Monday, 25 June 2012

An Indian, a Moldovan and a Brit went to a Lake...

It might sound like the start of a joke, but it isn't. Last weekend, I went to visit a lake near Dakar - it's called Lac Rose because it has a high concentration of salt (higher than the Dead Sea) which means it looks pink in the sunlight. I went with my friend Dev - who I know from Uganda, and from Couchsurfing, and who now lives in Dakar (cue exclamations of how it's a small world). Elena, a girl from couchsurfing who works in a Swedish call centre and is in Dakar training workers for a new Swedish call centre, came with us. From that auspicious start, the day if anything got weirder.

We got the bus to the lake sans incident, and there sat down with some people Dev knows - a man from Mauritania who once walked a camel 700 km to sell it for a profit, only to have it die 20 km from its destination. He now lives by the lake, and runs camel rides around the dunes. We had mint tea with him and his sons, then set off for a walk around the lake.

First bit was over the sand, which was tricky walking and not much shade but otherwise fine. Then a bit on the road, past a place that does horse rides, and stopped for a coke. Then it got interesting - we decided to go walk by the lake, so cut across a field (walking on the raised boundaries between fields, not over the farmer's crops!), then through a swamp to get down to the shore of the lake. The lake's low at this time of year, so we were walking over a salty crust - again, not a piece of shade in sight, but it was beautiful in a barren kind of way. Realising it was too far to walk, Dev suggested cutting across the lake - apparently something he once did successfully, though with slightly burnt feet as the mud's hot.

Never one to turn down a challenge, I immediately whipped off my trousers and shoes and headed towards the lake. Tactical error. Not only was the mud super boiling, it was sinky. Before I knew it I was stuck knee deep in mud and it took several goes to wrench my feet free and get back to more solid ground. Worse still, the salt crust scratched my feet and legs, which were then caked in salty mud from the sinking - so it stung a bit. In case anyone's wondering, there are two lessons here. One is 'lake floors are sinky and this is bad' and the other is 'don't be a damn idiot and engage your brain before doing anything'

We carried on, but it was clear that I just couldn't go all the way around the lake, so we cut back up over the swamp (blissful relief as I sank a bit into the fresh water) and found a well, where there was a young man with a bucket and a bottle. So we washed ourselves, or to be more accurate, Dev washed himself and Elena and I got our legs wiped down by the young man, who positively refused to let us do it ourselves! Then we found a taxi to take us round to the other side of the lake, where we wandered through mounds of salt drying, and watching people harvesting the salt - scraping it off the bottom of the lake, cleaning it, piling it up to dry, loading it into bags, and driving it away.

After that it all got rather less dramatic. We walked round to the Campement, which has a restaurant, and had lunch and went and floated in the lake, and climbed up to an observation deck to see how pink it looked from above (very), and sat by the pool until it was time to get the bus back to Dakar. Then I did some sleeping.


  1. I would argue it is not the salt, but the high concentration of Dunaliella Salina, micro-organisms that contain a lot of carotene. Sorry, I went there with WWF ;-)

  2. Do we get to see photos of this? As a surviver of very stinging armpits in the Dead Sea (idiot for shaving before going in), I sympathise. x

  3. @Jeroen, good fact!

    @Maddie yes, but not yet - Elena had a camera, but mine broke just after I got here :-(