How about I tell you some more of My African Adventure story? Due to the length I will do this over a few Blogs.
Back in 1994, (I’m not too old am I?) I had the opportunity to go 4wding in Africa with eight others in two Series two Land Rovers. My role was to be the trip mechanic and the 4wd expert. We traveled from London through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, down to Dakar in Senegal on the north west coast of Africa. At the time Australians were on the nose as far as Spain was concerned so I wasn’t allowed to travel into Spain. You may have heard of a place called the Rock of Gibraltar which is located in the bottom corner of Spain. Well Gibraltar is a British territory and so I was allowed to fly there from London.
Gibraltar has the coolest airport because they actually shut the main road so the plains can land.
So the plan was that I would fly into Gibraltar and Shaun one of the others on the trip would come pick me up and smuggle me across the Spanish boarder into Spain. I needed to get into Spain so that I could travel on the car-ferry with the rest of the team from Spain to Morocco. When the big day arrived Shaun met me at the airport and we walked across the airport to the Spanish check point. I was suitably nervous thinking I was about to get locked up in a Spanish prison to never be seen again. I asked Shaun how smuggling me across the border was going to work, thinking of the Australian Customs I had left a weeks earlier. Metal detectors, guards, cameras, dogs and guns. Shaun was one of those guys that you liked as soon as you met him, he carried himself with the confidence of an experienced traveler who knew the tricks of staying alive when your living on the road out of a pack in wild Africa.
Shaun didn’t have much to say other than “you let me do the talking” and stay in the background. “We will walk in the front door and if you come in a little behind me then wander across the room and out the door on the other side of the room.” We were approaching the crossing by this stage and I’m thinking there is no way this is going to work.
Shaun asks me “you ready” and before I can say anything he’s walking in the door and I’m following him thinking I just have to wander across this room that’s all so I walk in the door to see Shaun happily chatting to a bunch of guards, creating a distraction. So I get to my meandering across the 10 or so meters of room waiting for the hand to grab me on the shoulder or the yell indicating I had been spotted but before I knew it I was out the door and into Spain without so much as a stamp in my passport. I felt like a real bad dude now I was officially an illegal immigrant into Spain.
Once we met up with the rest of the crew at the port where the ferry would leave from we started to plan for our departure across to Morocco the next morning. In the back of my head I’m thinking how am I getting out of Spain? I was trying to think of ways I could hide in one of the 4wds without being found. Later that night I hit Shaun up for the plan and to my dismay he says your going to just walk through the customs and onto the ferry. I’m not James Bond in case you hadn’t noticed. Standing in the slowly moving line watching the customs officer clearing all the passengers ahead of me with thoughts of Spanish prisons running inside my head gave me plenty of time to get scared. I hand the officer my passport which he casually flicks through once then a second time looking for a stamp that doesn’t exist. He motions to a guy with a gun to come over and asks me why there is no stamp in my passport? I play dumb which is easy when the brain is cramped with fear. They chat about which cell I should be put into and then decide I should go and wait in the corner for a bit. Now I’m thinking that the ferry will be leaving without me when Shaun shows up and starts chatting to people with guns. One of them comes over to me and starts asking awkward questions to which I play dumb, again not to hard, then he asks me a really easy question. “If I let you onto the ferry will you ever be coming back to Spain” Yippy I can answer that one, “No flipping way,” to which he says of you go. So Morocco here I come.
Standing on the rail of the ferry with my first adventure behind me feeling like I could take on the world was a fantastic feeling. Little did I know that in the months ahead I would have guns pointed at me, nearly drive over Land mines, rebuild a motor in the Sahara desert and almost get killed by a swarm of angry locals.
Part 2 next week.
I’m MadMatt Stay safe on the trails.