The Kiffa Trip
Day 2

Tambacounda

to   Bakel


Early the next morning, refreshed from the last European-style comfortable bed, shower and meal we would see for quite a few days, we headed towards the large local market which the guide book told us was "too good to miss" ... sorry, to the scribe who wrote the guide book but you must have been there in better days or been in need of more plastic sunglasses and garish plastic beads from the Far East.

Plenty of vegetables and household supplies ... an extremely pungent meat market and little else of interest apart from a travelling Marabout equipped with plenty of charms, incantations and a very large snake ... who was surrounded by a huge crowd of spellbound locals ... on the point of running like the clappers, should the snake move one inch closer !

A local taxi took us to the main Taxi Garage where we saw a fully laden taxi departing for Bakel just as we arrived. Had we ignored the guidebook and not visited the market,
the next 4 hours would not have been spent waiting for our car to fill up ! By now it was approaching midday and as most Africans tend to travel in the early morning and late afternoon ... new customers were sparse.
 
There is little advantage being Numbers 1 and 2 in the queue when no-one else turns up .. unless of course you wish to pay for the other vacant seats .. in which case you leave immediately .. as the afternoon drew on, I was sorely tempted !

African Taxi Garages are no different to many bus and taxi terminals world-wide .. set on the  outskirts of town and not in the best or cleanest areas.  As always you are constantly beset by swarms of itinerant traders and small boys in rags with their large empty tins, which once held tomatoes, looking up at you with large soulful eyes, begging for money. It is very difficult to resist these poor children, whose survival really does depend on their begging talents. The trouble comes if you succumb to one before the taxi is on the point of departure .. word soon gets round and the rest of the swarm descends like magic. Fights begin between the lucky and the unlucky or the largest and the smallest and the ploy of saying "Sorry, no more change", results in a crowd of  sad-faced youngsters who will wait with you for hours ... just in case !!

It also has to be said that taxi-garages in West Africa are notorious magnets for attracting their fair share of rogues and people on the lookout for easy targets.  It is sensible not to take anything in your baggage that you cannot afford to lose and to keep important items, such as passports and money, well concealed amongst your clothing. In saying that .. sometimes a small extra fee is charged for your baggage ... which actually pays for someone, in the employ of the driver, to keep a very careful eye on all the baggage in, and on top of, the taxi. In an unknown garage it is sometimes impossible to distinguish between those on guard and those intent on stealing .. but they know. In my experience, with many long waits in many garages, when it is impossible to keep your baggage under constant supervision, this system has been completely trustworthy. Regardless of your colour or nationality, having bought your ticket, you and your baggage are respected customers .. the majority of Africans hate thieves and deal out severe punishment to those they catch.

Our entertainment was provided by two feuding goats ... head-butting each other with an ear-splitting crack and staggering off as though drunk ... passing travellers wanting to try out their English and a young  Gambian entrepreneur who was trying his luck by separating plastic ropes and weaving the single strands into small colourful net bags ... with which, he proudly told us, he was going to make his fortune.

Over 4 long hours our "
limousine" gradually filled up .. and we set out on the road to Bakel .. well for half a mile .. then another stop .. whilst the local gendarme checked all our papers on the outskirts of town. This happened to be the most interesting thing to occur for the next
3 hours, whilst we followed the course of Senegal's major railway link between Dakar and Bamako in Mali. Burnt scrub either side of the road .. not a train in sight ( evidently only two trains a week slowly traverse this route ) .. the occasional flocks of beautifully coloured tiny birds ... thankfully a good road ... but precious little else.



Arriving in Kidira, the jumping-off point for those passengers crossing the border into Mali, passports and papers were again inspected and we were surprised to find ourselves being asked to leave the taxi. Fears of yet another long delay were relieved by the baggage being transferred to a bus, newly arrived from Kayes in Mali, which took us comfortably through rolling hillsides to Bakel ... on the banks of the River Senegal .... our stop for the night and our first sight, as darkness fell, of Mauritania across the river ...


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Day 3