This is the story of an experience I had trying to get back to my village about two weeks ago. I should begin by explaining the method of motorized transport in rural
I got to the bashé gare (bus depot) in Segou shortly after . I found the bashé I needed to take and immediately had my doubts. It was by far the worst looking bashé I have seen thus far in
About 20 minutes later we were moving… but rather slowly. Shortly after departure we stopped at a gas station and waited for more passengers for another half hour. Once we finally got moving again and out of town I thought things would be smooth sailing the rest of the way… the problems were only just beginning.
For starters, the bashé was basically a steel box on wheels. Whatever suspension was intended for the vehicle was no longer present. This became painfully obvious when we left the paved road and began our 60 km treck across the worst road in the world.
Why is the road so bad? It’s a dirt road slightly sloped above the existing terrain. The road receives heavy traffic on a daily basis, and because of the rainy season, the road is heavily rutted is most areas and partially washed out in others. The combination of bad road and lack of suspension meant a bone-jarring ride for two hours.
To avoid the perils of the road, however, many drivers choose to drive next to the road, where the ground is flatter and free of pot holes in most places. However, in some places the actual road is better, so the driver of my bashé was constantly criss-crossing between the road and the “shoulder”. Doing so added a particular zest to the ride as the bashé went up or down a noticeable incline every time the switch was made. The sensation this produced was as if the bashé was going to tip over…
The icing on the cake was that the roof of the bashé directly above me was extremely rusty. This meant every time we hit a bump (roughly every 30 seconds) small pieces of bashé came raining down on my head. The cherry on top of the icing was that this bashé had a particularly fussy engine. Once we got off the paved road we were stopping every few kilometers to add water, tighten something down, or clean out some hose. It appeared to me that the main problem must have been a horribly deteriorated head gasket and or crack in the engine block. The engine was constantly losing power (probably lack of compression because of bad gasket) and we were laying down a white smoke screen and frequently backfiring.
About halfway down the dirt road we apparently ran out of gas, so the driver left us in the middle of the road and walked back to the last town we passed through to get more fuel. (I think it’s also worth mentioning that the “gas” can up until that point was being used as a water jug, so the driver just emptied it out and went to fill it up with fuel. Water is the fuel tank anyone?) Once we got gas the engine was still acting up and didn’t have enough power to get us up the slightest incline, so we had to get out and push start the bashé – “Little Miss Sunshine” style.
The straw that broke the bashé’s back came about 3 km from our final destination. The bashé broke down for probably the 15th time, but rather than do any repairs, the driver just told everyone to get out and walk the rest of the way. Besides – it was time for afternoon prayer, so after unloading my stuff the driver got out his prayer mat and did his thing right there in the middle of the road.
It ended up taking over five hours to accomplish what would normally be done in two and a half… and we didn’t even get all the way there.