The Final Countdown - 14/08/2008

Many days have passed since the Fur Balls left Africa and attentions are now very much on a certain forthcoming adventure. However this blog has left our poor readers high and dry in Niger wondering what became of our intrepid team. It is said that if you want something done give it to a busy man. Unfortunately our team forgot this adage and entrusted the final instalment of the blog to a lazy fat man. And so it is that I find myself in February penning the final paragraphs to our adventure. Please forgive me if the cannibals have grown somewhat larger in my aging memory.

Setting out from Niamey our team were acutely aware of the fast diminishing time before the end of rally party. Ever considerate for the needs of the rally as a whole the Fur Balls knew they must make the party, for without them it would be, in a word, crap. Out came the map and with wide sweeping gestures it was decided that a course would be struck through Nigeria to the Sourthern Border crossing into Cameroon at Mamfe/Ekok. Now with the benefit of hindsight the youtube clip of the road at Ekok ( should have been required viewing but let us not dwell too much on such trivialities at this stage.

And so passing quickly through Southern Niger our team crossed with some trepidation into Nigeria. Much had been heard about the corruption of the officials with some teams having paid 100s of Euros merely to get into the country. Equally remarks had been made about the poor state of the roads. It was therefore with some relief that after much smiling, hand shaking and fur stroking the four passed into Nigeria after parting with only 20 Euros for a fairly debatable tax. The roads were excellent and the scenery specatular; the locals fearsome, corrupt and recently graduated from the Italian School of Motoring. A particularly unnerving activity was for men to stand in the road to make you slow down and then at the critical moment shove a log with nails in it under your tyres. The machete wielding savages then had the audacity to produce a supposedly official government ID card and ask for agriculture tax or some such absurdity. Now let me assure the reader that I am quite aware of the difficulties in the third world and that a man has to make a living, but if a chap can't have the common decency to say please he isn't going to get a penny out of me. And so an aggressive style of driving was adopted that generally involved trying to mow the unfortunate souls down. The reader will be relieved to here that I am not aware of any outstanding prosecutions.

3 days later the remote outpost at Mamfe was reached and a most unfortunate incident occurred. The Fur Balls were refused entry. What? I hear you cry. Surely they had not fallen for the old beekeeper/philosopher trick again. Fortunately not but on this occasion the border guard took one look at our vehicles and told us that there was no way they would be able to negotiate the roads on the Cameroon side. Despite much protesting that these vehicles had come all the way from London and braved such challenges as the Sahara and some particularly sharp guavas he was not to be deterred. With time now running very short it was decided that there was no time to go to the Northern border crossing and that instead a passage must be sought on a smugglers boat from Calabar to Limbe.

The Rough Guide described Calabar as "a real gem, a place where the troubles of Nigeria seem to be forgotten and a pleasant place to spend a few days". The Fur Balls would beg to differ and feel that it would be more accurately described as a "whore hole". Anyway a passage was obtained on a ship for a small fortune and the customs officers were entertained with drinks to expedite our departure. A fairly unpleasant 14 hours were spent on a heavily laden vessel of dubious seaworthiness and it was with some relief that a foot was finally placed on the fair shores of Cameroon.

Beating a hasty retreat from the port there remained some 2 hours before the party was due to start and an ambitious 4 hours of driving. The roads proved surprisingly reasonable and all was looking good as the team passed through Douala. Unfortunately the 1:100 000 map was lacking on the detail of the Douala one-way system and after foolishly asking directions from a toothless octagenarian our merry band found themselves on the scenic route to Kribi, in the dark, and the rain. As we were in the midst of the rainy season the road was a touch flooded and ever leading the way the Zebra found herself faced by a puddle spanning the road for some 10m. Uttering the fateful words "It doesn't look that deep Tony" Ian urged our steed on. It rapidly became apparent that it really was rather deep and once the engine and front seats were submerged in water we came to a chilly stop. Already clad in our DJs for the party we made a strange sight pushing her back out of the lake and fishing our documents out, which having been carefully preserved for the duration of the rally, were floating away.

Despite the best efforts of some Cameroonians and much bouncing on the bumpers to clear the water out of the engine she would not start and so with her tail between her legs she was towed back to Douala. With our attendance at the party now looking increasingly unlikely the zebra had her 29th service in a petrol station. Unfortunately she still wouldn't start until after much head scratching Ian realised he had the rotor arm in his pocket. With an almighty bang the exhaust blew and she belched into life once again.

Buoyed to once again be on the move and sure that the party would still be going on at 3am the Fur Balls arrived at the finish line a fashionable seven and a half hours late. However only the stragglers remained still up and it was decided to have a party all of our own. What passed over the next 36 hours is largely a blur. Suffice to say the only thing that touched the fur balls lips was alcohol and the true end of rally party was held the following night with the distribution of awards and certificates. After drinking and eating the place to the ground a deal was struck for the chesterfield which now has pride of place overlooking the golden sands of the Atlantic. The Fur Balls would love to recommend Tara Plage as a place to stay but judging by the amount of booze that was consumed I suspect they may have taken early retirement.

All that remained was the mighty auction in Douala, and mighty it was not with not a single vehicle being sold. Thankfully round 2 took place a week later and despite a dubious description of the zebra as "good, exhaust noisy" she was sold for £238, an impressive 11 fold increase in her original purchase price.

And so our jaded team returned to pastures green and as they settled into their soft sofas, in their centrally heated homes drinking tea from fine china they cast their eyes wide to the steppes of Central Asia and the land of Mongolia.

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Posted : 14/08/2008

Many days have passed since the Fur Balls left Africa and attentions are now very much on a certain forthcoming adventure. However this blog has left our poor readers high and dry in Niger wondering what became of our intrepid team. It is said that if you want something done give it to a busy man....