control and save all three of my babes if something goes wrong. And what could go wrong? Well leave that to my imagination. Let me see… Crocodiles for one. I am sure there are vicious crocodiles lurking in the mangroves, with mean little eyes just surfacing, peeping out at us as delicious prey, swimming beneath our kayaks and then with one swish of their tails upsetting the entire paddle, tossing us into the water and then dragging us to the depths far below where we will be feasted upon as they sing songs of mister crocodile.
Sounds like something I can think up, right? Well, I researched this extensively of course, and just to be sure I backed up the information I had found with our tour guides, who confirmed. Yes, there are crocodiles in Senegal, but not in the mangroves. Good to note is that the crocodiles in Senegal are very different from the aggressive Nile crocodiles found in Egypt. The African ones are more mellow and will only attack a human if they are really starved. Nevertheless, I was assured and reassured that there would be none where we were going to kayak. They were right, we saw no crocodiles.
Next on my list of dangerous animals to worry about were hippos and water snakes. Again I was dissuaded from my anxiety. To top it off I was told that the water is really rather undeep. Knowing this last piece of information is both comforting and spoils part of the fun. Can’t have it all, I guess. Reassurance is “no thrills”.
We arrive at the kayak store which is run by a couple of entrepreneurial French colonialists, just like the magnificent Souimanga Lodge where we are staying. We are given safety attire consisting of kayak boots which fit our feet like little black, rubber socks. We are advised to cover up with sun cream. Yes, as if me and my blonde tribe would really forget this little detail. Last we are handed life vests. There is also a cute little life jacket for baby Willem. I am really cool by now.
We head of to the shore of the Saloum Delta where a school of kayaks is lined up for our pleasure. We all climb aboard in teams of two. Lilly teams up with another little girl called Helena. Because the girls are too small to paddle by themselves, Helena’s mom Sarah accompanies them. Winston really wanted to paddle by himself, and to his great dismay he is teamed with Moussa, one of our tour guides. I myself am holding onto baby Willem for dear life, so I am teamed up with Justin, the strongest and tallest of our tour guides. Meaning he paddles and I sing. I must also add that by day 6 I am totally relaxed and feeling slightly horny in this tropical weather. I think Justin is quite hot actually.
Winston is not happy with his kayak mate. Moussa is deliberately trailing behind to close the line of kayaks. His tactic is to let Winston do all the peddling, which frustrates my eldest son who is set on showing off to the girls in our travel party. To counter this misfortune, I praise Winston often on his strength, how he is peddling that kayak for two, how lazy Moussa is and if it weren’t for him, Winston would be leading this trip. It works. My boy perks up and finds time later on each time when we stop for breaks to impress the group of girls.
The kayak trip through the mangroves is magical. We see birds of all colours and sizes. The water is refreshing but warm. We pass fishermen and their children helping along on their tiny boats. We wave at them and they smile and cheer back at us. All good joy. We make a halt on a sandbank. Take the time to rest our tired muscles. Well not me, because I have just been singing and holding on to Willem. The children run around and get wet and rather dirty in the clay-like mud of the river bed.
When our trip is over, we rinse ourselves down with small water hoses and take off all our attire. Tired but happy, we walk back to our bus which brings us shortly to our lodgings. It is time for some lounging by the pool. Enjoying the sunshine, each other’s company and some great gin ‘n tonic. I swear that drink tastes even better in tropical weather.
In the afternoon, the children gather round the hanging trees outside the lodge’s restaurant where a local artist teaches them to make sand drawings. We had seen these beauties when we first visited Slave Island. Now my darlings are inspired to create one of their own with the different sand colours on a wooden slate carefully using glue and then making the sand fall in the right places. The result is touching and my children are proud of their creations.
The local tailor shows up promptly as agreed to present us the clothes we had designed and ordered just the day before. I am totally amazed and the outfits I discover. True craftsmanship in no time and for such a small price. I have a long African dress with slits up the sides, Winston wears a top and matching pants, Lilly receives a skirt and top in fuchsia with white hearts, and baby Willem matches his top with his big brother. We are ready for our African party that evening.
We are taken to a local restaurant where we will be enjoying a meal under the African sky. Turns out this place is run by the same French entrepreneurs as our lodgings. I must give it to the colonialists, they have a sense for business. Hosting travelers in their hotel, and then casually referring them to a nice local restaurant. Money twice in the pocket. Very smart.
The family who had invited us for dinner by the river show up to start out the festivities. The African women dance for us, sing and make music. They get the stiff Europeans that we are to loosen up and join in the ecstasy of letting go and dancing like nobody is watching. We laugh and we drink, and we totally immerse ourselves in this culture which is so different from ours.
It is dark by the time we sit down to eat. My mellow mood is shocked when my eldest announces that he has finished his desert only to find out it was covered in peanuts. I grab for my cell phone and light up the desert which lies in front of me still untouched as I was talking and drinking and having a good time. To my horror I discover the said peanuts. I flash the light straight onto my darling. No reaction to be seen yet. I panic as Winston has a severe peanut allergy. We have an epi-pen for these occasions but of course the epi-pen is neatly in my toiletry bag in our lodge.
Our tour guide picks up on my commotion and suggests we head straight back to the lodge, full of apologies for forgetting about the allergy I had mentioned explicitly at the beginning of our vacation. At that, our travel mate Sarah jumps up and looks Winston over. It appears to our greatest luck that Sarah is a doctor. Not just a doctor, she is a skilled surgeon. She informs us that if Winston were to react badly to the peanuts, we would not have enough time to get back to the lodge for the epi-pen. She is calm but stays near and observes. After a few minutes she tells me that it’s all okay. If he were to have a full-blown allergic reaction it would have happened by now. We are safe. Her intervention is genius, if only to reassure us that all was okay and that we can continue our pleasurable evening.
Each day here is a unique souvenir. In fact, this is our last full evening and we are enjoying it with all our hearts. Our souls feel free and so connected. The relationship I have with my children, in the truest sense of the word, means relating to each other at a deep level of unconditional love.