Day 44: Fine, again

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Sat 18 Dec 2010 20:22
Day 44: Saturday 18 December 2010. SuNuGal Camping, Dakar, Senegal. N14 45.143 W017 30.154. Distance driven 264 km
Today hasn't done anything to improve my image of Senegal. We set off early to drive to Dakar, the first 18 km being on sand piste which was wonderful. We drove down the Langue de Barbarie in the early morning sunshine and watched armies of locals watering their crops by the side of the road.  They had very productive fields of rice and vegetables with nearly every field having its own well. Once we got onto the main road we steamed along on a new tarmac surface- the best road we had found in Senegal.  After all, it was the N2!
Although the road surface was new, the villages were scruffy and piled with litter and wrecked cars. The whole country exudes an atmosphere of decay, filth and scruffiness and yet the people, particularly the women, are immaculately turned out.
Coming into the small town of Thies there was a fork in the road where we turned right for Dakar. I noticed a road warning sign "Stop in 150 metres", slowed down and looked for the white line-  which wasn't there!.  There was an old narrow-gauge railway line crossing the road about 100 m from the warning sign, the rails were buckled and the track over-grown with grass with cows and goats grazing on it.  A train hadn't run on it for 20 years.
As soon as we crossed the track a policeman blew his whistle loudly and waved for us to stop.  By that time I was only doing 10 kph. He demanded my licence, which I gave him.  The funny thing was, that driving a RHD vehicle on the "wrong" side of the road, the police automatically come to the left-hand passenger door expecting to find the driver that side.  This guy was so thick that he asked for Jenny's licence, not realising that she didn't have a steering wheel in front of her! Anyway, he charged me with failing to observe a Stop sign, which I vehemently denied.  He took me back down the road and showed me a very rusty sign at the side of the road which hadn't seen a lick of paint for 20 years and wasn't amused when I laughed at it! He then gave me a ticket and confiscated my licence.  We had to drive 7 km into Thies, find the Commisariat Centrale, pay the CFA 6,000 fine (about 9 Euros) then go back and retrieve my licence. The whole thing is just a set-up to collect cash; there is no reason to have a Stop sign for a defunct railway, except to raise cash on a technicality.
Unfortunately, this incident on the back of being fleeced at the border and being pissed about by Customs and made to come to this dreadful city of Dakar just to get our Carnet stamped when it should have been stamped at the border, has turned me off Senegal in a big way.  We only came here because of the "supposed" threat of terrorist activity in eastern Mauritania but, frankly, I would rather take a chance of an Al Qaeda raid than come this way again.  The sooner we can run east for the Mali border the happier I shall be.
We are camped tonight in a small "beach resort" by Dakar Airport - the deal being if we have a meal at the restaurant we can camp for free.  We met up with a party of South Africans who work on a mine in NE Mauritania and were on their way back to SA on leave for Christmas, staging through Dakar airport. As one might expect we had a fairly liquid evening before the restaurant closed for the evening and threw them all out! Now we are all alone in the car park with the night watchman!
At 17.5 degrees west we are as far west as we will get on this trip.  I would have have to check the atlas, but I think this may be the most western point of Africa.  One interesting effect of this is the longitude effect give us a longer evening - 70 minutes of time after Greenwich and the latitude effect also makes for a later sunset.  It is getting dark here at about 1930, whereas back in freezing London it must be dark at least 3 hours earlier.
Being well into the Tropics now, we had a big sort-out yesterday and put away all our cold weather gear, fleeces, thermal underwear, blankets etc. WE contemplated sending them back to South Africa but decided on balance that we would rather put up with the inconvenience of keeping them aboard rather than risk losing them in transit.
Cash register!