Wednesday, July 9
Zebrabar, Mouit, Senegal

Zebrabar has been my home for the last week. I didn’t intend to stay this long, but it has proven a beautiful, affordable and safe place for me to chill out while I wait for a friend who’s meeting me in Dakar on Friday.

I’ve spent my days here kayaking across the Senegal River then walking through the bush to a deserted Atlantic beach, washing my laundry by hand and observing the never-ending project that is Zebrabar.

Planting baobabs at Zebrabar

Planting baobabs at Zebrabar

Martin, the owner, leaves for two months of vacation in his homeland of Switzerland on Thursday, so he has been hard at work finishing various jobs before his departure, mainly using huge trucks to plant baobab trees and move sand for the creation of a water-side dance floor. It’s fabulous to watch him at work with his man-toys; Martin takes joy, it seems, when a truck gets stuck of breaks down, for it presents for him a new challenge.

My favorite part of the day here is dinnertime, when the few guests who have ventured to Zebrabar during the bird-watching off-season gather with Martin and his 6-year-old son Marco (his wife and daughter are already in Switzerland) at what Martin calls “the restaurant.” It’s really a table and chairs set up in a breathtaking spot overlooking the beach. We eat there, and after the stars come out, the group sits talking, switching between French, English and German, sometimes for hours.

Dinner at Zebrabar

Dinner at Zebrabar

This place has served as somewhat of a language camp for me, since conversing with employees, locals and travelers has already greatly improved my French. Yesterday, after I spent a few hours stretch during the afternoon chatting with a Romanian, German and Senegalese about politics here, an American friend pointed out that none of us had been speaking our mother tongue.

That’s right — an American! Two, really, a couple about my age from Brooklyn (they’re apprehensive bloggers). It has been totally refreshing to hang out with other backpackers like myself who see value in exploring the world. Martin says not many Americans show up at Zebrabar; during my stay here I’ve also met a French couple, two Belgian guys and an Irish woman (Elvire has a travel blog, too).

Another Zebrabar surprise worth mentioning: This morning after a run and a swim, as I began to eat breakfast, a huge monkey crossed the beach! Martin had told us he occasionally sees monkeys here, but I assumed he meant the small ones that swing from trees. The brown one I saw was as big as a small man, walking like a human with a quick stride, swinging its long arms! Magnificent.

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