Found this photo here. It’s a road in a large village nearby to where I stayed. As I remember, to the left of the photo would be a Texaco station with one pump, further down is a market where you can buy tiny bananas that taste more banana-like than bananas over here.

Today the Guardian ran a story on the vacation opportunities available in Senegal’s Casamance region. I spent 3 months in this area several years ago (1989-90) and spent a lot of time in the towns and resorts mentioned in the article. Seeing the tourist trade from the point of view of people who live there and seeing the wayt they make much of their living off it has always coloured my ideas about travel. It’s not just a matter of some local guy making an okay wage serving daquiris to Europeans on holiday. There can be real damage done to a community by foot-to-the-floor tourism. The hotels, even the cheap ones, were rarely locally owned (I don’t know how it is now) and most of the locals worked only in servant positions or supplied fruits and vegetables or fished for the resorts. The local Club Med was staffed by guards armed with machine guns.

The author of the piece also mentions the tensions between Casamance’s separatist Diola faction and the Wolofs, whose majority population sees them controlling most of the government. While he mentions that the fighting has largely gone by the wayside recently, he did not mention the massive disruption this had had on people’s lives. The village in which I stayed was burned and the last I heard from a friend of mine over there, he had been relocated to a refugee camp (I once attempted to bring him over as a refugee but lost touch with him). To be fair to the author, he does make an attempt to explain the culture and history of the area that goes beyond the usual travelogue drivel. unfortunately, most people who read the article will just be looking for an all-inclusive deal at Cap Skiring.

However, ever since my experiences, the idea of sitting on a closed in resort and getting drunk while the natives entertain me has never been appealing. I’d rather be on the other side of the fence.


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