Unfortunately we had to hop back onto Senegalese road transport to get out of the Siné-Saloum Delta, this time to reach the junction town of Kaolack. The plan was to head south to the Gambia, the thin, finger-shaped country that juts into Senegal like an argumentative finger into the fat belly of a belligerent taxi driver, and by far the easiest way to get there was via a night's stay in Kaolack. This makes no sense on the map – going from Foundiougne to Kaolack you're going in the opposite direction to the Gambia – but Kaolack is the nearest transport hub, so you have to head up there in the off-season to get your Gambia-bound bush taxi.
Two bus rides later, which were notable because the bus spent a large part of the journey driving beside the road on the dirt as the dirt was in better shape than the pot-holed bitumen, we rolled up to Kaolack to find that it was totally booked out (we never did find out why). Luckily the fourth hotel we tried had rooms, so without wasting any time we booked in and I headed off to explore the only tourist attraction Kaolack has to offer, the second-largest covered market in Africa (the largest is in Marrakech).
Surprisingly, it was great. I got absolutely no hassle at all as I wandered into the musty souqs, through the meat market with its friendly population of swarming flies, into the tailors' souq where clothes appear out of piles of material that would be cast-offs in the West, and eventually out to the odds-and-ends souq, which seems to be where old plastic bottles go to be reincarnated. It was bizarre, and it was alive in a totally different way to the Marrakech souqs; in Marrakech the little shops are for the most part pristine, highly polished to entice toubabs into their homely glow, but in Kaolack it feels as if everything's tarnished, hidden under a layer of grime and dust that's been accumulating for centuries. Under this veneer of grot the souqs are buzzing with real business, and tourists don't even come into the equation; I got the odd yelp of 'Hey, toubab' as I surprised people in the gloom, but for the most part this was a real, working souq, and as such it felt much more authentic than in Marrakech.
The rest of Kaolack felt similarly tourist-free, which wasn't surprising given the lack of attractions. But as a junction town it served its purpose, and the next day we got up early to strike south for the Gambia.