Goree Island

Since South African Airways dropped Dakar as their regular refueling stop, getting to Goree Island (a fifteen-minute ferry ride off Dakar’s coast) can be quite a journey. It took around 24 hours for me, flying from CPT to JNB-NBO-ABJ, then DKR.

Eighteen bloggers from Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, South Africa and elsewhere have gathered for an annual workshop, thanks to the generosity of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, who brought us together as AfricaBlogging around three years ago.

As anyone who is reading this likely knows already, I don’t write about politics exclusively, or even all that much, but it’s nevertheless valuable to hear such varied and thoughtful perspectives on events of the day in my country, and in all of theirs, perhaps Zimbabwe in particular.

And they’re a fun group of people to hang out with, which is great, seeing as getting here wasn’t. We ended up being delayed for three hours in Nairobi. The flights were long, and timed to ensure that sleep (at least for me) was hard to come by.

Dakar airport was very strange. All of us had our luggage sent through a scanner when leaving the airport, even though we were all presumably coming from an airport that scanned our baggage on departure, and were not flying on airplanes where weapons and other contraband could easily have been distributed to us.

My passport control experience involved some jokes about football, followed by the officer handing my passport to another officer who was standing behind him, the latter of whom stamped it authoritatively. Quite why one can’t ask questions and not also stamp passports is something I might never learn the answer to.

All those I’ve spoken to had their passport checked for the entry stamp when they exited the baggage hall, as if they could somehow have just snuck in, past the passport-stampers and football-aficionados.

Some of us had our boarding passes checked on exiting the airport too, even though I can imagine some folks, who aren’t members of frequent-flyer programs and/or who like empty pockets, having thrown theirs away once the boarding-and finding-your-seat part of the journey was over.

None of us were asked to show their yellow fever vaccination certificate, even though the need for such was stressed in the run-up to the gathering.

We’ve been drinking baobab juice, and hibiscus, some potent ginger drink, and the very strong tea that some locals apparently drink 20 cups of a day. Food has already involved lotte, a version of monkfish also known as frog-fish or “sea devils”, which you’ll understand if you Google them.

Tomorrow, I’ll get to see the parts of the island that are far less weird, or comical.