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Escape from Africa

Senegal to Dubai

I’d like to say that after the most recent police ticket for having luggage in the back seat (it still makes me mad, how utterly ridiculous!) we were ready to get the heck out of Senegal, but frankly I was ready to leave Senegal a long time ago. We figured we’d make the most of our remaining days here, and found a great place to stay back in Saly, about an hour from Dakar. Recall Saly was where we met Arona and said goodbye to a bunch of our euros after receiving such generous hospitality. We are pretty conspicuous, so not long after we returned we received a phone call from Arona and a couple of times we might have heard shouts of hello driving around the smallish town. I’m starting to reconsider his approach. I still think it’s obnoxious, the money-grubbing kindness, but I suspect it’s not malicious. My guess is that he doesn’t have any idea that we might be annoyed at him and thinks that now we’ve broken bread we are friends. Still, we didn’t answer his call – the one-sided exchange of money doesn’t foster strong relationships. Instead we spent a couple of days eating great food, mostly shrimp and monkfish brochettes. For some reason, even though the country is primarily Muslim there was a guy wandering around the restaurants with half a down large plastic Santas. Many of the eateries also have musicians at night. Senegal is supposed to be known for its great music but mostly the musicians played cheesy seventies reggae. At one place I was delighted to hear a guy strumming on an extremely odd three-pronged phallic looking string instrument with a very pleasing Senegalese style, but he managed one song, asked us for money, tried to sell us a miniature of the phallic instrument, and left. So much for that. Happy days though – we finally found a place to get an African massage! This involves lying on a bed face up topless with no covering which was quite embarrassing until I forgot about it and fell asleep.

Wednesday started fabulously. We were packing up and I sniffed a dish towel to see if it was clean or not. Remember the Moroccan spice we bought ages ago and used once? Well it had spilled all over the dish towel, which I did not notice, and I snorted about five tablespoons of it into my brain. This was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried getting Moroccan spice out of your brain through your nasal passage, but it simply isn’t possible. The spice then spent the next hour traveling south to my throat, killing millions of brain cells and eventually making my throat feel nearly as agonizing.

We drove into Dakar from Saly for a day trip, not because there’s anything appealing about Dakar, it’s a smoggy, drab city composed nearly entirely of half finished concrete buildings, but because we needed to figure out how to get the Toyota back to England where Rob is going to be kind enough to pick it up and drive it back to Ireland. Shipping the car has been an exercise in utter incompetence from across the globe. We wanted to use Grimaldi Shipping, but they told us we needed to work through a broker, John Good, so Rick started the discussion several months ago. Two days before we were due to leave, Neil from John Good tells us that to get the car off the ship in Tilbury we need to register it as a UK vehicle which involves thousands of dollars of work in retrofitting, such as changing the speedometer from kilometers per hour to miles per hour. As we won’t have the car in England for more than a day this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and infuriating that Neil failed to mention it until the 11th hour. Even more frustrating is he sent us an email saying ‘Urgent – please advise.’ You are the broker you twit, you are supposed to advise us. On the Dakar end (getting the car on the ship) things are no better. Neil tells us it would be best to speak to Grimaldi directly, after Grimaldi telling us we needed to go through a broker. Neil puts us in touch with a guy called John from Grimaldi UK, who tells us it would be better if we went into the Grimaldi Dakar office to talk to them. However the address he gives us is miles from their office – they moved four years ago, so it takes us hours to locate and we only managed to find it because Rick spotted their name on their corporate building on the side of the highway. We get there, and they tell us that tomorrow is a public holiday, and they can’t do anything for us until 8am on Friday, the day we want to leave. We were trying to exit Senegal 4 days early it’s such a god-forsaken place, and spend the extra time in Dubai before heading to New Zealand, but we didn’t want to book plane tickets until the car was in the port. Grimaldi then tells us we need a broker on the Dakar end – what Neil from John Good is doing for us I have no idea. They tell us their fee is $400 in addition to the John Good fee of $1,200. When we ask if that’s all for fees they say yes, but when we get to another office miles across town we’re told there’s also a port fee of $200. We have no cash so we have to lose our place in line and wander around the city looking for a bank. Anyway, too maddening and stressful to describe much more, but Rick spent six hours on Friday running back and forth miles between ports in the heat while Customs incompletely stamped the carnet in the wrong place and the Grimaldi broker we’d hired took ten times as long as he needed to as he was conducting other business on the side. I spent much of those six hours in the sun with our luggage, being told ‘no you can’t sit here’ and being moved three feet to the left, and an hour later told ‘no you can’t sit here’ and being moved three feet to the right, and so on. Eventually Rick has everything in order on the Dakar side (cross fingers), and as the car won’t arrive in Tilbury until Dec 31st we’ll worry about that half of the equation later. Right now, we just want to be as far away from Senegal as humanly possible – Pluto would be nice. We finally made it to the airport on the outskirts of town to be told we needed to go back downtown to the Emirates office to buy plane tickets. Then what’s the point of the Emirates office in the airport? Can’t you just call them for me? Oh, okay. But they are sleeping right now, they won’t be back until 3:30. I’ll wait. Two hours before the flight to Dubai is scheduled to depart we have tickets in hand. phew!

So that’s the African leg of our great adventure done. You’d think it would be smooth sailing from hereon, but Rick with his goal of breaking as many laws as possible packs a souvenir from Mauritania in his carry-on. Nothing so innocuous as a keychain or a shell necklace, no, he thinks a used 50 Caliber machine gun bullet casing that he found in the desert is an appropriate memento. United Arab Emirates does NOT find this amusing and he spends 2 hours detained in the Dubai airport police station being strip searched and interrogated. And, they confiscated the bullet.

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2 Reader Comments

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  1. Lutz says:

    Justine, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your tales of Africa, and even shared your blog with friends who are equally impressed by both your adventurousness and your writing skills. There’s a book in here, trust me. Can’t wait to hear about the next leg of your journey. Congratulations on a successful marriage, and all the best for 2015!

  2. Daniel says:

    That was a very depressing story (on your end), but throughly enjoyable for me. The experience of having chili powder in my skull would seem like hell.

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