Maggots in toilets...

Trip Start Jan 06, 2007
Trip End Feb 12, 2007

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Just about recovered from a crappy 2nd day on the road from Bamako and am now, for better or worse, in Dakar - a city which every guidebook I have (for the record, I have three) has described as hustle/thieving central.
Whereas the first day was fine if tedious and cramped, the second day was awful -  my tolerance levels not helped by very little sleep.
It started off with me getting up at 2.30am after 2 hrs of sleep so that I could walk over the bridge to ensure that I met the 4am departure. Of course, I assumed that meant that we were leaving at 4am and not just waking everyone up at 4am (The rest of the coach having spent the evening and slept at the coach station.  Yep, I went to a hotel.  So sue me.). When we finally set off at 5am, we hadn't gone more than a couple of hours before we reached the border and had all the fun of having to be woken up at the Malian and the Senegalese border for all our passports and ID to be checkd. So basiclaly no sleep. That was the first annoying thing.
The second was having to use the public "facilities". Now, as a frequent traveller to places where sit down toilets are seen as yet another example of decadent Westernism, I can take the usual squat/(literal)hole in the ground in my stride. Indeed, since by their function, only your feet come into contact with anything suspicious, I actually prefer them to attempts to imitate Western sanition without Western plumbing.
But these were just awful. The worse one I used first were at the bus station - not only as there clear evidence that someone suffering from diarrhea had evidently missed their aim, but the hole itself was not a pit latrine/long drop, but a "short drop". Stupidly shining my torch into the hole (it was 4.30am at the time), I saw yellow maggots crawling over each other and something that was (probably blessendly) compeltely obscured by them. If it weren't for the fact that I was using the facilities in darkenss and that I was half-dead with fatigue, I would have gagged, or least ran screaming. As it was, I used it mechanically and the sheer horror of it didn't really register until I was on the bus.
Other facilities that I used en-route did not come close to that nightmare but none were the more sanitary long drops that I was much more happy with.
Third thing that pissed me off was that all the guys round me stank. Granted, after what turned out to be 22 hours on a bus 'see point below), I didn't smell that fresh either and I had had the luxury of a shower the previous night and they hadn't. But it was the crowded conditions on the bus added with the fact that Africans don't wear deodorant. Normally, my sense of semll is not paritucularly acute so this has never really bothered me before but towards the end of the journey, I was getting very cranky about this.
The final and most important on the list of What Made Caroline Into A Bitch was that we were due to arrive at 10pm in Dakar and instead arrived at 3am. Noramlly, I wouldn't have ben that pissed off - It's Africa and I don't expect things to arrive on time. No, what took the biscuit [don't you just love that expression - wonder where it comes from] was that we kept stopping unnecessarily for what appeared to be either cigarette/pissing breaks (just for the men, obviously - African men can't hold it any better than European ones) or for police checks. It seemed that every 30 mins we had to stop for 5 mins or so. Apparently, the police often stop buses (normally just local ones, they apparently leave tourists alone) and demand money (up to 3k CFA - relatively huge amount of money) from the locals in return for giviing them back their ID. A guy on the bus I was tlaking to said that often people prefer to say that they don't have ID rather than hand their ID over as the bribe tends to be less.
All those stops and the fact that in some places, we seemed to stop for ages (we stayed at the border for over 4 hours!!) for no apparetn reason, made me very cranky and I vented at this poor guy about the 22 hours (count them people) in a mixture of french and english. The guy had just befriended me to practice his english without really knowing what he was getting himself into.  Poor guy...
I felt better but a bit ashamed of myself. Obviously not as hardened a traveller as I prided myelf on being. See my note on hustlers in Bamako for further confirmation.
Anyway, feel much better now after a scrub but have a ferry ride tonight to Zigiunchor in Casamance. After much dispute, decided that there was no way I could fork out for the 60 quid plane ticket taht would give me enough time to do both Casamancse and St Louis so the latter will have to wait another time. Pity because it really did seem up my street but need a few days of beaches and verdent forests more than culture and history. My fault for spending so many days just lazing around Mali and leaving only a week for Senegal...
If I get held up by seperatists or bandits, I'll be kicking myslef.
BTW, just to share one rather surreal incident.  I was walking back from the hotel to the bus station at 3am as described and I had to cross a bridge on the way - there was a full moon so I could see the river below and the detritus on the deserted streets fairly clearly. As it was 3am in the morning, I decided to walk down the centre of the road on the bridge instead of the enclosed pedestrian walkways on either side just in case I got accosted by some random strnager (see people, I can be careful...). This worked well for most of the crossing as I could clearly see the few cars and could easily get out of the way.
However, on the last third, I heard strange clomping sounds and a dark mass coming towards me. I couldn't quite see what it was but I crossed to the other side regardless. Good thing I did as it was a herd of fucking huge bulls being led, in the dark, by just a handful of "cowboys". These were bulls coming up to my shouldar in height with HUGE pointed horns. And there were around 100 or so corssing in rows of 4/5.
The scare I had was when a car came up behind them and then tried to overtake. Stupid thing (or person in thing) started honking and the bulls immediatly in front started skitting. Not being a complete idiot, I decided that the pedestrian walkway would do me just fine.
Can't imagine that happening on Westminster bridge..
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