1 January 2011 – 5 January 2011
So, here we are back at the crime scene. Liam comes back to the car and says, “I’m being called a KILLER. The cops are calling me a killer. All because the woman went to the hospital.” However, we don’t speak French well enough and they aren’t absorbing the fact that the damn bike hit us. Oh and the people on bikes NEVER wear protective equipment or helmets. Now, really, I’m pissed and scared. Liam is going to jail in Senegal. WTF am I going to do? Our phones were only working sporadically and we couldn’t call out. But, we could text. It’s dark. We can’t see anything and lots of people are surrounding the car. It’s the worst-case scenario.
Or so I thought. Then, they decide they are taking Liam to the police station for fleeing the scene. Okay. NOW, it’s worst-case scenario. He is really going to jail. Another cop tries to get in the truck but they still don’t believe us that there isn’t a back seat and we aren’t putting another person up front without a seat belt. So, the police officer gets a cab. And away we go. For Liam to end up in an international prison.
We arrive at the police station and Liam locks me in the car while he goes into the station. I’m frantically trying to call one of the two guys at the embassy that we know pretty well. Stupid phone isn’t working. Not the best time for it to crap out on us. Finally, get a text out to Keegan. He’s in IRT in Senegal. He is able to call us. Thank goodness. I tell him what happened. But, the connection is spotty at best. There is a lot of repeating and I’m not sure what he actually got. Except we were hit by a bike and Liam is in jail. Also asked him to call Al at the Radisson since his cell phone isn’t working. Since it’s an embassy vehicle from Mauritania, Al is actually responsible for the vehicle and we wanted him to be in the know.
About this time, Liam comes out to the car and has me hunting for the new Senegal insurance. Apparently, the old one is expired. Come to find out there was never a new one purchased. So, Liam is being detained until they work out the insurance situation. I update Keegan after Liam fills me in. Keegan and I hang up and he calls the RSO and the SDO within the embassy. These are all the people who need to know. Then, no one calls us back for 45 minutes. Finally, Keegan is able to get through again and asks us if we have spoken to the RSO. I tell him no. I know he is trying to call us but the damn phones aren’t working. GRRRRRR. So, frustrating.
Meanwhile, Liam is inside the police station. Here’s what was happening to him. Liam was informally “formally” accused of fleeing the scene of an accident, driving without insurance, and running over a motorcycle. At which point, Liam is trying to give them all of the proper documentation they are requesting. He is also trying to explain that he is a diplomat. No one understands English well. Liam has eight police officers surrounding him. He is trying to explain in Frenglish that the motorbike hit us. But, it doesn’t seem that anyone is grasping this fact. Still. Finally, one of the police officers seemed to understand. However, the only person who finally admits to speaking English is sitting in the drunk tank. That’s right. Now a fugitive in the drunk tank is going to help out my fugitive husband by translating. Awesome. It’s only going to get better. I promise.
So, from the car. I see Liam laughing with a guy in the jail cell. Shit. He’s making friends with the person he is going to share a cell with tonight. Not a good sign.
Liam then asks Mohammed (drunk tank guy or as Liam likes to call him – My Man on the Inside) what the process is. He says that they are just going to hassle him for a bit but they will let him go.
I’m still in the car. It’s been about an hour. Liam keeps coming in and out without a whole lot of information.
Meanwhile, more and more police officers of increasing rank arrive to the police station. Liam finally gets them to understand that he is a diplomat and a Major in the United States Army. Suddenly. The situation changes. Of course the motorbike would run into him. He’s too responsible to run into a motorbike. Suddenly, they are offering hotel recommendations and things to do tomorrow. Because Saint Louis is a wonderful place and we need to enjoy it. HUH??!?!?!?!?!?!
I’m still in the car. Dying to go pee and freaking out. Finally, Liam comes out again with 2 police officers and they are being very friendly. Shortly thereafter the police chief shows up. Then, the “Big Man” and Liam go to the “Big Man” office and discuss the situation. Through the use of Frenglish, they come to an agreement of what occurred. It looks like Liam is actually going to be a free man. At least for the night.
I decide everything is okay and I’m going to brave a police station bathroom because otherwise the front seat of the car is in for it. Walk inside and walk up to the counter that hits at about chin level on me. Yes. Intimidating. I ask where the toilet is.
