Senegal’s Palmarin via a SEPT “Vehicle”

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Recently, we took at voyage to Palmarin, a town about five hours south of Dakar, with two of our closest pals. We kayaked, we slept in little tents on the beach, we used the bathroom outside sans toilet paper. It was utterly fantastic (and surprisingly chilly and windy!).

Our transportation to Palmarin and back was a sept place, a station wagon-esque vehicle that, true to its name, seats seven (sept!) people. In actuality, we didn’t take “a” sept place. We took three.

The heyday of sept places, if there ever was one, has passed. These vehicles were made in the mid- to late-1980s and are, by and large, rumbly, rusty and sputtering on their last fumes. I, for one, think this mode of transport is awesome. Foam-spewing seats and uncertain engine reliability are the spice of life.

We suffered a flat tire on the way to Palmarin – no problem, we had a spare and were back on the road within 10 minutes. On our return trip, the same sept place suffered a bit of a transmission problem, and by “bit of a problem,” I mean the transmission completely blew, leaving us stranded on a little dirt road just outside Palmarin with about 12 minutes of cell phone battery life among us. Luckily, we reached our kakaying guide and help was soon on its way.

Cue sept place number two. This driver agreed to take us as far as Mbour, about two hours south of home. We agreed and cut through many dirt-roaded villages…and suffered our second flat tire of the weekend. We sat in the weeds and played cards while we waited for our driver to slap on the spare. A random Senegalese woman accompanied us for this part of our trip. She didn’t say a word the entire time.

After finally reaching Mbour, we (a.k.a. our Wolof-speaking friend) negotiated our third and final sept place, in a big parking lot of sept places, taxis and buses. The four of us were joined by a booming-voiced man who was also heading to Dakar. We made great time and got back to the city well before dark.

Total sept place cost for the weekend: about $105.

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