Just another day in Tambacounda, Senegal.

Trip Start Jan 30, 2008
Trip End Jun 23, 2008

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Well we slept in a little bit (only until maybe 8 a.m.) on Thursday, expecting no problem
getting money and into the park that day. While eating our breakfast, our
friend at the hotel (the only employee who could speak any English) told us
that 1) the banks were closed that day due to a holiday, and 2) it would be
nearly impossible to find a vehicle going into the park this late in the day
(it was now about 9 a.m.). So Justin and I had some thinking to do. The
receptionist called us a taxi who would take us to another hotel where they
make the actual arrangements to go to the park so we could talk to them there
and get the real story. Also, apparently there were some "underground" places
where we would be able to exchange some Dalasis for CFA. So we went to this
other hotel to meet with this guy, Pape (pronounced "Pop"), and discuss what
was involved in going to the park. If we wanted to go, we would have to wait
until the next day (which was fine, it was already getting late in the day by
this time) and he would arrange for a 4-WD vehicle for us. It was really
pricey, though, so Justin and I decided to go think about it for a little while.
We let Pape know we would get back to him later that afternoon. We also told
him to call us if he happened to find another couple who was interested in
going, so that we could split the cost of the vehicle. So we then spent the
next two/three hours driving around from one little "hole in the wall" shop to
the next, asking whether they could exchange 10,000D for CFA, and what the rate
would be. (Keep in mind, this amount is close to one's annual salary in Senegal
and we were asking to exchange this amount right then and there). The rates
they were giving us were horrible, but really we had no choice. After going to
a few different places, with each offer getting worse and worse, we returned to
the very first place to exchange the money. Justin sent me away to pick up some
snacks at the gas station across the street, while he counted out 8,000 D (the
guy didn't have enough CFA to exchange the whole 10,000) in 25D bills. "I've
never counted so fast in my life," Justin said as we walked out of there. He
was literally sitting in some dark corner with men all around him counting more
money than some of these men had ever seen. I'm glad I wasn't there, cuz I
think I would have been more scared than he was. Either way, he got it done and
we were out of there. The taxi dropped us back off at the hotel and we decided
to enjoy a low-key afternoon by the pool... unwinding from our last few days full
of adventure. By this time we had also decided to forego the park experience
and just head home the next day. We were both sort of disappointed, but also
realized that the money could probably be better spent somewhere else along the
way. Also, going to the park the next day would mean 1) spending another night
at the hotel in Tamba- wonderful place, but definitely on the pricey end, and
2) missing a festival in Kartong that I was excited to go to. We had plans to
meet up with Pat and Allison at the festival on Saturday night... hotel
reservations booked and everything. It was difficult because we had traveled
all that way to go to this park, but we both agreed that the traveling part was
an adventure in and of itself and saving that money wouldn't necessarily be
such a bad thing.

Well, that was all until Pape called us around 4 p.m. to let us know that he found another
couple who wanted to split the cost with us, so it would be slightly cheaper.
Unfortunately the cost rose from 95,000 CFA to 120,000 CFA just by adding two
more people, but we would still be saving 35,000 CFA so we needed to reassess
the situation. After an apologetic phone call to Allison telling her that we
would have to miss the festival, we called Pape back and told him we would
accept his offer and go to the park first thing the next morning. That evening
was low-key... we watched Juno on Justin's iPod... I hadn't seen it yet, and LOVED
it! And then went to bed early again, setting my alarm for 5:30 to prepare for
the truck which was scheduled to come pick us up around 6 a.m. With a quick cup
of coffee we started what would end up being one of the longest days of our lives.
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