While I’m in the bathroom, the police officers are sorting through paperwork to keep Liam’s passport and driver’s license. (My husband is a brilliant man and gave them his regular tourist passport and his Tanzanian driver’s license rather than his Diplomatic passport and Alaska driving license). I walk out from the bathroom to learn that everything is okay and we are free for the night. Liam has picked our hotel and the police officers point us in the right direction.
About this point, the RSO was finally able to get through and give Liam all the information he needed and who needed to be involved from the embassy’s point of view. What a cluster. Seriously. Motorcycle riders need to learn that if they run into something extremely bigger than them – it doesn’t go well for them.
The only catch. We have to come back in the morning to make his official statement. So, really. My next question is – ARE WE GOING TO BE ABLE TO LEAVE WEST AFRICA AND GO HOME???????? I’m over this place.
Crossed over one bridge. Drove around town. Crossed over another bridge and turned left. Drove through another section of town and then through what had to have been the fish market based on the smell. Continued heading south. Hoping we weren’t going to end up in the Atlantic Ocean. Finally found the hotel. Reception is open and they have availability. Head to our room and decide to head out into town to find something to eat. Pick a restaurant literally around the corner. We were too tired to drive all the way back into town.
Dinner was delicious. I finally decided to try Capitanie. I have heard great things about this little white fish and my whole grilled fish lived up to everything everyone said. It was yummy. My favorite part. A cat followed my plate to the table. Sat at my feet and meowed until I shared. As soon as the waiter took my plate away, the cat was gone. I know where his loyalties lie.
Head back to our room to settle down after a rather ridiculous night. The room was fantastic. It was huge, but we enjoyed having the space to spread out and relax. We had earned it at this point. What a day. Now off to sleep. We have to be up early to return to the police station.
On the second day of the New Year, we head to prison. Again. Seriously. This year is already looking like it’s going to be drama filled. I was hoping to have a slow, calm year. But, then again. It’s my life and I have yet to have a full year sans chaos.
Arrived at the police station and everyone was all smiles and how are you this morning? We were shuffled upstairs to give a statement. Then, over to the big man’s office. Then, back down to the lobby. Then, the BIGGEST man came in and went over our statement. When we started wiping his hands against the air after hearing what happened, we realized we were good. Liam wasn’t going to jail after all. And we would be able to get out of West Africa. I’m ready to go home.
Decide to spend the afternoon of our freedom wandering around St. Louis. It’s actually a great place! It’s the first French colony in West Africa and looks very New Orleans-esque. We found a great Asian restaurant at the end of the island and had breakfast/lunch. Fried plantains, spring rolls, hot tea, and pork. It was the perfect breakfast. Got back in the car and continued to wander. We decided to head back to the hotel to grab the camera to take a few pictures of the boats coming in from fishing the Atlantic.
Grabbed a few shots and migrated more into town. This place is really dirty. In fact, all of West Africa is really dirty. Park on the side of the road near the bridge and wander down to the boats. Start to take pictures of the town, boats, trash, etc when a few children started screaming at me that I couldn’t take their picture or a picture of the boats. Of course, I had already taken most of the boat shots I wanted. So, I ignored the kids and kept looking around to see if there was anything else I wanted to take a picture of. The children then started asking me for money and I could take their pictures. Nope. Sorry. Not interested.
Turn around and see a HUGE pelican about 3-4 meters away from me. Decide I’m going to walk closer slowly but surely to get a great close-up shot. I move closer and closer and closer. Yet, the bird does nothing. That’s when I noticed that the poor pelican’s ankle was tied to a stake in the ground. HUH???!??!?!??!?!! I really am confused by these people. The poor bird needs to be able to fly and swim. How can they tie it up and leave it alone? Makes me sick. I thought about untying the poor bird but there were WAY too many people watching the mzungu.
Captured a great shot of a goat bleating through a doorway. He was really unhappy about something….probably the pelican tied up outside his doorway and taking all of his attention.
Began walking across the footbridge. Took a few more pictures from St. Louis Island. Walked back over the bridge and came across a gentleman who wanted to be our tour guide. He showed us how the boats were made and then took us to see his pet pelican. Pet pelican? I can only shake my head in annoyance.
After our tour, the gentlemen asks Liam to buy him some milk and sugar rather than paying him. I really am annoyed by Senegal. Everything is a scam here. People aren’t friendly just because. They are always looking out for number 1.
