For over a month, I experienced several broken down vehicles, a robbery, the vehicular death of a goat, two riots, a short detention, a dodgy would-be host, a forced tryst with a strange man, and many other setbacks.
I arrived in Dakar, bent, not not broken. I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically, but I had reached my final backpacking destination so I mustered all the energy I could to finish strong.
Dakar turned out to be my oasis; suddenly, all the pain and suffering I had experienced on the road was worth it. The Senegalese people were very warm and hospitable, the food delicious, the weather not as hot (surprise!); but most important was the fact I had done it! I had traveled by road from Lagos to Dakar. For over a month, I experienced several broken down vehicles, a robbery, the vehicular death of a goat, two riots, a short detention, a dodgy would-be host, a forced tryst with a strange man, and many other setbacks.
Immediately upon arrival, I said what turned out to be a pretty lengthy prayer. Mixed in with my gratitude was a not so gentle reminder that I was done with adventure. There really was no need for any more hairy situations; it was now time to just relax. I needed to be very clear on this.
My prayer was answered! But first, a parting gift from ms. Adventure; I couldn’t find the house I would be staying at. The taxi dropped me off at the farthest point it could go because of the sand* (more on this later), so I hopped out, confident that I was only a few minutes walk to my destination. I thought that if I followed the numbers down the road, I would arrive at no. 215.
I walked and I walked and I walked. And then I walked some more. No number 215. How could this be? Certain that I must have missed it, I decided to walk back. No luck. I swallowed my pride and asked some ladies sitting outside their homes, but they responded in Fulani. After it became obvious they didn’t speak any French, I moved on to my next suspect; I asked an older man, but he too spoke only Fulani. What? Does nobody speak French here??
Thankfully, I found a young guy walking along. I asked him if he spoke French, and when he answered me positively, I hugged him. It was awkward, but I was desperate. I told him where I was going and asked about the numbering of the houses, and he responded with a hearty laugh, telling me that they didn’t go by numbered addresses there. He asked me for the name of my host. Miraculously, he knew the family and even though he was on his way to pick up his daughter, Moussa decided to walk me to the house, which was in the opposite direction. He told me I would never find it by myself. I did not argue.
We walked on the thick sand until he identified a house belonging to the family of the lady whose name I mentioned. An elderly woman came out, and while she was part of the family, this unfortunately was not the house I would be staying in. I felt so bad for Moussa; he was already late. Luckily, the elderly woman got wind of what was going on and she decided to walk me to her daughter’s house. I thanked Moussa and left with grand ma. Back on the thick sand we went. The poor lady tried to make small talk, but my Fulani is non existent, so I just smiled every time she said something.
Surprisingly enough, the number of the house was no. 6 (I never would have found it by myself). The caretaker of the house, Mansour, had stepped out, so some lovely elderly women insisted that I sit with them and wait for him. It was incredibly difficult to understand them, but body language is a wonderful thing. Again, I just smiled, until Mansour returned.
The house belonged to my friend, Walli’s, mother-in-law. She had never even heard about me, but because I was Walli’s friend, she opened her home to me. To ensure I didn’t get stranded, I had called Walli in Paris, who then passed on messages to his mother-in-law. She in turn, informed Mansour about my arrival. In other words, African hospitality!
With the exception of my first hour where all this happened, my stay in Dakar was quite relaxing. I went sightseeing and met some of the nicest people. The Senegalese people go out of their way to make you feel welcome; it was easy for me to fall in love with Dakar. From the people to the monuments, to the beaches, to the nightlife, to the slave port and much more, Dakar is definitely one of my favorites cities. Period.
Visiting Gorée island was one of the most satisfying things. I was able to visit all or most of the slave ports along the West African coast.
