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Day 15 Update (via Satellite) – November 9th 2007

St. Louis and Dakar to Koungheul (enroute to Tamabacounda)

Car Team 1 left the lovely Zebrabar campsite in St Louis and headed east into Senegal to pick up a road running south. Car Team 2 headed towards Dakar to film the activities of an agency called The African Centre for the Education of Human Rights as well as visit to Goree Island.

To explain the situation in Senegal. One particular problem is a street children begging racket that operates throughout the country. It is purported that this is organised by the religious leaders, the Maribou. Within the Senegalese culture the prevailing religion is Islam with ancient African religions and African traditions still having a strong influence. The Maribou still exert a powerful force over the people (rather like a cult) with evidence of trafficking and abuse happening to children and young people. The African Centre for the Education of Human Rights aims to educate children and Young People in their international human rights so that they can protect themselves from becoming involved with the cults.

Car Team 2 (Jonathan, Richard, Steve S, Claudio, Becca, Sammi, Mark K and Nick) visited the centre in down town Dakar. Just in case you didn’t know, Dakar is bonkers! Crazy traffic, colourful hustlers, packed full of life in all it’s forms. Children congregate around the vehicles and constantly ask for ‘Cadeaux’ or gifts. Just to even park the cars near the project required parking on the forecourt of a local bank and paying the guard to look after them. It’s difficult in this blog to fully express the nature of Dakar when I’m bouncing down a dirt track writing this on my laptop though.

The greeting we received in Dakar was fantastic. We attended a youth group on the terrace on the roof of their building and in 40C heat they performed an energetic dance and drama which illustrated their education of human rights. The energy levels and general buzz of the group is a universal language that seems to be the same the world over. We were treated to cold Coke, friendships, smiles, hugs and a genuine interest. Lovely. After this, we went to Goree Island. This was a slave collection point for the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago. It’s an island just off the coast of Dakar, just a 20min boat ride away which ironically has now turned into a sort of holiday destination. The local authorities have preserved some of the slave houses that were used to hold the slaves prior to departure to their ‘new lives’ of slavery. We were shown the Door of No Return, this was the final departure point for the slaves and was at sea level directly out to the slave ships. It’s an errie place that echoes with the suffering of the past.

Our next challenge of the day was to rendezvous with the rest of the team in a place called Tambacounda. The only way to meet them was to drive through the night. This would have been an easy task except that after a third of the way there, the roads quickly turned bad. The tarmac has been eroded by the passage of trucks and the heavy rains into a vast series of pot holes around 3-4ft across, 6 inches deep and spread across the whole surface of the road every few feet. The impact of going down these holes jarred the car so much you’d think it would destroy it, and the pounding went on and on for miles and miles and hours and hours, all through the night. Both teams gave up the rigous of this road at a place called Koungheul, some way from our target of Tambacounda…