November 03, 2008 GMT
Robbed in Rosso
Well, again it's been a whike and the search for an internet cafe that allows the uploading of anything for the blog is proving to be a task and a half. Pobably too many people trying to upload virus's etc and probably dodgy pictures too...! So at the 'mo, Peter has generously allowed me the use of his laptop,which I think I'll name the 'Battletank' as it's the 'take anywhere type and has a certain solid construction necessary for the rigours of motorbike travelling in Africa.
So I'm sat here in a hotel resteraunt by the river feeling the cooling breeze, watching the boats from the locals do their business and Ian Brown has just kicked in on the MP3 player, Bliss, but trying to recollect the last week or so's events is a bit harder as it's been a bit mental as I'm now well and truly in Africa!
I'm now in Southern Senegal and just crossed the border from The Gambia yesterday with Peter, Mark and myself. Leaving Morocco, I decided to go alone for a day or so and attempt to find the root cause in my head as to why I'm doing this and explore the ideas and strange things that's happened to me over the last few years in a completely different enviroment, thinking, in vain, I may come to some peace and allow myself to enjoy the trip a bit more relaxed and not think about what I would be doing otherwise. Would I have been back in Iraq? Sat in the UK doing some job that would be driving me nuts? Or have I made the right decision to do this trip? It's not suprising that I was thinking like this as I was well and truly 'Not in Kansas' anymore and considering the options of pulling the plug as the honeymoon period was over. But NO! Bugger it, I'm here and gonna damn well ensure I do the best I can, accept the challenge and try to enjoy the hassles without wringing some buggers neck thinking I'm a walking cash machine for being white and travelling on a bike. Chill Geoff, Chill....... The next border is soon to come and that will be a bloody big suprise for sure.... AND IT WAS!
After taking advice from Mark about the Mauritanian border about avoiding the Rosso border post and it's hassles I Headed for the Djemma crossing. The problem is trying to find the Djemma track and the 90kms of pite that required to get to it and the track is very close to the border town of Rosso it's difficult to find. I asked the locals but after soo many wrong answers, quizzed looks and some obviously down right misleading directions I decided to take the hit and hit Rosso thinking it can't be that bad, Surely?
Coming into Rosso I was stopped by some 'orrible little git in uniform, so as usual it's all smiles and 'Bonjours!' and hopefully he'll let me continue. After the initial request to show my papers he insisted I gave him the Carnet de Passage and said 'we go to Rosso'. Oh no! This doesn't look too good from the outset and he jumps into a locals car and heads off into the distance for Rosso at breakneck speed with me in pursuit desperatly trying to avoid the hagglers and touts jumping in front of me to stop or slow me down and ply their trade of conning the ignorant tourists of their cash in various deceptive and outright criminal ways. Pessimistic? Damn right! I'd not heard a good story about this place yet and I can already see my world going tits up and I'm not even there yet!
The guy eventually stops at the Port gate and dives inside, so I have to demand to be let in with the bike and as soon as I'm in he's got me! I know I'm gonna have to pay this guy to 'do the paperwork' after refusing to give me the paperwork back and me wanting to do it myself. So I was ordered to park the bike and wait. Soon as the bike was parked up I was surrounded by cops and hagglers enquiring about the bike, not giving any space and a barrage of questions, whereas I pride myself on being a confident guy but this was unnerving from the start. Once the cops had pushed off the hagglers and kids it was time to get down to business and hit me for money, pens, cadeaux, even the bloody spare tyres from the bike! I eventually gave in a gave them their cadeaux's just to get rid of the gits and all the time thinking Peter was perfectly right, this place is a nightmare!
I then decided enough was enough and the next guy or cop asking for a cadeaux would be told to piss off and in due time one did arrive wanting his piece after hearing his buddies had theirs. True to form I told him to piss off and he was REALLY pissed off! So then he insisted on his cadeaux, again, Piss off! I repeated to ensure he had the right answer. Looking at me angrily he looked around checking for anyone watching and pulled out his pistol pointing it at the floor, giving a brief pause he then asked, well told me he wanted not only his cadeaux but the bike aswell! Jesus Christ! Well I am in the shit now, c'mon Geoff, you tit! Sort this one out and be bloody quick about it. You started this and now bloody finish it before it gets really serious! So with a deeply apologetic look on my face, hand clasped together I then pointed to my pocket and slowly 'Magicked' my wallet out. Not having much bargaining power at this point against a guy with a sodding gun I opened the wallet and allowed him to take what the f**k he wanted, to the tune of 140 euros.
