Monday, July 20, 2009

sand dunes and camels

yesterday (sunday) chris and i went to loumpoul with JC & her guest, lizzie. i've heard about loumpoul for a while -- it's this place that is in the north/northwest of senegal -- and reportedly has crazy sand dunes and camels. finally we had the chance to go. first we had to go to kebemer and then get a clando taxi to loumpoul village where we were then picked up and brought to the camp/tents. jc & lizzie were coming down from st. louis so we had to meet them in kebemer. we were 4 hours (or more) early because the road between thies and louga (kebemer is in between) is amazing! one forgets how quickly you can get somewhere when the road is decently paved.

i had been a little reluctant to go because a stay at the camp is rather expensive but i've heard it is worth it and it totally was. i don't regret going. the terrain was pretty amazing -- certainly something i haven't seen in senegal, or even in my life yet. real sand dunes -- high and deep and whispering and morphing in the wind. chris and i went kind of nuts -- something about the terrain unleashed the kids in us and we ran around and tumbled and romped and got sand all over ourselves. it took a lot out of me.

we went on camel rides which were more like an upgraded pony ride as it was led by a guide and the camels were utterly bored by us. they also smelled really bad. still, got to see some cool dunes that would have been exhausting to walk out on one's own to. afterwards chris found the camp's snowboards and we used them to sled down the tallest dune. i wiped out and face planted each time (accidentally) and the little french children who were also there cheered and laughed at me. i didn't mind. it was so much fun and i felt like a little kid in the infamous new jersey blizzard of '96 again -- except this was sand and i wasn't freezing my little butt cheeks off.

that night's food was delicious -- couscous and mutton and veggies. i ate a lot and was happy when the meal was capped with a mango. we then went to bed in a low hanging tent that you have to crawl to get into and i promptly passed out. it got hot though and i slept fitfully for the rest of the night.

the morning was splendid. we woke up late but still were the first one's awake (aside from the staff, of course). it was pretty stuffy in the tent by then (how was everybody else still asleep??) so it was a glorious breath of fresh air when we crawled out. the sky threatened rain with low, heavy clouds. i feel like if i climbed the highest dune i could scrape my fingers in the clouds. so we climbed it and sat and stared and listened. loumpoul is close to the ocean so instead of silence i think we were hearing the steady whooshing of the ocean. no waves crashing on the shore but the sound of the ocean's existence far off.

the sand dunes are a remarkable color. a perfect blend of orange and ochre. i had a hard time finding the right words for it. they were also flecked with gray bits of sand -- i'm assuming from the clay that lies below. because of the wind the orange dunes are tipped in swirls of gray that perfectly matched the gray rain heavy clouds. a picture could not capture the beauty so i let it alone and instead drank as much of the scene as i could.

by 9am though, the desert was reminding us that it is a desert and we were HOT. we had breakfast, played some bocce ball (aka 10 minutes of sweating under the scorching sun), took showers (amazing, i could barely leave), and headed out. on the way back to thies it started to rain heavily. it was scary to be on the road but simultaneously exhilarating to be in such intense weather. even though the camp was set up for us in such a manner, i felt reconnected to nature in a way that i haven't been in a while.

more pictures on picasa...

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