The history of Jollof rice: I got a crash course on Jollof rice; was informed by a lovely family that this tomato-based rice is actually named after an area in the Senegambian region (an old confederation of present day Senegal and The Gambia) called Jolof. Jollof rice was coined by foreigners who refered to it as rice by the Wolof/Jolof people. It’s locally still called Thiebu Dienne. I could not believe my ears, I always thought ‘Jollof’ was a Nigerian name. I guess Nigerians don’t own everything? <Insert confused emoji>.
Besides visiting all the slave ports along the coast, another thing I did was taste Jollof rice in every country. I wanted to, once and for all, settle the Jollof wars: who had the best Jollof in West Africa, and by consequence the world. The result? Well, my Nigerianness would not permit me to say anything other than Nigeria. So with the exception of Nigeria, I am happy to announce that Senegal has the best Jollof rice. It’s not even really close. Take that, Ghana.
Dakar was my last stop on this road trip, which means this is the end of this particular series. It started out as a great idea in Lagos, became a terrible idea somewhere between Lome and Conakry, and then ended as the decision of a lifetime in Dakar. This is not the end of my travels, but it is the completion of a significant part of my journey. My journey as a traveler, and my journey as a man.
One more country to write about. Well, I went to a few more, but I am tired and getting rather busier by the day, so you get one more. I am thankful to God for sparing me throughout this adventure. I am surely a better person for surviving it.
Oh by the way, are you going to Guinea anytime soon? Hit me up, I’ve got about one hundred thousand Guinean Francs for you. Seriously, it’s all yours.
*Sand: There are several streets in Dakar that are filled with sand. It feels like you are at the beach, but you are smack in the city so it looks and feels weird. Sometimes the sand is so thick, cars cannot drive through.
Next stop: South Africa
Song of the day: Je Suis Désolé by Sidiki Diabaté. I was initially going to use a Youssou N’Dour song, but Sidiki is of the new school and I don’t want to be left behind! I love the way he combines traditional sound with modern beats.
21 thoughts on “LAGOS 2 DAKAR: MY WEST AFRICAN ODYSSEY. (7E PARTIE – Senegal: La Fin)”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire series!! Your stories are fit for an adventure novel lol. I definitely plan to visit Senegal soon… by air lol.
Enjoy the rest of your travels and keep
Thanks Fis! I appreciate the support. And good idea re traveling by air; “do as I say, not as I do”, lol
Hey Goga, you’re trip sounds amazing. I’m looking at doing something similiar next year. From Lagos to Dakar by the coastal road. How long was your trip? Would 5 and a half weeks be enough?
Thanks Ben. My trip was just over a month, so your allotted time is definitely enough; you might just have to make quick decisions about where you stay long enough to really enjoy a place or where you cut your trip short (there will be a lot of those)! Good luck
Did you get visas for SL, Liberia and Guinea? Or just pay ‘fees’ at the borders.
Seems to be pretty difficult getting visas for those countries from Australia.
No I used a local passport for this leg of the journey. If you are starting in Lagos, I would try to get the visas there. Getting it by the borders is a lot of stress and you will be cheated. Not worth the hassle
A hard road travelled but so worth it right?
I truly enjoyed sharing in your experience. I can’t help but pray I have a less eventful one when I start my road trip… loooool
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Thanks for coming along, Akosua. Hoping you have a fun but less eventful trip. Anything I can do to help. Anything besides paying my brother a commission!
Wow! I just spent more than a few minutes reading through this entire series. Thank you so much for documenting your trip!
I really want to spend about a month in Senegal this June but the flight ticket costs are discouraging. It just occured to me this afternoon that there might be a bus route. I read that a direct bus from Cotonou to Dakar will take about 41 hours! Also that it’s best to break down the trip to smaller trips. Reading your account means I have to be very careful with that though (I would’ve burst into tears if I faced some of the things you did).
I will do it though. I’ll find a way to get from Abuja to Dakar by road. One thing I’ve learned from the many bus trips I took from Lagos to Accra as a student at the University of Ghana is that it’s always best to go with proper luxurious buses. They can expertly navigate the boarder authorities and you don’t have to worry much. Also, they take full responsibility for your safety.
