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Grace: Ile de la Madeleine

August 20, 2011

Today I feel like a real study abroad student.  All the stories I hear about students abroad sound so adventurous and cool, and now I feel like I have one of those stories.

This morning (not sure when I’m gonna post this…today=Sunday), the other two students and I decided to go to the fish market and try to hitch a ride with a fisherman to Madeleine Island, a little deserted island off the coast of Senegal, where we heard it was fun to hike.  We found a fisherman to take us there, and agreed on a price for him to take us and pick us up later (hopefully…we were kinda putting a lot of trust in this guy that he wouldn’t just abandon us on a deserted island).

We got into his little brightly colored fishing boat and took off across the ocean.  Now from the shore, the ocean looks super peaceful. Sure, there are waves, but they just roll along peacefully to make the scenery all the more beautiful. But no. When you’re actually out on the water, they waves are like 10 feet tall, and the teeny fishing boat was rocked all over the place, with water splashing inside. Not quite the peaceful ride I had been envisioning, but definitely fun nonetheless.

We passed Serpent Island (basically a giant rock with lots of bird poop, but no snakes on it)

and pulled into the lagoon (makes me feel like such a pirate/mermaid to say that word) of Madeleine Island. SO GORGEOUS.  The fisherman dropped us off on a rocky beach and took off.  The sense of being alone with nature was overwhelmingly awesome. 

Goodbye, fisherman! (you can see the boat leaving the lagoon)

The water in the lagoon was clear and cool, and the cliffs around us were black streaked with white (from bird poop of course), and we could see between the rocks to the ocean beyond. It was breathtaking.

We sat on the beach for a bit just enjoying how gorgeous everything was and looking at the cool shells, and then we decided to go exploring. I climbed up and along the rock cliff thing next to the water and came to the far side of the lagoon where I could see waves crashing onto the rocks below me and the ocean stretching out in front of me. Amazing. I kept feeling like I was on the set of a music video or mermaid movie or something. The awesome thing too was that the island seemed untouched by humanity, and there weren’t any roped-off sections, signs, or anything.

To the right there was another little rocky cliff thing, and I climbed over there and saw an awesome ocean-creek thing (difficult to describe).  The ocean water would come in from both sies of the “creek” bed and then crash in the middle. So cool. The power of the water was just crazy.  I also saw some cool crabs that were purple, orange and green while alive and red and orange while dead. 

After poking it a thousand times with a long shell and screaming once, I finally determined that it was safe to kiss.  This was actually crab-kiss attempt #2 because I imagined that the first crab moved, dropped it, and it shattered. 

There were tons of other gorgeous and amazing things around the coast of the island, but as my descriptions are miserably failing to accurately represent what anything looked like, I’m just going to stop.  And unfortunately my pictures don’t really convey how amazing this place was. So you will all just have to come to Dakar and go see Madeleine Island for yourself 🙂

I will say that we hiked around the top of the island and saw some GIANT baobabs.  I’m talking 10-15 feet wide baobabs that have probably been there for a couple hundred years or so.  I climbed up one and totally felt like Rafiki in Lion King. There was a lot of red clay around and I was SO tempted to get some and draw a baby Simba on the baobab trunk, but I refrained. 

We swam some in the lagoon too (when I say “we” I mean Anne and I; David didn’t want to get “all wet and blech”), and it was sooo cool, because the water was super salty and we didn’t have to do anything to float.  It was actually difficult to keep our feet under the water, they kept just popping back up.  There were lots of little fish in the water, which at first was a little gross/scary, but they were obviously uninterested in nibbling our toes, so we got along just fine.

At about 5:00 (we got to the island at 11ish), our trusty fisherman came back to fetch us, and he took our sunburned selves back across the ocean to Dakar. 

So now I have one of those cool adventurous-sounding stories to tell about the fun stuff I did while studying abroad. Unfortunately, stories will never be able to convey how breathtaking this island was, nor how amazing this day was.  So like I said, you should all come to Senegal.

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