The journey can be every bit as enthralling as the destination.
Ot at least that was true of our recent excursion to Popenguine. An hour south of Dakar, this village is famous for a few things; pristine beaches, a nature reserve, and an annual Christian pilgrimage thanks to a nearby sighting of the Black Madonna. Oh, and the President also has a hideaway here.
We got up and out early with our twin cherubs and as per usual the boot of the car was crammed. A days worth of nappies; a changing mat (there are NO changing facilities out here); wipes, a play mat; toys; a cow’s worth of milk; sterilised water; muslins; bibs; four Ella’s Kitchen sachets; two spoons; dummies; sun hats; sun cream; two changes of clothes in case the inevitable happens; the iCandy… need I go on? Leaving the house with babies is an effort of epic proportion. The days of dashing out with a credit card and a lipstick in my back pocket are a distant memory.
On route to paradise, the roads were overrun with Car Rapides – Dakar’s answer to the London double decker. These blue and yellow minibuses are the main form of public transport here and are joyfully adorned with vibrant ribbons, lettering and embellishments. They technically seat around ten to fifteen people, however ordinarily they are chocker block with nearer thirty. The back door is always open and it’s commonplace to see a few guys balancing on the back step while travelling at 4o miles an hour. The most I have counted is seven (errrr, hello health and safety?).
As the city disappeared behind us, the roads became quieter and the Car Rapide was replaced with horse and cart. Although just like the Car Rapide, the horses are festooned like a Claridges Christmas tree and most are in exceptionally good nick. There are very few sad, limping ponies out here…
It was a grey and misty day however, despite the lack of sun, the landscape glowed a fiery orange. As we passed through villages I couldn’t help but notice the sheer scale of littering – a beautiful vista buried beneath rubbish. I am quickly learning that the developing world is just that. Developing. Services and social infrastructures we sadly take for granted in the UK don’t exist here (yet).
Finally, after what felt like hours, the road turned into a single sandy track and we bumped through the village of Popenguine. We parked up outside L’echo-cotier, a hidden beauty of a restaurant right on the beach, and made our way inside.
Now, in my humble opinion this restaurant is a dining sensation. The tables are so close to the Atlantic you have a hard time keeping your toes dry. Which means the views are second to none. The restaurant is beautifully dressed with white cotton table covers, jar lanterns and palm trees, while pristine overhead sails provide shade.
The service is spot on and the food is outrageously good. And had it not been for the twins rolling around, eating sand and shouting, it would have been a picture of tranquility. We dined on delicious fresh seafood; citrus spiced prawns, pad thai with gambas and Catch of the Day, drenched in lemon and garlic butter. The twins ate ‘Big Smiles Cheesey Pie’, and ‘A Big Purple One’ for pudding. What would I do without Ella’s Kitchen…
After a couple of exceptionally civilised hours, the babies decided they had had enough. And who could blame them. They had eaten most of the beach.
L’addition, s’il vous plaît…
We packed up our mountain of ‘essentials’ and headed back to basecamp.
As for L’echo Cotier. We’ll be back.