Dakar – Dalaba (Guinea), one fine Saturday

While biding my time for a little while, here in the rainy capital of my other country – The Netherlands – I was pleasantly surprised to see my very good colleague Ikenna Azuike reference ME….on his utterly awesome videoblog WhatsUpAfrica. Check it out here!

http://www.rnw.nl/africa/video/swaziland-2011

So what else to do but to finally, FINALLY!…get around to write that travel story I had planned . One epic journey: from Dakar to Dalaba in neighbouring Guinea. By road. I’m writing this straight from memory – so you can guess the impression this trail has made….

So let’s start one fine Saturday morning in my Yoff apartment. Time to go. Hot water in the bathroom switched off? Check. Coffee machine off? Check. Computer? In luggage. Papers ready? 15th check. That’s just me being habitually paranoid about leaving without the required documents. Not a clever idea, especially since I am planning to take a 900-something kilometre trek from my flat to the mountains of the Fouta Djalon in Guinea – and beyond. By road. Using public transport.

The best way to travel. If you have time and patience – in spades.

So: out the door and before you known it. Yes – BEEP!  It’s a taxi. Off to a place called Pompiers, which is the main bush taxi station, next to the fire brigade. Hence the name.

Pompiers is always busy. You wade through a veritable sea of Peugeot 504s, in varying states of decay but surprisingly roadworthy once you’re inside one of them. Actually, it’s not surprising at all. Once you have seen the inside of a 504 and enjoyed the comfort of positively sailing along even the worst dirt roads on its superior suspension, you’re sworn off FourWheelDrives forever.

True!

But no sailing along for me on this bright Saturday morning because when I arrive at around 9am the taxi of my destination (Tambacounda in the East of the country) has the grand total of ONE passenger.

Me.

One shabbily dressed man takes my curiously out-of-place all-purpose suitcase on wheels and stuffs it in the boot. It’s reasonably safe: I have never lost any luggage while waiting for a taxi to depart. Another, equally shabilly dressed man goes around looking for passengers.

Nope. We’re not leaving anytime soon. The 504s that take people on long routes are called Sept Places here. And that means just what it says. As soon as there are seven people on board, things go pretty quickly and efficiently. The driver gets located, he gives a scrap of paper to someone from the drivers’ association stating what times he’s left and where he’s going – and that’s pretty much it.

But for the meanwhile, I am stuck here, in an empty Sept Places, in the middle of a giant station-cum-marketplace It’s getting hot and I have no idea AT ALL, when we will actually leave. Tambacounda feels very far away indeed…

To be continued…


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