Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good morning Dakar!

Talibah and I landed in Dakar at 5am this morning....an hour earlier than our itinerary had said we would arrive. We made it through immigration with ease and our luggage arrived in one piece. We passed through Immigration and then exited the airport following the security officer's instructions on where to find a taxi. The heat and humidity hit me immediately as I walked outside. Ugh!

In a split second, we found ourselves surrounded by a barrage of men with offers of SIM cards for sale. I guess that's a commonly needed item by people arriving into Senegal. Of course, I have no need for a local SIM card so I walked saying "No, thank you" more times than I can remember.

Before I left for Dakar, I had read on the web that a ride from the airport to downtown Dakar would cost about 5000 CFA. Valeria confirmed that would be about the amount, especially considering the early morning hour. So, that's the price I was going to bargain down to. My colleague Pepin had warned me that the taxi cab drivers would try to hustle me so I was a bit surprised when, without much bargaining at all, a taxi cab driver offered to take us to the hotel for 5000 CFA. Of course, we got in the cab. Touts were hanging on the car windows still trying to sell us those damn local SIMS. More replies of "Merci, mais no" from me as I tried to roll up the window.

As the taxicab pulled out of the airport, it finally sunk in. We're in Dakar! By now, it was close to 6am but it was still dark outside. We couldn't make out the scenery and landscape - lit billboards were the only items that captured our attention.

Then all of a sudden, the driver pulled into a gas station. Hmmm.....I thought. He needs gas. This is a first. I should have known. He shut off the engine, turned out and asked for 5000 more CFA. We pretended to not understand but I knew that second that he had trapped us. After all, what were we going to do? Get out and hail another cab? Luckily, it's not much money in the scheme of things but nonetheless , we both knew we had been ripped off!! By now, I was pissed and tired. I just wanted to get to the hotel and unwind. Until then, I tried to strain to see Dakar at night.

Luckily, the ride to hotel only took about 30 minutes. When the taxicab driver pulled up outside the Hotel Sokhamon, I wasn't certain that he had even arrived at the correct place. I didn't see the sign until someone pointed it out to me. But then, where was the front door? As we quickly discovered, the hotel's entrance from the main street is at the top of a hill. Someone from the hotel met us and walked us down a steep driveway and then a set of steps to walk into the lobby. It was about 6:15a when we arrived and our room was not going to be ready until after noon. However....., if we were willing to pay for 2 nights stay, we could get a room immediately. For another split second, I went "Huh?" So, they have a room ready but they won't give it to us unless we're willing to pay for 2 nights. Being hustled again. No way was I going to do that.....not after having just been taken by the taxicab driver. So much for my plan to get to the hotel and unwind. I'm tired, hotel and not happy but what to do??

The hotel agreed to store our luggage for us so Talibah and I went to check out the hotel's grounds while we waited for the restaurant to open so we could have a small bite to eat for breakfast.

The Hotel Sokahmon sits right on the edge of the ocean which is the North Atlantic. We went out on the deck, plopped ourselves down on a couple of chairs and surveyed the scenery around us. It was still early morning, the sun had just risen and although this is rainy season, there were few clouds in the sky. I looked up hoping for a partly cloudy day.....perfect for all the sightseeing that we were scheduled to do.

We waited for the "restaurant girl" to get all the items for the breakfast buffet laid out and when she gave us the signal, we helped ourselves to the food. My right hand immediately gravitated, all on it's own, towards the pain au chocolat.....that classic chocolate croissant that is my favorite. That croissant washed down with sips of thick, dark Senegalese coffee made the day right again.

As we were eating, I called the tour company, that I had arranged a copy of day tours with, to confirm the time that they would be picking us up. The voice over the phone was a kind happy voice. Nogaye is her name and she confirmed that a car and guide would meet us at 8:30a as I had requested. Our first day in Dakar was going off as planned!  Woohoo!