Out of Western Africa and onto Southern Africa

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Dakar, Senegal
Monday, January 21, 2013

International air travel requires advance booking. One can't just show up at Dakar International airport and find Sept Place planes leaving for Lusaka (or any suitable destination in Southern Africa) when full. This advance booking required some buffering and this buffering required us to spend a night in a Dakar hotel. We picked one just outside the airport. Our taxi driver had difficulty in locating it and a few locals helpfully came forward but no one could place the name. V's eagle eyes came to the aid as he managed to find a tiny sign to the hotel across the expressway.

One strictly does not need to speak the local language when checking into a hotel in person. You show up with your luggage and expect to be given a room rate and then you pay up and they give you a key. The young woman behind the desk seemed to be unaware of this simple procedure. Our broken French/intact English and her French did not meet halfway. Someone else had to step in and help her understand. The next morning, she knocked on our door well before noon and intoned in impeccable English "You have to go now!". Impressed with her rapidly improving English, we quickly packed and went down and asked where we can leave our bags while we went out for lunch. She said that their storage room was full and that we have to take our packs with us. With no sign of any other guests at the hotel and with plenty of visible room in the hallway, we felt that this was going out of her way to inconvenience us. We pointed out to the long list on the hotel's Dear Customer page and called her attention to the phrase We will store your bags with pleasure in English and French. After a lot of protest, we got her boss on the phone who went one step further and told us that we cannot even sit downstairs since our bags were too big! No other place of lodging in our 7 month long trip had refused this simple courtesy and none of them had used the phrase with pleasure in their notice boards for offering this service. Effectively thrown out of the hotel, we had no choice but go to the airport and wait the 6 hours for our departure. As soon as we settled down in a taxi, we lost our rancor and had a good laugh at this bizarre episode.

Despite its lofty status as the air hub of the region, Dakar airport is a modest, sparsely populated building with a handful of flights in a day. Strangely, we found that the free WiFi worked just behind the security guard who sportingly let us stand behind him with our computers. V still had some unfinished work with one of the banks whose card was stolen the previous day. The free WiFi was put to good use to achieve this purpose.

Our flight to Dubai (yes, that was the cheapest connection we could find from Dakar to Lusaka!) was delayed by a couple of hours, extending our wait some more. This meant that we would miss our Lusaka connection the next morning. We actually welcomed this since we thought we could enjoy a decent break between two long flights. Little did we know what awaited us at Dubai. To cut a long story short, we found that the airline was totally unprepared for the mass delays in all their flights due to successive foggy days. It was a stampede at their transfer desk and it took us close to 5 hours just to get the boarding pass for the next day's flight. The airline could not give us any accommodation in Dubai due to several reasons, leaving us to spend a full 24 hours at the airport. We could have entered the UAE and found a hotel, but we opted to stay the night at the airport. We had slept in places of widely varying comfort during this trip and the hallway chairs (full of other international travelers like us) at DXB became yet another in that long list. The excellent masala dosas and aloo parathas available at the airport revived our spirits.

Lets see what Southern Africa has to offer! 


Mornings these days in the UAE are foggy with visibility down to 10 metres or even lesser. Driving is hazardous until fog clears and flights are invariably diverted or delayed. V could have considered a detour from the African-leg by entering UAE for a couple of days thus giving an opportunity for a mini-get2gether with P2 & myself. From TSB, on Feb 20, 2013 at 01:38PM
@TSB - Would have loved to have a get-together in Dubai, but it would not have been practical on this trip. Our ticket was from Dakar to Lusaka and breaking it would actually mean buying 2 separate legs. The Dakar-Dubai leg is actually costlier than Dakar to Lusaka via Dubai!

Once the connection was missed, there was a possibility to come out, but the total chaos in DXB that day prevented any idea of heading out.

Strange to hear that fog is a constant problem. If that day was anything to go by, the chaos must prevail every day! From Malini and Venkatesh, on Feb 21, 2013 at 03:42PM
Morning fog is only seasonal. Presently these parts are experiencing transition to summer. From TSB, on Feb 22, 2013 at 08:47AM
What an experience. First the rude hotel, then having to touch your face round your neck and then 5 hours to get a boarding card. Love your equanimity, but I suppose that being so seasoned travelers, this is natural to you.

Ha Ha Ha on Sept Place flight from Dakar :) From Ramesh, on Feb 26, 2013 at 09:19PM
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