a short story
All those awkward situations turn out in great stories in the end, don’t they?
One of the worst was in a Congolese village, the local customs guy didn’t recognize the Carnet de Passage as a valid temporary import document, impounded the car and accused us of being mercenaries. After 5 hours discussing and searching the car for weapons, he would release the car for 100$, which he considered mild, seen the official fine for illegally importing cars was between 50$ and 250$ (something like that). Next thing was to get registered with the police on the other side of the square… . A 13 year old illiterate boy started copying the passports. When an hour later the passports where almost copied, a senior policemen arrived. The senior policemen required a document from the sous-prefect giving permission to continue further on to Brazzaville, and advised to bring enough small change to pay for the ‘passage’. The sous-prefect off course lived in the town we left that same morning. In the mean time, a truckload of truly drunk solders spread over the square … . For the first time I got that ‘hmmm, better turn around and get out of here’ feeling. The sous-prefect wasn’t in town, so the only option left was going to Pointe Noir and get an Angolan visa there, which was not possible because I wasn’t a Congolese resident… .
Another one… .
We had that idea of going to Samarkand and back. On the map, Samarkand was printed more to the left then Shimkent and Tashkent, so we decided to go south in Turkistan (Kazakhstan) and cross the border at one of the smaller crossings near the Shardara reservoir. After being turned back at a few frontier crossings because they didn’t allow cars or foreigners, we managed to get on the Kazakh part of the highway from Tashkent to Samarkand. The Kazakhs where eager to get a present, unloaded the car, stamped the passports and let us trough. On the Uzbek side, there was none of that. Very friendly people, but… no stamp…. no immigration police, no coming trough. The Kazakhs didn’t let us back in because our single entry visa was stamped. The Uzbek consulate in Brussels made a few calls and assured it wouldn’t take long, the French embassy in Tashkent tried for 3 days in Uzbekistan, after which we got a phone call from the Belgian embassy in Moscow, they involved Interpol, and the Belgian consul in Astana arranged for a meeting with the minister of foreign affairs. After 5 days, a police escort was arranged. The police escort first dropped us at a wrong border post where we had to spend the night again. The next day, after 2 more border posts and a phone call with the English speaking sister of one of the commandants we finally where in Uzbekistan, Samarkand, the first hot shower in 13 days… .