Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My amazing trip to Mali: The beginning

So, I'm sitting in my friends apartment in Bamoko, Mali, reflecting on the journey that has brought me to this spot. It all started when... (cue Wayne and Garth flashback

I woke up Monday morning extremely excited about my forthcoming trip to Mali. I had my bag packed, and needed to run a few errands before going to the ferry terminal. Basically all I had to do was get downtown, cash my check so that I could pick up my plane tickets, go get my tickets, go pick up my passport from the Malian consulate, go pick up my bags, and get to the ferry terminal in time to catch the 11:00 ferry, so that I could then check in by 2:30 and get on the plane at 4:00. No worries!

So, I go downtown and cash my check after checking the internet for 30 minutes while waiting for the bank to open, even got to buy a new bookbag and pair of sunglasses on the way. On schedule.

Went to get my plane tickets from my friend, the travel agent. He asks if I can come back in the afternoon because he doesn't have them yet. I inform him that will be hard because I'm supposed to be leaving that afternoon. He calls the people who have my tickets. They tell him my flight is canceled. I ask him to check again. He does and the flight is back on, but he still doesn't have my tickets. He asks if I can come back in an hour to get them. I say I need them now so I can go to the ferry. Eventually we worked out that I would go to the people who had them because it was on my way. Behind schedule.

I go next door to the Malian consulate to pick up my passport with it's new stamp. An old lady eating rice tells me the consular is sick and asks if I can come back in the afternoon. I politely insist that I can't because I'm supposed to leave in an hour and can we get it now. She goes and gets the key and we go get my passport. Still slightly behind schedule.

The okada (motor bike) driver takes me to my house where I get my suitcase and ready myself to ride around town on the back of a motor bike with a suitcase on my head. He scoffs and shows me how to put it between us. Only slightly behind schedule.

Our ride to town was uneventful except the suitcase causes me to lean WAY back on the bike, which is an ab workout that I'm going to write to Men's Health about (Sandra, there is nothing wrong with Men's Health, it is not a sleazy magazine!).

We get to the other travel agents who have my tickets. I ask them for my tickets and they tell me they need to print them out and that it will take about 15 minutes. I am definitely behind schedule now.

The okada driver then takes me on one of the scariest rides of my life through some CRAZY narrow streets with a pack of other okadas dodging in and around traffic, people, dogs, and waterdrains. We get to the ferry terminal at 11:30. The ferry is not there.

I buy my ticket, the ferry comes at 1:00, a friend of mine gives me a lift to the airport, and I then sit around and wait for my delayed flight to Dakar, Senegal until 6:00. Part one of the journey is done, we have left Freetown!

Landing in Dakar was no problem. It was actually really impressive from the air. It was night by the time we got there and there was light EVERYWHERE! Freetown is still working on getting light to people but Dakar has apparently no problems with that.

I get my luggage, no problem. Change some money, no problem. Go outside to get a taxi to one of the cheap guesthouses I looked up early and run into a problem. The taxi drivers in francophonic Senegal speak...French. I knew that was going to be the case but hoped that if I told them the name of a familiar hotel it would all work out. It didn't. Then I was surrounded by a bunch of guys who tried to "help" me with my suitcase. I wouldn't let go and kept insisting to the one who spoke English that I was fine and asked that they leave my suitcase alone. (I kept switching into Krio, like that would help) They kept shooing the taxi drivers off before I could talk to them and insisted that they had an "airport taxi", which looked just like all the other taxi's that would take me to my guesthouse. Finally one of their friends shows up in a taxi and they get me into the taxi. The guy who was supposed to be throwing my suitcase in the back followed the suitcase and told the driver to take me to a guesthouse. (I assume he also said, this guy is a sucker who doesn't speak French and we should take him for as much as we can) On the way I ask how much the taxi is going to cost and when the driver doesn't respond I use hand gestures and the guy in the back to help get my point across. The driver responds with 20,000 CFA's, which is about 50.00 US. I laugh at him and tell him no that I'll pay 1,000 CFA's which is closer to 2.50 US. They don't respond at this time. They take me all over the place, I get frustrated and point to 8 different places I could stay and they keep insisting they know the guesthouse I mentioned earlier. Finally we arrive at the place and the driver says he'll take 10,000 CFA's since we're "friends". I go up to 5,000. He says it's not enough and won't leave. I go in to talk to the guy at the guesthouse who tells me it'll cost 30,000 CFA's to stay there. He then shows me a room that has someone else's stuff in it. I'm not so excited about staying here and certainly don't think it's worth that much money.

Then the only guy I've met to this point who speaks any English says he knows of another place. I tell him I'm not paying any more money for cabs. He says not to worry about it and gets the same cab driver from earlier (who I eventually paid 8,000 CFA's (20.00 US!!!!)) to take me on a long circuitous route that I later find out lands us 200 meters from where we just left. I wind up staying at this place and English speaking guy brings my bag up to my room. Then he tells me he wants money for the help he's given me. I wind up giving him 2,000 CFA's because he did help me out, at which time he tells me he'll see me in the morning.

End of Day 1

1 comment:

Sandra's Latest... said...

I can hardly believe all of this. Oh wait a minute. I'm in Africa. I TOTALLY believe this. You've experienced the joys of travel in Africa. You're lucky you made it in one piece - alive and with your suitcase. Ok, so I also have to say - you did procrastinate quite a bit :) But hey, it's you... spur of the moment Justin. :)

Anyway, I just read your blog entry to my parents and they enjoyed it with me. I wasn't even going to comment about Men's Health. But at least I know you thought of me ;)

My dad has some good contacts in Senegal- will get those to you for the return trip...just in case. Should have thought of that earlier. Osha!

Alright, this is definitely long enough for a blog comment...

Can't wait to read part 2...