Getting through customs it pays to have a stash on hand.
Andrew Jones likes to ride his bicycle around the world. Sometimes however, you can run into a little trouble trying to go from one country to another. Seems like customs agents prefer bikes configured a certain way. Wonder what that could be? Find out as Andrew uses the deep pockets on his Red Oxx Rigger Wallet help him cope with this emergency.
Approaching the ferry terminal in Tangier, I feet confident and happy at the prospect of relaxing on-board the ship. Minutes later, however, my confidence turns to dismay as I find that the charge for a bicycle is nearly as much as for a person. My carefully nurtured cash is insufficient to pay the cost.
A man directing cars approached me. "I have a friend in customs…you pay me half the amount and I’ll help you get your bike through. Follow me". I don’t stop to think - never rush to say yes in that type of situation. I could probably have stowed my bike in someone’s van without any problems. Instead, I follow him to the passenger's embarkation. His friend there is an "official" guide.
"Give me the money for your ticket". He leaves me and returns with the ticket and another man. "Pay this man, he got your ticket fast". There were throngs of people in the building, clustered around every official booking booth.
"I have no more money" I say. The man looks disgusted.
"Follow me, I get you a boarding card". More lines of people, which we bypass to get to the customs counter. A boarding pass appears.
"Pay this man". I rifle through my Rigger Wallet and pull out the last of my Spanish pesetas, which I give to him. I am being milked.
"Stay with my friend. He will help you. I have to go to work. If you have any problems, don’t tell them anything - just send someone to me and I will give your money back. Give my friend something, he is helping you". I am confused and not thinking clearly. He has held on to all the money I gave him and I’m paying for the service he's suppose to provide; clever.
My new friend, with official tag, disappears with my passport. He returns shortly. "Disassemble the bicycle".
"What?" I exclaim.
"You must take the bicycle apart". He motions to the wheels, handlebars and frame. I'm thoroughly disgusted. I didn’t expect to have to take everything apart.
"It's not possible" I insist.
"Have you got something for me?" he asks. I have no money and give him my pocketknife. He pouts and I offer him a shirt - should have knocked him out but I’m feeling guilty for not giving more despite the fact that it was a very nice pocketknife.
"It doesn't matter" he says, and leaves.
I return downstairs to the line of cars waiting to board the ferry. My original 'friend' sees me and senses lost dollars (or dirham in this case). "Follow me." he insists, "No problems". He shouts at the guide who shouts back that I’m the problem, won’t take the bike apart.
"Disassemble the bike, follow me". I give up and take panniers and wheels off my bike. I’m not going to do any more than that. He speaks to his friends near customs once more and we’re ushered through the throngs to the counter. I greet the female customs officer in Arabic. "Salam alaykum"
"Alaykum salam" she replies. She looks at the bike and my panniers and then motions me through."Are you a Muslim?" she asks in English.
"No I’m a Christian" I reply "but I’m reading the Koran". We bid farewell and I struggle along the boarding passageway carrying my bike and luggage.
It took one hour of shuffling along in crowded lines before we finally got near the entrance to the boat. For some reason, both boarding passes and passports were re-checked at the entrance, making the whole process of boarding painfully slow. Some kind Americans from L.A. saw me struggling and helped by carrying my panniers. People - when you are in need, you are touched by the generosity that is so often shown. I approach the boarding ramp, still unsure whether or not I’ll be allowed on board. The thought of having to turn around and go back is too much. I pray.
Wooden crossboards provide grip for my toes on the ramp. I’m at the doorway... I'm through! Relief floods through me. I relax enough to feel exhausted and hungry. It is 3:30 PM, I’ve ridden 50 Km and eaten only one Kilogram of oranges. The man at the luggage counter angrily shuts the door in my face when he sees my bicycle. Someone in charge of directing passengers shouts at him and finally I’m admitted to stow my goods.
I find a quiet place to sit. Slightly numb but relieved, I eat oranges and almonds as the ship sails for Spain.
Great story. Thanks for the suspenseful recap on your "escape" with goods in hand from Morocco, even if you did have to disassemble it. Since Andrew already has a Rigger Wallet, we're sending him a Market Tote for submitting his Adventure Journal to us. Why not submit your story?