Trip Start Mar 05, 2006
10Trip End Mar 12, 2006
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The Peugot dropped us in a random place looking nothing like a station, but we hailed a cab and asked for the Airport Hotel. He didn't know where it was, but stopping to ask for directions several times, we made it. The original plan had been to go to the Marche Kermel today to pick up some souvenirs for the folks back home (and for ourselves) but our driver told us it closed at one, and we wouldn't have been able to make it back into town in time.
The airport hotel was expensive, but seeing as we had thirteen ours to kill before our 3:30 am flight home, it was worth it. I had a long hot shower, a nap, watched CNN, washed my clothes in the sink (trying to import as little Senegalese dust as possible) and finished the rest of breakfast. It was cool in Dakar, about 75 F (24C) and overcast, too cold to go swimming, in fact. Unfortunately, this did not prevent rotund, elderly European business men from parading about the pool in their speedos. I strongly believe there is no greater fashion faux pas.
Dinner was at the restuarant next door, as the hotel's prices were aimed towards those on expense accounts. The pizzeria's decor was quintesential Senegal. It's like they don't know what western decor should look like, but they put up a great effort. All over the country they've been trying and failing in minor ways. Tonight's restaurant featured high, arched back chairs going 5 feet off into the air and little tables for two, all in a row so the table next to you could light your hair on fire with a stray cigarette. Everything was done in purple, slightly plastic upholstery, too. I suppose it was a step up from the snowflake light show in Thies. The food was good and the service Senegalese (friendly and unrushed, which can be a nice way of saying slow) but we left full and happy, so no complaints.
Naps were attempted 'til 1 am when we left the hotel to find about 10 taxis waiting to take people to the airport. The guy we selected wanted 2,000 CFA for the mile long drive. No way! Especially not with all that competition. We settled on 1,000 and got in. He proceeded to drive across the street to his other taxi driving buddies, get out of the car, and commence a shouting match. Umm...right. Donna waited a minute or so, then got out and began banging on the car shouting "Nous allons a l'aeroport!" Eventually he listened and we were off. At the aiport when I gave him 1,000, he had the nerve to ask for two again. Again, ummm...right. We just said non and walked away.
The Dakar International Airport is hopping at 1:30 am. People waiting for arrivals and flights departing. There was a 2:55 to Lisbon, a 3:30 to Casablanca, and our 3:30 to JFK. Why anyone would want to get to Casablanca or Lisbon at 5 am is beyond me, but it appeares there is demand for it. Our flight left a little late but got to JFK with plenty of time for my connection to Boston allowing me to fully appreciate my 8-hour layover. Turns out you can't check bags more than six hours before a flight. Who knew? Met a friend for lunch at Qunicy Market and made it back to Canada in time for class on Tuesday.
Senegal and the Gambia was a whirlwind of a trip and neither Donna nor I could really come up with our favorite part. It wasn't a trip of highlights, it was a trip where the little things made the whole. In the end, Donna's favorite part was seeing all the little villages we passed and mine was going off-roading across the salt flats on the dusty, hot road from Karang to Kaolack. The thing with Senegal and the Gambia is you don't go to see anything but the countries. There is no Great Wall, no Louvre, no Serengetti. There aren't even any postcards. But it's also a place where you don't have to go looking for what's real. It's all real. In eight days, we were the only independent traveller's we saw, and there's a lot to be said for that.