Sunday, April 3, 2011
It’s 7pm, I have been on a bus for 8 hours and we are approaching the half -way point. I am starving and day dreaming about the delicious bean sandwich that I will devour at the next stop. (yes bread and beans, it’s amazing!) All of a sudden a terrible screeching sound fills the air. I’m guessing it’s a flat tire. This is not at all surprising because they happen all the time. Most of the roads are dirt and the ones that are paved have terrible potholes. The bus pulls over and all the Senegalese people file off the bus. They stretch their limbs and gather around to tell the driver how to properly fix the tire.
This scenario is quite common and one I have experienced a few too many times. This story, however, plays out a little differently. We waited about 20 minutes before we were ready to continue our journey. I find myself sighing with relief. One it did not take that long and second, I am really hungry. About a minute and a half passes before the sound comes back. This time it is accompanied by smoke and the smell of something burning. We pull over again and this time the atmosphere is a little less optimistic. We are in the middle of nowhere with no towns, just open fields full of trees and bushes.
An hour or two pass by and they are still diligently working (now by flashlight). It appears the axel is the major problem. which seems to be the problem. Another hour passes and people are starting to make a fire in front and behind the bus to keep warm. (Though it’s probably on 70 degrees outside) It appears we are not going anywhere for a while. Someone tells me they sent a mechanic to buy and part and that he should be returning soon. I receive that with a little bit of hope because god knows when that will be. I instead simply day dream about AAA and imagine how cool it would be if they were located worldwide. I don’t bother to sleep because the bus is full of bodies sprawled out all over the seats. I am not that tired so instead I continue to read Stephanie Myer’s, The Host by the light of my nook. (Good junk food book, by the way)
Time continues to pass and eventually after 6 hours of being stuck on the side of the road, another bus pulls up. In a matter of seconds people are shoving and pushing to claim a good seat. Now, one would think that the seats would remain the same. And if this were the case I would still be sitting next to my friends. This is a good necessity especially when you need a shoulder to nap on. But that simplicity is a little too difficult for Senegal. Instead a 20-minute yelling match breaks out over whose seat is whose. RIDICULOUS! I do want to point out that the buses are not your typical Greyhound. They are falling apart and there is also no aisle. Instead, they have flip seats that allow for more people to cram into the already limited space. This time I am stuck between two men who want nothing more than to become my husband. I try to zone them out with my headphones, but the guys are relentless.
We finally make it to Tamba, the half way point, and even though its 1 am I still devour a delicious bean sandwich. Our break happens quickly and we are off again. Off for about 30 more minutes before we stop again. This time the smell is gasoline and it turns out there is a leak. You have got to be kidding me right? Fortunately it only takes 45 minutes to repair and that is, thank God, the last major delay of the trip.
Transportation is anything but easy. The night bus is how the majority of people travel. It is cheap, but it is long, especially when you encounter problems. They second most common way of travel is by sept-place. (7places) These cars are old beat up station wagons. Once in a while you will get a nice one, but for the most part they are falling apart. Often times the door will be held together with rope and only the driver’s special technique can open it. Sometimes it will open unexpectedly, and not always when the car is stopped. The knob to roll down a window Is also a luxury as it a working radio that plays Senegalese music. There is definitely no air conditioning or seatbelts. The 3 seats in the back are the worst. There is no leg room and if your sitting in between two larger people, your know its going to be hard to walk in 8 hours when your back and but bones have been re arranged. For a car that has 7 places plus the driver you would assume that is the total number of people that would be allowed to travel in it. Oh no! My record is 13 people! Yes 13!
The third way to travel is by an “Alham”. This is an old beat up min van. One usually takes this in the city (rather than a taxi) or to travel a shorter distance. This usually fits about 20 people though it’s not uncommon to have much more. I usually take this when I want to travel to Velingara, where the post office is. It stops frequently and usually has people hanging off the back or even on top.
Overall, each journey is an adventure and you really don’t know if you will get to your destination in 20 minutes or 3 hours. When traveling in this country, one must learn to have humor and not stress over the small things. (easier to say than do) I want to promise if you come visit me, I won’t make you travel like this J
Until next time