I was convinced that I’d be on this sticking hole of a boat until tomorrow morning. Imagine my relief when I went onto the bridge this afternoon to charge up my laptop only to see a whopping great island through the window. Thank the maker.
I readied myself to disembark. I would like to report that it was all very organised and efficient but ARE YOU ON CRACK?? THIS IS AFRICA FOOL!! No, the entry procedure was the usual elbow-the-women-out-of-the-way mad scramble to get the passports back (luckily Lee The Crazy Chinaman and I were kept apart from the braying mob as our passports were kept in a different plastic bag).
Eventually, we were herded through the ‘customs’ (a line of officials set out across the road like riot police) and into immigration. So much for my visa being included in the price of the ticket. It cost me $100 just to come in. Another poverty-stricken country scratching its head and wondering why everyone goes to Mauritius and the Seychelles instead. CAN I MAKE A SUGGESTION??! But the guy in the office was ultra helpful. The best news I could have hoped for – there would be not one, but TWO boats leaving for Madagascar on SATURDAY MORNING. Happy Days.
Hopefully they wouldn’t be as much of a grot-fest as the old Shassiwani II. I thanked the port official and I headed off. By now, the sun was setting over that nightmare of a continent Africa, although Comoros did not make me feel like I had left. Because everything is in Euros or local money and the ATMs don’t work, I had zero cash, despite the $500 of emergency cash in my pocket. I found myself walking, walking, walking. Sweating and panting, I found an internet café, and was speaking to the helpful guy inside about the possibility of a Wi-Fi connection when would you Adam-and-Eve it, who turns up but the VOGONS!!!
It was the usual hustle – show us your passport. As if they have a PLAGUE of Europeans coming over to their country (that nine out of ten Europeans have never heard of) and stealing kittens to use in their crazy European sex-fetish, black magic, voodoo parties. I refused, as always, because, as always, they were two plain-clothed policemen with just a laminated bit of printed card (no photo, as always) that I could knock out in five minutes on MS Paint.
I gave them a photocopy of my passport, my letter from the British Embassy in Kinshasa that said I was a good egg (in French, no less) and my European Driver’s License. But that wasn’t enough for these Vogon b**tards, for they wanted nothing more (as all Vogons want nothing more) than to lock me up for the night (or six) for being the pesky wrong colour of skin.
Like I was reliving the same nightmare again and again, they tried to bundle me into a random car (it’s NEVER a police car), I again refused and headed back into the internet cafe. Can I point out at this juncture that I had no evidence these guys were anything more than a couple of drunks with a possible fake ID and after being kidnapped in Bolivia a few years ago by a couple of fake coppers, I’m understandably cagey about getting in random cars at night with these Vogons.
Soon enough, the ‘chief’ turned up and inspected my passport (he had the same crappy ID, but if this was a set-up, it was getting so elaborate so I figured it might be in my interests to go along with it anyway, plus he had a moustache – always a sign that he’s in charge of something or other – collecting the stray trolleys in the Tesco Car-Park perhaps?). He was satisfied. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and got back to my Internet connecting.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Along with my mobile phone and my ATM card, my laptop didn’t stand a chance of working in Comoros. Happily, the guy running the Internet cafe gave me ten minutes free online. Just enough time (I love the way the speed of the Internet is directly and negatively proportional to the hurry you are in – how does it know?) to update Twitter to let you all know that I was still alive and to see that there were no CouchSurf contacts here in Comoros (meanies).
I checked into the cheapest hotel in the Lonely Planet, gave him my passport and fifty dollars as deposit. He gave me a room key and €20. I went out and bought pizza.