We descend the rang-rang [dust road] surrounded by dense vegetation. Eventually it swings around and Mamadou and I catch our first glimpse of sand. From here to Venezuela there is only sea.
We emerge onto a vast beach. Atlantic waves crash powerfully onto the distant shoreline. We walk towards Guinea-Bissau, taking care to avoid rabid dogs and elderly French tourists coupled with young African prostitute partners: Exploitation and neo-colonialism take many forms, especially in regions of dwindling tourism such as here, where putting food on your children’s table comes at a price. Issa and I are upset by this.
Nonetheless, we try to ignore human sacrifice by focusing on natural beauty. The beach is almost empty, and we can see for miles along its golden sands flanked by lush coconut trees. We walk, and talk, and walk. Eventually, Mamadou says we should turn back, else we will find ourselves in Guinea-Bissau. In any case, there is likely only another hour or so of light.
We return towards Cap Skirring centre. We talk about nothing and everything. We come to a place where two lads, about my age, are exercising. A girl-friend of theirs sits beside them, timing intervals.
Mamadou mimics their motions, crouching and hopping in patterns that evoke Senegalese ‘lutte’ [fight] and African dance: the men rhythmically patter backwards and forwards in complex curves. Their jet-black bodies glisten in the falling sun against the soundtrack of the ebb and flow of the North Atlantic.
I chat to the girl, but struggle to understand her Diola French accent. She, too, finds my Northern English inflected French problematic: both of us speak with harder syllables than our other countrymen. After some confusion, I run down the beach into the warm swell.
The waves toss and turn my body: I dive under them to emerge in the same spot, but when I jump up and ride them I am spat back onto the vast, empty shoreline. After some minutes, Issa joins: We have swam back in time to Hydrobase, the beach at Saint-Louis, eleven years ago. It is as if my life between then and now never happened as I return to this differently identical moment.
As the sun falls gradually towards the water, we return to the beach. I taste the salty drips from my hair that fall, rather than evaporate, in the dying heat of the day. I watch the skilled movements of the Djembe [African drumming] performers silhouetted against the setting sun as I taste the sound of their music.
Another perfect day is ending.