Police wants whiskey - and back home too soon
Douala Travel Blog› entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
That Sunday, I had a hangover, or maybe it was Mami Wata's spell... But we were expected at one of the relatives for brunch. Good thing that there is paracetamol. And the red wine from a milk pack (apparently imported from France via Equatorial Guinea... "you have to know the people") also helped.
In the afternoon, Bebe drove me back to Douala Airport. Jo also came with us (he would stay one more week) and we were giving a ride to another guy who needed to be close to Douala. It was very quiet on the road. We bought some spicy fish at the "toll station".
On the way, we were driving behind a very old rusty Renault station car with the back door flipped vertically open and two guys sitting in the back, their legs casually bungling outside over the rear bumper with a friendly speed of about 100 km/hr. They were holding something big and rectangural between them. When we got closer I saw it, they were holding a coffin, so that it could not slide out of the car and fall onto the road. "Oh, they are going to the funeral", explained Bebe.
Many people along the road, especially the children, were wearing their sunday clothes. Driving up north at daylight made clear how immensely green the scenery is. Not that I saw all of it, because it was difficult not to doze off every now and then. After a short stop to inflate a tyre, we continued. It was getting dark already.
Suddenly I heard Bebe say: "Merde" ("Damn..."). Road block by some sort of police or military. It was already dark at that time. A guy in uniform asked for the papers. They were shining inside the car with a torch. Then of course he noticed me as a white guy. I had to open the window.
The officer, or whatever he was, leaned over with his arm inside the window, palm of his hand up... I obviously understood what it meant, so I was trying to get an answer from Bebe or from Jo, as to how much I was supposed to give for getting out of there.
No answer. I tried to look as ignorant as I could, when the uniformed guy said he wanted whiskey. In my best French, I explained that we did not have any, being on the way back.
Then I said I could give him some advice for free of charge, that it would be better to stop traffic coming from the other side, from the airport. If he wanted to confiscate part of the whiskey on board it would be better to do that with cars coming from the airport, with their tax free booze still on board.
The guy first looked at me like "what is this???", then he put up a smile, we could go and off we went.
Also at the airport it was more quiet now. We even had time to have a beer. Now, Douala Airport is really something else. It is supposed to have an arrival area and a departure area. That is clearly signposted outside. But there is no entrance in the departure area. So you go inside at the arrival area. Then inside there is a passport and ticket check, before you can go into the check in zone.
Inside the check-in zone, there are the usual desks, and there is an Air France check in machine. It is not self-service, there is an Air France represenative taking your e-ticket and entering the number. It is a self-check-in machine but you are not allowed to do it yourself, getting the picture?
Both in my case, and in case of a lady in front of me, he punched in the e-ticket number with an error.
When he did that with my e-ticket number, I saw it and I told him so. But he gave me an angry look and snapped at me that if anyone knew what number to punch into the machine, it was him. Of course the machine gave an error.
In fact, for most foreign passengers checking in (some excepted), he punched in the wrong number... And all of them had to wait for long time in front of an office, to be checked in manually by the officer there.
For all this time, I was not really sure why this happened. I decided to observe a bit what was happening here. Until I saw that in some cases he apparently did punch in the correct number and took something from those people's passports. Now, of course I can't prove that it was money, and even if it was, I don't know how much, but I am pretty sure that my theory about this is correct...
That night in the airport it was incredibly hot and steamy. I had been OK most of the week, but that night the sweat was dripping from my head and my back, incredible. I felt really embarrassed when waiting in line to fill out the departure form and paying the departure tax. I looked around: I was not the only one, but in my case it was certainly worse than with most other people. Then I realized that it might have something to do with last night... The only place with airco (and so cold that you actually feel like freezing) is after the last security check, just before boarding. When I was sitting there, I was almost tempted to get back in the heat. But time was getting short. We had to board for the flight back.
After changing flights at Paris CdG Airport, I arrived in cloudy, grey, drizzly Amsterdam around 9 a.m. Just in time to take a shower and get to an 11 a.m. meeting with a customer. Too short of a trip, I have to go again some time soon. Maybe for the siren festival....