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Beyla to Kankan, the morning after

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Beyla to Kankan.

In this
lawless world anything can happen. The morning we leave the area of Beyla we
face the next stretch of bad road, and see the same old scenery of rain forest,
by now a regular sight.

Long, unbelievable pools of
mud slow us down and make our journey a hell, once again. My heart always jumps
at the sight of a pothole which is as large as a swimming pool, though not as
deep, which turns out to be our Savior.

We make it slowly through
the forests, the roads in unbelievable condition, slightly better than in Roman
times. Sometimes driving at 10 mph, I think how long it will take me to reach
Kankan, today’s final destination. No time to stop for a rest, just to get out
of this jungle is my only thought, for I am slowly but steadily getting tired of
this menacing place.

I cannot see the
beauty of the forest, the sometimes appearing rice paddies. It is getting stale
to my eyes, I
am possessed by one thought, to get out finally and find my
truck and passengers.

I reach the French
Cotton plantation with the ginnery in the afternoon and I know that I am not far
from my destination. Another checkpoint at the entrance of Kankan, this time
much more subtle than in the southern part of the country. Tired and completely
slugged out I pay and pass through till I enter the city of Kankan, the largest
in the north of Guinea.

At the time the Renault
truck left its home, one agreement was struck. When nothing is heard for 3 weeks
– meet us in Kankan. Neither knew anything about the city, the sheer size would
indicate that some facilities are available.

A decent Hotel,
shower, AC, this is what I long for after days of driving through uninhabitable
territory. Sometimes you feel like an explorer, for many hours not a soul on the
road. What a view to see people, moving in cars, going after their business,
shops, marketenders, the whole lot. Joy comes up and the thought of a hot bath
does the rest.

When I roll into the town, I
am overcome by some deja vu. No one can explain this. And I know that in this
remote city I will come across something that I expect to find here.

The exhaust system has
suffered greatly on the road, and during the last 100 km a bolder has ripped of
the muffler. The sound of the car is like a stockcar in the great price of
Indiana.

I find the first
mechanic welder and he does the job in minutes. When I ask for directions to the
next hotel, I am guided through the city’s only main road. Hotel Bate is not far
away, I am told.

The main square comes close,
and I slow down instinctively, as always to be watchful not to hit anyone
crossing the dusty main street, a self protecting measure. For the unlucky one
that hits a jaywalker could be lynched here.

My luck has brought me
through all the perils and dangers one can face. I search the streets carefully,
the roads to see a familiar face. Nothing has crossed my eyes so far. When we
reach the main communication center with the telecom office and huge
transmission tower, I suddenly hear my name being shouted from across the
street, the familiar voice is all to known.

I have found my
employee who comes to me and hugs me like a long lost brother, and I can
understand the emotion. Finally we are reunited, after nearly 4 weeks of
uncertainty, anxious moments have come to an end. We are in Kankan, Guinea,
after all, the city where we have planned to meet….

Next : The
relaxation, and retrieval of the vehicle…..

Mandiana Customs scam, night in the Savannah, Barrages de Selingui, Mali

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Once dawn breaks I am up again, trying to locate the facilities of this shabby place I spent the night. The couple with the motorcycle episode still on my mind, I find my way to the washroom, and what a washing room it is.

There is flowing water however and I have my shower under the fresh morning sky, the cold water from the well helps me to clear my mind at once. I have a difficult task ahead of me, and I need lots of luck to get my merchandise out of the customs clutches. So mad the whole story sounds, no one would ever imagine the agonizing moments I go through with these officials. Like leeches they prey on their targets, remorseless their approach to empty your pockets.

The night before I visited the local hawkers and to my astonishment I found quiet palatable food. Without a meal the whole day I longed for a dinner, and I found it in form of a decent Spaghetti Bolognaise, and some ‘sauce ‘d arachides’ a peanut butter based sauce with stewed rice. Amazingly, the dishes were of agreeable taste, and reasonably cheap.

The appointment is set to 80.00 AM and I drive up to the main junction that links the western border Bougoula, with the northern and eastern route, to Kankan and Niani. The customs building is a simple tin roof thatched house, but the main negotiating room is on its left, and is comprised of a raw concrete floor, some wooden chairs, and a grass covered rooftop, open to all sites, so that the traffic can be observed. Whatever passes through here, is subject to pay road tax, in one way or another. The capital is far and here the officials can act as they see fit.

The night before I drove up to the main junction, the Customs officials on duty sitting near a bonfire in one of the huts erected to control vehicles that pass through here. I was asked to report the next morning, having no choice I will follow the order. Again the officer who we found at the entry point to Mandiana tells me that I do not have valid car papers, and thus adds to my already big problem..

I drive up the yard, and after the initial exchanges of welcoming : ‘bienvenue’, the officials, three of them, begin their process. All eyes are focused on the big Renault articulator, now parked at the side, under scrutiny of the customs. They will not let go of this truck till they receive their share The one in charge appears, with the copy of the transit invoice in his hand and tells me the amount involved. The figure is somewhat less than at the Bougoula border,  but it is still beyond my acceptable figure 

When I insist that the value on the invoice is incorrect, the official displays the transit documents, and I realize the blunder made by my own staff. The valuation on the documents contained an error, committed by the Ivorian Customs. The whole crew of the truck has by now assembled around the vehicle and I request the original invoice issued by our company back in Ghana. Here the amount is a complete different amount, and I produce it as evidence. Seeing an opportunity slip by, the man in beige now tries to be stubborn. I am now in full steam and ask him to physically check the load instead. Upon his instruction a few bales loaded are released and the weight is being taken. By multiplying the number of packages he derives at the figure on my invoice. This solves the puzzle and he grins. We know the icebreaker worked. We have all settled into the straw- hut and two official in a hammock are explaining the procedures, and warning of the ‘brigade’, the customs flying squad that seizes all goods that are not properly declared. All to intimidate us and to find ways to extract more money.

Once the final calculation comes out we are to pay in the region of 3000 US Dollars, still high but of course much less than the previous figure. Now it comes to the finals, the crew is invited to have lunch with the officials, I politely refuse indicating to my stomach. They withdraw behind the house to  .savor he local specialty ‘cailler’. When I see the fermented milk, with thousand flies swarming around it, and the sugar being added in large amounts, I return to the point of the vehicle, finding a place in the shadow under a large Acacia tree and wait for further developments. I feel the deal is nearly done. With the meal over, the people return to prepare the final release documents. Without telling anyone in the group I know I have a most important meeting to attend in Europe, after 3 days in Prague to be precise. How I will reach there I don’t know. We are in the middle of the bush, no airport, only rough roads leading into three different directions, one of which is towards the north to Mali, and I know that I will have to take this route. I urge to conclude the deal, already 10 days have passed since the truck has entered Bougoula border (Encounter at dusk, part II). With a few twitches in the final figure we agree to the amount. Now all the attention is on how much money everyone will collect from the deal.  Smiling faces abound, I realize we are done. I am preparing to depart, handing over the amount to the woman in charge of the consignment, to be paid against official receipt. And with the new friends made waving goodbye, I set off towards Niani, the border with Mali. The time is 15.00 PM, and I have to drive approx 300 km through Savannah road to reach the border town, also know to be a smuggler’s haven.

Continued : Night in the Mali savannah .

Mandiana Customs scam, night in the Savannah, Barrage de Selingui, Mali

Tags: , , , , ,

Once dawn breaks I am up again, trying to locate the bathroom facilities of this shabby place.. The couple with the motorcycle episode still on my mind, I find my way to the washroom, and what a washing room it is.

There is flowing water however and I have my shower under the fresh morning sky, the cold water from the well helps me to clear my mind at once.

