“Number 8 number 8 Harry Arter.” – North Stand lads, Dean Court.
So the crazy journey to Senegal started at Dean Court, it was a simple Dean Court to Dakar adventure and what better way to kickstart my no luggage journey with Money Supermarket.com than a visit to Dean Court. Dean Court in Boscombe, England is the home of AFC Bournemouth, the Cherries, my football team of choice and one of my loves away from travelling and this website. But what? We’re Premier League? You’re kidding me aren’t you? No, we are heading into our second Premier League season, we were safe with a brace of weeks to spare. Now what has this got to do with Secret Senegal? OK, quick intro and a first blog post in order for this trip. I’m the busiest person ever though, so there are 20 more articles to come. Give me time, please.
After watching Everton v. AFC Bournemouth in Liverpool, I headed in secret to Bournemouth. I was based at my friend Austin’s place in Westbourne yet again and was here as a surprise for the Cherries lads for the final home match of the season against West Brom. Everybody assumed I was already in Africa. I wasn’t. I had a reunion with my travel buddy from India, Ilona, also a professional artist and designer and it was now match day, Saturday. This was also Day 1 of the lost luggage challenge. After the match, I’d be straight off to Gatwick Airport in London for the adventure.
It’s 7 a.m. and only Shep and Austin know I’m going to the match. I get my final bit of online work finished early morning, I Skype my parents and Patrick comes to pick Austin up to drive to Boscombe for breakfast. Except, I surprise him and it’s me that gets in the car first, followed by Austin! Dan Darch was meant to be there for breakfast but instead he decided to sell golf clubs and skip the surprise breakfast. We choose to eat at the Garden Cafe and I order a full English breakfast and we meet Helen and Dawn in here. There are six of us for breakfast.
Then we walk to the Portman Hotel in Boscombe. Since around 2007, the Portman has been our pre match pub for Cherries home matches (before that it was the now defunct Dolphin Pub). But today is not only our last Premier League home match of the season, but it’s the last home match with the Portman as we know it. The pub is changing hands and nobody knows the future.
Dan walks into the pub and doesn’t notice me and I pop out and surprise him. Pre-match banter in the outer beer garden is as good as ever and we leave ready for kick off at 3 pm. With two matches to spare, the Cherries have 41 points in the Premier League. This is all a dream. We have now played in the top 4 divisions of English football in the space of 7 seasons, 1 of those seasons we started off with -17 points. It’s a huge achievement and we are already safely secured in the Premier League for another season at the start of play.
The match itself is ridiculous. West Brom go 1-0 up thanks to a textbook Artur Boruc blooper. Then Boruc manages to redeem himself by saving a penalty. In the second half, sub Matt Ritchie scores a close range header and the match finishes a 1-1 draw. After the match we have a huge standing ovation for the team and the management duo of Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall.
I quickly head back to Austin’s to change clothes but not to pack as this time I am going “backpacking” without a backpack! Austin takes a photo of me leaving his flat. This flimsy with my documents in it is all I carry and even that fits into my coat pocket. What’s funny about this photo is that the coat I am wearing in it, I didn’t actually even use when I was in Africa. Though England was colder so I needed to wear it to and from the airport in Gatwick.
I’m all set. I get a local 1c bus from Westbourne to Lansdowne. I find time for a quick beer in the Christopher Creeke Wetherspoons so I can sleep on my bus to Gatwick Airport, which I do.
I check into my flight at Gatwick and I watch the sunrise from the Beehive bar with a cup of coffee.
I’m on a double flight and it’s now past midnight and into Day 2 – I fly from Gatwick London (England) to Ataturk Istanbul (Turkey) and then on Nouakchott in Mauritania for a quick stop over and finally I arrive in Dakar in Senegal.
At Gatwick Airport I buy a Daily Telegraph newspaper for £2 and it comes with a free bottle of water. I now have something to carry but I decide to ditch it in the departure lounge and take just the sports section onto the plane to read. I have 3 hours in Gatwick and already I miss my laptop. This is all part of the challenge.
On the flight, I get good food and I meet a Turkish lady called Hande Guler at the Eat and Go Bar in Ataturk Airport.
Wi-Fi works here in Istanbul Airport but it is slow. My next flight is the longer one and on board I get a blanket, spare socks, a toiletry bag and good food. I have accumulated a few things already. The spare socks will come in handy as my feet probably already smell!
My flight stops at Nouakchott in Mauritania early morning – it’s still day 2 but we are now 1 hour behind London time. Mauritania looks amazing from the air, here are some photos from my window seat on route to Dakar.
On arrival in Senegal, I get a shared taxi from the airport to drop me off at my first base on this trip – the excellent Maison Abaka, you can read about my stay there here, and my visit to the Pink Lake! While in Senegal I also tried the local fish on the beach, stayed downtown at Hotel Baraka and watched bellydancing!
I will write more soon, and upload when I can, without a laptop, these are being written on pen and paper and some of them are being typed on my Clever Phone! Here are some videos: