What a battle! 2

Dakar, Monday the 15th, after a refreshing and bracing shower welcome after almost 24 hrs of hard physical work, Pascal, Amison and I jumped in a cab heading to the bus station, to find a 7 seats car that would drive us to Ziguinchor, 280 miles southbound. It’s about 9:30 pm when we arrive in the bus station; we are weary but cool, almost serene. We deal with the first dispatcher that has come up to us; the place is dark, only lighted by some car’s and buses headlights. The only thing that matters to us at that moment is to get the best seats; all of us have tried the 3 last back seats: unbearable. While Amison was watching on our luggage, Pascal and I went for a very greasy omelette with chopped potatoes, our first meal for 24 hrs. When we’re back to the car, Amison is on but the car is not full yet. There’s just a young foreigner student crossbred who has took the 4th seat, that means 3 seats left to fill to be able to leave. Pascal and I get on, it’s 10:00 pm, I am sitting but nevertheless I fall in a deep sleep may be instantaneously. Midnight, I wake up, the car is waggled by the loading of luggage, they are covering it with a tarpaulin. All the seats are provided, another young student from Zig, a rather aged mother and probably her mature daughter. We leave at last, silence in the car. I love to be very tired when I travel, sleeping in a plane is like a double flight, and it works in trains, cars, whatever, the double trip. But I cannot sleep yet, the car stops 2 km further, the driver gets out and talks with a boy in dungarees, no sound in the car. The driver is back but he doesn’t shut his door, he’s trying to start up but no way. Finally the boy in dungarees push the car that starts, we’re gone. The mature daughter jump on the driver in Wolof, saying that it’s a long way with bad roads, and that she won’t leave with a bad car, she wants her money back or another car. She’s right of course but nobody in the car reacts, I’m so tired it’s like I’m hypnotized; I feel confident and secured and urged to move. Facing with such a low resistance, the driver has no difficulties to turn the rather good sense woman’s speech as nasty words. Silence! I slip and slide in a bottomless sleep without dreams. I feel good; the wrecked car rocks me.

I wake up, it’s 4:00 am and we are arrived in Kaolak only 125 miles away from Dakar. The driver has stopped to a gas station, the transmission clutch is out, and the car refuses to start. As I get out to piss, I point out that the headlights are very dim and I buy a coffee to a trolley man. Then I chat with the other passengers, “The woman was right”. I walk away and I sit alone on a chair by a fruit salesman. Ok! I know I don’t control the whole stuff; I’ve learned to wait. Air is cool why not me? Some travelers are lying down on the floor, under a shelter at the gas station’s edge, why not me? I stand up and stroll toward my traveling mates, the young student from Zig has just encountered a friend of him, and guess what? He’s a driver… hypnotized! He drives a good microbus, rather new, luxury indeed…still!

While we smile and joke with Pascal and the mates, the two drivers are bargaining the deal.

5:00 am we leave; cool! It’s still dark, dark violet! End of Kaolak and end of the real road, now it’s rather a hybrid way between the track and the road, the worst! We’re shaken, and swung in a funky dreamy way. I wake up! Pascal is laughing a hand on my shoulder “you can sleep man, but you’re falling!” The sun is just about to rise; it’s just beautiful, am I still dreaming? …Still! I keep my eyes on the unfolding landscape, surfing on the eternal present, colors are unfolding too, brighter and brighter. Suddenly the landscape slows down and stops, there are people standing, alongside the road below, while others are seating on the floor. The driver has got out of the bus, on the left side of the track I can see a white van, doors opened planted in the sand that have left the good way accidentally. No one seems seriously injured. It’s 7:00 pm on Tuesday the 16th; we’re following our way approaching the Gambia’s border. On the way we cross a blocked truck that could have been ours, Pascal and I, we’re looking at each other without a word. After the 5th truck that we have crossed blocked on the road, I’ve stopped counting, so many…

It’s about 9:0 pm; I drag myself out the bottom of the microbus to get to the customs office. When I’m through I give my passport to the driver and 2000 Francs to go faster. We’re in Gambia heading to the river of the same name, the natural border of Casamance. We all get out of the bus that has to queue to get on the ferry. We have time for breakfast but I’m not hungry, I order a coffee. Pascal can’t finish his boiled eggs, I bite his sandwish but I can’t swallow anything, my belly is not still. We stroll to the ferry, a young man asks me for a polish on my dusty shoes, ok but quick the boat is there and has begun to load. The young man takes all his time; he seems to like his job. Pascal is about to get on board he’s waving his arms to me. “You have time, don’t worry!” the young man said, I know is right, but not Pascal whom his remote face seems nervous. I have to relief my journeyman, I hurry the young man, he has no time to finish the second shoe, and I stride to the ferry. We’re sitting on board waiting for the end of the loading. I’m thinking of the young shoeshine man, this is what friendship takes. We have crossed the river, the borders, back in Senegal, and it’s about 10:pm when we’re getting to Casamance. We’re now in the most risky area where the rebels have committed their lasts attacks, …still! I wake up! Pascal is still sleeping like almost everybody in the bus. My belly hurts, I need to stop, but I’m eager to reach Zig. The run is disjointed, because of many military checkpoints. It’s midday when we arrive to Bignona; the military men want to keep Amison’s boots that they have found in the luggage, blah blah blah! My belly hurts, I am not hypnotized anymore. Amison has paid; we’re back on the track to Zig, last step. At last we approach the long bridge over the Casamance River, the road is very muddy, it has rained not so long ago. We have crossed the bridge, last stop, and last checkpoint under some sparkling saturated red Jacaranda trees. It’s 1:pm the light is at its brightest; it’s darn hot! Amison have tried to reach Asper on the truck by phone several times without success. Right now, that’s not the point; I have to get home fast, please! Let me reach the red little house…

To be continued…

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