I have a difficult task ahead of me, and I need lots of luck to get my merchandise out of the customs clutches. So mad the whole story sounds, no one would ever imagine the agonizing moments I go through with these officials. Like leeches they prey on their targets, remorseless their approach to empty your pockets.

The night before I visited the local hawkers and to my astonishment I found quiet palatable food. Without a meal the whole day I longed for a dinner, and I found it in form of a decent Spaghetti Bolognaise, and some ‘sauce ‘d arachides’ a peanut butter based sauce with stewed rice. Amazingly, the dishes were of agreeable taste, and reasonably cheap.

The appointment is set to 08.00 AM and I drive up to the main junction that links the western border Bougoula, with the northern and eastern route, to Kankan and Niani.

The customs building is a simple tin roof thatched house, but the main negotiating room is on its left, and is comprised of a raw concrete floor, some wooden chairs, and a grass covered rooftop, open to all sites, so that the traffic can be observed. Whatever passes through here, is subject to pay road tax, in one way or another. The capital is far and here the officials can act as they see fit.

The night before I drove up to the main junction, the Customs officials on duty sitting near a bonfire in one of the huts erected to control vehicles that pass through here. I was asked to report the next morning, having no choice I will follow the order. Again the officer who we found at the entry point to Mandiana tells me that I do not have valid car papers, and thus adds to my already big problem..

I drive up the yard, and after the initial exchanges of welcoming : ‘bienvenue’, the officials, three of them, begin their process. All eyes are focused on the big Renault articulator, now parked at the side, under scrutiny of the customs.

They will not let go of this truck till they receive their share The one in charge appears, with the copy of the transit invoice in his hand and tells me the amount involved. The figure is somewhat less than at the Bougoula border,  but it is still beyond my acceptable figure 

When I insist that the value on the invoice is incorrect, the official displays the transit documents, and I realize the blunder made by my own staff. The valuation on the documents contained an error, committed by the Ivorian Customs.

The whole crew of the truck has by now assembled around the vehicle and I request the original invoice issued by our company back in Ghana. Here the amount is a complete different amount, and I produce it as evidence. Seeing an opportunity slip by, the man in beige now tries to be stubborn. I am now in full steam and ask him to physically check the load instead.

Upon his instructions a few bales are released and the weight is being taken. By multiplying the number of packages he derives at the figure on my invoice. This solves the puzzle and he grins. We know the icebreaker worked.

We have all settled into the straw- hut and two officials in a hammock are explaining the procedures, and warning us of the ‘brigade’, the customs flying squad that seizes all goods that are not properly declared.
All to intimidate us and to find ways to extract more money.

Once the final calculation comes out we are to pay in the region of 3000 US Dollars, still high but of course much less than the previous figure. Now it comes to the finals, the crew is invited to have lunch with the officials, I politely refuse indicating to my stomach.

They withdraw behind the house to  .savor he local specialty ‘cailler’. When I see the fermented milk, with thousand flies swarming around it, and the sugar being added in large amounts, I return to the point of the vehicle, finding a place in the shadow under a large Acacia tree and wait for further developments.

I feel the deal is nearly done. With the meal over, the people return to prepare the final release documents.

Without telling anyone in the group I know I have a most important meeting to attend in Europe, after 3 days in Prague to be precise. How I will reach there I don’t know.

We are in the middle of the bush, no airport, only rough roads leading into three different directions, one of which is towards the north to Mali, and I know that I will have to take this route. I urge to conclude the deal, already 10 days have passed since the truck has entered Bougoula border (Encounter at dusk, part II).

With a few twitches arriving at the final figure we agree. Now all the attention is on how much money everyone will collect from the deal. 

Smiling faces abound, I realize we are done. I am preparing to depart, handing over the amount to the woman in charge of the consignment, to be paid against an official receipt.

And with the new friends made waving goodbye, I set off towards Niani, the border with Mali. The time is 15.00 PM, and I have to drive approx 300 km through Savannah road to reach the border town, also know to be a smuggler’s haven.

Continued : Night in the Mali savannah .

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