Ohh the joys of Senegalese transportation. Here is the first installation of my series of Senegalese topics. So the main form of transportation are big bus like things which Peace Corps Volunteers call alhums due to the fact that it says alhamdoulilah (thanks be to God) on the front of all of them. These buses are rickety old van-like things with barely there seat cushions. You hoist yourself up in the back to the entrance about 3 foot off the ground and squeeze into a seat. Hopefully you get in a row lacking cheb mamas (cheb is a rice dish and cheb mamas refer to the size of some of the women who have apparently ate a little too much of it).They squeeze (and I do mean squeeze) 5 people into a row. If you get claustrophobic or like personal space, you will not do well in Senegal. They wait at the garage until completely full and then set off. These vehicles tend to stop every 10 minutes on the way to your destination to let people on and off. They will also be loading bags of rice, onions, chickens, goats, and even cows on top of the alhum.This is the 2nd cheapest way of traveling.
Another way to get around is via sept-place. Sept-place obviously means a car for 7 passengers for those of you who speak French. One person sits up front next to the driver and three people sit in the next 2 rows. This vehicle is like an old rusty station wagon only more poorly made. If you are lucky you will get in one of the first two rows, but more likely than not, the last row will be your designated seat. The ceiling in this vehicle slants so in the back row your head touches the roof (keep in mind, i'm not that tall). Also many times, this seat is also tipped back in a position that might be comfortable, if there was a headrest. But if there is no baggage behind you to lay your head against, your head just kind of hangs at a awkward angle making sleep impossible for the duration of the ride. In the middle of the back seat there is also a hump in the floor to make you scrunch up even more. Basically imagine curling yourself into a small ball and sitting that way for 3 hours to the capital or even up to 10 or more hours to go down south. This is one of the more expensive forms.
For some random lucky people, nice tour buses are available to those traveling longer trips. I am not one of those people and so I will not be expounding on the gloriousness of these vehicles.
In the cities, most transportation is done in taxis. These are not your typical taxis like in America. Picture old broke down cars, most of which have nonfunctioning door handles and windows. They usually look like the just came from a demolition derby and you're never sure you'll make it where you're going.
Another common form of transportation are motos. These are both fun and dangerous. Far from being cheap, sometimes they are the only form of transportation to get back to site. Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to ride on them as they often fall over due to the deep sand and poor quality of driving and accidents are common. But you gotta do what you gotta do and when its your only option, sometimes PCVs have taken them.
Peace Corps provides each volunteer with a bike. All I have to say about that was, the few times I tried to ride so far, the sand was so deep that the bike got stuck and fell over. And walking works fine, but when you want to go more than 5 miles its not so good.
Finally, the most common source of transportation in the village is a charrette (horse and cart). This can be quite interesting as well. The cart is just a flat platform. Sometimes its stacked with sacks of peanuts two layers high and then people sit on top of that with chickens, goats, sacks of millet, and whatever else next to them. If you ride with the right driver its not a problem, but if you get a driver who can't, hold on tight.
For me to get to my regional capital I usually can get an alhum to come and pick me up at 5:40am and take me on into Kaolack. Otherwise I have to get a charrette or walk to my road town 5.6 miles away and then get an alhum or sept-place into Kaolack from there. Usually you end up sitting in the garage for 2-3 hours waiting for an alhum to leave and about an hour for a sept-place. So next time you drive yourself around, appreciate the convenience and think of me.