The killer thing about it was and some of you may think this is dumb. I would have been able to take the pistol from him without much bother. My work experience and training has taught me enough that the pistol wasn't cocked, probably not even loaded with ammunition and the guy was close enough to have the pistol in a couple of seconds, if that! But then looking daft as I'm in an enclosed compound, full of cops, with a stolen pistol and probably looking at getting shot by his mates or locked up in a Mauritanian jail getting bummed for the rest of my life! Nah, better to pay the little s**t and live another day!
After that episode I just wanted to get the hell out of there and get into Senegal soonest. So after a couple of hours hanging around feelish foolish, I was able to get the bpaperwork back, paying well over the odds with whatever cash I had left and embarked on the ferry to the Senegalese side.
Terrible day! But the adventure continues but I quietly said to myself, not on my own it's not! You Arse!
Posted by geoffshing at 05:27 PM
Anyone for Boules?
Getting into Senegal was a hassle but it's a pretty cool country and the city of St Louis is as chilled out as can be.
Exploring the town was easy starting with the Isla de St Louis and the bars, sorry! Nothing else interested me until that avenue had been well and truly explored with the local Gazelle beer.
I met up with some interesting expats, mostly French and namely a guy by the name Nicolas. The owner of the Iguane Bar who we got on well. Ex military and looking for work in the Security industry, so I put him in touch with buddies of mine and he repayed the favour by allowing me the free use of one of his quads for the afternoon, but as I'd already had a few beers by then I politely declined till the next day and proceeded to get a p****d as possible, throwing caution to the wind! St Louis, nice place, crap hangover food though!
After St Louis, Dakar was my next port of call and again, my luck was in and was approached in the city center by a fellow biker and being truly lost he directed me to his gaff in the middle of town. Jean-Hugh, a four times DAKAR rally rider and now the successful owner of a bar, 3 nightclubs, a rester aunt and a small hotel. En suite of a discounted cost of 23 Euros! I'm in Heaven!! Directly above the pub!!
That night I was introduced to some locals in the hotel complex, who were the Senegalese National Boules team and their French Coach Simon. They were off training in preparation for the world championship, in Dakar on the 6th of November and would I like to join them? Why not! So I gave it a try, supported the boys kicking one of the other teams arses and my own being embarrassed by what a crap shot I am. I attempted to throw one of the balls so high it landed on the road and nearly caused an accident!
When we finished and the boys having a good laugh at my I kicked their arses at arm wrestling, getting my revenge in good natured humour.
I was in Daker not only to see the fabled city of the Rally but also to receive a package of a new oil cooler, some maps I'd ordered and a personal gift from a friend. But the African customs will have to wait as I'm getting pissed in the bar downstairs
Posted by geoffshing at 06:12 PM
November 09, 2008 GMT
The search for stickers
After an interesting time in Dakar, Mark and Migo arrived in town which was great to be reunitied with the boys again and tell them of the times of woe in Rosso and making up for it in St Louis and Dakar (purely medicinal and sensible alcohol consumption of course!) and after a couple of days with the boys and Migo getting his package comprising of a tyre, badly needed for himself and a chain breaker for myself, not necessarily as badly needed but I'll need one at some time for sure! I have a spare chain but fitting it would be a pain.
So after Dakar we pushed up to Lac Rose, the famous end to the Dakar Rally. A bit disappointing with no-one there but locals touting for money, services, etc. To be honest we were only really there to get the sticker and to see what the place was about. Strange really, the Dakar sticker with the Tuareg emblem is a REALLY famous image seen on vehicles and bikes throughout the world but at the end location of the rally none of the locals had much of a clue as to what the heck we were on about!! One even offered to cut up a painting and glue it onto the panniers for a fee! Ha Ha Ha! So we settled on a ride around the lake, a beer and a negotiation for a camp fee with an Auberge, Ah-ha....... he's heard of the Rally as he's still charging the same fees methinks!