Liam is nicer than I am today and decides that he would rather buy this guy some groceries then pay him money. Of course, the guy wanted us to spend a small fortune on him. Liam said this is all the CFA I have (about $10). Well, then the guy wanted to see his money to help him count it out. Liam told him he was perfectly able to count money and that is all he had available to spend. Whatever. Wifey stayed quiet and out of the way. Otherwise, I was going to start screaming at the Africans. Some days, I do stop and think. This is proof. It does occasionally happen.
Finally, get rid of the “guide” we didn’t want. And return to the hotel after driving around a little more. We decided to go ahead and get gas so we would be ready for the drive back to Mauritania tomorrow. We have a flight to catch and if we don’t leave early enough, we won’t make it back to Dakar in time to catch the next leg of our flight. Which means, we would be stuck in West Africa for another 2-3 days. And that isn’t going to happen. Sorry.
Enjoy a nice leisurely stroll on the beach, grab some lunch, and begin cleaning out the car and repacking all of our stuff. That way once we grab our other suitcase from Al’s we will have a few minutes to repack and get out of there and make our flight back to Dakar. Al’s car was at the hotel, so he figured out where we were thanks to Keegan. I really wish our cell phones were working. This is extremely annoying.
Head back out to explore town and drive around taking more pictures of town. We were basically killing time until the boats left for their night of fishing. Finally, sunset began and we took a ton of pictures. Unfortunately, it was a rather hazy day and the pictures aren’t great. Took a few of the boats leaving for the evening. After we were done with the pictures, Liam saw a road heading uphill towards the beach and decided to take it. I told him I thought it was a bad idea because the “road” was basically sand. Well, guess what. We got stuck. And once again, we were unable to get the four-wheel drive to engage. The shifter was stuck and we couldn’t get it loose. What is it with our inability to engage four wheel drive???
Luckily for us, two very friendly Senegalese men walked by and came to help us dig out the car. It took about 30-45 minutes. The sand was so soft, it kept digging in further and further. On a hunch, I decided to take out all of my frustration on the four-wheel drive shifter and pulled on it and it finally budged. Liam was able to get it unstuck the rest of the way. We dug the car out a little more and we were finally able to back up. Sheesh. Liam finally agrees with me that driving through sand without prior testing of 4-wheel-drive is a bad idea. Bout time.
Offer both the guys who helped us a ride home. However, one had his bike and was off. The other guy took us up on it. He was really nice! We dropped his wares off at a friend’s house and migrated to his house. He jumped out of the front seat and thanked us, then we headed back to the hotel for dinner. As we pulled up to the hotel and I was about to jump out, I couldn’t find my shoe. I threw them on the floorboard while we were trying to dig the car out and one was suddenly missing. Therefore, we went on a shoe hunt in the dark. It was not where the car got stuck. It was not where the guy dropped off his wares. Nope it was on the corner where we dropped the guy off about 20 minutes away from our hotel. YAY! My shoe. I’m so happy we found you!!!
Needless to say. By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were both famished. Ran into our room, cleaned up a little and headed to the dining hall. Liam went over to talk to Al about leaving in the morning since we had to be on the road no later than 7am. We enjoyed a pleasant dinner together and headed back to the room to sleep.
Woke up and packed all of our stuff, went to check out and discovered that we would be unable to check out until 7:30am. CRAP!!! That’s not good. Well, hopefully the borders will not take forever and we can still make our flight. Sweet. Another stressful day to look forward to. But, Liam did not want to stay another night in Mauritania, so this was the compromise.
Loaded the cars, ate breakfast and impatiently awaited checkout. Then, we were off. On a mad dash. Crossed the Senegalese boarder. Crossed the Mauritanian border. Drove through a huge wetlands national park with tons of birds and warthogs. Now time to stop and take pictures. I’m ready to get home. Then, it was a race through the Sahel. On a sort-of road. Here’s video of what it’s like driving through the Sahel. More or less we bounced through the Sahel. Here’s video proof.
Arrived in Noukchattet and it was traffic in every direction. Drove a back way to Al’s house. Raced inside grabbed the suitcase and ran to the airport. Repacked the suitcases in the car. We left the keys in the car and Al was going to pick it up later. Arrived at the airport with just enough time to make our flight. We were hassled by security because we did not have an expediter from the embassy. So, we kept our cool, stood our ground and fought our way out of the airport. When they called for boarding, I was elated. I was almost free from West Africa.
Walked onto the plane and I wanted to hug the Senegalese flight attendants. They were taking me far away from Mauritania. Well, not that far but at least it was the start of going home. The flight took about an hour to get back to Dakar. Our flight to Nairobi and then Dar wasn’t leaving until the next day, so we thought we would take a cab to another hotel nearby.
