Day 40: Tuesday 14 December 2010. Zebrabar, St Louis,
Senegal. N15 51.848 W016 30.773 Distance driven 337 km. Distance driven in last
9 days 2,500 km
The day started badly. We were all set for an 0800
start to drive to the border at Diama but received news from the Oasis truck
that another of their trucks had been through Diama last week and the Customs
there had refused to stamp their Carnet de Passage. They had been given a 48
hour Passavant de Circulation and had instructions to go the Customs at Dakar to
get the Carnet stamped. The weekend had intervened, during which Customs were
closed, and they had failed to get an extension in St Louis and were in big
trouble. This delayed our start while we debated whether to cut out
Senegal altogether but unfortunately our Mauritanian visa expired before the
Mali visa became valid, so we had to go to Senegal. There was some
suggestion that the Customs at the Rosso border crossing
might stamp the Carnet so we weighed up this against the known hassles
of the Rosso crossing and reluctantly decided to try the Rosso crossing against
everyone's advice - mistake No. 1! It wasn't until 0930 that we left Nouakchott
- mistake No.2.
The drive to Rosso was on an awful road full of potholes
and it was 1300 before we reached the Mauritanian border and drove through the
Blue Gates into Hell. We were immediately besieged by an army of "helpers"
whom it was clear worked in conjunction with the border police and
customs. We didn't actually engage any of them but we couldn't get rid of
them. They took charge. By that time all officials had gone "for
lunch" and wouldn't be back until 1500, the next ferry across the Senegal River
being at 1530. We were relieved of a total of Oougiyra 21,500 (70 Euros); for
Community tax, Police tax, embarkation fee, stamping the exit on the Carnet,
stamping the passports (2,000) and the ferry charge (5,000). We waited in
the sun and tried to keep track of our documents. The Customs officials
didn't get back until 1520 and then the Chief was missing, and he was the one
with the stamp for the Carnet! The ferry came and went a couple of times and
then it all happened at once - we got our papers and boarded the ferry, along
with our army of helpers.
In the interim we were able to purchase our third party
vehicle insurance for the ECOWAS countries which should cover us all the
way through to Congo. That was another 150 Euros for 3 months, but I think
that was about right.
On the Senegal side we were relieved of another CFA
33,500 (60 Euros) for stamping the passport, issuing the Passavant,
exit tax (20,000 CFA) - what was this, we were ENTERING the bloody country!
I had to visit Customs personally as the helpers were too scared to go in with
me. The Chief of Customs took me aside and warned me that the "helpers"
were rouges and thieves and I should have nothing to do with them - told him to
tell his Mauritanian oppo! We finally got everything stamped and I was in
possession of all the documents. By this time I was convinces that I had
been well and truly shafted by this bunch and I was really mad. I drove
out of the compound, nearly running them down and having a furious argument with
their leader who was demanding his commission. I eventually threw him a
bunch of Mauritanian oogs and drove off into the setting sun, thoroughly pissed
off with them, with Mauritania and with Senegal.
The drive from Rosso to the Zebrabar, 20 km south of St
Louis was about 90 km; the road was absolute crap - full of potholes and we were
driving into the setting sun, exhausted, filthy with sweat and dust, tired and
hungry. It was a nightmare drive, especially as it got dark on the
outskirts of St Louis and the road was littered with donkey carts, goats,
potholes, over-loaded pickups and totally over-loaded minibuses, mostly without
lights. We actually turned on the AC for the first time this trip, we were
so buggered. On the outskirts of St Louis we were pulled over by the police and
told that we had not stopped at a previous police control point. We denied
this emphatically - and got away with it!
Driving to the Zebrabar (by GPS) was like fukawi
country, the road got worse and worse, we got further and further out into the
country, we crossed stretches of water and then off-road onto a sand piste among
palm trees, through little villages, more goats and donkey carts, until we
finally rolled into a civilised haven on a sand spit in the Senegal River and
were greeted by Martin. It was after 2000 and we just couldn't face putting up
the tent and cooking dinner so we opted for a bungalow, dinner and a couple of
cold beers. Heaven!
Tomorrow's problem is to sort out the Passavant,
preferably without driving 5 hours to the hell-hole of Dakar Port.