I didn't like Senegal much when I first arrived, but this was almost entirely down to me, not the country. I was horribly homesick (and I still am, every now and then), I was horribly sick, and I seriously wondered whether I was going to be able to get into the travelling mentality again. I was rather concerned that in the four years since the end of my last bout of travelling, I'd become settled.
I'm still not entirely in my stride, but I'm getting there, and although the difficulties I had with Senegal were far more to do with acclimatisation than difficulties with the country itself, I get the feeling that Senegal still isn't one of the world's great travelling destinations. It's pleasant and it's interesting, but it's not mind-blowing.
If you ignore the city touts and the rip-off merchants that inhabit the tourist spots, the Senegalese are lovely people. In places that aren't on the main tourist trail, such as Tambacounda and Kaolack, the people are delightful and the hassle factor is minimal. Things are slightly crazier around Dakar and in places like St-Louis, but although I found dealing with taxi drivers a problem in the first week, things got easier the further I went from Dakar. I don't know if this is down to less hassle the further you are from Dakar, or me getting used to dealing with the transport system, but I think it's probably a combination of both.
If you like beaches and you speak good French, then Senegal is a great place to visit, which is probably why so many French tourists do just that. But if you're an English-speaking independent traveller in search of amazing sights, Senegal isn't that fantastic; it's OK, but it's not world class for travelling.
As a result I've found it a difficult place to start my trip; if I had been exploring the country with my jaw on the floor at the incredible sights and amazing culture clashes, I wouldn't have found so much time for missing my girlfriend, missing my home and missing my old life. Senegal is a great place to relax; it's not such a great place for providing a distraction. But I'm glad I came; the people are friendly, the music is good, the markets are fun, the beaches are pleasant, the food is inoffensive, and combined with the different flavour of life in the Gambia, it makes a good introduction to West Africa.
Still, I'm glad to be moving into Mali. No offence, Senegal, but it just sounds that much more interesting for someone like me, with my low boredom threshold. We'll see.