I shouldn't joke - that was a truly frightening
I'd already mentioned that I was apprehensive about
visiting Senegal. Since 1989 there has been fighting in the western Casamance
between government forces and seperatists. Although the cruising guide suggests
that the area is now safe and tourism is increasing, it still suggests that the
situation regarding political instability should be checked prior to going.
Well, I didn't check - other than chatting with my friend Alberto about his
recent cruise around the area. He didn't experience any problems. Now, I may be
getting things out of proportion in my already cynical mind. It might have been
completely innocent but a very sinister looking boat with about fifteen
unfriendly looking people on it and a big flag was trying to intercept my route
up the river. I had already negotiated the shallow channel leading up to the
mouth of the Casamance and could see that it is absolutely stunning. I was
looking forward to diving into one of the thousands of islets and estuaries to
drop the anchor when I was aware of this boat moving slowly into my path. I
would have taken photos as I want to do some reserarch into what the flags were
but I went below and stowed everything of value (including the camera) under the
forward bunk. I then slowed down... He slowed down. I stopped... He stopped. I
turned and ran as fast as I could back through the conveluted channel and I've
just set a course for the Gambia. He didn't follow.
It may have been government officials. It may have
been fishermen or people wanting to trade although they didn't look like it to
me. As I say, it could have been completely harmless and if it was, then I've
missed out on a stunning cruise through the laberynth of rivers in the area. as
it is, I've been reading about the Gambia and it looks like a much safer bet all
round anyway. It's English speaking and politically stable. There is a problem
with theft from boats but a guard can be hired very cheaply from one of the
yacht clubs described in the guide as being very helpful and friendly. I can get
fuel and water there and will waste no time at all provisioning for the next leg
to Ascension Island.
I'm a bit shaken - I may have just narrowly avoided
a catastrophy or I may have just over-reacted but either way, I'm safe,
Canasta's safe and I should be in the Gambia River by tonight.