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More hassle than Marakesh

Dakar, Senegal

After getting dropped on the outskirts we had to get another taxi to a 'petit' (cheap) hotel. The taxi was surprisingly expensive even though we had haggled it down. However the hotel he dropped us off at was even more of a surprise being £40 a night! Senegal was supposed to be cheaper than Mauritania! We took a look at the room anyway and noticed that there were no mosquito nets and saw 3 cockroaches running across the floor. When asking if there was a cockroach free room with nets, the receptionist said no so we left.

Walking down the road the taxi driver started following us on foot down the dark street until a security guard stopped him. We got talking to another security guard who directed us to a 'grand' hotel as that was all there was in the area and it was getting late.

We found a Novotel hotel round the corner and walked round the back into the ice cold reception. Not realising how hot it was until we'd stepped in the large foyer with a bar area, sculptures and desks, we immediately felt out of place. We went to the reception desk and the guy was very helpful. We asked what time checkout was, explaining we needed a lay in as it was currently midnight and we'd been traveling all day, he told us we could stay in our room till 4pm rather than 12. So we snapped up the offer and headed, paid the 96000CFA - we know, extortionate but we were pretty desperate, and headed to the 7th floor. After showers and watching some news on TV we fell asleep a little before 2am waking up at 8am with a hammer drill going off. Ben being half asleep told Kat it must be the aircon unit so Kat got up and turned it off only for the drilling to continue it's rude awakening. Ben waking up fully at this point called down to reception to complain. He was told the hotel is having renovation works from 8.30 to 3pm each day. Ben asked to speak with the manager and the receptionist informed him she would call up in 10mins.

We waited 20mins before calling again and saying we hadn't heard anything. She said another 10mins so we waited, at this point we had dressed and were ready to go down and speak with the manager directly when the phone rang. It was the manager who said there was nothing she could do when Ben asked for a full refund or an extra night for free. We said it was not good enough and we would come down and talk to her directly. Kat still looked pretty awful which helped with the sympathy vote when we spoke to her in her office. We told her that we were backpacking and because Kat was poorly she needed a good night’s sleep, so there was no issue about paying the 100euros for the room as the guy at the desk last night said we could lay in until 4pm. She said the staff member would have told us about the renovation works when we looked surprise and said if we had known this, we would have gone elsewhere because that’s how important a good night rest was for us. She called the night shift receptionist on his mobile to confirm this which he did-it would have been easy for him to say no so we were pleased he told the truth and said we didn't want him to get into trouble or anything. Her answer was that she wasn't going to hit him, which didn't bring much comfort but caused us to reply with an awkward laugh. So begrudgingly she let us stay another night for free on the condition that we checked out by 12 the next day.

We ventured out of the hotel in search for water and food which was a mistake as we were swamped first by taxi drivers and then street sellers. It was too much and even though it was a quick half hour outing, Ben ended up losing it with one guy selling rugs who was stuffing them in our faces and following us down the street. It was so bad that Ben took one of the rugs and wiped the sweat off of his forehead with it. Kat was mortified but not as much as the man trying to flog it. Let’s just say we quickened our steps and Ben got a bollocking when we got back to our hotel room...

The next time we re-emerged from our room was early evening and we headed to an internet cafe before going back to the hotel to eat. It was almost a celebration as it was Kat's first proper meal in over a week. It was only pasta and tomato sauce but it was better than Ben's citron chicken and not too rich for her delicate stomach. It was odd as smells were starting to make Kat feel really sick and Ben's chicken was one of those smells, so we left for our room once Ben had finished both dishes.

That evening we called Kat's dad from the hotel room's phone to say 'call us back!'
As Kat was feeling down in the dumps, speaking to her dad cheered her up loads. She managed to tell him to pass the number onto her mum who was in England staying with her sister for a few days. So after a while she gave up sitting by the phone and just as she was getting into bed the phone rang again! It was so lovely to hear everyone's voice but unfortunately the conversation was short due to the call being made from Georgina and Alec's home phone and it was most likely an expensive call.

The next morning we were off early to an internet shop to find a cheap place to stay in the city. It was a mission as the connection kept messing up and we were up against the clock to get back to the hotel in good time. Kat found one eventually that was only about 20mins walk away and although still a bit pricey, was cheaper than where we were.

Hotel Farid was about £40 a night and in the heart of the city near Independence Square, the markets and had a Lebanese restaurant across the street. We wondered around the town getting our bearings and dodging all of the sellers as best as we could. They actually have charity street workers (chuggers) here who all seem to be really tall and physically grab you when you pass. There were a few times when we nearly smacked them one as the harassments were getting a bit too much for us.

The hotel had free internet so we got stuck into doing our blog and didn't realise the time until we started getting peckish around 8.30pm. We'd eaten in a fast-food Lebanese place around lunch time and had given us a taste for falafels so we popped across the road to the restaurant. We sat down and Ben's face looked all of a sudden quite serious as he said he'd just ripped his trousers on a nail sticking out of the chair next to him. Kat told him to show his rip to her which was on his knee and fairly large, big enough to draw the waiter's attention so he could explain how it happened. Next minute the chair was taken away and the manager came out to apologise whilst we could hear the banging of a hammer coming from the kitchen. Accepting her apology and Kat trying to sooth Ben's somber mood, we tucked into a Greek salad, hummus, babagonoosh (amazing aubergine dip), flat breads and flag beers. All of which turned out to be free of charge as compensation for Ben's trousers. Two freebies in two days wasn't bad at all, even if it did mean Kat had to sew up the gaping hole in Ben's trousers.

