Never lose your temper with a policeman!

Sunset at Robertsport, Liberia

Sunset at Robertsport, Liberia


The talkative consul
Monrovia seems to be a good place to get the visa for Ghana. And the consulate for Ivory Coast is practically next door, so I’m off on a visa mission. I take a private taxi and leave the car – with the folded out rooftop tent, and Thimba as a guard – at the A La Laguna resort, who were kind enough to let me camp for free in return for having breakfast and dinner at their restaurant. Fair deal.

The Ivory Coast consul hasn’t arrived yet so his kind and welcoming secretary asks me to wait and fill in a form in the meantime. After half an hour she takes me to the consul, mr. Roland Clovis Kalou, a smartly dressed young man with a great sense of humour and clearly looking for a good conversation. He’s a born storyteller, a natural talent. He has a friend called Agnes, well actually she’s called Agneska since she’s a Polish woman of 19 years old. “ ‘It’s always been my dream to spend some time in the bush, alone, sleep there, stay there for some time, away from it all.’ That’s what she told me. And when she recently came to visit me in Liberia that’s what she did”, he says. He gets up from his leather, high-backed chair, wildly gesticulating with his arms as if to underline the madness of the idea. Interrupting his story only with loud and long laughs. He acts the story. When the story has finally come to an end and he takes a pen to fill in the three lines on the visa in my passport, he puts the pen down and begins to highlight all the attractions of his homecountry. “It’s my job, you know, to promote my country!” After an hour we finally shake hands and say goodbye. “Please, send me some feedback when you leave Ivory Coast?”, he says, and gives me his business card. I never felt more welcome!

Thimba's new place in the front

Thimba’s new place in the front

“Your driver’s license has expired!”
Driving into Monrovia the next day to pick up my Ghana visa, I am stopped by a traffic policeman who wants to check my driver’s license. No problem.
“Expired!”, he says.
”Impossible”, I answer. Wrong answer. At least that’s how it must have sounded to him. Perhaps it is my tone when I explain the difference between date of issue and expiry date.  After having checked my fire extinguisher and triangle he wants to see the documents for the car. It is then that I’m starting to lose my temper (never, ever lose your temper with a policeman: you’ll only make things worse!). He has never seen a Carnet before and doesn’t accept it. I show him it was stamped and signed when I entered Liberia on the 16th of March.
“How many days!”, he barks.
“For as long I want, it’s valid for a year!”, I try.
But in vain. I must say that his speech impediment and his heavy Liberian accent doesn’t really help me. And he can’t understand why I can’t understand him. 50% of the Liberian population is illiterate, and at moments like this I have the strong feeling that all of them are policemen. He summons me to come to the police station, points down the road, stops a random car, jumps in and waves to follow him. He still has all of my papers so with a deep sigh and some 4-letter words (audible, and in English) I agree. Just before the station he gets out, walks up to my car.
“I don’t want to waste any more of your time.”
“And I don’t want to waste yours.”
“So just give me some money and you can go.”
“No way! I want to speak to your superior!”
He points 50 meters down the road. His boss I can at least understand, but what follows is a very awkward discussion of about 30 minutes. About the Carnet, about poverty, about the police being my best friend. After every 5 minutes the senior officer asks the policeman if he’s satisfied with my answers. He clearly feels insulted and finally settles for “a cool water”.
“No problem. I’ll give you a whole bottle of nice, cool water from the fridge in my car.”
“Is it African cool water?”
“Yes, it’s African.”
The senior officer bends over to me and whispers in my ear:
“You know what is meant with cool water?”
“Of course I do. And it’s cool water or nothing. I’m not going to give you any money. Full stop!”
I ask him what kind of story he would like me to take back to Europe. The story of policemen who wave you through at checkpoints, wishing you a safe journey, or the policemen who are asking for a bribe. I take my papers from his hands and wish them a good day. When I drive off I see their dissatisfied faces in the mirror.

Things that broke

  • the gearbox (nuff said, no further comment except that the new one is working like a treat! My right shoulder is showing some serious and very painful signs of RSI, but that’s because of all the bad roads and the shifting of gears)
  • the zip of the rooftop tent cover (whoever designed that should be defenestrated)
  • the inverter (serious problem because of the many power cuts. So I bought a UPS, which does the same thing, in Freetown of all places)
  • the watertap on the back door (should able to fix it with right glue, I think)
  • the jerrycan holder on the side of the car (it’s completely bent after an accident in Liberia. More of that later)
bent jerrycan holder after accident Liberia

bent jerrycan holder after accident Liberia


zipper ro

zipper rooftop tent

new inverter installed

new inverter installed

broken water tap

broken water tap



One thought on “Never lose your temper with a policeman!

  1. Geert van den Berg

    Hallo Ge,

    Petje af voor je volharding ondanks alle tegenvallers. Ik zou ook uit mijn vel gesprongen zijn bij die agent. We volgen de gang van zaken met Thimba met compassie voor de hond. Wat is wijsheid in deze situatie? In ieder geval zie je, ondanks diverse tegenvallers, wel een geweldig deel van onze mooie aarde.
    Groeten, Geert


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