Steve's Cycling Blog

Visiting St Louis (Stage 23)

The combination of hot ground, a cool night, and the high humidity meant my tent fly was as wet as a fish when I was packing up this morning. There’s an option to rent a bungalow at the campsite we’re at tonight but I’ve declined so my tent will get a chance to dry properly now.

When Sharita had driven the dinner truck in yesterday afternoon it had sunk in quite a way at the front – particularly when she’d tried to reverse out, so the crew were busy which shovels trying to clear the wheels as we left camp – hopefully they get the truck out without too much difficulty.

It was pleasant out on the road when we set off this morning, a gentle breeze, not too hot, and good road conditions, so though we’d been pretty late leaving we were soon catching up with other riders.

The scenery is much the same as as yesterday with a mix of crops – mostly rice and sugar cane, grazing stock – including cattle for the first time in quite a while, and then smaller villages along the way.

Nobody could quite decide which coke stop we were going to take advantage of and as we passed through the town of Ross Béthio it was a pretty dusty looking place so we carried on, weaving our way through the traffic as best we could!

We took a break at 47km when we spotted a store at the side of the road and pulled in for coke and snacks. I think that was our longest stretch ‘before morning tea’ that we’ve done, taking just over an hour and a half to give us a pretty good morning average.

While we were there Essen and Dominic came sailing past – Essen yelling “if I stop I’m stuffed” – it seems she was determined to keep up with Dominic, and was going well at the time so didn’t want to break her rhythm.

We passed them a little while later with Essen still going well, and were rolling into lunch not much later – well set up under a big tree. It’s been such a quick morning for everyone that more than half the riders rolled in while we were there.

Australian Kevin had crossed the road to use the shovel and seen a few monkeys so Canadian Kevin went looking but they’d moved on by the time he was there. Quite a number of others were also destined for the Orange store as well, so we didn’t linger too long, wanting to ensure we were there first to avoid too many delays.

It didn’t take us long to get to the roundabout where we were to diverge from the route – by then the traffic was pretty busy, and there are lots of speed-humps, so making progress was a little challenging at times.

We spotted a bank with an ATM – Mateo needed cash before we got to the Orange store, and while he and Canadian Kevin were able to get cash out, the bank wouldn’t change Euros for me, and Australian Kevin’s card wouldn’t work, so not an entirely successful stop.

A little while later and we were crossing the Faidherbe Bridge from the mainland to Ilse St Loius – allegedly the bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel and originally crossed the Danube, however there’s not a lot of substance to this myth (even if it is perpetuated by the current West Africa Lonely Planet) but it’s none-the-less a pretty cool bridge.

I’d done the research previously so knew exactly where the Orange store was and was able to quickly and easily lead us there – right on the banks of the river.

Mateo and I headed inside leaving the Kevins watching over our bikes. Luckily there are a couple of staff who spoke great English and were able to help us out. As expected the identify verification for my card wasn’t completed properly, but was soon corrected, while Mateo set about purchasing a SIM card.

Back outside and I Australian Kevin was busy with a flat tyre – in many ways his timing was perfect since he was in the shade, and waiting for us anyway. Once his tyre was done, and Mateo still hadn’t surfaced he and I popped round the corner to change some money, finding a Bureau de change which was prompt and efficient, and offered a better-than-expected rate (The CFA is fixed against the Euro at 640:1 however it’s sometimes possible to get up to 655:1 – best not to wonder too hard how these institutions make their money 😉

Back at Orange and a short time later Mateo was ready to go – we figured as it was a UNESCO World Heritage site we’d take the long way round back to the bridge and see what there was to see.

Across the bridge again before making our way back out of the city and picking up the route again at the 90km junction – including the loop of the island our detour only added about 3km to the day and was a very interesting interlude in the last week or so of desert riding.

We’d done what we could to re-inflate Kevin’s tyre, but with a hand pump it’s pretty hard to get any decent pressure into a tyre so he was finding it a bit squishy and slower than usual. Mateo and Canadian Kevin disappeared into the distance, so he and I rode together for the 20ish kilometres from town to camp. In a first for this tour the lunch van actually passed us and got in to camp ahead of us!

We stopped where a group of locals were fishing to take a look at the birds in the lagoon – though you can hardly tell from the photo there are both white and grey herons, flamingo and a number of other birds in there.

The last couple of k’s to camp were pretty rough with lots of soft sand to contend with, and plenty of rubbish along the way, so coming into the camp was like entering an oasis – with trees, grass, gardens and facilities like a bar, toilets and showers!

I was somewhat surprised to see that over half the riders were already at camp when we came in – I’d expected that more people would have taken the opportunity to go into St Louis given that we got so close!

I set my tent up, got showered, and took the opportunity of a tap to get some washing done – we’re only half way through this six-day week and it’s been hot and sweaty every day, so it was great to be able to get things washed in time to try this afternoon.

As I was hanging my washing a monkey came wandering buy – we’d been told there were monkeys here and that we needed to be cautious of our belongings.

We had a couple of beers in the late afternoon sun which was very pleasant – there’s a ‘watch tower’ above camp which affords pretty good views of the spit the camp is on.

Before riders’ meeting Phillipe, our local Senegalese fixer, gave us an overview of the history and current status of Senegal.

Tomorrow we’re riding on the beach, so riders’ meeting was somewhat convoluted with the usual flock of people asking questions which had either already been answered or were completely off-topic!

In order to ride on a beach you need to do it at low tide, which unfortunately is at either 0440, or 1640 which is less than ideal – though on the plus side it does mean that it’s been suggested that we stay at camp till 1100, and breakfast isn’t till 0800, so we’ll be able to get up with the sun, rather than an hour before it!

Vegie dinner tonight – not entirely sure why given that I know for a fact that there are more than 20 chickens still in the truck freezer, but at least on this occasion it was a pretty good version of dhal, which with the addition of a good squeeze of Sriracha, was pretty darn good!

The bar was offering cake so we stopped in there for a slice of chocolate cake – it was good, but not quite enough of it 🙂

Back to my tent, washing in, line down, and I’m ready for bed, very much looking forward to waking up with the sun, not the alarms of my fellow campers in the dark!

View from my tent

Selfie of the day

Seems I didn’t take one!

Riding data

Total distance: 113.38 kmTotal Time: 06:39:32
Max elevation: 22 mMin elevation: -3 m
Total climbing: 248 mTotal descent: -231 m
Average speed: 17.03 km/hMaximum speed: 56.52 km/h

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