Dakar – Dalaba (very early Monday morning)

Past the neatly organised but otherwise non-exceptional town of Koundara, we are standing still, in the middle of the same endless forest. We have been driving through some kind of gigantic road-building project. Spaces have been opened up among the trees for lorries, cranes, piles of steel tubes…There they are, shimmering in the stadium-style lights that have been set up around them.

But now: stagnation. Deep silence. No other traffic. What’s the problem?

The driver has left the vehicle but I can see him standing a little away, still in his car’s headlights. With him – a soldier. Ah, so this is a reminder of how things were. President Alpha Condé has ordered this plague of armed roadblocks (similar to this one from another country) off the highways and byways of his land. But here, in the dead of night, with no-one else in sight and who knows how many hiding in the undergrowth (I spot an occasional moving torchlight), you are on your own.

And sure enough, from somewhere the driver produces green banknotes. We’re in Guinea, so these are 10,000 Guinea franc notes that come in bundles of tens. What’s 100,000 Guinea francs? About €10. I try to follow the number of bundles that leave the driver’s hands and glide into those of the soldier. Four? Seven? More? That would seem an unlikely hefty price for passage. After all, total value of tickets sitting in this taxi: less than €200. But I haven’t slept for almost two days and vision is a bit blurred. One thing is unreassuringly clear, though, and that is that the old ways have yet to be fully stamped out.

A bit further down the same (and surprisingly long) tarred two-lane road, another reminder of the old ways. We stop at a hamlet, where a rope has been spanned across the road. We are summarily ordered into a dimly-lit room that is part of a slightly larger shack.

Gendarmerie. Passport check. And it’s the usual plethora of scraps of paper, laissez-passers, ID cards, regional passports and one from the European Union. I’m the first one in and out (prerogative of being alone in the front). I’m also very thirsty. ‘Just wake up the owner of this shop here – she’s got water for sale,’ says a passenger. I hesitatingly walk into an unlit room next to the Gendarmerie and find an already awake young mother with a baby. No – it’s no trouble at all she assures me.

Bottle in hand, I walk up this asphalt miracle called “Dadis’ Road” and watch the contours of what must be a truly stunning mountainscape. Calm, serene, beautiful.

Until the engine starts up again. It’s beginning to sound a bit rough around the edges but the driver assures me it’s all perfectly fine. Until…


Iron bridge. Followed by…


End of tar.

I turn to the driver and ask him if the road will stay bad like this.

‘Yep. All the way.’

I don’t have the heart to ask him how long that will be.


4 Responses to “Dakar – Dalaba (very early Monday morning)”

  1. Ruben Says:

    safe travels, held!

  2. bramposthumus Says:

    Dank je, Theo! En wees gerust, dat is inderdaad uiteindelijk gebeurd…

  3. bramposthumus Says:

    Dank je Theo! En wees gerust, dat is inderdaad uiteindelijk gebeurd…

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