the coast from Dakar to Mauritania is a remarkable stretch of powerful surf and wide bright sand. Paco and Lamin decided one day to take me 20kms south to a deserted island for a picnic. We took a taxi to a tiny village called gandiol and waited for a pirogue to take us across to the island.



The fisherman who ferried us in his pirogue was an acquaintance of Lamin's. He had recently been a victim of the sea -- losing five family members in an accident, including his mother and sister.

The fishermen go out for five days in these deep but narrow canoes, bringing back the catch. Most people I talked to referred to the sea with great respect and fear. Unlike home, death at sea seemed to be an intimate fact of life here.


Around St. Louis there are three impressive nature reserves -- this being the first stop for abundant fresh water after the migration south over the sahara.
We were dropped on the island for a few hours, and immediately paco and lamin began preparing the food, improvising with shells where knives had been forgotten, under the shade of some dune bushes.
They crouched over the small charcoal fire we had brought on this massive beach as I wandered off down the beach marveling at the life that thrived in and next to the ocean. Jellyfish and others thrown out of the surf, birds poking along the sand, and beach crabs scurrying nervously in ever-growing circles from their sanctuaries. Not a soul -- just me between the beating massive ocean and its formidable continent.
Of course, no real senegalese meal is complete without the tea. This is a delicate ritual that can take over an hour to prepare, pouring the mix from one cup to the next then back into the pot. Lamin is a master -- even on picnic. The first pour is the strongest, the second the most delicate with mint, and the third the sweetest.

Finally ferried back onto the mainland we hope for a taxi home. In the village, the kids run out shouting "toubab" (white man), and may even run up to touch me. The young men would saunter up to each other in the middle of the dusty street and holding hands, tease each other gently. Women, dressed in explosions of color, would wander by ignoring our presence. One mangy dog, asleep in the middle of the road, finally stirred onto all fours and yawned, kicking out its feet as if to wake them.

We waited a long time.