From one small filling Station in Southern Spain we purchased some fastfood, some gallons of water, some crackers and the ferry tickets to cross from Tarifa to Tanger.(Car ticket for 40 minute trip was costing 33 Euros at that time.) I must say while shopping for our Overlanding West Africa journey we exaggerated with the quantities of food and water. We were not well prepared and thought there would be no shops in desert. Actually there were cities hidden in Sahara where we were able to top up supplies. Our trip were 9 years ago and that time there was not much information available on that are. Now one can explore and prepare for journeys like this with reading experience of other travelers. For instance this great travel blog shares some amazing stories about locations all over the world.
Finally I am leaving Europe behind and entering Africa! I am as excited as one can be!
Lot of people like to say that North Africa is not real Africa. Well – after living in Ghana for 7 years I could agree. But in February 2009 it was part of The Real Africa for me. The entry stamps for Morocco we got into our passports already on the Ferry – that speeded up the slow immigration queue to the country a bit.
“This way! This way!” one local directed our car into the queue
“You are in the wrong line, come this way!” Another local guy tried to direct us into different queue.
That was all very confusing and stressful and as we later found out – reason for such behaviour were simply our European car plates. Each guy was responsible for certan queue lane and having seen car with European registry plates they hoped for some nice tip and therefore tried to get our car pass the lane they were working for.
We reach to custom point.
“Car papers, passports, five Euros each!” the officer commanded.
We handed over everything without understanding for what the 5 euros fee was.
After small time another officer approaches the car.
“Give me Euro-Paper!” he was commanding.
“What paper?” my ex-boyfriend on drivers seat is getting confused. “We gave all papers to that officer over there!”
“No Europaper fast fast!”
“All papers are with the officer over there!”
“E-U-R-O-P-A-P-E-R! Give me Europ Paper! Paper Euro!” the officer is getting nervous
“Ohhhhh.. Paper Euro as Five Euros??!!?” we finally understand the request. “No, we paid that money already, for what it is anyway?”
Well we got to hear a sad story how officers are working there all without any salary and depending on what tourists are dashing them. “Yeah right…” 🙂
We understood that we were fooled by paying this 15 euros (5 euro each) but did not make much fuss about it as we did not want to start unpacking the luggage in car for the officers to observe like one blue-eyed family in the next line.
Our car was full. The boot, the skiboks on the roof – no we did not want to tear all the items down.
We took afternoon Ferry so after being done with customs and immigration our to do list was:
- Get West-Africa Road map
- Top up gas – the car and the 2 spare gallons.
- Cover as much road as possible before dark.
So we drove to a petrol station where we hoped to settle with point 1 and 2. Well the gas we got. Road map we did not.
But no worries – help was just there. Local with moto came to check on us and asked if he can help. We asked about the Road Map and of course he knew from where to get it.
“Follow me!” he shouted and drove off.
We followed him to the small shop where he asked us to give him 20 euros so he will bring the road map from inside.
“Maybe we come along and choose the map….”
“No no no no… you stay here… I will bring everything. Dont worry”
We did not give him the 20 euros. We wanted to see the map first (Yeah, I know – major trust issues :))
He brought us map of spain with addition to Morocco and part of Western Sahara. But that kind of map we already had. We were more worried how to drive through Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso.
“Oh you are going to Mauritania!!? We don’t have map for Mauritania but if you are going there you will definitely need tea!” our local guide explained and rushed back to shop from where he came out with 3 boxes of tea.
“Tea!??!!! For what we need tea?”
“You have to give it as a gift on Mauritanian border. Mauritania all desert. They don’t have tea there. Money you may not give them – this is bribe and they will lock you up immediately, but tea is very fine gift. You need to have to enter country problem free”
“Ok, if such a small thing makes process easier on border…why not. How much for the tea?”
“60 euro for the three kilo”
“60 eur!!???” we could not believe the price.
“Yes yes, 60 euros. Very fine Chinese tea. You can not bring cheap tea! And definitely need 3 kilo”
Really, we did not believe them but also Mauritania border is far, very far. So we also did not want to drive back from border of Mauritania to some northern cities for the tea, if really we would not be able to enter otherwise. So we settled with 2 boxes. If really tea is such a rarity in Mauritania then the immigration workers will be also happy with 2 kilo.
Now when to rush ahead a bit – they did not care about the tea! The border workers were much happier with the broken car radio they found from the boot. Although we politely tried to offer them the tea at the correct moment. Eventually we drank the tea ourselves – in Ghana.
Prepare a Fische (passenger list)
Apart from the old car radio we made lot of other “gifts” too on Morocco and further in West Africa. Our pens, some mugs, some T-shirts, some journals changed the owner on different local custom and immigration checkpoints. All because we did not have a passenger list called Fische with us. So when you a planning an over-landing trip across the West Africa, then just write down your destination and everybody’s names and nationalities with you are driving. Print it out on several sheets and hand over whenever you are asked for a Fische. Custom and immigration Checkpoints are not only at the border but also close to bigger cities in Western Africa. So have those Fisches plenty!