When I heard there was a pink lake, just a mere hour’s drive from Dakar, the nappy bags were rapidly thrown into order.
Lac Rose, sits in North West Africa, separated from the Atlantic by a narrow row of sand dunes. Named after its dreamy pink waters, caused by a clever algae, Dunaliella Salina, the lake has an extremely high salt content. Just like the Dead Sea, you can (allegedly, because I didn’t jump in) float around until your heart’s content.
And so to mark my very first Mother’s Day, we bundled the babies into the car at early o’ clock, and made haste.
We have now learned our lesson from a plethora of mis-timed twin outings… this time we nailed it. They were awakened, changed, stuffed full of banana and papaya mash, and buckled into their car seats, just in time for their mid morning nap; the sound of silence as we hit the road was music to our ears.
Even the journey itself was a thing of beauty. We passed through villages that looked as though they had been staged just for us. Camels at the roadside; boys pulling goats on leads, fruit stalls like you’ve never seen; children balancing huge vats of water on their mature-beyond-years little heads; babies on the backs of colourfully clad ladies; well kept ponies munching into nosebags. At times I still have to pinch myself that this experience is real.
After only 45 minutes (and may I just say, as a regular Hounslow Council ‘pot-hole complainer’, most road surfaces here are SUPERB), the horizon became sandier and the dunes started to appear. Before too long we could see a glimmer of water. We drove around the lake’s northern banks to a lovely little restaurant called Bonaba Café and parked up next to a small herd of ostriches.
Stepping out of the car, the whole place was enveloped in calm – a world away from the noise and chaos of Dakar.
Bonaba Café is a hidden gem. A heavenly mix of shade and sun; a well stocked bar; an enticing menu; smiling staff; a beautiful restaurant and a spellbinding view of the lake beyond. What more could you want for lunch?
Now at this point, I won’t try and pull the wool over your eyes. The lake, which I was obviously expecting to be a fiery fuscia, looked a little on the rusty side. But as the sun rose in the sky, the surface began to omit that promised rosy glow, and in places rich mauves and blues. It was quite magical.
Across the banks, we could see a team at work. Each day around three thousand African men and woman collect salt from the lake by hand, which is exported throughout the region. They toil for up to 8 hours a day in the blazing sun and slather their skin in shea butter to prevent tissue damage. How’s that for a hard day’s graft?!
After a walk along the shore, we returned to Bonaba for lunch, and dined on delicious seafood carpaccio and filet de captain in spiced coconut milk. Washed down with a few glasses of rosé, naturally.
By some miracle, we managed three courses AND coffee… gold stars to both girls for keeping their squeals to a minimum. Although nothing dampens the taste of a rich chocolate torte, quite like a little grunting puce-faced person, in the midst of making their own chocolate pudding.
With full tummies and a rosy glow, we trotted back to the car. Home James, and don’t spare the horses. But not before I was lured by some local jewellery sellers into buying a few of their beautiful creations. Some things can’t be helped.
So how was my first UK Mother’s Day, in Africa?
From my rose-tinted view, pure perfection.