Dakar – Dalaba (Saturday night, Sunday morning)

See? I’m getting better at it!

On with the story then…

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We’ve been deposited at the Tambacounda terminus. It is still warm and dry. And dark. We’re sitting on the pavement close to a small shop that keeps a steady supply of spicy coffee (known here as “café Touba”), cigarettes and bottled water going. No food – the customers have left. The taxi touts gather in a building opposite to smoke; the distinct smell of local weed wafts through the air. And we have seven hours to kill before the first taxi departs to that magical place called Manda.

Soon enough, we are the last customers sitting outside. Apart from the young men smoking and walking about the place, no-one is there. The two Mauritanian guys who ran the shop have called it a day. A giant padlock is secured over the metal door they have clanged shut. It’s about the last sound we are going to hear for a while. Hold on to your luggage – and talk.

About football, Mali, Holland, Senegalese women (who, Moussa rather boldly claims, “don’t work”) and his other mission. Apart from rescuing his trucks, he must also locate his wayward nephew, who is supposedly having a great time in a locality not far from Manda. ‘I have been trying to get him on the phone for hours but he’s switched it off. I have no idea what he’s been up to…’

So there we stay, on our hard wooden bench, eyes on our luggage. And talk some more. Take a walk to the nearby toilet. Come back. Have another smoke. Hotels? Moussa confirms that there aren’t any that he would even consider in this part of town. The taxi boys have gone to sleep somewhere in the bowels of the building we face; we can only see the dimly lit entrance.

There is hardy any light to speak of in the entire place. A few streetlights are standing sentry and that is it. Which is just as well because you really don’t want to find out that the rest of the grandiosely names Gare routière has the exact same lack of redeeming features. In that one memorable phrase: we have arrived at the arse of the end of the world and there is only one thing you want: for the night to hurry along, so we can get out.

To Manda!

3am. Time crawls. 3.30am. Still no sign of anyone coming or going, except for a lone taxi that drives in, turns around, and leaves. 4am. No daylight yet. Just us, on that bench on a worn out pavement, our luggage, jealously guarded, water, smokes and dwindling conversation. 4.30am. You get tired of your own voice after so many hours. 5am. Stand and stretch, sit down again. Waiting for that sure sign that a new day has begun, the ubiquitous African alarm clock: the cockerel.


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