Day 40: Nightmare border crossing (2)

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Wed 15 Dec 2010 18:37
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.