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SgtKashim64 karma

Last spring I traveled through Senegal and Mali, mostly as a tourist. That looks like a "sept-place" - a "seven seater". They're almost always a beat-up old Renault station wagon, nominally seating 7 passengers as a shared taxi. The more rural you get, the more cramped things get. The worst we had was 11 people wedged into one - driver, 2 in the front passenger seat and 4 in each row. One of the doors was held on with one of those bathroom door toggle locks. The other door was just held on with a nut and bolt. The seatbelts had all been cut, not that it would have mattered... The trunk was full of onions and bicycles, and the roof rack had my pack, dozens of bags of produce, and a very unhappy goat in a sack, all destined for the market in Tambacounda.

Then our driver got in a little road-rage incident, and we ended up racing another taxi till we spun him out.

If you've only ever driven in the US or Europe... the roads in Mali/Senegal are a totally different experience.

SgtKashim21 karma

For another bit of fun, we mostly traveled by "Ndiaga Ndiaye" - these old Mercedes diesel busses. Apparently Europe got rid of them cheap when they no longer met emissions regs, so they got snapped up all over Africa. Anyway, they've been keeping them running on these rough, dirt roads forever.

Highways are basically un-lit at night, even nominally paved roads have stretches of dirt and potholes the size of small sedans. The setup is almost always the same - a rusty white bus with slogans painted all over. Two fixed seats on either side of the aisle, with a folding seat in the middle that blocks the aisle. Driver in the front, one to two people in the passenger seat (depending on who paid what and what the driver negotiated), and 1 to 3 apprentice drivers (usually teenage boys) hanging off the ladder on the rear bumper, banging on the wall when the driver should stop.

Almost all of them that I was on carried spare parts - tires, driveshafts, occasionally transmissions - in case they broke something. Most of them had clearly had the suspension punch through the floor at some point, and had patches of steel welded back in, and you could usually feel the patch lifting/welds cracking under your boot. The welding was done at the side of the road, usually without a mask. Or gloves.

There's really nothing on the US roads that scares me anymore.

SgtKashim14 karma

When you find the bugs, will you please patch them? :F

On a more serious note - if you find a new bug, do you have a plan for how you'll name it?

SgtKashim10 karma

My sister's been working for NGOs across West Africa for a few years, which is how my trip started. She met me at the airport in Senegal - outside of Dakar. Had a taxi waiting. I'd been in the air... 18 hours or so. PDX to DSS. We huck my bags in the trunk, have a quick chat with the driver explaining where we're going, hop in. I reach for a seatbelt, and I hear from the back seat my little sister: "Man, you're so optimistic."

Then we nearly ran over a loose donkey that was in the un-lit road.

That was my intro to African traffic. At the time I was terrified. In retrospect, one of the more reliable and sane taxi drivers we ran in to.

SgtKashim5 karma