Pictures from Senegal

Monday, June 6

Accro-Baobab Adventure

With the end of my service quickly approaching (time flies, what?), I’ve been working pretty hard and basically non-stop so I figure I deserve a bit of relaxation, a break. African Bucket List, what have you got for us this time?
Not too far from one my well documented favorite destinations, Popenguine, is a destination called Accro-Baobab Adventure. The name combines the idea of acrobatic adventures with symbolic tree of Senegal: the baobab. This wiry tree brings with it the baobab fruit, also known as monkey bread, which is made to make bouye juice- a local favorite as popular as bissap. But how does one perform acrobatic adventures with this tree? By going displacing oneself from one tree to a nearby tree from high above the ground, obviously. Sounds like fun to me!

So when friend had a visitor from the States last week, I finally had an excuse to go and we recruited a third volunteer to take pictures as we concurred our fears high above the ground. On the practice course we learned safety procedures for lines, carabineers and pulleys. We walked a mini tight-rope/ high-wire and did the tiniest of zip lines. It was only maybe ten feet off the ground but that was enough to seriously scare us. They counted me off multiple times before I could manage to finally go. When I reached the other side, successfully without incident, I was shaking so badly I’m not sure my death grip on the rope would’ve been all that effective had I actually needed it. Damn it was scary.

And then the actual ropes course was upon us. High wires, swings, notched logs, log bridges, and boats were the easy bits. Zip lines and Tarzan ropes into nets were a bit scarier. No two crossings were the same, but before long we became pros. At some point our safety guide/ leader Ousmane asked me to stop mid high wire cross and stare out into the vast fields of African terrain and Baobab trees. It was one of the first crossings so I was still pretty scared- but it helped. I probably started gaining courage right then; a momentum that kept building all the way to the end.

The culmination was a three hundred eleven meter zip line across the terrain. Two steel safety wires, two pulleys, two safety cords and NO HANDS! It was exhilarating. Liberating. Fast. I was excited- empowered even- for each next obstacle. I no longer shook like a leaf in the hot African wind. I no longer needed to be counted off only to blatantly ignore the “jump” call. One deep breath and then just do it! Nike commercials everywhere would’ve been proud... had I been wearing tennis shoes instead of my flip flops, that is. In fact, I’m really proud of myself and my accomplishment: completing the course, not falling (or letting a flip flop fall), and not letting fear get the best of my pride. “GO ME!”

Laura was our resident “expert” having done a ropes course or two before in the US. She confessed that this was the best she’d ever done. And the least expensive, leading me to believe it was one of the best uses of $35 I would encounter.

We enjoyed celebratory Sprites and Senegalese tea afterwards while chatting with the operations managers about our work as Peace Corps volunteers. I pulled out the first printed draft of the tourism guide that my fellow volunteers and I are working through and showed them the Accro-Baobab entry. Obviously the current picture needs to be changed from basic scenery to one of me flying upside down across the African terrain, but aside from that the guys seemed pretty excited about it. As it turns out, Ousman actually wants to open his own new business: horseback riding excursions to a local lagoon. Wait, there’s a lagoon in Senegal? Apparently. We all concurred it is a genius idea and encouraged him to follow up with the nearest small enterprise development volunteer in Popenguine.

And if none of the things described in the above excursion are sufficient enough to peak your interest keep in mind that you’re invited to par take in many more activities. For instance, after all was said and done, we were invited to climb a giant Baobab like you would a cliff. The tree had been set up like a practice rock climbing wall. But as I was mental and physical jelly by that point I went nearly half way up, had a picture taken, and called it quits to enjoy the short line ride back down. In addition to the climb there’s a kid version of the ropes course, corporate team building activities, a kids camp dormitory (under construction both physically and logistically) and/ or sand sailing- which is how I would describe a race course with dune buggies powdered by wind sails. I’m not entirely sure that last one makes sense to me either, but it looked pretty fun none-the-less. The place doesn’t happen to sell booze or house people over night- yet. Management is in the process of building a nearby hotel. Nor is it particularly easy to get in and out of the “park” without a hired car. Good news is the operators are all willing to call their driver friends to come help you get back to town without too much hassle. 

Adventure, indeed. For more information check out the establishment’s website. Or check out my online photo album for more awesome photos!

3 comments:

  1. Ok, now I'm kinda wishing I had tried that on my visit...

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