Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Joys of Transport: Rainy Season

As I may have mentioned before, traveling is by far my least favorite part of living in Senegal. Most of the time Peace Corps Volunteers (like most other people here) get around on what the French would call transport public, which here means transportation that is open to the public (as opposed to private cars and buses) and not "public transport" in the usual sense. The vehicles tend to be dirty, slow, unreliable and rickety, and (with a few exceptional stretches) the roads are often crater-filled, crumbling, or very washboard-esque.

Last month, on our way from my village to Kédougou, the car that my Peace Corps neighbors and I were riding in broke down. It wasn't a total surprise when the clutch fell out of the car floor (the engine sounded like a dying foghorn filled with wrenches) but, as we were nowhere near anywhere, it was pretty inconvenient. Luckily, a guy we know from my village drive by in his truck and wound up taking us (and, somewhat grudgingly, the rest of the passengers) the rest of the way in to town.

Salémata to Kédougou, July 2012 
Several days later, on the way back, we jinxed ourselves by marveling aloud at the lovely weather, the total absence of flooding, the cleanliness of the vehicle, and the competence of the driver. We were thinking that we would get back earlier than expected, have the afternoon to hang out, pull water, sweep out our huts. And then we came upon a big truck, hopelessly mired in a deep and slippery mud puddle, completely blocking the road. Some people opted to wait in the car, some tried to help push and dig and pile rocks under the truck's wheels, and my two PCV neighbors and I decided to walk. We didn't have much baggage and we didn't think that we were too far from Diara Pont, one of their villages. It turned out to be farther than we thought, but again, thanks to a kind man in a sturdy truck, we got a ride in most of the way.
 Kédougou to Salémata,
 July 2012 

And then there's the turnoff in Salémata to continue to the village out toward Oubadji and Kékéressi. There's a small cement bridge there where the road crosses a seasonal stream, or there was until last month. To be fair, the cement part is still there, it's just the road part that's gone missing. 

Kékéressi turnoff on the Salémata Road, July 2012

July 2012 
August 2012
Bigger trucks and less-rugged cars won't be able to go out past Salémata until it's repaired. In the meantime, the mayor and some of the men from around the village stacked rocks and sacks of clay dirt over a shallow area just upstream, so motorbikes and 4-by-4s the ambulance and people on foot can cross without too much difficulty. It's not ideal, but it will have to do for now. 

Of course, despite the terrible roads, the erratic departure times, and the falling-apart cars, I do travel. I go because it's necessary for work, because it's fun and interesting to see new places, and because it's wonderful to visit friends in other cities and villages. I make the most of obligatory trips; while in Dakar, taking care of office-type things, I stayed with my friends Rachel & Emily and their adorable baby boy, and now that I'm in Tamba for a USAID meeting I get to catch up with Emma and Marie, a couple of my favorite PCVs from my training group. After the meeting's over I'll continue to make my way south, on down to Kédougou, eyes on the road and fingers crossed, hoping for the best.  

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