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Monday, December 15, 2008

You Can't Always Count On The Guide Books

Especially not in remote places that don't warrant frequent updates. For this trip, I'm using a Lonely Planet for Senegal and a Bradt for Mali. They're both out of date... in terms of everything. One made the extremely sensible suggestion that travelers to this part of the world change currency at Charles de Gaulle since flights inevitably arrive after the airport money changer is gone. The good news is that the countries around here-- particularly Senegal and Mali-- use the same currency: CFA which is fixed to the Euro. The bad news is that you haven't been able to buy CFA at the Parisian airport in at least 7 years. If you arrive after midnight and you're lucky, a friendly resident you meet on the plane will drive you to town. Otherwise you can always ask the taxi driver to wait while you get the front desk to change money, which, of course, is a terrible place to change money since the hotels see changing money as a big profit center for themselves.

Also in these rapidly changing, even explosive, countries, guide books can't possibly keep up with all the new hotels and restaurants opening. The Sokhamon isn't mentioned in any guide books I've seen. I suspect when it is, the price will go up. As for restaurants, I tried the Lonely Planet's most highly recommended Senegalese restaurant, Keur N'Deye, and it was nothing to write home about-- just a simple adequate meal. This afternoon I went to another of their banner recommendations, La Forchette, which they insist has the best lunch deal in town. It may but it's being renovated so I'll have to take their word for it. Another traveler told me about Le Sarraut a few blocks away and it was unbelievable. I had a local fish, thiof, prepared in a Senegalese vegetable and herb sauce with some kind of amazing potato soufle. I want to go back and eat more there!

Meanwhile, I'm certain the 6 Dutch women I mentioned in my last post planned everything according to the book and they got all their paperwork in order and all, of course, and then accompanied their three 4WD fixed up vehicles to Dakar on a freighter from Antwerp. They've been trying to get the authorities to let them have their vehicles-- and all their possessions-- ever since. It's such a bummer and if their didn't have such abundant inner resources, I'm sure this would ruin their whole trip. But I see them everyday and they are still keeping their spirits up as they work their way through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy which is determined to relieve them of as much as can possibly be extorted.

Dusk is falling and I just noticed my first malarial mosquitos buzzing around the business center so I'm going to have to finish this another time while I seek shelter.


VG said...

Hi Howie,

Just for fun, I did a bit of googling re: Dakar restaurants.

The online version of Lonely Planet gives what seems to be misleading info about Lagon 1 restaurant.

There aren't that many online reviews of restaurants in Dakar, but Lagon 1 got 2 very favorable reviews, recent. Looks like an interesting place.

one comment gave the web site:

Unknown said...

Heh heh...I can see the malarial mosquitoes becoming a good character in your stories. One can almost imagine them conspiring and forming attack strategies...

...and hopefully those poor Dutch women can get the heck out of there!

DownWithTyranny said...

VG, I ate at Lqgon I today and it was absolutely wonderful-- a first class seafood restaurant on a pier. The food, setting, service, everything was perfection.