After all the excitement on Saturday, a friend from Saint-Louis showed up to Dakar to hang out, for lack of a better idea. Ollie wanted to go to the Village des Tortues with me. And honestly, if he hadn’t been there, I don’t think I would’ve felt comfortable going alone.
We showed up at the gare routiere to find a bus to take us there (there are buses that go along that route), but no one wanted to just send us along our way after pointing us in the right direction. We ended up hiring a tour guide, and he told us that it would be 15,000 Francs for the day, which is $30. That’s not a bad deal. Considering to hire a private care it would be about 30,000 Francs. At least that’s what they were asking before negotiations.
Before I continue, there are usually some stories that I’ll wait awhile before telling people, just because it is always a story about me getting myself in to a “situation” that may not be the best situation that I’ve ever been in. However, I can’t really just talk about the Turtles, because honestly, most of the day was the journey there, and Ollie and I being unsure if we were going to finish the day intact. Or even return to Dakar. So, here it is. And let me say something else, I never would have done this alone. If Ollie hadn’t been there, I would’ve walked away right at the beginning.
So, we get the guide, and it turns out we’re going to take public transportation all the way to the village. We hop in the first bus, and we’re waiting for it to go, and Ollie looks over to the sidewalk and see’s a security guard looking at the two toubabs in the car rapide, and he starts shaking is head. As if to say that this was our goodbye. I kind of panicked, and I wanted to go talk to the guard and ask him what he thought about the entire situation. So, I hopped out of the car, and dragged Ollie with me. Our guide wasn’t too happy with that, and then we began negotiating with another guy, cause I didn’t really feel comfortable with the whole situation, and was a little nervous. We ended up getting back in to the bus though and continued on our way. Then there was a police stop that probably took about 15 minutes. And both of us had forgotten to grab the copies of our passport. But luckily he just checked out the driver, and in a very scrutinizing manner. After a while, we got off that bus, and started walking. We walked about a half-mile before standing on the side of the road to wait for another bus. This was the second bus. Ollie got yelled at for sticking his arm out the window at one point. After the second bus, we got a car the rest of the way to the village.
Now, as I go over the story, it doesn’t sound that exciting, and sounds like we took a series of buses. No big deal, right? Well, often times, these buses break down. And when you start to get further away from the city center, this proves to be a bigger problem. Plus, I didn’t really trust our guide and was under the impression that he was going to just pull one over on us – which he did later. But the entire time, we weren’t really sure if we were going in the right direction or not. I got the name of a village, found it on t heap, and there was no problem.
In the car that we rented, we were driving on some back roads that were in very poor condition with massive potholes (yes, WAY worse than DH - believe it or not). At one point, we reach an intersection where we can go left or right. I knew exactly where we were cause I had looked at the map and knew we had to go left. But apparently neither the driver nor our guide knew that.
There was also a sign pointing to the village that I saw – and no one else apparently saw.
So, we waited to get directions from a guy on the side of the road, and turned left.
The village - The village was very cool. By cool, I mean: sweet, awesome, wicked, the bomb. The temperature was actually quite hot (~100F). It’s a place that serves as refuge for turtles that are endangered or neglected. When we were there, we had a guide show us around. The place is pretty small, and there was an entire section that was closed down because all the turtles had been rereleased back into the wild! YAY! Because there were just two of us, he told us to go climb in the turtle pens and pick them up and take our picture.
So, while we were only there for 30 minutes after a 1.5 hour journey of anxiety and uncertainty, it was very worth it. OH, the other thing I was nervous about was the fact that I had to go to the airport at midnight. I kept thinking – what if I don’t make it back in time??????? Luckily, we were back before it even got dark. And going back was much easier than arriving. We only took two buses to get back.
Now, for another installment of: Monica gets into an payment dispute with a guy with who she can barely communicate with.
So, when we were leaving, the guy told us 15,000. But we ended up spending less than that. But within the 15000 was 5000 for him, as payment for his services. So, I assumed that I was going to give him 5000. This is after we paid for his transportation all the way there and back. But because we didn’t spend the entire allotted 10,000 on buses, we have to give the rest to him. He didn’t make this clear at the beginning of the trip. So, I got very upset and tried to give him the 5000 and leave. But the guy completely ignores me and looks at Ollie and says, in English, “This is man-to-man.” That’s when I just about lost it. And of course, a crowd is gathering. And I keep saying “No. No. No.” But he keeps ignoring me. But I have the money in my pocket, so pissing me off isn’t going to help. Ollie, who speaks much better French than me, talked to the guy and figured it out, and apparently that’s the way it’s done. So, we gave him the extra money, I gave him the dirtiest glare I could muster and pushed all the gawkers out of my way in the hunt for a taxi. Then, to top it off, I walked up to the taxi and asked him how much he would charge to take us back to the hotel, and he says 3500! I looked at him and said “No, 1500.” He came down to 2500 pretty quickly, but I refused to pay a single franc over 1500. Then he came down to 2300, which I thought was lunatic. As I walked away he came down to 2000. But I just ignored him. We found a taxi that would take us for 1500. There was no way I was going to get ripped off by a taxi driver after Mustafa, our guide, completely pulled one over on us. If only I could speak more French, I would have put him in his place.
But, it was a good day otherwise, with a lot of mystery and suspense. Unfortunately, it was about my well-being. But like I told Ollie: it’s situations like these that always make for the best stories later on. Kinda like the time when I got into a spitting match with the Egyptian taxi driver, the time Beth, Geoff and I thought we were gonna get kidnapped and almost saw a guy lose his hand, the time I lost my passport in London (this was after and before a series of other events that would make any parents hair turn grey), or the time I got carsick and threw up 7 times in one day – setting a personal record.
So, this is the end of my travels. And as I’m writing this, the sun is chasing us west across the Atlantic. We have headwinds, so unfortunately the flight is 8 hours instead of 6. My first class of my last semester of undergrad starts in 3 hours, and I’ll just be landing in JFK. I’ll get back to MSP this afternoon, welcomed by my favorite roommate (who I miss). But then I’ll crash. Immediately.
I’ll try to remember to post before going to sleep though. Thanks for reading the past month! And if I think of anything that is related to Senegal or travels or anything else in the near future, I’ll post it, but I’ll be in Minnesota, so I don’t know if it’s really as fair. One thing I am looking forward to is: Applesauce and Pad Thai. But not at the same time. I’ve been thinking about those two, because of all my stomach problems, I start dreaming of food that I know I can digest without running to the bathroom.