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Date: 13 Nov 2009 16:05:16
Title: The Monkeys and Flamingos go missing

Position: 13:56.12N 016:45.59W

Date: 13 November 2009

 

Yesterday afternoon we went ashore in the dinghy to one of the Iles du Diable – Islands of the Devil – to see the fabled red monkeys which we had been told about. The island was basically a mangrove swamp like all the others around and we couldn’t see how or why a colony of monkeys would or could have settled here as, whilst the delta as stuffed full of birds and fishes, we had seen no mammals at all. So it came as only a small disappointment to find that the monkeys were indeed a fable – there was none at all. We did, however, see thousands of purple and red crabs, all waving comically at us with their one enormous claw the size of their bodies. Perhaps something had got lost in the translation?

 

As we hadn’t seen one mosquito down the entire coast of Africa we decided not to put the mosquito netting tent over the cockpit, but instead we were bombarded by hundreds of bugs, some of them frighteningly large so we retreated back into the boat and settled down for an early night.

 

I awoke at 6am – still dark - and was sitting in the cockpit thinking that this place could not be any more wonderful when I heard a deep sigh right beside the boat. Then another sigh on the other side of the boat. Two cetaceans (probably dolphins or porpoises) had decided to enter the river and were quietly nosing around in the shallows for a bit of breakfast. Through the darkness I saw the water rippling as they made the occasional dash for a fish but I could see no more of them. Exciting nevertheless.

 

After the disappointment of the non-existent monkeys, we motored Mina2 down the river for 4 miles and anchored off the entrance to a lake where we could be guaranteed to see fields of pink flamingos. The entrance to the lake was narrow, too shallow to motor the dinghy through, and lined with mangroves. It was like a scene from The African Queen as Humphrey Bogart (Colin) put the painter over his shoulder and strained away pulling the dinghy through the mangroves whilst I (Katherine Hepburn) preened and postured in the stern. We burst through into the shallow lake and whilst Colin ripped the leaches from his skin (OK – perhaps that similarity with The African Queen is a little bit of an exaggeration) I scanned the lake from horizon to horizon. Not a flamingo in sight. We were beginning to wonder whether our guide had not been pulling our skinny pink legs. Nevertheless, even without the flamingos we had pretty much overdosed on the birds, Colin having now tallied a staggering 64 different species.

 

As there were no flamingos to salivate over we pushed the dighy back out of the lake and decided to go further up the bolong to a village near the top – but it was some way. So we opened the throttle, got onto the plane and went careering up the wide sweeping bolong at Mach 1 – until we hit the sandbank in the middle of the river. Whilst the dinghy went from Mach 1 to Stop in 0.5 seconds, Colin and I carried along a little further. We both ended up in a pile in the bow of the dinghy, shaken but not stirred. Thankful that all we had hit was soft mud which hadn’t damaged the outboard propeller, and with nothing hurt other than our pride, we turned around and drifted back out of the bolong at a much more sedate pace and returned to the boat.

 

We have decided to return to Dakar tomorrow, a day earlier than we had originally planned. Our lack of water maker is now becoming unhygenically inconvenient and no matter how much we prefer the delta to the squalid city, an additional day to sort the problem out, not to mention the prospect of a good shower the other end, is increasingly attractive.


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