After Lac Rose we had arranged to meet back up with Peter in Thies and head down to The Gambia and hit the border there. Hoping for the best we turned up enthusiastically, a quick fine received by myself from a delighted copper upon finding one of my papers was out of date! Ooooh! Chuffed to bits but keeping a serious face telling me of the big serious infraction this would cause with the chief, how he couldn't possibly let it go and possibly the bike being impounded, blah, blah, blah...... Ok, dumb copper, how much? Twenty Euros..? Nah, lets go for 5, cool! and he was a happy bunny.
Even though it was late the crossing went well with just a bit of messing about with the customs and searching the bags etc. Christ was I sweating though!! I lost at least a couple of pīnts during the border crossing. It's amazing how everything changes when the night arrives. I mean, as were only used to riding in the day and being able to see nearly everything, at night it's bloody dangerous, with a great pothole or daft donkey ready to be ridden into.
A night spent in, Farafenni, The Gambia and next day head down back into Senegal and in good time for the border crossing which turned out to be easy as pie. Albeit a couple of requests for payments but with my requests for receipts, which are never gonna be given and Peters resistance to paying anyone unless it's absolutley necessary. He's not tight with his money but he's not daft either and with a combination of his elder years and patience he generally gets away with it.
Posted by geoffshing at 04:51 PM
Our entry to Southern Senegal went without a hitch and the three of us (Peter, Mark and I) headed down for a couple of relaxing days by the river in Ziguinchor. A relaxed little town where Peter and I did some bike maintenance after the rattling we took crossing from the north. The bike got a good clean in the towns main petrol station, even though we did the washing we still got stung for 2,000CFA. I explained to the attendant that it was important for us to wash our own individual bikes as it was the best way to inspect for damage but as usual he just looked at me like a berk! Meaning, I was the berk as such a rich westerner washing his own bike, Jeez, this guy must be tight!! Ha Ha Ha.
Peter and I decided to set off and go for Mali border, leaving Mark in the hotel to do some work. Plus we thought we might meet up with Migo en route after his little charity visit.
Upon setting off, we did the usual of fuelling up were upon I decided to let the attendant put in the fuel, silly mistake as per normal they try to get 24 litres into a 23 litre tank and end up with fuel everywhere! I asked him to stop at an appropriate level but he ignored me, I repeated for him to stop and again he ignored me insisting he can get more fuel in the bloody thing! I resorted to shouting, well, screaming at him to stop but the result was the same. Fuel evrywhere and my MP3 nearly took a bath in 'Leaded Super'. He understanably got the hump for shouting as I hurt his feelings. I'd really hurt his feelings if the spilt fuel ignited on the hot exhaust. My protective clothing would help for a minute but he'd torch quite nicely.
Thinking that would be the excitement for the day we headed off towards the border a good few kms away and we needed to get cracking.
After a minor detour (lost) we got onto the road/track required and on the pegs it was negoitiated. After a couple of hundred yards or so Peter pulled over and said did you see that child? What child, I didn't see anything. So again with a shrug of the shoulders we set off with Peter in the lead. Less than a minute later a white pick-up full of men in the back bashed into my side knocking me off the bike with the driver screaming and going nuts!
What the hell did this guy think he was doing...? I got into defence mode thinking a robbery was happening and I was to be the victim seeing the guys unload double quick from the truck! Oh S**t!! I can't exactly make a rapid exit as the bike was on it's side and I was wrapped up in biking gear, helmet on and Peter a 100 yds or so up the road, so the fight commenced. I thought the need top get the bike upright and the driver insisting it staying down....? Strange robbery this is?
It transpired when somebody came, speaking some english, an accident had taken place with a kid back down the road!!!!!!!! Bugger, Peter mentioned about a kid!
So after all the messing about Peter came back, sorted the kid to hospital and I had to take the driver of the pick-up to the hospital on the back of my bike. With him obviously not a happy bunny after receiving a slap from me thinking he was gonna nick the bike.
