Hiring a taxi to take us to the Odyssey Tours office, we found Mr Bayo and his colleague Paul who showed us around their offices, kindly providing us with cool drinks and a lift to the Hotel Fana.
When I was there in March, a start had been made on major renovations to the large central area of the hotel, to add some elegant craft and fashion shops and rooms which would be fully equipped for conferences.
Returning in June to give the staff their photographs,
I could see that all the work had recently been finished to a very high standard, with the
latest computer technology for their conference guests.
Alaghi and I had a meal in the pool-side restaurant , then, wanting to meet his many Hausa friends to talk business .. he jumped into a
local taxi and headed for the centre of Dakar, promising to be back at 10.00 in the morning, when he would accompany me to the Mali Embassy, to get my entry visa, then he would show me around the
markets of Dakar and introduce me to his bead-dealer friends.
Luckily, Gambian mossies are quite predictable in their habits .. so if half an hour of flailing arms results in a complete miss .. you just wait quietly on your bed until the Gambian mossie inevitably lands on the wall, a foot above your head .. waiting to pounce. Splat !! Unfortunately Senegalese mossies are not so well trained, seemingly much smaller and without a spray, no amount of subterfuge would work in the high ceiling room. Diving under the covers, I fell asleep .. hopefully safe in the knowledge that I was taking my course of anti-malarial tablets and one of the locals had said these coastal mosquitoes didn't carry malaria. Putting more faith in the former, that have kept me malaria-free for 16 years in Africa, than the latter.
After an excellent breakfast, Alaghi and I set off along the coast to the Mali Embassy .. a modern building on the coastal road, with some skilled stone carvers outside and views across the sea to the Ile de Serpent .. an island which is part of the Iles de Madeleine, a National Park and evidently only inhabited by snakes .. so our taxi driver told us.
Following friendly and efficient service from the Malian consular officials, I arranged to collect my Visa in two days time. Alaghi and I set off in our taxi for the centre of Dakar, which although perhaps 5 miles in total distance, felt like 50. Dakar traffic literally crawls along at walking pace with constant queues of cars, minibuses, lorries and motorcycles, mostly belching out sickening black smoke and fighting for every inch of space .. including the sandy pavements / verges. Sometimes literally five abreast, all trying to funnel into gaps suitable for one vehicle. Over an hour later, we arrived in the centre of Dakar.
My previous visits to Dakar had been non-bead related, so this was
the first time I had visited the professional bead dealers at their home bases, many of whom were already my friends from meetings in other areas of West Africa. Alaghi also introduced me to some of the wholesalers of modern Indian and Czech beads, who supply many of
the materials for the tourist fodder bead-work throughout West Africa.
Following a phone call, we were invited to the home of the brother of one of my long-standing friends, who supplies me with excellent beads.
Not personally appealing to me, he said that there is a good market for these beads in the USA amongst the Chinese communities, even though their suggested prices were in hundreds of US dollars per strand.
Lots of talking and walking, return visits to stall holders and dealers who were not present at our first visit, a lunch of brochettes and chips in a local street restaurant, full of Hausa
dealers in many types of merchandise, a quick trip to one of the many Internet Cafés .. where download speeds are measured with a calendar rather than a stopwatch !
Instead of us both flying to Bamako, to save 2+ days of tortuous travelling by road, through the hottest area in all of Africa, our original plans had changed. Necessitated by Alaghi ( who could not fly on just his papers, having left his passport in Niger as security for some transaction ) was for him to go by land from Dakar to Bamako, whilst I spent the next day visiting my friend Patrick on Gorée Island .. and then would hopefully catch up with Alaghi, by flying to Bamako.
So, giving me dire warnings not to venture forth into the wilder areas of Dakar, which are not totally safe at night .. something to do with ladies of uncertain morals and the odd thief .. Alaghi departed to collect his travelling kit and find an evening taxi to Tambacounda on the first leg of his journey to Bamako. His object being to sleep overnight whilst on the journey, thus saving time and any lodging costs .. quite brave I thought, remembering that we were both nearly killed on the same route one year previously, when the driver also slept on the journey !!
The Hotel Fana management had kindly sprayed and de-mossified my room in the afternoon .. happily I slept without interruption, looking forward to my first visit to the fabled Ile de Gorée.