After 24 hours of sailing, we arrived at the mouth of the river. While ten years ago, you had to follow a fisherman to find the safe passage between the sandbanks, today, the channel entrance is well defined by numbered buoys, one of which is equipped with an AIS transponder. The sea was very calm; however, on each side of the channel, about 5 nautical miles long, waves continuously unfurled.
We anchored along a magnificent white sandy beach. Laurent rushed to put the tender in the water, while I dressed the children in their swimsuits. We came ashore to feel this fine, beautiful sand under our feet!
The beach is not very large, only a few metres, with the branches and trunk of a tree deposited there by the tides. A few palm trees offered us a shady spot. Just behind us, there was an impenetrable, dense and humid forest. The water was cloudy, as there was lots of sand in the river, but this did not stop us from enjoying a swim.
We continued our cruise to the village of Kachouane, which was just a bit further up the river. We stopped in front of “Chez Papys,” at the water’s edge, a restaurant and an inn. There, we enjoyed a delicious barracuda, freshly caught and served in the traditional way with rice and vegetables. A true delicacy!
The place is magnificent! With our feet in the fine, white sand, we sat around the table under a shelter built of wood and straw. The children played nearby with five or six other children from the village.
Time seemed suspended.... It went along peacefully to the rhythm of the calm flow of the Casamance River.
The next day, we set out to discover the village. We visited it accompanied by a little girl of about two years old who would not let go of Gabin’s hand. All the inhabitants greeted us with “Kassoumaye,” to which we knew to reply: “Kassoumaye baré.”
There are about ten or so huts in the village. Some are built of stone with a sheet metal roof; other more modest homes are made of clay or woven branches with a straw roof. Each home is bordered by a fence made of branches. To the great pleasure of the children, animals walked around freely throughout the village. We encountered chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys and cows. Gabin regularly asked us if we could bring one or two onto our sailboat!
We left, and this time we went a bit further into the “bolongs,” salt water channels bordered by mangroves that are characteristic of coastal areas in Senegal. We left with a rising tide for the village of Ehidj, with our eyes glued to the depth finder to avoid the numerous sand banks.
We spent a total of five days in Ehidj, a small village built on an island that is home to thirteen families.
It included a small church, an elementary school, and a campground, “Chez Léon,” just above the beach. We were able to enjoy the beautiful fine sand and go swimming. This nice little spot quickly became our HQ.
We quickly made our acquaintance with the people of the village: Samba, the artist; Madelaine, the waitress; Léon, the owner of the campground; Jean-Paul and his pirogue; Hyacinthe, the chef; François, the village chief; as well as their wives – Rose, Odette and Nina... Each had a Diola name and a French name (easier for us to pronounce).
We led an entire expedition to go shopping in a large neighbouring town, Cap Skiring: 30 minutes by pirogue and 15 minutes by taxi. The town is very touristic. We bought plenty of vegetables and fresh food. Then we walked along, looking at the many souvenir shops. What fun to visit the numerous stores selling African fabrics! Another full day for our little ones!
One day followed the next... and little by little, we took on the rhythm of life in Senegal, never in a hurry, we learned to live fully in the present moment.
I continued to teach Blanche, who showed progress from one day to the next. Laurent took advantage of our situation to go paddleboarding with Gabin into the mangrove to discover the rice fields. The afternoons were filled with swimming and children’s games on the beach.
Before leaving, we each received a name in Diola. Laurent became “Anounouken,” meaning “tall tree,” and I became “Diandian,” meaning “beautiful lady.”