Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Trip

Ok, so I said that the trip up was a long story for a less tired day. I'm sitting on the train from Darmstadt to Stuttgart, so I have a little time.

We were planning on leaving on Monday, but so many last minute things kept coming up that we didn't get to leave until Tuesday. Our alarm didn't go off on Tuesday morning, so instead of leaving the Youth Center at 5 am like we were planning, we didn't get to leave until 7:30. So we got to the place were we could take a sete-plus, bought our tickets, bargained with the driver about the price for our luggage, and then hit the road.

We had some amazing luck on the first ferry. We got there right as it was loading and we were the second to last car on. We drove on and it took off. You can wait like three hours for that ferry, so we were pumped. We crossed into Senegal without incident and got to Ziguinchor in the late morning and then the fun began. There were no sete-plus drivers who wanted to drive from Ziguinchor to Senegal and they were trying to sell us tickets for a fairly convoluted route with several car changes. Finally after enough people were yelling loud enough they called a driver.

The driver came and we paid for a ticket. The guy gave us change, but no tickets and then disappeared. Luckily, our Creole is good enough that we could insist that we had paid and some other people who saw us joined in, so they gave us the tickets. Then they tried to charge us four times the normal amount for our bags, and we were not having that! For some reason Guineans love to yell when they are bargaining, so like 20 minutes of bargaining later we paid double the normal price and a bunch of guys gave the car a push start to hit the road.

When we had been on the road for about 45 minutes the sete-plus broke down. It was early afternoon and we waited for more than two hours while people were taking parts out of the engine and banging them with a hammer. Miraculously, they got the car working, but not before I had gotten a bit of a sunburn. They good thing was that we broke down close to a gas station that had cold coke. Fanta Fiesta never tasted so good!

We crossed the border into the Gambia without any problems, but they did make us pay a little over two bucks each to get in. Then we got to the fairy in Senegal and to our amazement it was just docking on the right side of the river. We ate some interesting sandwiches with meat, noodles, and salad all between bread and chatted with some of the vendors while the fairy was unloading. Right as it started to load an ambulance came roaring up so they pulled all of the cars on and took off across the river without even waiting for the fairy to fill up. I don't really know if I can call that good luck, but it did make the river crossing much quicker.

We didn't have any problems crossing the last border into Senegal again, but the Gambians did make us pay a little over two bucks each again to get out of the country. After that we drove, and drove, and drove. With aching butts and knees we pulled into Dakar at about one in the morning on Wednesday.

We found a taxi driver who spoke enough English to take us to the place that was supposed to be right by the WEC guest house. He dropped us off, but unfortunately, we couldn't find the guest house. We found another guy who spoke English at a restaurant and he knew exactly where the guest house was, or so he said. He took us to the world learning institute. It did have a "w" in the name, but that was about it. Then he said that he knew for sure where it was so we went with him again. This time he took us to a bilingual school. It was about 2:30 am and we were exhausted from the trip and from dragging our bags all over Senegal, so we asked him if he knew where a cheap hotel was. He took us to a little hotel and it was definitely cheap. Scary, but cheap.

We could stay in the room until noon, so we took a shower and went right to bed. Jason woke up around 10:30, went to a nearby gas station, and bought us a huge chocolate bar and some strawberry milk for breakfast. It was sugary and nice :)

We left the hotel at noon and went to a gas station that had a pizza restaurant and a chicken restaurant in it. We spent the rest of the day munching pizza and chips and chicken and french fries and finished it all off with a pound of coconut ice cream (which we split). It was our celebration of normal American food... hehe

From there we got a sweet price on a taxi to the airport. The ticket agents were helpful and knowledgeable, which we were not expecting, so that was a pleasant surprise. The flights to Brussels and then to Frankfurt were smooth and pleasant.

In Frankfurt we had a bit of a scare when only one of our bags came out on the belt. We waited for about 15 or 20 minutes after the belt stopped going (because the screen still said our flight on it) and sure enough it popped out with the luggage from the next flight. The lady from the German YFC guesthouse picked us up and we have been having a great time since then. The first real nights sleep in the YFC guesthouse was amazing and the second one was pretty nice as well :)

So, we are here and safe. On Monday when I realized that we were not going to have a chance to leave I decided that this trip was in God's hands. Every time I started to wonder if we were going to make it or worry about something I just prayed about it (so I was praying a lot, but not worrying at all) and it almost couldn't have gone better.

So, that's the trip in a nutshell. We have been having fun in Germany but the efficient and nice public transportation system has been quite confusing. I snapped a picture of Jason puzzling over the bus route.

Yesterday we went to the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Jason was quite giddy when he was preparing his camera gear.