It felt like de-ja-vu when we got us the next morning and went in search for another cheap hotel. A man started to follow us and told us that he knew of a cheap place to stay and led us to the owner’s house first before taking us to look at the rooms in the hostel. We would have never found it on our own and without a guidebook, the entrance was tucked away and we had to go up 3 floors to an apartment with several rooms in. Deciding to stay in the minimalist double room with shared bathroom for £15, we arranged to return in an hour with our bags. The man walked us back and waited outside our hotel. We knew this meant trouble because we knew he would demand payment for his services even though we had decided to tip him for his help. On returning to the Auberge Vieria, we paid the woman whose name was Binta and waited for the 800CFA change to give to the man who started to complain that it wasn't enough. Shocked by the reaction we gave him the 200 coin Ben had in his pocket to round it up to 1000CFA. However on reflection of this only minutes after he left did we find our balls and realise we should have probably told him to stuff it and say that what we gave him would have supplied us with water for 3 days! It's a shame how we can't get close to anyone here as they all want something from you.

It was that day when we met a German guy called David who was staying in the same hostel. He'd traveled a similar route to us from Morocco and on listening to his stories, was really unlucky at times. Finding out about his bag being stolen in Mauritania with his passport, camera, bank cards etc in, had trouble with police at the border whilst transporting a car for a man he met, giving 600euros to a diabetic man who may have been a con artist and getting the same illness as Kat. Although we were sorry for him to be poorly still, Kat was relieved that she wasn't alone and having someone relate to the symptoms. We told him about the antibiotics which helped a little but that it seems to take forever to be 100% again.

After taking some time out to relax we went in search of the Mali embassy where a kind old security man informed us that the embassy was where we were now standing but had moved over 10years ago. Looking at when our hotel map was printed, we spied a tiny date at the bottom saying 1988!
The man was really sweet and flagged down a taxi explained where we wanted to go and agreed a local, not tourist, fair for us.

At the Mali embassy we asked the diplomat what type of visas are available. He said that we're able to get a 5day transit visa at the border but didn't know the price. We had all ready done a little research into prices and he confirmed that the 30day visa was the same price as quoted on the internet, so we left our half filled in forms with him and decided the 5day transit visa would suite our needs better. We got in another taxi and asked to go to the Nigerian embassy this time. The driver didn't know where it was and had to call a friend and we were not sure if it had moved like Mali so couldn't gauge how far it was and ended up paying more than we should have. The Nigerian embassy was lovely and cool inside, but unfortunately the guy we spoke to about visas was not very helpful. His attitude was like he couldn't be bothered and it was confirmed when we told him we were traveling south and asked if we could get the visa from anywhere else. He then exclaimed that it's easier to get the visa in Benin or Togo and then turned his back on us and walked away. End of that conversation.

We walked back to our apartment from the embassy as it was only a few kilometers and stopped at a bar for some cold drinks along the way. When we got back to the apartment Binta was playing ludo with some friends and we could hear them all laughing as we laid down for a rest in our room, but the noise from the dice outside was too noisy to sleep.

It is was after 3days of being there that Kat realises the really pathetic fan in our room that was on setting 5 was in fact the slowest speed and 1 was the fastest. It was literally the day before we left so she wanted to cry at her stupidity at not checking it sooner as the room was still so warm with the fan going. We guess that because there was no electric or running water when we checked in and when the fan was first turned on, we just automatically assumed the fan was shit like the rest of the place so didn't question it. Not even when Ben went into David's room and realised that his fan was moving faster than ours. Idiot.

Pleased that we didn't need to stay in Dakar any longer for visas, we did some last bits and pieces on our last day like posting off Lizzie and Jenni's birthday presents and Kat's dad's father's day present-all were very belated which we apologise again for; went into an internet cafe to speak to our parents over webcam and lastly, find the fast-food place we had previously been to at Ben's desperate bid to have another veggie burger which consisted of the following: falafels, fried egg, cheese, a little salad, chips and ketchup all in a bun. It looked awful and how he is not fat Kat doesn't know.

Saying goodbye to David and Ben returning the key to Binta who was just sat in her bra, we made our way to the grand taxi and bus depot. Talk about being thrown to the wolves! We should have gotten used to it by now but it's tough when men are surrounding you and your bag demanding where you're going and are so close you have to push yourself out of the tightly knit human circle they form around you. Another technique we've found that helps clear some space is to turn around pretty forcefully with our rucksacks on.

Getting some breathing space we began walking down the road to a bank and were being followed by a few of the men who wouldn't take no for an answer. Stopping to have some water and to see if they'd also stop (which they did), Ben told them to stop following us because it was pissing us off. They backed off, but we still had to return there after we popped to the bank. Dread. Eventually after a bit of confusion regarding destinations and haggling over the cheapest way to get to Mbour, we boarded the cramped and battered 14 seater minibus. We were sat in the front seat and noticed a large hole in the floor where the gear stick was as we watched the road whizzing by underneath us. It took us 3 long and hot hours to drive the 83km to the outskirts of Mbour.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 9, 2009 from Dakar, Senegal
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
tagged Dakar

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