Beach day

Beach day

While Guéoul sits only 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the ocean, the distance feels farther because there is no direct road.

Not only that, the shortest line from Guéoul to the ocean cuts through a savanna of short grasses, shrubs, trees, and – above all – sand, on which travel is slow and challenging.

So when we decided to visit the beach last Sunday, we took a paved, indirect route. From Guéoul, we drove south to the larger town of Kébémer. We bought 8 surprisingly excellent pastries from a bakery on the side of the road, grabbed a few cups of small, super sugary, super fatty Senegalese coffee, and watched the locals walk through town as various vehicles passed by, from large trucks to donkey carts. From Kébémer, we turned right and traveled west until we reached the ocean town of Lompoul.

The whole trip probably covered about 40 miles, or only about 15 miles farther than it would have covered as the bird flies. To avoid traveling through dirt roads, sand, and wilderness, it was worth it. Besides a few momentary slowdowns for livestock in the road and one detour for a part of the road under construction, we zipped all the way to the ocean without incident, past natural areas, farmland, villages, and local residents.

Lompoul would probably seem like an unusual beach to most Americans because, rather than a tourist attraction, it is a launching point for fishing boats. The road there stops at the Lompoul tower, fish market, and marina. By marina, I mean an area of the beach where local fishermen and their families park their long, painted, wooden fishing boats.

Lompoul's tower and fish market.

Here is a photo of one Senegalese boat (or gaal in the local Wolof language) sans outboard motor. Incidentally, it is held that the word gaal is part of the etymology of "Senegal."

A Senegalese fishing boat (or gaal) at Lompoul, Senegal

We found a place to sit on the beach a few hundred meters north of the marina, and except for the loud and crashing waves it was peaceful because we were the only real beachgoers there. Everyone else – maybe 3 people every 5 minutes – was just passing through quietly, probably on their way to or back from Lompoul's fish market.

What people we did see walked right next to the ocean because at Lompoul, as at any sandy beach, it is easier to walk along the wet, tide-soaked sand along the shore than it is to walk on dry sand. The shoreline becomes a pathway upon which people commute in one direction or another, sometimes with donkey or horse carts.