Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, January 24

Transportation 101

The transportation system in Mboro is quite interesting. There's basically one main road that runs through town from cities inland toward the coast, then curving south to Dakar. The garage is on the far side of town, by the coast. And by garage I mean the hub of transportation and vehicle repair.

First I'd like to say that the quality of the vehicles here leaves much to be desired, as most should've been scrapped 100,000 miles ago. It is not uncommon to have a seat without a cushion, a window without a crank to open it, or a door without a hole to the outside world. A/C and seat belts are a luxury I've only had in official Peace Corps transportation. A radio, on the other hand, is almost always rewired so that wonderful Senegalese music can be played at astonishingly loud volumes in all powered modes of transportation. Curtains are also hung to block out the scorching sun. And one final note, official Peace Corps training mandates checking all 4 tires before entering a vehicle and taking down the license plate number for possible future reference.

Throughout Mboro one can find the following modes of transportation:

Sept Place: seven seats, as the name implies, for sale in a station wagon going directly to one place. Destinations are predetermined popular locations/ major cities. The car will make stops on long trips for food, gas, etc... and has been used to run errands for the driver (10 min at the pharmacy once, no joke).

Car Rapids: Also known as alhums, ndiage ndiaye, or death traps these are conversion vans outfitted to be like buses that are loaded from the back, filled to 150% capacity, and also have predetermined destinations. They are the most dangerous form of transportation and also prone to frequent accident and even tipping over. Unlike the sept place anyone can get on and off at any time making a simple 40 minute trip by car take nearly 2 hours by car rapid... which begs to inquire about the name, but we'll let it go this time.

Clandos: A roving taxi of sorts or trolley in the states; it has one fixed route that it circles. The taxi drives up and down the main route in town and one can get in or out at any point for one fixed price of 100 CFA or about $0.22.

Taxis: The actual kind that will drive you anywhere you want to go. However, you're likely to get ripped off unless you know the local price.

Dad's Car: Like most Senegalese people, my host Dad dreamed of having a car of his own. And his dream finally came true just around the time I got to Senegal. Buying an old BMW (as in so old you'd probably scrapped it in the States but someone threw it on a boat and sold it to my Dad), with failing interior parts that accompany all the failing parts under the hood, my Dad has spent unknown sums continuously trying to fix the contraption. It has spent more time at the garage then outside our house, of this I'm sure.

Chariot: Over glorified name for a cart made of planks of wood thrown over a pipe "axle" with two wheels and pulled by a miniature donkey. Mostly commonly used to haul product across town, but people have been seen catching a slow ride from time to time.

Bike: Peace Corps issued at 2 inches too short for my body... I feel like an adult riding an over sized kid's toy. Not to mention it doesn't exactly work in the sand. This object sits sadly in my room.

Foot: This is provided by yours truly, but must be fed protein and kept hydrated.

There is also one common myth I'd like to clear up: there are no elephants in Senegal. It seems a bit hard to push out of the mind, but elephants are typically found as transportation in Asia. Camels do exists, though not in Mboro.

I'll leave you with one final thought. The number one cause of death in Senegal is car accident. Not Malaria, AIDS, or any other horrible health consideration. And not death by political unrest of any kind either. It's car accident. This is probably why on nearly every car rapid the word "allhumdulylah" is painted as often as decoration is appropriate. This is Arabic for "thanks be to god." I can only imagine they wish to say thanks in advance for a safe trip to any destination, because that's what I do every time I get back to my house safely.

No comments:

Post a Comment