Scary near-death experience near Dakar
Trip Start Sep 14, 2011
5Trip End Sep 19, 2011
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My buddy and I were on our way back to Dakar from a beach area 70kms south of Dakar when our taxi broke down just as the sun was setting. We were on the side of the road, electrical problem, in a very dodgy area with nothing but dirt, garbage, crumbling cement walls and buildings and little shacks selling some fruit and junk...and lots of people walking by wondering what the hell we were doing there.
First, our driver took off into the slum to find someone or something, and was gone about 15 minutes as we waited anxiously.
Then the repair was not working, 30 minutes or so had passed, and there was no simple way out
of the situation, we were scared of being mugged, attacked, robbed, something. As we waited (and even managed to snap a few pictures early on) suddenly a bus came to a halt just ahead of us and a vicious fight on board spilled into the street about 15 feet in front of us. Quickly, there were 5-6 guys involved, and one of them rushed right past me, urgently looking for a weapon. He picked up a rock about 8 inches in diameter/10 pounds and rushed back into the struggle. I watched in horror as he raised the rock high into the air and smashed it down repeatedly onto his opponent's head and shoulders as that guy was being held and hit by 2-3 other guys.
The crowd grew instantly and several bystanders seemed to jump in to stop the guy with the rock but I saw him strike the guy at least 3-4 times. I told my buddy, "They're going to kill him! They're killing him!" as the yelling and tension and numbers grew, and we freaked out and backed off but there was nowhere to go. It was dark, no streetlights, no way out, traffic at a standstill anyway, and the scene went from bad to worse just like that. This would go on for a few minutes.
Another taxi driver was parked behind us and told us we need to get the hell out of there right now, there are "bandits" all around, it's not safe, and he quickly led us to his car, but we could not move anywhere. Our first taxi driver spoke to him earlier about where he should take us, and it seemed as if they worked together but we didn't know. We went into taxi #2. Five minutes later, scared and freaking out, tensions seemingly still high and greatly fearing for our safety, unable to move and in plain sight of everyone passing by, we got out and went across a couple of lanes to where the traffic was moving and we tried to stop another taxi. But 30 seconds later the second taxi guy came to get us to say the traffic was moving now and we could go with him. We quickly agreed and went back to his taxi.
We realized taxi #1 was probably not going to get paid, and we owed him a lot from a long afternoon trip ($40US) but we just had to get out of there while we could, it was a very bad situation and after such a long, stressful wait and the attempted murder and all the rest, we needed to get the hell out of there now! Earlier, we had kept trying to pay off taxi #1 and take another taxi, as several kept passing by, but taxi #1 would not accept money and kept working on the car, saying it would be ready in 2 minutes, over and over, but then taking off into the slum to get something else, and we could not keep flashing cash around in that situation. We had been trapped for almost an hour by now, and we could not take it anymore.
So we went for it and took off in taxi #2, right past taxi #1 and we thought we were finally safe. Someone must have seen us bolt out of there and ratted us out. Taxi driver #1 and his 3-4 mechanics and followers from the crowd chased us down about 100-200 feet away. Suddenly, a mob of 6-8 guys were yelling and bashing on taxi 2, more locals surrounded the car, and we were forced to stop. The windows were open and we had 4-5 guys yelling into the taxi with great anger, and banging on it, and a crowd gathered immediately all around our car. This was really, really, really bad.
Speaking fluent French, I tried to calm the situation by saying that we sort of thought the 2 drivers worked together and had discussed where to take us, they made a deal to get us on our way, etc., but nobody was listening. We were not going anywhere, nobody was listening, everyone was mad and yelling. We remained calm/friendly/apologetic and kept saying we would pay taxi #1 but again he would not take the money and made us get out of taxi 2. Oh man, now what? This was so, so, so bad.
Surrounded by the angry mob, we walked back to taxi #1, not sure if we would be robbed, attacked or what...we got back into taxi #1 and waited about 5 more minutes until the driver finally said his car was broken and could not be fixed (an hour of stress and fear for nothing!), he let us pay him the $40 and we took off right away in taxi #3. We didn't see an ambulance or a dead body on the way out of there, but we were not looking to closely anyway. Who knows what happened to that dude...
It took about 20 minutes more to get to our downtown hotel, a great sight to finally see. And that was our Saturday night in Senegal. Brutal.