After 50 days off the bike, the Ricks Kit and Kyle reunited with one another in the westernmost West African city: Dakar. There had already been a 10 day delay with the bikes missing their first scheduled boat, so the Ricks were extremely anxious to finally be riding once again. Knowing the reality of African bureaucracy, they were both prepared for the process to not proceed particularly smoothly, but the next two weeks would turn out to be much more difficult than they had planned.
It turns out that the Ricks unwittingly landed right in the middle of Eid Al-Adha, the sacrifice feast. Much time was spent wandering around questioning why there was so many goats everywhere.
Kit and Kyle spent the first day with a simple navigational task, find the Mauritanian embassy and aquire a visa. The main border between Senegal and Mauritania, Rosso, is known as the most corrupt border crossing in Africa. If a visa could be acquired beforehand, the much smaller and more remote border crossing, Diama, could be used. Unfortunatly once we found what was thought to be the Mauritanian embassy was in fact the Ambassador’s house, and the man at the gate simply said that visas cannot be acquired in Dakar.
We walked back to the house we were staying in with our tails between our legs, and proceeded to do more research. The person who owned the little compound we were staying in was a doctor from Belgium, who created this little device to wash your hands and save water, and was making tons of them to give to villages all around Africa.
Communication with the locals proved difficult, as our french was very bad, but everyone had a good attitude and did the best they could.
Our local neighborhood had little to do, so we spent many a day wandering around looking at shops full of things we couldn’t fit on our bikes.
Unfortunately due to issues with our agent in New Jersey, the embarquement documents listed that we were shipping a “Used Toyota Highlander” so during the day Kyle was locked to his computer screen making sure that all emails were answered and problems solved. We went very quickly from “this is a fun experience” to “lets get this moving ASAP”. Unfortunately as Friday marched closer and closer we realized that we would be stuck here for the weekend.
The desire to swim in the ocean, feel the sea breeze and to have a change of scenery had us pack our things and move down to a guesthouse on Yoff beach, on the far North end of the peninsula.
We took advantage of the proximity of the ocean, but unfortunately the experienced was marred by a heavy red tide, as well as trash everywhere.
The understanding that nothing could be done took a major load off of the ricks shoulders, and they could truly relax and enjoy the beach. After 4 days there, Mr Lo (our transit agent) called us down to the office, and we believed that this process was almost over. We quickly packed our things into a taxi and drove down to the Plateau.
We discussed with Mr Lo how the rest of the process would take place, and instead of waiting 5-7 days for a bank transfer to initiate, the Ricks simply walked down to the nearest ATM (After calling their bank) and withdrew the entirety of the importation fees.
Nothing happens fast when it comes to administration in Africa, but luckily Mr Lo’s coworkers were a pleasant bunch. We met a man named Bana who spoke great English, and also made us as much tea as we could drink. We spoke at length of life in America as well as life in Senegal. Everyone in the office came to greet us as well and it was wonderful to share an experience with people without trying to be sold to.
Eventually we got the word that the bikes passavants had been cleared and we could finally be reunited with them! We rushed down to the port to meet Mr Lo and his friend at the port.
The Ricks could not contain their excitement for the road ahead, and gleefully cheered with Mr Lo that everything had been completed. Little did everyone involved know that there was still significant challenges ahead.
The bikes were filled up with fresh gas, the motorcycle clothes were donned, and the Ricks were mentally prepared to face the chaotic West African traffic, when suddenly, disaster struck.
Kit’s bike had literally been running 5 minutes previously, when suddenly his bike would not start at all. The Ricks level of concern elevated rapidly. Suddenly a large group of individuals surrounded Kit and his broken bike. there were 4 pairs of hands all touching things at once trying to find the problem. The locals were good natured, but their way of repair was much more suited to that of a 50cc scooter, and the language barrier made it very difficult to politely refuse their requests (such as tearing off the head of the engine to check the compression in the parking lot).
After many hours of trying to solve the problem in the parking lot it was obvious that it was not going to be solved that night. This was extremely maddening because gas, spark and compression was all reaching the cylinder so there was no indication where to begin to fix it. The KTM was pushed 10 blocks to the office of Mr Lo, where a night watchman watched over it until the work could begin again the next day.
The next morning Kit dove directly into working on the KTM again, running the starter so much that the battery was almost drained. The KTM was given a charge from the BMW so that the problem could be diagnosed. The incessant sound of the KTM’s starter rang loudly into the street that this foyer opened onto, and it wasn’t long until two of the scooter mechanics from last night had found us and began “helping” us again.
Jokes on Kit however, one of the guys decided to throw gas into the throttle body with the starter running, creating a huge fireball. Some of the unburned gas seeped through the boot around the throttle body, exposing the fact that there was a leak! Air was getting sucked into the engine after the throttle body, screwing with the mixture. The leak was fixed and the bike started immediately.
Now that the KTM was fixed the only issue facing the Ricks was that the escort to the border had not been set up. When one temporarily imports a vehicle into Senegal, customs requires you to be personally escorted to the border and out of the country. While a simple process, it still takes lots of work due to administration. The Ricks were admittedly holding their breath that they would be allowed to leave the country on Friday, so that another weekend would not have to be burned in Dakar, however the lesson to be learned is if one is to do that with African administration one would die of suffocation.
After holding out until 7pm on Friday night (when the Customs office closes) it was finally revealed that the boss of the Douane had personally requested that our case be fully investigated, requiring us to leave the country Monday. Very frustrated the Ricks jumped on their motorcycles and rode off into the night to finally get out of this city, even if they had to return only 3 days later.
They found a resort near Lac Rose
Kyle’s left fork had been leaking since they left Seattle, and thought that these few off days would be a great opportunity to top off the fork oil, and proceeded to snap off the left breather for his fork.
At this point Kyle decided to keep himself from breaking something further, and reassembled everything to be dealt with outside of Africa. The Ricks then rode further north past Lac Rose, the historic end of the Paris-Dakar rally.
Riding through the Senegalese countryside it was evident that the Ricks were going to be an absolute spectacle for the entire country. Every town that was ridden through everyone stopped what they were doing to watch these strange power rangers ride through town. Kit and Kyle rode off to the beach to find a place away from everybody where they could relax without being sold something or asked what they were doing.
It was cooler sitting outside next to the ocean than inside a guesthouse in Yoff, and watching the sunset over the Atlantic gave them peace that everything will be ok, and the ride will begin in due time.
Even with this understanding however, Kyle’s sanity still began to crack
The Senegalese like to use “Inshallah” or “God willing” to elaborate that things are not always up to them. At this point Kit and Kyle felt the same helplessness under a higher power.