About an hour north of Senegal is Lac Rose, a shallow stretch of water that reflects intensely pink at certain times of the day (I've been told noon, I've been told dusk) during the dry season. It looks pink because of its high mineral content and micro-organisms. We visited the lake a few weeks ago, in late afternoon (a time no one had mentioned as being good). It wasn't PINK, but we got the idea.
There were some trees on the far side of the lake but nothing on our side. Just salt, blowing in the wind, crunching underfoot and leaving our hair feeling cobwebby. The salt had corroded everything there was to see, and the scene was barren and unnatural, sort of in a way that made me think about being dead or in the very least think about being in a David Lynch film. Adding to the weirdness were the constant pitches and tugs of filmy-faced women hawking bracelets and little homemade dolls.
I should say here that Lac Rose is widely thought to be a cool place -- the Dakar Rally usually ends here (but was canceled this year because of a terrorism threat -- don't tell my mom), that tours stop at Lac Rose and that people like going there. It's definitely interesting. Just weird.
Here I am with two vendors who asked me to take their photographs. I think they enjoyed seeing the instant digital image.
Just like in the Dead Sea, everything floats in the water, and it is supposedly fun to jump in and bob along like a buoy. Personally, I don't know who would ever voluntarily do this. I went in up to my calves and they and my feet were instantly itchy and weirdly flaky for the rest of the night; I can't imagine how it would have felt to have that salt water in any of my delicates. Eric would have no part of it, either, and he is pretty adventurous.
And yet. Every day these men paddle the pirogues to deep water, plunge in up to their waists or sometimes their chests, and then with wooden-handled gardening spades they load up the boats. This takes hours. The men then lead the boats back to shore, and the women carry the salt in buckets on their heads from shore to the big piles you see here. Each pile or group of piles belongs to a certain family of miners. Each of the 25-pound bag sells for 500 cfa ($1.25).
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