Landed, grabbed our bags and headed out of the terminal. Walked over to the taxi line and began negotiating a rate. Well, in true Senegalese fashion everyone was yelling and screaming over each other and we finally convinced someone to accept our rate of 5,000 CFA. Jumped in the cab and away we went.
As we approached the hotel, there was a mob of people around one of the circles. The driver slowed and people started attacking our car. They were trying to open doors and were beating on the windows and the car. We were able to get all the doors locked before anyone opened them. Then, the cab driver got out of the car. Okay. Now momma is FURIOUS! I don’t really care who you run over but you better get us to safety. Liam tried to grab the keys but the driver realized what he was doing and grabbed the keys before Liam could. Then, I told him to call the embassy while I pulled out my dip passport and told the rioters it was probably not a good idea to mess with us. I don’t know what worked, but all of a sudden after a few more punches to the car, they decided to go pick on another car. The driver got back in, started driving away, and Liam and I fumed. I was HOT.
Couldn’t find the cheaper hotel and decided to go to the Radisson because it was nicer. Until the cabbie wanted to charge us almost $60. This dude is treading on such thin ice right now. I don’t even want to pay him at all. We decide to go back to Le Meridian. We know where it is and I’m not paying a cent over 5,000 CFA. Get to the hotel, pull three of our bags out of the trunk. Give him the money as I reach for the fourth bag and he slams the trunk and starts arguing with me about how I have not paid him enough. Well, I proceed to absolutely chew this guy up down, left, right, and all over the place. He received the brunt of my anger from the past two weeks and I didn’t care. I made a scene. Yes, I was a little embarrassed after the fact. But, this jackass let us get attacked, got out of the car, wanted to overcharge us and then steal my bag. Yep. I hate him.
Finally the bell hop came to my aid and got him to release our bag informing him that if he didn’t we were going to call the police and press charges and have him arrested. He gave in, handed me my bag, and left.
Liam came out from checking in and decided that wifey was done and he needed to take over. Thankfully. Went upstairs to our room and relaxed for a little bit. Walked back downstairs to grab some lunch and thanked the bellhop and apologized for making a scene. He laughed and said it was okay! Probably because he made a little money out of the deal!!!
Enjoyed a nice afternoon poolside and then decided to walk to the Moroccan restaurant down the street for dinner. I was NOT taking another taxi in this town. As we walked, a man joined us and was very chatty. At some point, he started talking about his new baby and how he was throwing a huge party! Then, he started giving Liam and I gifts. Guess what happened next? He asked for money. When Liam gave him 5000 CFA, he became irate and demanded that Liam give him more. We told him no and hustled to the restaurant. Sheesh. I’m beyond worn out.
Enjoyed a delicious tagine dinner! Liam had never had Moroccan food. Pretty sure he is a fan now. The server was one of the nicest people we met in Dakar. It was refreshing. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, watching over our shoulder making sure that crazy dude with the new baby wasn’t following us again. Finally made it to the hotel and dashed upstairs to relax and collapse in bed.
Woke up on the morning of the fourth and signed up for the airport shuttle. Spent the morning lounging and repacking our bags to disperse the weight as much as possible. Headed to the airport a few hours early. Sat in the check-in area for a few hours. Finally, they opened check-in and we were able to get rid of our suitcases and go through security. This was the first time anyone in Africa had checked my yellow fever card. Interesting. Made it through security and wandered around the duty free stores. Had a pizza and a few drinks trying to burn through the last of our CFA and to kill time before our plane left. Finally, the Kenya Airways flight landed. We were less than an hour away from really being en route out of West Africa.
Landed in Nairobi on the morning of the 5th. Liam went exploring in the airport looking for the first class lounge/elite status lounge. Well, he couldn’t find it. But, he did walk past the flight to Mogadishu. He came back with huge white eyeballs and told me “If you want to be terrified, walk down to gate 1. That was creepy.” Apparently, as his little white, Irish self walked past all of the Somalis, they stared him down and gave him a look of hatred. I decided I didn’t really need to experience that first hand. His retelling was good enough for me!
Enjoyed a nice breakfast at a café in the terminal and then headed to our gate. Our flight left for Dar right on time and we were headed home. I hugged Smoker as soon as I saw him! Finally, my rafikis! I really love Tanzania and it felt so great to be home!