Longer comment than I planned but thanks again!
Just an update that I did this trip. I traveled from Abuja – Lagos – Cotonou – Ouagadougou – Bobo Dioulasso – Bamako – Dakar. I stayed a night in each city (didn’t have a lot of time as I was resuming work in Dakar) so I spent exactly one week on the road.
I lived in Dakar for six weeks after that and yeah it was amazing. I lived in Mamelles and could walk to the Plage des Mamelles and the Monument. Goree was gorgeous, yes.
Everyone told me “You shouldn’t be doing this alone as a young woman” “Tu es très courageuse” but it was alright. I ended up not saving much money on the road trip but it was an incredible experience. I flew back to Nigeria after six weeks and I was sad to leave.
Wow! I’m literally giving you a standing ovation right now. That is gutsy, what you did. We should def connect in Lagos or Abuja in the coming weeks. Need to meet you in person.
Haha I don’t have amazing stories like yours but it’d be great to chat! I live in Abuja and would be happy to meet up.
I love your adventures Goga, I wish I could do the same but with a travel companion. I planned a road trip from Lagos to Abidjan some years back but couldn’t get any of my friends to buy into it, so I shelved it. I just got back 5 days ago from a 10 day trip to Senegal, (not by road). It was very relaxing and fun but as an English speaker language was a major barrier. I also kept a diary but not as interesting as yours.
Hey, I know the feeling. Sometimes our friends don’t see the value in trips like these. I am happy you got to see Senegal though. Keep forging your own path!
I enjoyed reading the entire series, Goga!
I’m off to make this same trip with a couple of people in a few weeks but thankfully, not with public transportation.
About that Guinean currency… still got it?
Thank you. And yes, I still have the “worthless outside of country” currency. Want it? 🙂
Simply wow! Marco Polo-esque sturvz
Bros I hail you.
I was just supposed to just skim and continue my planning, but you sabi yarn die. And i digested it all in a sitting. —->some below:
“Every time I dipped my hands into my pocket to pay exit and entry “fees”, I cursed Africa.”
“but these women, who I didn’t have much regard for earlier in the day, were in an African style Mexican Standoff against Guinean gendarmes”
Like some folks here, i’m planning of doing same, but flying into Dakar and working my way back to Lagos in early November. And would love to pick our brains more (already following you on twitter). Questions plenty
I have suggested this to friends severally but no takers and time keeps ticking. So I’d be going in November, logistics permitting.
The most pertinent take away for me here (your write-up and the comments) is that i am not as psycho as my intentions elicit for some folks. it is comforting to know that there are kindred spirits out there.
Thanks for sharing.
Wow. Thanks so much for the very kind words, bro. People like you make writing worth it. Happy to share any knowledge (both unfortunate and fortunate) I can with you. And yes, you are not alone. There are other crazy people out here 🙂
Dakar to Accra done.
Flew the last leg of Accra to Lagos. Liver fail me for the Seme into Lagos bit. Seme to Mile 2 na another evil spirit altogether right now (also since i don do Accra to Lagos before).
The experience was off the charts. The people were very interesting. The sights simply breathtaking.
Thanks for everything.
I don’t usually comment on blogs but I just had to comment on yours! I took my time reading the entire series as I really didn’t want it to end. You are a great writer! Goodness! I would read a blog post from you about a visit to anyway, even it’s just the bank lol.
I laughed out loud (while attracting weird looks from others) at so many points in this story. You have a way of giving us really important information while keeping us interested.
Ugh! I hope you keep writing. Absolutely loved it!
I thought i could do the whole road trip in Africa thing but after reading this series, maybe not. Well I could do it to Ghana but don’t think I can go to Senegal. Well who knows, maybe one day 🙂
Wow. Thank you so much, Chiz. Comments like yours make it ok that I went through hell, lol. I appreciate the kind words.