It’s now been a fair amount of time since I entered Senegal (currently in Ghana) however the Rosso border crossing is still one of the most difficult things I’ve done this trip. Other people have covered this infamous crossing in greater depth so I recommend googling ‘Rosso border crossing’ to read their tales.
The Mauritanian side starts off as chaos. A large compound with hundreds of fixers/scammers hovering about. Every single border guard is asking for money. To stamp your passport out they ask for 20 euros. After a small battle I managed to get away without paying. Then had to negotiate my way through ‘bike fees’, parking tickets, village tax and countless other extortion attempts.
Eventually I was free and crossing the river Senegal with my cloud of fixer/scammers in tow.
These two geezers followed me everywhere (both sides) with another two, always trying to extract cash some way.
On the Sengelase side things started to ramp up a notch. Officials started to become incredibly aggressive. Despite Senegalese visas being free on the point of entry they had an official looking price list. Whether this was counterfeit or predates the free visa I don’t know.
When I arrived at the first passport window I was asked to go into the office through the door. Terrible mistake. The policeman then proceeded to pocket my V5 and driving license. Apparently if I wanted them out of his pocket I needed to give him 100 euros. After a few minutes of me trying to argue with him he decided to give me the cold shoulder and just stopped engaging with me.
At this point I decided the only option was to pull up a chair and sit it out. This pretend nonchalance only ended up enraging the policeman. After a few minutes of shouting straight at me he ended up completely loosing his cool and pushed me off the chair to the ground. I managed to put on a brave face and once up again, righted the chair and prepared for whatever grim fate that was in store for me. At this point to my surprise the man actually buckled and handed me back my documents without a bribe.
Customs was a similar story although less physical. When I saw the compound gate open for a slow truck I knew this might be my only chance to escape. Despite being short of a customs stamp and still having two ‘fines’ outstanding I seized the opportunity and dashed through. I hadn’t got far when a chain was pulled up along the road and I was told to dismount and buy insurance. I was fairly sure that even if it was genuine insurance it would be a complete rip off, however even if I had wanted it I didn’t have any local currency.
I left the bike running with my helmet and gloves on the bike. They lowered the chain and we all walked towards the insurance booth. I asked for a months insurance and pretended to search my pockets for a cigarette. Having found nothing I explained I had left them on the bike.
Two of the fixers followed me back but not suspicious let me walk on ahead. I threw one leg over and just raced off. Once a couple of miles away I stopped for a breather and donned my helmet.
From there I just raced to the sactuary of the Zebrabar. I coasted through the first police checkpoint so my engine noise wouldn’t draw them out of the hut. The second checkpoint I wasn’t quite as lucky. When they signalled me to stop I waved back and just raced through.
I really wasn’t in the mood for more bullshit. Considering how I had been treated by the police when I was innocent, I certainty didn’t want to be caught driving without insurance. No one gave chase and I ended up arriving at the campsite that evening just a few minutes ahead of the others who had gone through the Diama crossing.
First legal beer! Never realised I could enjoy a lager so much.
Once in Zebrabar I could relax, catch up on drinking (first legal alcohol since the north of Morocco) and do some much needed bike maintenance.
My leg was still pretty painful after my fall in Mauritania, I’d also managed to rip my pannier at the same time. To top it all off the mounting bracket for cheap eBay top box had disintegrated from vibrations on the dirt roads. Luggage wasn’t fairing too well!
Zebrabar was a complete paradise; a fun puppy, affectionate cat and canoes.
I’d been riding on my own since Mauritania but staying the same places as the others. Dakar was to be the last place I’d see Eddie and Richard as I felt to really get the most out of trip I had to do it my own way.
I’d continue to bump into Bevan and I’m hoping that I’ll see him again before the end of the trip.
Bevan inspecting a big gun. Apparently they filmed parts of The Guns of Navarone here. That automatically makes its one of the greatest places in the world. I know it’s no ‘Where Eagles Dare’ but it’s a cracking film nonetheless.