5. Lured to Senegal

May 08, 2006

After the allure of that first Senegalese wedding, a few more uncomfortable run-ins, continued sickness of an undramadic but unimproved sort, and general indecision, I end up not heading straight overland into Mali as intended and instead find myself jumping into a car bound for Senegal.

I am just not ready to leave the ocean just yet. I need to do a little dancing, eat some more fish and see a doctor. Senegal helps me do all of these things with grace. Landing in Dakar for a few days also gives me a chance to sort out some embassy paperwork, write more and try to get myself a seat on the infamous Dakar-Bamako train.




I'm in a bushtaxi, waiting in the Rosso bound lot in Nouakchott for one more person. We leave when the car is full. Anytime a taxi arrives, all the boys jump up and fight for the new passenger. We are three partially filled cars. After an hour of waiting, a taxi pulls up and body jumps out completely covered up in a dusty black turban. But, I know those running sneakers...

Either some Toureg has robbed my poor Dutch friend Merijn, or it is the devil himself. I jump out of the cab and fight with the rest of the touts who are only mildly surprised when I grab the turbaned man by the shoulders and kiss him on the cheeks. I hurry him into our car and off we go.

I am happy indeed to have a fellow traveler to talk to for those next ten hours of driving and an entire evening of waiting at the border for the guard to return our passports without a bribe. After watching us sit on the corner and suck from little plastic pouches of bissap juice, animated by stories of the last five weeks of traveling, the border guard is convinced we are not going to pay up.

The ride is long. We are stopped every twenty minutes or so at police checkpoints where our sassy smuggling car mates pay off the police each time. I still wonder what these ladies had in those sacks on the roof. At one stop the policeman comes over and apologizes to Merijn and I after pocketing the cash. It adds up pretty quickly and soon the girls are asking us for cash to bribe the police with.

Merijn and I decide to stop in St. Louis for a few days before continuing on the Dakar. The town is beautiful and lush with a crumbling colonial flavor. But the days pass quickly with hot showers, good food, a real bed. We stumble into a Yossou N'Dour concert and visit a famous wildlife reserve where I see nothing but hundreds of dead fish, a cat skeleton and the carcass of a goat.

streets of St. Louis