When we arrived at the hospital and woe betide any poor bugger spending time in there! It was a dump but good by African standards. Peter not only had the mother and child being seen by the doc, well, bloke in a blue dirty gown. But he also had 2 Catholic nuns in tow that had seen the whole thing! Nice one Peter!
It transpired the kid had, unseen by me, run into the back of Peters bike not looking where it was going suffering a smacked face from his left pannier and a cracked tooth with the usual river of tears from it and the Mother! Meanwhile, I was getting the blame for hitting the kid!
Peter owned up to me saying he wasn't sure what went on and though the kid got bloody close to the bike but not hit. he did the nice thing of offering to pay for the treatment and the nuns did the negotiations with the mother who was paid for the kids treatment and taxis but no compensation as it as the kids fault, not Peters after all.
The nuns explained this to the mother, she was happy, the nuns were gracious and everybody went away satisfied. I mean the whole bill was less than 30,000CFA (less than 40 quid) So again, off we went being graciously led by the nuns to the correct road and set off again with eyes like hawks for dumb kids!
Thinking that was the end and now no more than a blog entry to remember but how wrong we were.......!
Happily buzzing down the road 40+ miles from Ziguinchor, we stopped for lunch, played with the local kids for a break and resumed the trip. After running into a (bad terminology I know) roadblock consisting of 3 Gendarmes in military uniform our passports were taken from us and insisted we go to the local cop shop. Nothing too amazing there by that request till we got to the police station and informed , after an bit of waiting, that they knew of the accident in the morning and the CHILD WAS DEAD!!!
After some questionning about ourselves, pqrents names, etc and this being relayed by radio to their base, we were ordered to ride our bikes with Gendarme passengers (armed of course!) to the next police station to be met by a commander of sorts to finish questionning. I ended up with the young 'un on the back of my bike insisting ' faster, faster, faster', loving the loud horn I had fitted and waving his arms like a demented road cop! Idiot! With Peter, the older, fatter and decidedly more worried cop on the back of him, none too plussed of the prospect of coming off the bike following the high speed junkie 'young 'un' in the lead!
Once in the next Police station the atmosphere changed from not good to not bloody good at all! With the bikes being impounded and us put in the back of a pick-up and cuffed to one another! After being informed we were going back to Ziguinchor and made to answer for ourselves and all the cops giving us the daggers for killing a kid, my thoughts weren't too good at this stage apart from the fact it wasn't actually me that hit the kid but at this stage I was the one who had the blame upon them, S**T!
After an hour or so were were finally taken in front of the Battalion Commander, who amazingly spoke good english, after training in the states and explained to us they had received a phone call that morning, saying a child was a victim of a 'Hit and Run' by two white bikers fitting our description and resulting in the childs death!
It was explained to him about the mornings events, the payments and the two nuns.
'Ah.. 2 nuns you say? I know them!' said the Commander!! F******G WHEY HEY!! was my initial thought to hearing that lump of gold come out of his mouth!! One thing they don't do in Senegal is piss around with other peoples religions, especially as he was Catholic too. This just couldn't get better! So the Commander brought before him the family and the supposed 'Dead' child, remarkably alive and looking really bemused as to what the heck was going on. Also the 2 nuns and the arse that knocked me off the bike. Thankfully throught the entire 'capture' (in the Commanders words), our personal belongings were still with us. So I was texting a good friend in the UK organising British Foreign Office numbers and the option of an international lawyers to fly in and bail us out if required.
It all ended up with the family trying to pull a fast one and demand more money for the childs supposed lifetime disfigurement. A cracked tooth, Yeah, cheers pal! To be told by the Commander that we'd already done a good thing in the first place and to piss-off home!
Peter and I got released, passports handed back and handshakes all round. I could have bloody kissed the 2 nuns as if it weren't for them we'd probably still be in Senegal being lined up for a few years!
That night a few beers being drunk, the best meal I've tasted in a while and the days events being recounted a few times it was time for an exhausted sleep.
Next day, we had to go over the scene and when we asked for a lift back to the bikes we were shown the bus station! Thanks guys...Not!!
The picture is of Peter and I in the battered Mercedes bus heading back for the bikes feeling greatly releived!!
get me the hell out of Senegal, Sharpish!!
Posted by geoffshing at 06:16 PM
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