Onwards! (Dakar – Dalaba)

I promise I am trying to get myself educated enough so I can put a MAP here. As in: I was planning to go THERE – but I am still HERE…


‘Tamba!’ ‘Tamba!’ ‘Tamba.’

‘Biscuit!’ ‘Biscuit!’ ‘Biscuit!’

The first speaker is the man scouting for passengers to my first stop: Tambacounda. The second speaker is a woman who absolutely refuses to understand that someone sitting in a bush taxi in the middle of what has now become a stiflingly hot day…has no need for biscuits. ‘You must eat biscuits.’

The taxi station is not just there for transport. It’s also a giant open air supermarket. So while I spend my first hour waiting for Passenger Number Two to come in, I can admire the sheer variety of goods that are carried about from one end of the station to the other: biscuits, newspapers, pocket knives, carpets, copies of the Holy Koran, water, cool drinks, bananas, plastic “leather” covers for passports and wallets and mobile phones…. For some reason the women selling biscuits and the men selling wallets are the most persistent. One of them drops a wallet in my lap and then expects me to pay for it. Luckily, I have bought a ream of newspapers and so I steadfastly concentrate on the Saturday crop of what Politician X said yesterday about politician Z during some meeting or other while steadfastly ignoring our persistent wallet dropping friend. After a full ten minutes of a very silent standoff, he asks it back.

Another passenger arrives. It’s a middle aged man from Mali who is on his way to Guinea to prevent his two trucks from getting caught up in the clutches of Guinean customs officials. We get on fine from the beginning, which is good because this is going to be a long day – and night. ‘We’ll not get there before dark,’ he assures me. We might as well introduce ourselves, then. ‘Bram,’ I say. ‘Moussa,’ he returns. He will be a most entertaining travel companion for the next 24 hours.

‘Do you want to hear about my accident?’ he asks. And then launches into a long tale about how he was in a convoy with a bunch of trucks (‘overloaded, of course, they always are’) and trying to get these monsters up a slope. This is Guinea of course, there are no flat roads there – it either uphill or downhill. ‘And then one of them couldn’t make it. Started rolling back – that’s where I was! What do you do…you’ve got one of those thing heading for you cabin, you’re stuck between that guy and the one coming up behind you…. So the only thing I could do was hit the steering wheel, turn off the road and then hope I could block him and then just how I could get out. If I did nothing I was going to get hit. I ended up on my side. Lost the truck and hurt my leg really badly. I had to go to the hospital to have it fixed. I’ll never walk properly again. And I’ll never drive again: I cannot push my foot down on the gas; it hurts terribly. But I stopped that truck from destroying the entire convoy….’

During our conversations and more hair-raising tales from near death experiences (mainly on the road and in the air) the Sept Places has slowly started filling up. And indeed, after a seven hour wait (’Tamba! Tamba! Tamba! Deux places! … Tamba! ‘Tamba!’ Une place!’) – we are finally on our way.

Bye Bye Pompiers Gare Routière. On to the murderous six-lane Autoroute, past Dakar’s very own traffic spaghetti bowl known as the Patte d’Oye and straight into the inevitable traffic jam on the single way out of town. It is the reason I may contemplate moving to another part of town. More about that later. For now, just enjoy the thick fumes coming from the cars, lorries, buses, minibuses, vans, mopeds, scooters, taxis and Sept Places that run on diesel, petrol and in some instances, I suspect, cooking oil.


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