Day 259: England Expects

16.09.09: First thing, I headed off to Kinshasa over the River Congo, escorted on and off the boat by British Embassy Officials. I’m taking no chances. Now in Kinshasa – “The Democratic Republic of Congo”, formally Zaïre, country 110. I guess “The Autocratic Dictatorship of Congo” hasn’t got the same ring, but at least it would have a whiff of honesty about it. Vogon avoidance has taken precedence over mosquito avoidance. I haven’t filmed a thing since I got here – far too risky. Been told it wouldn’t be a good idea by pretty much everyone I’ve met. Which is sad, there’s a lot that I would like to show you, but these unbelievably paranoid Vogons truly believe that spies come from Europe to steal their... – their WHAT? WHAT THE HELL IS THERE IN THESE COUNTRIES TO STEAL?? Nuclear secrets? Cutting-Edge Hyperspace Technology? A cure…

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Day 258: The Second Pizza of Freedom

15.09.09: RULE 6: NEVER EXPECT AN APOLOGY I woke up before dawn to find that my guard had gone. I went for a walk around the station – it was empty. I was strongly tempted to leg it, but since The Man had given me his word that I’d be out today (and he wasn’t a Vogon), I returned to my bed. By noon, I became despondent. The Man was nowhere to be seen. Where the hell was he? What the hell? They had held me for SIX days, without charge, for no reason other than being white. My usual Shackleton-like endurance was wearing thin. I decided that the next morning, I would wait until 5am, and then make a break for it. There was a low roof adjacent to the compound wall with a car parked beneath it. I reckoned that I could climb onto…

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Day 257: You’re Free But You Can’t Leave

14.09.09: RULE 5: AVOID AFRICA I’m sorry. I’ve cracked. The wars (all 47 of them, want a list?) may be over (kinda) and I was desperate to blaze a trail from Rabat to Cape Town and declare Western Africa (finally) re-opened after 50 years of rampant corruption, stupidity and ineptitude, but I can’t. Not in good faith. The horror is still here, still alive and kicking. Oh yes, there are wonderful people here and yes, there are wonderful things to see, and yes, the people here need your money, they need you here desperately…but mark my words, the Vogons will go out of their way to ruin it for you. IT’S NOT WORTH THE HASSLE. I can deal with it in Egypt and in India – there are Vogons there for sure, but not ones that will steal your things and throw you in jail for…

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Day 256: The Horror, The Horror

13.09.09: RULE 4: VOGONS ARE UNFEASIBLY STUPID You cannot reason somebody out of a position they haven’t reasoned themselves into. Appealing to my captors on the logical grounds that I was a tourist, had a valid passport and a valid visa, had no contraband in my luggage and that as quite possibly the only tourist in Brazzaville, their actions where no only bad for me, but also bad for their rotten hellhole of a country, got me nowhere. Sunday passed VERY slowly. It’s hard to mark time without a watch. Nothing to read, nothing to write…just me and my thoughts. To mess with future inmate’s heads, I marked the entire Periodic Table on the wall. My daydreams centred on two things – a new Indiana Jones movie set in Africa called Indiana Jones and the Heart of Darkness; and the possibility of escape, slim though it…

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Day 255: The Heart of Darkness

12.09.09: RULE 3: VOGONS HAVE NO EMPATHY “The only way to get a drink out of a Vogon is to stick your finger down their throat”. - Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Most children learn about empathy at an early age. The Vogon brain, being hardwired for bureaucracy, selfishness and greed, never develops the necessary range of higher-level emotions that are necessary to successfully gauge the suffering of others. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent a Vogon brain’s owner from locking them up in a stinking cell and wondering why the victim might not enjoy the experience. Similarly, there is nothing to stop Vogon leaders from stealing everything, absolutely EVERYTHING (including the future), from the bottom billion poorest people in world. The man, as Super Furry Animals once sang, don’t give a f**k. With no watch to tell the time, I measured the…

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Day 254: The Saddest Song In The World

11.09.09: RULE 2: NEVER TRUST A VOGON I awoke on the little couch in the ‘chief’s’ office. Gone was any chance of me submitting my visa application for Angola this week. Max returned and was helping translate the situation. Then they took me outside and tried to stuff me in a 4x4. I resisted on the grounds that they wouldn’t tell Max where they were taking me. In the end, Max said he’d follow and not to worry, they say they’ll let me go soon. So off I go with the police. Are they just going to take me out to the sticks and put a bullet in my head? Who knows? Why am I here? Why are they doing this? Are they crazy or just blitheringly stupid? I was taken to another police station – this one much larger (and even more horrible) than the…

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Day 253: The Last Thing I Needed

10.09.09: Let me tell you about Vogons. "Vogons have to be just about one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmother from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters”. - Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Since I started this stupid, impossible journey I have been consistently battling Vogons. Curiously absent from Latin America and Europe, they bogged me down in the Caribbean, treated me like a dog on the Greyhound, imprisoned me in Cape Verde and have made my trip through Africa a non-stop cavalcade of misery and paranoia. Now I don’t…

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Day 252: Exit Planet Dust

09.09.09: Setting off again at dawn, I found the shared truck for Dolisie (the junction half way to Congo’s capital city, Brazzaville) actually left early. I had to run to clamber on board the back as it pulled out. The truck was a fifty-year old cattle truck with open sides. It was carrying a staggering 73 people, their luggage, 14 live goats, several chickens and right by my feet, were two cow legs, still with their skin, blood oozing from the wounds beckoning flies like an open latrine. But that wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was the dust. The ‘road’ (typically) was little more than a rudimentary track peppered with potholes, and corrugated, so it made your teeth shake. It was also the dustiest road I have ever seen, and I was sitting at the back of this damn truck trying to deal with…

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Day 251: The Overlander

08.09.09: In a trend that will no doubt continue for the rest of the month, I got up at 5am only to find that there was no transport to the Congo border until much later. At about 7am, I hopped into a shared taxi, which was apparently heading to the frontier, but spent an hour driving errands around town and then kicked me out – he wasn’t going to the border after all. I waited by the side of the road for an age before a bush taxi finally turned up. Squished in (as always), it would be 10am before we actually headed towards Congo, only 50km away. Three separate border stamps to get out in three separate offices. A combination of bureaucracy and a bad (well, non-existent) road conspired for it to take HOURS to get to the border. At the final checkpoint before I…

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