Touchdown in Dakar
Dakar Travel Blog› entry 2 of 10 › view all entries
After an incredibly long trip and me going on close to 48 hours with only a couple short naps, we touched down in Dakar after a 3 hour flight from Casablanca. If you've never been to Dakar before, let me just tell you, this airport is possibly one of the most, if not THE MOST, chaotic in the world. I was thanking the good Lord that our friend Jesse would be meeting us because honestly, I don't know how we would have made it without him. The hustle is so intense that as soon as you leave the safety of the gates, if you don't speak French or Wolof, you'll be tempted to run screaming into the night (or day). You have people trying to take your luggage and go to their taxi whereupon if you agree, they'll charge you an exorbitant fare.
Even the porter I ran into after passing customs was an aggressive little man. Since I had no experience with any of this, I allowed him to usher me to the luggage carousel where he waited for me as I waited for my luggage. Both Matt and I were starting to worry because as the baggage was coming out, we were still not seeing ours and it was beginning to seem as though it had been lost. Just when we were almost resigned to having to come back and check on its following day arrival, Matt's djembe case packed with clothes came through the chute and our hope was renewed. After an extended period, I spotted my first suitcase and then the next and plucked my luggage off and the porter promptly loaded it onto a cart. I was perfectly capable of handling my own luggage (I always say, "If you can pack it, you can haul it.") but was naively thinking this was a gesture of kindness provided by staff at the Dakar airport.
As we moved from the carousel to the final security point where our baggage would go through a final screening, we took stock of our surroundings and waiting on the outside of the contained area were hundreds upon hundreds of Senegalese swarming about in anticipation of the arrival of whoever it was they came to meet. Although I didn't feel we were in danger, it was still an incredibly intimidating sight. I kept asking Matt, "Do you see Jesse?" and finally, miraculously, Matt spotted him in the immense crowd and we felt rescued! We weaved through the crowd and at last greeted Jesse with a feeling of great relief. This was Jesse's 3rd trip to Senegal for an extended time and he had a really good grasp of the Wolof language so it was very comforting having him with us. My porter was still following me after placing my baggage on the conveyor belt of the x-ray machine. As a newbie I didn't realize what he was after was a tip. I told Jesse what went on and he waved the man away who left perturbed since all I offered him was $1 US. At least it was something! In most situations, I'm beyond generous when it comes to tipping; when someone catches me by surprise because I didn't understand their intentions, I'm not so generous...especially when it's something I'd prefer to handle myself. Lesson learned and next time, I do it myself and politely decline with a firm 'non merci'!
We were then introduced to Jesse's companion whose name was Pape M'Baye. He was accompanying Jesse to help us with luggage and the taxi business. I later learned this was our drum teacher Abdoulaye's step-son-in-law who is married to his step-daughter Ouleye. Jesse then decided to change some money over and after negotiating an acceptable exchange rate with one of the shady guys, he counted the money but not before Pape M'Baye did a thorough counterfeit inspection of each bill handed over. Everything ended up being legitimate and we bypassed all of the aggressive taxi drivers towards one that Jesse and Pape had arranged earlier. This driver was parked down the road a little ways and I've been told that if you ever take a taxi from this airport, that's the trick to getting a decent fare. Pass all of the drivers right out front and walk down the road a short ways. There is where you'll find a fair price to your destination.
We loaded up the car and headed to our teacher's family house in Dakar in the Cite Fadia neighborhood some time around midnight. There are no street signs or names in these places but somehow, people just know how to get where they're going and Jesse directed the taxi driver to this road and the next before finally turning onto a sandy road, making a couple more turns and stopping in front of our host house. I was surprised to step out onto a sandy road since I'd never imagined such a scene...I suppose I assumed all roads were dirt if not paved. We unloaded and minutes later were being greeted by a lovely Senegalese woman who shook our hands and directed us to where we'd be sleeping as others brought our luggage into our quarters. Being so tired and out of it, I didn't register that this woman was our teacher's wife, Aida. Not until the next day after a good rest was I cognitive of that fact. Anyway, after spending some time catching up with Jesse and sharing some of the day's tales, I prepared for a much needed rest after familiarizing myself with the new space. Then, as Jesse and Matt continued the conversation since they were bunking in the same room, I went to my room and fell asleep...HARD!