Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Buses

We have a new record, 36 hours on the bus from Bamako to Kaolack, Senegal. Ouch. Ok, sure, maybe some of you out there are saying it's not that big a deal and it's easy to beat that on a cross-country trip in the States or Canada but I assure you, those buses are nothing like these. Yeah, it's a coach but it's still the usual packed full of people (5 seats across this time, with more in the aisle) and luggage, combined with driving on the road only enough to not call it fully offroad. Half on, half off because of massive potholes on the Senegalese roads so it felt more like being stuck in a budget airline with major turbulence in a dust storm and the windows open. Fun fun. We didn't even get to eat really, just what you could buy from people on the side of the road out the window when the bus made the odd stop, usually muffins, boiled eggs, watermelon or bananas.
As with all trips out here, the ride was not smooth sailing because something always has to go wrong. We had a flat tire, not a surprise except that it happened on a good stretch of road. Any time there is a flat tire the drivers change it and then usually get the tire repaired or replaced at the next town thereby consuming lots of time. If you saw the state of the spare tires though (tread is a luxury on those), you'd do the same. We also were "lucky" enough to have some idiot on our bus get hit by a motorcycle while we were stopped at a police checkpost. 3 hours later they had him patched up and we could continue to the border. By the time we got to the border it was late and for the 2nd time on this trip we have been stamped out on one day and then stamped into the next country the following day because it was midnight in no-man's land. Of course it takes 1 hour of standing around in the cold (to me it's cold but if you were here right now you'd probably find it quite comfortable) for the border guards to write down everyone's info and stamp you along. This is actually fast by African border standards though. We ended sleeping in the bus right at the border waiting for the tire to get fixed the next morning so the whole thing took time. We'd never have been able to sleep on the bumpy roads ahead so it was just as well. The savanna in Senegal looks a lot like that in Mali but already has noticeably more wildlife. Lots of birds. We are staying in a rundown Catholic Mission house in Kaolack right now. Everyone we've met there is Muslim though, go figure. Looks much the same here but can't say much. Haven't seen anything really. The food was a little spicier :)
Border of Gambia tomorrow. We'll try to get the visa at the border which is always a major hassle......
Ammon

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