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Flat ride in Senegal.....


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23 December


I tried to go to Ziguinchor today on the bike. I got to the town past Djouloulou and pulled over into the yard of the mosque to put more air in the tires. I keep them under inflated as far as Djouloulou because the road is so bad I have to ride on the side in the sand a good deal of the time.


Anyhow, I pulled over and pumped up the front tire to 25 lbs. Then l looked at the rear and it was flat. A flat sliver of steel had punctured the tire. It must have just happened then because I didn't notice any strange handling.


I rode the bike into Djouloulou and a nice guy showed me where there was a tire-repairman. The "shop" was a tiny shack with a sunshade of corrugated tin. We put the bike in the shade. Using the OEM toolkit. which was all I had with me, I removed the rear wheel. The tire guy, whose name was Papa, pulled the valve stem and then broke the bead on both sides with a heavy hammer and a blunt-tipped steel wedge. No rim protectors here! The rim got a few minor dings and scratches but no actual dents. One has to be a bit fatalistic here. This is Africa, not a concours d'elegance . With some heavy tire spoons he soon had the tire off and the tube out.


--I did notice that the base of the stem had some fairly heavy rust on it. When I'd installed my knobby tires I'd had to discard the front tire tube due to a rusted stem. I've never noticed this on automobile or bicycle tires and I've changed a slug of them in my day. Is this something unique to motorcycle tire tubes?--


The puncture was easily evident, a slash about a centimeter long. Papa whetted a straight-edged knife on a piece of worn-out rotary-grinder wheel, then roughed-up the rubber all around the puncture. He then produced a small soft-drink bottle half filled with contact cement, poured some into the bottle cap and applied a thin coat of cement to the tube with his finger-tip.

Next, the patch. No prefab patches for this African! With scissors, an old inner-tube was quickly but carefully fashioned into a rectangle with symmetrically rounded corners after one side had been roughened with the knife.. The finished product was so perfect it looked machine-made. Contact cement applied and allowed to dry. Meanwhile, he carefully examined the inside of the tire itself. The area of the puncture looked clean. It was roughed-up with the knife and another patch fashioned for it, too.

Patch applied to the punctured tube and pounded down with the smooth, rounded, butt end of the wedge he'd used for breaking the bead. Then he took the knife, made sure it was sharp and, wetting it with water, expertly skived the edges of the patch so they wouldn't stand proud. It was done evenly and with precision. Ditto the tire patch.

All was re-assembled and I asked him, "Combien est le catastrophe?" (How much is the catastrophe?) He laughed. The whole thing amounted to about $4; more than reasonable.

He asked me where I was living in Kafountine and, it being Africa, one thing led to another and it turns out he knows the family I'm connected with there and regards were tendered and promised to be forwarded, etc.

I re-mounted the wheel. And was on the road back home. It had been a bit more than an hour. No time to go to Ziguinchor today, though. That will have to wait until tomorrow.


I decided to stop in Abene on my way back and visit some folks I'd stayed with last December when I attended the Festival there. Somehow, I remembered how to get there via back roads and pulled up to the front gate, preparing to dismount and take the gate rails down. A teenage boy in the compound saw me. His face broke into a big grin. "Dawda??" He ran over, vaulted the gate and threw his arms around me in a huge hug. I was blown away. The best I had hoped for was that they might remember me but the welcome was overwhelming. His mom, Aida, ran up and hugged me while all the others sitting in the shade of the compound applauded and smiled and called greetings.


I spent two hours. Stories were exchanged. Lunch was eaten. We caught up on the news. The old Dutchman who had lived there had died in April of brain cancer. We had enjoyed each other's company last year but I had had a premonition I would not see him again. Her daughters are even prettier than I remembered. Her son, handsome, fine-boned, attending collège in Kafountine. He walks the 8 km each way daily. (This kid WANTS an education!!) They can't afford a bicycle. Finally, I headed home, promising to return.

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