Day 150: Voodoo Economics

30.05.09:

The two boats that I might have had an outside chance of getting on have said no (not surprised when I’m not there in person to charm them).

I hate this place.

Dakar is truly a miserable place full of miserable people – no big friendly African smiles here. Everyone walks around with a face like thunder. Everything – the shops, the cars, the houses – seem to be constructed out of stuff somebody has found in a skip and I DON’T GET IT.

Okay, okay, we expect countries in Africa to be poor, but this just doesn’t add up…

A meal in a restaurant costs about a tenner. A beer costs two quid. A cab ride will set you back exactly what it would in Liverpool. I just don’t get it… I’m paying exactly what I’d pay in Britain for stuff (except I’m paying 30 Euro a night to kip on a one-inch thick bit of foam in a room with no light and an off-suite, cold shower… not even Travelodge would get away with that…) – whatever happened to the economics of supply and demand?

Surely if people are that poor, they can’t afford to buy stuff and the price goes down. I thought that’s the way it worked? Not here – if anything, the grinding in-your-face poverty seems to make everything even more expensive.

Where does all the money go? Why is nothing here nice? Why are the roads so unfeasibly bad? Why are there no traffic lights? Why does every single pavement have to have stacked up breezeblocks, piles of rubble and piles of sand (from a long-abandoned building project) blocking the way? Why does every single cab have to have a cracked windscreen? Does a pixie go round with a little hammer at night doing them in? It’s like an entire city was founded by Steptoe and Son.

What the hell is going on here? And why have I spent $500 this week on NOTHING?! Not even LONDON can strip me of my hard-earned cash that quickly.

Anyway, I’ve cracked. I have to get out of here. I have to move on, so I’ve agreed to take a terrifyingly small wooden fishing boat over to Cape Verde. They say the trip will take four or five days. I think it will take three.

And the price tag?

Three and a half THOUSAND Euro.

Spppppputtt!

More tea vicar?

Sonic can’t even hold that many rings for you to lose.

Yes, that’s right, it’s going to cost more than a fortnight’s cruise in the Caribbean. It’s going to cost more than a LUXURY YACHT for the same number of days. A lot more. It’s a long wooden rowboat (seriously) with the names of some Senegalese Profits (sorry, Prophets) painted on the side. I’ll be sleeping on the deck under a little canvas tent. We’re going over there with a small outboard motor and nine deck hands. Quite why we need nine people to operate one outboard motor is anyone’s guess?!

I’ve got to get on board a boat that wouldn’t look out of place if ‘Doc Brown’ magically teleported it back 5,000 years to ferry people over the river Nile.

The captain speaks no English or Portuguese (might come in handy, don’t you think?) and he has no navigational charts and simple mental arithmetic seems beyond his grasp (ie. 600 miles at 10 miles an hour = 60hours = 3 days, NOT FIVE DAYS YOU WALLY). So I’ve printed some maps off Google (we head 270 degrees due west, how hard can it be?) and I’ve been praying to the Easter Bunny and Mother Goose ever since.

Oh and do I get a life-jacket for this Mortgage Downpayment? Do I hell. I’ve got to buy my own.

I’m standing on a filthy beach, surrounded by rubbish, dead fish, squid ink and human effluent.

I’m thinking that things can’t get any worse.

And then Phil Collins comes on the radio.

We leave tomorrow at midnight.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ulf

    Up to this point the Odyssey seemed to be an amazing adventure holiday trip. It’s astonishing how easily Western Africa can change this picture. And it’s even more amazing that you stand all these tortures that the area makes up.
    Let’s hope the rest of Africa is better!!

  2. Mark

    thats Africa for you…. all the money that people keep on giving to the charities that are raising monies for people in all these African states, only goes to the money grabbing, greedy politicians who happen to be in charge at that particular time, because they dont know how much longer they are going to be in charge. There is always a greedier, money grabbing “revolutionary” waiting in the wings to take over.
    I feel for Graham at the moment, especially being in one of those lovely African jails…. probably gonna have to bribe somebody. Lets hope that his camera equipment is still there when he gets out.. the most likely response he will get from the authorities when he gets out will be “What camera?”…

  3. pintobitters

    how about swimming to Cape Verde? cant be any worse than the bs you are going thru! Senegal and Maury sound like great places to test a thermo-nuclear device…the bigger the better! Call it slum clearance

  4. gavinmac

    I find myself wondering if the 3500 Euro is for a one way journey or round trip. It would be cool if he tries to charge you another 3500 to get back.

    This may be part of the reason the Cape Verde folks are trying to get money from you. Everybody on the island probably heard what you paid for the crossing and now they think you are filthy rich and carefree with cash.

    Fascinating blog. Fascinating.

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