Thursday, March 19, 2009

It’s a long way to Banjul if you wanna leave Dakar

Yeah is a long way, such a long way! Well, the naïve idea that from Dakar to Banjul should take 4 to 5 hours, first prediction of Mame Cheikh, was completely wrong. If fact took us around 24 hours. First of all, to leave Dakar is like trying to kill Clint Eastwood in a spaghettii western. The bus system is absolutely chaotic and the adrenalinic experience to bargain one of the transports is very stressing, with herds approaching you to sell any imaginable thing, even if you are under the protection of a Mouride. We took a “sept places”, one of the several Peugeot 505 station-wagons that have been adapted to the extreme conditions of Senegalese highways. The big crazy open urban market that constitutes the outskirts of the city is never ending. Everyone moves from one place to another, but no one seems to be doing anything productive.

The sept places was not the most comfortable way to travel, and we just had one stop when Mame Cheikh asked to stop the car in order to go to pray. Nevertheless when he told me this in French (prier) I understood that he wanted to go to the bathroom, and was weird that all men in the car followed him… Whatever, I’m getting use to the pray times: early in the morning (around 6:30), at 14:00, 17:30, 19:30 and 22:00, more or less… really mark the day here and makes you to structure your time in a different way.

I never realized when we left Dakar, because there is a continuous of small cities that extends the urban unproductive trade market, but at some point we abandoned the urban area and entering in the completely plane Senegalese rural landscape, very dry and quite death, with the exception of the honorable presence of the emblem of the nation, the creature that blows up Saint-Exupery’s imagination: “I pointed out to the little prince that baobabs were not little bushes, but, on the contrary, trees as big as castles” yes…. The Baobab!!! : ) This surreal inhabitant is all over the place, like performing a frenetic dance that follows rhythms out of the human’s time perception.

The other reason why the trip was too long was because to cross the Gambia River is necessary to take a ferry after the Senegalese border, and the last one was at 18hrs, so was impossible for us to even try to take it. Then, we needed to stop in the middle of the road, in a charmless place called Kaolack. Mame Cheikh knew the owner of the local pharmacy, so our stay was free, and he invites us to dinner with him. Everyone was laughing that my only talk was about baobabs…

When we came back to sleep, I looked myself in the mirror and found something strange, almost terrifying… at the beginning I do not quite understood but later I got it. I was just with black people the whole day, and a lot of people! And it was weird to see a white person, even the well known myself…

The day after, we woke up on time for the first pray and depart to KaoSlack bus station… bus station… another apocalyptic collection of sept places, street vendors, goats, garbage, unproductive zombies, etc… In the way from Kaolack to Karang, the border, I saw the real deep Senegal: a collection of small villages with rows of girls going to take water in the wells, kids taking care of the skeletal cattle and guys fixing their huts. Sounds stereotypical and stigmatized, but was like this. Even I had seen things like that in my travels for Latin-American, here the reality was so different, and my own trip had gone so far, that the emotion of the discoverer arose in my, I felt burning from the inside the flame that fueled the imagination of pasts generations and compensated the suffers of the big travelers… and all the epiphany was interrupted at the arrival to the border.

One of those wild borders. In both sides they were amaze of my passport, first time a Chilean appear in this part of earth, at least in the memories of the migration officers (that have been there for a while). They search in the list the requirements for this weird country, that they called Kili in wolof. In the Gambian side any attempt to extract money from me was dismissed when I mentioned the Gambian Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank as my employers. The last stage of the trip was to take the ferry close to the border and cross the broad River Gambia. One hour and we were in Banjul… the real trip had just started…


  1. "any attempt to extract money from me was dismissed when I mentioned the Gambian Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank as my employers"...the funniest thing I have ever read...

  2. Increíbles los Baobabs! que hermosos es como si estuviesen tomados de las manos bailando!
    qué historias!!! En GAMBIA!!

    un besototote!!

  3. Dany! Brillante lo tuyo, que buena experiencia loco, me fascina la fuerza vital que emana de tus palabras... Me rio mucho con tus percepciones, casi que las vivo en carne propia.
    Segui asi y no dejes de escribir que desde aca no dejamos de leerte, un gran abrazo..

  4. actualiza el blog djaimovi!!!