Friday, March 09, 2007

some guys have all the luck

As long as I'm on the site, posting, I guess I might as well throw this little tid-bit out to people.
We ran into 3 teams in Dakar before we left. 2 guys in a station wagon, 3 guys in a VW bus, and 2 ladies in a 4 door sedan (I don't know what kind of car it was). We'd crossed paths with most of the teams a couple of times before, especially the guys in the station wagon. Personally, I sometimes thought that they were the antithesis of our group - experienced mechanics, traveling light, with well defined plans and an efficient and direct manner. They took their own firewood into the desert. They traveled for weeks in Morocco before we got to Tarifa. They went all over the place. The group, plus another car, traveled across the Sahara with NO guide, just a couple of GPS's. That's crazy.
When we saw them in Dakar, they were planning on going to Banjul the long way around - driving all the way around the Gambia (within Senegal), and then approaching Banjul from the South. Sounded like fun - crazy, but fun (Casamance, in the south of Senegal, is doing a little seceding dance, and things are getting a little excited down there, from what I understand). Anyway, the complication to their travel plans was the intersection of 2 salient facts. One, that all cars that enter Senegal are supposed to be escorted through the country together. These guys had slipped away from their escort, which can be overlooked at the border, but were all on the same ingress/egress document, which means they all have to cross the border out of Senegal together. And, two, two of the teams had to get to Banjul earlier than the rest to catch their return flights home.
So, the plan was to leave Dakar (and, boy, did they get a late start. I remember them leaving way after lunch), drive to the nearest border with the Gambia, say their farewells, and then continue (the last 2 cars) on their trip around Senegal. Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well for them. They were stopped at some point in Senegal by the MPs, with a mismatch between the number of cars in the convoy and the number of cars stated in their travel documents, and got in a world of trouble. Last I heard they were back home safely, but had spent 10 days in "custody" by the police, or military, before things were settled. Here's an excerpt from the PB listserv:

As far as I know they were not entirely innocent and were the unlucky
ones that got caught.
They started out in a convoy from Diama with a customs guide, 2 other
P-B cars and 7 (I think) unrelated old Dutch tourist cars. A Dutch car broke down and the guide handed the "Passe Avante (sp?)" to the P-Bers and told them to go straight to the border leading to the Barra ferry.
Well, they didn't. They went to the next place up stream on the river. Still OK, the other two crossed into The Gambia and handed the Passe to Double de Klutz who headed further inland towards a national park.
When they were apprehended they couldn't prove that the other two cars had left Senegal and the last I heard they were held under threat of jail, waiting for proof to be sent from Banjul.

I'd like them to send me more deatils so we can warn people for next year. So if anyone can get them to do that or send info yourself, I'd be greatful.

2006/7, quite an eventful year for the challenge!

Road Book Editor

After re-reading the quote, I guess it was one car that was trying to drive around the country, and the other two had gone ahead into the Gambia.
What's the lesson here? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty confident that, all things considered, we didn't have it so bad when we were stuck in Dahkla for 6 days, sleeping in nice hotel rooms and drinking cold beers. That, and the fact that no amount of planning can prepare you for the random things that lady luck might throw at you. That goes for life here, as much as it applies to the trip.

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