Africa Connection Tours Introduces ATA Team Members to Le Lac Rose

24 Jun

After a week of working hard to ensure that the 36th Annual Congress was a success, members of the ATA team were given the opportunity to join Africa Connection Tours (ACT) on a day-long visit to the Pink Lake, sand dunes, and a traditional Fulani village.

It was the team’s last day in Senegal and we were all excited to see more of the country. After a quick breakfast, we found our patient guide, Youssou, waiting for us in the lobby. We set out for the hour and a half drive from Dakar city to the Pink Lake. During the ride, Youssou thoroughly answered all of our questions about history, culture, and development in the country.

 Before driving around the Pink Lake (known as Le Lac Rose), the group stopped at a local hotel with clean facilities and comfortable hammocks in the shade. When we saw the truck we would be riding in, we were all excited to get going.

The finale of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Photo by Julia Firestone.

Driving around the periphery of the lake, we learned that an unassuming chunk of stone was once the marker for the finale of the Paris-Dakar Rally.

Mountains of salt. Photo by Julia Firestone.

As we continued around the lake, we saw giant salt piles gathered by salt harvesters from the lake which is—fun fact—10 times saltier than the ocean. One of our team members was determined to get us out on the lake and although we were all pretty opposed to swimming in the lake (which requires covering one’s body with shea butter because of the high salt content), we were willing to settle on a short boat ride around the lake with a local salt harvester. The salt harvesters, by the way, are primarily Wolof, so if you ever get the chance to take a boat ride with a salt harvester on le Lac Rose, remember to say “Jërëjëf,” pronounced jerry-jeff, which means “thank you” in Wolof.

Photo by Julia Firestone

When we arrived back to shore, local artisans had assembled their work for us. After some bargaining and discussions, we hopped back into the truck with newly acquired gifts for family and friends and continued around the lake and through local farms. We were surprised to see tomatoes and lettuces growing in a dessert-like setting and learned that the Fulani in the area are traditionally farmers and cattle herders.

Julia speaking with the Chief's brother. Photo by Robyn Deutsch.

The next stop was in a traditional Fulani village. The chief was busy and unable to greet our group, but his brother was happy to show us around and spoke fluent French, which permitted me, a humble ATA intern, to translate our conversations about tourism, farming, marriage, and Islam to the rest of the team. When I asked how the community feels about foreigners visiting their home, the chief’s brother told me that they see it as a great opportunity to learn, and to exchange ideas and stories. I whole heartedly agreed.

At the end of the visit, the chief’s brother showed us their community shop where they sell art, instruments, cloth, and dolls. The shop is a cooperative, meaning the money made from sales is put into a pool which then goes to purchasing school supplies, rice, and other community needs. As we left, we were sure to say “jaaraama,” meaning “thank you” in Fulani.

Sand dunes! Photo by Julia Firestone.

One of our team members had been waiting all day for a ride through the sand dunes that surround Le Lac Rose. Finally, we went flying over and around them. “THIS IS THE BEST ROLLER COASTER EVER!” one of the team members yelled over the roar of the engine and the simultaneous “WOOOOO”s from the rest of the group. When we hit the top of a hill, we realized the body of water ahead of us was not Le Lac Rose, but actually theAtlantic Ocean. The driver rolled down the hill and stopped the truck on the beach. With only one or two people in sight, we all went running towards the clear blue water.

Only one woman in the distance and our tire tracks. Photo by Julia Firestone.

Youssou gave us some time to enjoy the landscape and take in the moment before inviting us back to the truck se we could head back to the hotel where we first stopped.

ATA team members enjoy their stop at the beach. Photo by Julia Firestone.

 The hotel has a restaurant where we were served a traditional Senegalese dish, Poulet Yassa. While eating we were serenaded by local musicians playing the kora and djembe. I even joined in for a short jam session.

Photo by Julia Firestone

Sadly, we had to head back to the hotel to pack before our 8am flight the next morning but all of us will always remember this amazing day.

ATA team members with Youssou on the Pink Lake. Photo by Robyn Deutsch.

Many thanks to Youssou, our drivers, and Africa Connection Tours.

Youssou and our driver on the beach. Photo by Julia Firestone

**

ACT offers a wide array of tours. For more information about Africa Connection Tours or to book a tour, visit the ACT website here:

http://www.actours-senegal.com/ingl_index.html

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