Day 46: Carnet de Passage

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Mon 20 Dec 2010 20:37
Day 46: Monday 20 December 2010. Bush camp between Koalack and Tambacounda, Senegal. N14 04.041 W015 15.384  Distance driven 312 km. Total distance 8,244 km.
Today's mission was to get our Carnet de Passage stamped by Customs so that we could head for the Mali border as we have a Christmas day date with the Oasis crew (2 days ahead of us) at the Sleeping Camel in Bamako!
0545. Get up in the dark, have cold shower in the dark - fortunate because they are open showers!
0645. Drive out in the dark, headed for Dakar Port. We figured if we kept the sea on our starboard side we would come to the Port eventually, and this strategy worked well - we hit the Port right outside the Customs building after driving down the new Corniche Ouest road through classy suburbs of Dakar with hundreds of locals doing keep-fit classes on the beach in the dark!
0715.  Arrive at Bureau des Douanes - subsection Dakar Port, and find out that it opens at 0800. 
0745. Enter and are told we must see the Chef de Bureau on the second floor - sounds about right, always start at the top. Wait outside his office, only to find it is the wrong one!
0815. Enter outer office of Chef de Bureau where there are 2 clerks.  Clerk #1 take sour Carnet, attaches a document control sheet, issues a number, enters it in a ledger, and puts it in  a pile for submission to the chief.  Clerk #1 says to come back at 0930, clerk #2 says 0900. We go out in the street and sit  with a bunch of guys having a coffee from a one-man mobile vendor.  2 coffees 100 CFA whereas at our classy beach resort, 1 coffee CFA 1500! How the tourists are ripped off.
0900. Back at the Chef de Bureau office. Wait until 0920 when clerk #1 takes the pile of papers in for signature.  Meanwhile two "suits" arrive for a meeting with the Chief and our hopes are dashed, but at 0930 out come the papers.  This is followed by a flurry of stamping by the document controller and Clerk #2 enters all the outcoming papers in another ledger. It seems that our Carnet has passed the first control point!  Clerk #2 then takes us, with a pile of papers, down to the Secretariat Office on the ground floor where a number of papers are transferred, signed for and entered in yet another ledger. The Secretary of the Secretariat Chef de Section advises us that the Chef is not there - he is one of the "suits" upstairs with the Chef de Bureau. We are told he may be an hour.  As it is Monday morning and the offices were closed last Thursday and Friday for a public holiday, one imagines they have lots to talk about. 
0940. Meanwhile we, and many others, sit outside the Chef de Section office and observe the comings and goings, most of which are very elegant young ladies, beautifully dressed and mainly in stiletto heels.  We begin to wonder what brings them to Customs HQ?  Outside the Secretariat there had been a very busty, black haired beauty in 6" heels, sitting on the customer's side of one of the desks. When I asked Jenny her opinion of the lady's function she implied that it was mainly performed lying down. However, this notion was later dispelled.
1035. Chef "suit" appears and 5 minutes later we go back in the chase our Carnet only to find that Chef has approved it and gorgeous is recording the fact in yet another ledger.  She then takes us to yet another office where the papers are transferred to a man who looks as if he actually does something. He quickly takes out our Carnet, requests a copy of the car registration document and a copy of my passport (fortunately we have a ready supply of these) and quickly completes and stamps the Carnet. 
1045. Outside and driving away after three hours mainly waiting.
Now, if Customs in Dakar are prepared to accept Carnet de Passages, why in heavens name can't Customs at the frontier accept the Carnet? Why did we have to go all the way to Dakar, hundreds of miles out of our way and take 3 days out of our holiday? Is its just bloody-mindedness?
We then hot-footed it out of town - at a steady 20 kph in thick traffic!! It got better once we were out of town but the pollution was dreadful - blowing sand, cement plant dust, diesel fumes, oil burning cars ugh!  Once clear of Dakar we managed to put in over 300 km before we collapsed from heat exhaustion.  One thing we don't have in the car is a thermometer but it must have been 35 degrees today.  Still, while waiting outside the Chef's office we watched French TV coverage of snow in Europe closing the main Paris airports! Give me polluted Dakar at 30+!
We are camped by the side of the main road to the Mali border tonight in a field from which millet has just been harvested.  No bugs, no people to hassle us, no traffic and  a full moon lighting up the baobab trees. Wonderful!