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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Senegal: Palmarin

A beached ship off Palmarin beach
The attractive wreck at Palmarin

As soon as we got back from exploring the delights of Fadiout, Jeremy, Sarah and I tried to track down transport to Palmarin, a pleasant-sounding spot down the coast that the Lonely Planet, bless its cotton socks, describes as 'superb'. After shitty accommodation, a squalid beach, awful humidity and an island made of shells that turned out to be little more than an island made of shells, our spirits needed lifting.

Jeremy and Sarah standing by the side of the road
Hitching is the only way to leave the metropolis of Palmarin in the off-season

The Beautiful Coast in Danger

At breakfast the next morning – if one can call dry baguette, frozen butter and instant coffee 'breakfast' – I spotted a possible explanation on the wall for the dilapidated state of Palmarin. Instead of the normal posters depicting beautiful pirogue trips through luscious mangrove swamps or idyllic shots of beaches with clean, golden sands and stunning blue water, the campement's restaurant walls sported a hand-painted montage of three beach scenes, ominously entitled La Belle Côte en Danger, 1995-2000. The top scene, captioned with the year 1995, showed a nice little beach-hut complex, with tourists splashing around in the sea, lying on the beach reading, and generally having a good time; indeed, one guy looked like he was rolling a spliff, though this was possibly an indication of the artist's lack of hand-painting skills than a true representation of life in Palmarin, circa 1995. Even the fishing trawler was in one piece, though the fact it was in the picture at all implies it had run aground even before these halcyon days. Perhaps it doubled as an aquatic adventure playground back then; whatever, it looked like a positive addition to the scene, so rosy were the artist's coloured spectacles. One could almost call it superbe, or at a pinch, magnifique.