Dakar – Dalaba (same Saturday)

See? Making progress here. All you need is Google Maps, a printer, a felt-tip pen, a steady hand, a camera, a cable from your camera to your laptop – done!

On with the journey!

 

When I feel like it, I walk from the airport to my house. Takes all of 40 minutes. As of 2013 (or 14 or 15) that will no longer be possible. Reason: a new airport, past Patte d’Oye (traffic jam), past Pikine (traffic jam), past Thiaroye (traffic jam), past Rufisque (monstrous traffic jam), on to Damniadio (traffic jam). Turn right, as we are doing this Saturday afternoon, and you’re on the way to the seaside resort of Mbour – neon, crass airport art, loud bars, touts and obnoxious Europeans on holiday.

On the way, you see the large building site, to your left. This will be the new Blaise Diagne International Airport, one of the more sensible new projects of The One Above God, who, as we all know, runs this country, at least until February 26 next year. Yoff Airport may be convenient for me but it also sits in the middle of a densely populated built-up area. Also, moving it will free up a huge area, which, after clean-up, can be redeveloped to alleviate Dakar’s groaning housing shortage.

In other words, expect land speculation, colossal rows and endless litigation.

In parallel with the new airport, the state is also building a toll road across all the areas between my flat and the new airport. The question now is: which one will be finished first? The airport – or the road? From the Sept Places, it is difficult to see which one is winning. One thing is certain: if the airport wins, my transfer time will expand from a whistling 40 minutes walk to – well that depends on how bad the traffic is.

This Saturday turns out not too bad. Two hours after departure we are out on the road past the airport and on our way to Mbour.

Not so fast.

A policeman has spotted that the luggage on the roof may exceed the maximum height by 0.3 centimetres. In Senegal, so far, harassment of travelling citizens by uniforms is definitely less in-your-face as it is in, say Côte d’Ivoire, but it is there all the same. Except that here the target is mostly the driver. It is the one thing these “syndicats” (the taxi drivers associations) can do nothing about.

In the glow of the late afternoon sun, two policemen and the driver argue, point. Papers are checked. All in order but that is of course not the issue. The matter is settled with payment of some (as far as I can see) 2000 francs, about 3 euros. One more of these and any thought of making some profit out if this trip goes straight out of the window.

As it happens, it is the only check and the rest of the trip to Tambacounda is remarkably uneventful, partly because the road I remember from a previous trip as a pot-holed hell on earth has transformed itself into a more than decent two-laner.  Excellent!

Er…on second thoughts: not so excellent.

 

‘Moussa, welcome back, how are you?’

‘Fine, I was just sleeping.’

The savannah outside has receded, just shadows of trees flitting past, as we now positively hurtle towards one of the few major towns in Senegal’s interior.

‘You’ve done this trip before?’

‘Sure. Number of times now.’

‘When are the taxis to Guinea leaving?’

In Guinea, they drive these things days and night and I was under the impression that there may be one of them parked at Tamba’s bus station. Ready for departure. With us inside.

‘Oh – they don’t leave until tomorrow and you have to go to Manda first.’

‘Manda?’ First time I hear that name. ‘Where’s that?’

‘Towards the border.’

‘And the taxi to Manda…’

‘…leaves tomorrow morning. Around seven.’

Right. That’s settled then. We have a night at Tambacounda’s bus station ahead of us. Bring coffee. And conversation.

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