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Five days in African Jail

Being on a three day African Train journey between Kigoma and Dar es Salaam the story of how Burkina Faso caught me up in jail comes back to me. I have never wrote anything about it before but it was on a similar train ride that it all happened.

Me and my American Friend Travis had border the train in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou in order to visit some Belgian friends and go to a music festival in Bobo Diolasso, while our visas to Ghana were being issued at the embassy.

It started as a nice train ride. We were drinking cheap wine and our favorite African beer called “Brakina” chatting to a girl from the Ivory Coast who was working as a model in London and was happy to meet tourists in West Africa where she was from.

It was then that the trouble started. A super drunk local guy were shouting at us in French that “le blancs” were coming here to steal their ladies while he raised his fists. A policeman was quick to arrive and immediately asked what was going on and to see our papers. We showed him our passport copies and explained that our passports were at the Ghana Embassy, but then he just said “biig problem” and asked for 10 us dollar bribe. Knowing that we had not done anything wrong we refused and ended up having to join him to the police office at the train station where they questioned us for hours.

After repeating the story for the tenth time and after they had looked through all our luggage, phone photos etc they said “OK, we will take you to where you are staying tonight”. “Great!” we thought and got on their motorbikes where they were pretending to find “Villa Bobo” where our Belgian friends were staying, but instead they drove us through some guarded gates and then more officers helped them drag us into a cell where they told us that this is the place we would spend the night.

Night after night passed and when we asked for information or a phone call, they just took away our water and told us to sit down on the bench. Rice or spaghetti with some sauce was brought to us 1-2 times a day and they escorted us to the messiest toilet I have ever seen three times a day. The rest of the time we were just waiting until we saw the faces of the Belgians walking through the door, shouting excitedly “it’s them!”. Apparently they had reported us missing and vouched for us when they were told that we were being locked up.

We were still not fee men, but instead were escorted by two officers to the train station, where they joined us (on first class which we didn’t have to say for!) all the way to Ouagadougou where a friend was waiting at the train station with our passports. The police then let us go and we caught the same train heading back to Bobo Diolasso and our Belgian friends. This time as free men with out passports.

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Post Accident Update

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It has now been ten days since the  accident and tomorrow we will finally be ready to go back on the road and leave it all behind us. It feels like there has been a lot happening these days, but at the same time there has been a lot of waiting and not knowing exactly what was going on. The reason being that everyone were split up in smaller groups. Some watched out for the truck, some watched out for the stuff at the campsite, some stayed with Gloria in the Errachidia Hospital and I stayed with Jussi in a private clinic in Marrakesh. When everyone got together today we finally got some answers:
Gloria had spent the first few days in a unhygienic, chaotic hospital that she tried to get away from. Her doctor had said that it would not be advisable to move at all with her fractured vertebrae. The result was that the insurance company refused to help her at all since she had not informed them that she was traveling in a group and her friend had to send a private plane from Barcelona to pick her up. I hope she will sort everything out with the insurance company when she is fully recovered.
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Jussi’s broken hand is healing well. He was told that if the metal pole pops up he should just stick it back again

Jussi was happy when he got to a private clinic in Marrakesh, which was the fourth hospital we visited. He stayed with him the whole time and watched him smile as he got good food, strong painkillers and a surgery for his broken arm which went really well.
The Truck has been fixed and improved. There has been built new boxes for storing water and gas bottles underneath the truck, new and better windows have been fitted in the front of the truck and we have gotten a new door and a cage in front of the drivers compartment for keeping chairs, tables and firewood. The cage has also proven itself great for people to (almost) safely sit in while driving.
Last night we set camp on a beach in the beginning of the Saharan Desert where a storm came in the night and broke our tents. Most of these have now been fixed so that we will be ready for driving and camping our way through the desert.
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The cage in the front of the truck is the place to sit for the best view

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An Unfortunate Car Rental Case

It all started out like another adventure with us picking up a car in Hertz Office in Frankfurt for a short trip to Linz in Austria. Everything went fine until three days later when we turned in the car in Munich, where the trouble started.

We were asked to bend down to have a look at a damage they claimed that we had done. A small scratch that was located underneath the bumper, barely visible if not looking closely enough. This was nothing we had managed to see in the dark parking garage when we picked it up, and of course we had to sign a form saying that it was there when we handed it in. We complained at the hand in desk at first, but decided that we would just take some photos and send in a explanation of the situation afterwards. A few days after handing in the car I got billed 800 euroes, where 600 of them were due to the damages they claimed we had done.
We sent in a formal complaint together with the pictures we took, and after over a month we received a rather disappointing response. None of our questions were answered, and all we received was a another damage bill in German together with the pictures below. Our second complaint was responded to with a standard “copy- paste” response where it said that we had accepted their terms and conditions and that the case was closed.
My advise to you if you do rent a car is to check the car properly for damages when you pick it up because when you hand it in they will do their best to find something to charge you with.
Skjermbilde 2013-10-03 kl. 22.02.15 Skjermbilde 2013-10-03 kl. 22.02.39
Hertz own photos of the damage (lower front) which was not seen at the time of pickup.