The Path

The road to the end of the world is am unpaved wide red road. It’s dusty and hot and long. However, there are short cuts through the forest, along the mangroves by the rice fields, if one knows the paths to follow.

An elderly man had shown me the way between Essyl and Enampore a few weeks ago. Though it’s sandy, the scenery makes it superior. I’d heard of the path between Enampore and Seleky but I didn’t know where it began and strangers know better than to wonder around unknown forests in The Kingdom. Today though, unafraid of entering accidentally in a sacred unauthorised area since we’d already been in the most holy of all here, the bois, I boldly went along a small path that looked as if it might lead to Seleky. It’s not necessary to ask for directions since the first question anyone who passes asks is, where are you going? If they approve of your response, you know you’re on the right track.

Surely the Dutch born and bread and bikes Martin and Hannah would have had a much easier time than me on the narrow paths and Kris would have more accurately captured the beauty than I could but this journey, the last, like the first, had to be undergone alone. Indeed it was exquisite, until I got lost after Seleky trying to get back to the road. You may recall those thorns aptly named the cultivator killer. Once I realized I’d somehow Twilight Zoned rode to the wrong side of the river, I ended up having to carry my bike through those very thorns tearing through my Vibram and ankles so as not to pierce the bike tubes. It wasn’t fun.

Colleagues Rachel and Alex have justly taught me that the terms pagan and animist are not only inaccurate, they’re also offensive. A better interpretation of the religious practices in The Casamance at least is to say the people follow the path of the forebearers. As I write this final post of the field season under the thatch of Enampore’s impluvium, I give thanks to all of you who I feel are truly along side me through the thorns, over the bridges, and even stuck in the sand. May the wind always be at our backs and when it’s not may we have the strength to ride on. See y’all on the other side!


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