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Published: December 5th 2004
We'd heard and read of nightmare stories about the border crossing at Rosso into Senegal, so it was with some degree of trepidation that we set off on Friday morning from Noaukchott! We were in two minds as to whether to drive further down the coast and cross at Maka Diama, but we'd read reports that it was getting as bad, if not worse than Rosso, so we stuck to our original plan. As soon as we arrived at the entrance to the compound on the Mauritanian side we were surrounded by hustlers & policeman - all anxious to help us with the necessary paperwork. We'd heard that even the police were corrupt and would try it on if they could - and they promptly did, wanting to charge us 10,000 UM for the ferry ticket, passport exit stamp & carnet stamp. We bravely stood our ground, secure in the knowledge that we'd done our homework and knew that the real costs were nearer half that amount. "No more money" we chanted...stalemate...then "OK, we turn round & go back to Morocco"....eventually a nice policeman came to our aid, shooed the charletan away and let us drive on to the dock. Great, now we only had the Senegal side to contend with...
...We had to wait a couple of hours for the next ferry over the Senegal river - a journey that only takes 10 minutes, whilst watching most foot passengers crossing backwards & forwards on the smaller 'pirogue' boats. As soon as the ferry docked we were besieged by even unfriendlier Senegalise Policemen, all demanding our passports, carnets, etc. Reluctant to hand over such important documents in the midst of such hustle and bustle we severely offended one official who hurled abuse at us, which gave the locals the opportunity to start doing the same - welcome to Senegal! An hour later, having pacified said officer with a 5 dollar tip, paid the man on the compound gate the 'tax commune' and secured a months' car insurance (the minimum available) for 50 dollars, we returned to our car to find it had been rather splendidly washed - but how could we begrudge the guy his 2 dollars when he'd done such a great job and was a happy smiling face amongst the rabble of more intimidating hustlers!
We were busy bemoaning the insurance scam - essentially an additional vehicle tax when we
immediately reached our first police checkpoint/road block - the first of three within a distance of about 6km - and were promptly asked not for our passports but for our certificate of insurance! We figured it was money well spent after all, even if we doubted its usefulness, in the event of any claims we may or may not have to make.
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