Gambian visa acquired, I headed to Ile de Goree, a calm-and-pretty colonial-style island with a reputation for having been a major site in the slave trade. The slave trade part of Goree's history has been proven to have been short-lived and overstated (this was a slave trade port, complete with dungeons, but "only" 300 people a year were traded here of the 20 million wrenched from their homes and forcibly taken overseas) but it's still an interesting and scenic "must-do" when you visit Dakar.
"Is it safe for me to walk around with this?" I motioned to my handbag at hotel reception.
"Of course," said the desk clerk. He looked baffled that I'd even asked. Maybe Dakar's reputation was as overstated as Goree's role in the slave trade?
I got a little lost walking to the ferry in the hot sun, but finally stumbled over it in time to discover I had plenty of time to wait for the next ferry anyway. And the tourist price had skyrocketed since the guidebooks were written. 500 CFA, or a dollar, had become 5000 CFA. Ten dollars. I crankily forked over the dough at the ferry desk.
On the ferry, I prepared myself for an onslaught of wannabe guides, and was surprised when no one at all approached me. I was free to wander around alone in the evening light, near school children on field trips and the occasional other tourist.
I approached La Maison des Enclaves, which was where the people kidnapped and held as slaves were held.
"Sorry, we just closed."
Ack. Quick, think.
"Um, where can I take some good photos then?
The clerk took pity on me.
"Two minutes. Run up these stairs." He motioned me inside. Hooray!
I paced the rest of the island's alleyways for a bit, seeing soccer games and girls gymnastics and a guy fetching water for a mosque. I was lulled into a sense of ease when a woman asked me to look at her shop.
The hard sell began immediately. She saw my eye look at a nice piece of fabric, and then wanted the extortionate amount of $40 for it.
"Absolutely not. How much is this?" I grabbed some beads instead. I didn't mind buying something cheap, or at least priced what it would be at home.
She asked for $20.
"No, thank you."
I went to leave. She put herself in between me and the door, moving a little each time I tried to edge by her.
"How much you pay? How much? African way."
Oh screw this. After a minute of this, I pushed her out of the way and made my escape. I won't be intimidated into buy a piece of fabric worth $8. I *know* the price of fabric. I was carrying a handbag I'd sewn myself.
I fled as she and the other shopkeepers laughed.
Back to the ferry.
Then, as I boarded, the shopkeeper approached me.
"I live in Dakar," she explained. "My shop is on Goree."
I was pleasant, until she pulled out the fabric.
"I have it. How much?"
Jesus. She doesn't give up.
"NO. I DO NOT WANT IT."
Sheesh. I pushed ahead and boarded. I sat at the end of a row.
"May I sit there?"
Here she was again, motioning at the seat next to me.
"Oh course," I said politely. I stepped aside. She sat down. I unexpectedly moved to the single last seat on the aisle in a crowded row of tourists.
Gotta hand it to her. She's working all right.