Across the Sahara Desert on Kinetic Honda scooter. Chapter 4

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Paris & Casablanca.

We took a flight from Bombay (==Mumbai, India) to Paris, capital of France. In Paris we had two objectives:

One: we had to get a visa for Republic of Niger. We already had visas for France, Morocco, Algeria and Nigeria which we got from the respective embassies in New Delhi. But Republic of Niger had no embassy in India at that time. So we could not have got Republic of Niger visa in India.

Indeed, as I understood at that time twenty-two years ago, Republic of Niger had no embassy anywhere in the world except in Paris (France) since the country just could not afford to maintain (and pay for) any embassy or staff. You see, Republic of Niger was, (at least at that time), one of the poorest countries of the world (even today it still is the 10th most poorest cunt ree in this hole world), about ten times poorer than (say) Bangladesh, which is one of the poorest countries in Asia. After Independence from France, Republic of Niger was ruled by a Dictator or a Coterie, and the country was governed from a building in Paris (France) which is now its embassy. That is why we had to stop in Paris to get the visa for Republic of Niger. Republic of Niger is in the heart of the Sahara Desert.

Two: we had to get information about the route conditions, and more important, about the current political situation, turmoil and violence in Algeria in 1991-92. The political turmoil and street violence conditions in Algeria were pretty bad at that time, something similar to what happened in Libya recently though not THAT bad, but bad enough to make riding across Algeria pretty dangerous. Honda had been participating in the PARiS--DAKAR Rally for some time now and had some knowledge of some part of the desert terrain. DAKAR is the capital of Senegal which is South-West of Algiers and the PARiS--DAKAR Rally followed a route considerably different from the one we were to take.

Our route was to go absolutely due south from Algiers, with much of it falling in Algeria where, to put it mildly, conditions were not very encouraging or re-assuring, or to put bluntly, very dangerous. We had a choice: We could chicken out and fly back to India from Paris and stay alive. The mission would have failed before it started. Before we left India there had been much pre-departure publicity, hoopla and media hype in India about our mission, and if we went back home without completing the journey, we would be branded as cowards for the rest of our life ! The six of us conferred and confabulated on this issue. FEAR IS THE KEY and a fear can be overcome only by a GREATER FEAR. For us, the fear of death was very real, but the fear of living the rest of our life in India as COWARDs, was an even GREATER FEAR. So, we did as Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw famously said in 1971: "Bash-0n-Regardless " !

LANDiNG IN PARiS: Accompanying us on the Bombay (=Mumbai) to Paris flight was an officer from Honda Motor Co. His name was Mr. Sambomatsu. He would be our Chaperone till Algiers. Twenty-two years ago (1991) the Indian Techie with a Laptop hanging from his shoulder was not yet born. Infosys, Wipro and TCS were far away on the horizon. An Indian traveller to Europe and other developed cunt rees (and even some semi-developed cunt rees) was looked upon negatively as a POTENTiAL ILLEGAL IMMiGRANT. Even in Singapore & Malaysia (where I had been many times before 1991) I was always asked to show a confirmed return air-ticket and sufficient amount of US Dollars cash or travellers cheques to cover my stay, before the immigration officer stamped my passport and let me into the country.

It was worse in Paris. We were all six of us standing in the immigration queue. One Gendarmerie (as police are called in France) came to us and motioned us to get out of the queue and locked us in a glass cabin and went away, apparently to tell his superior that he had captured six POTENTiAL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTs !

ENTER THE DRAGON: We were in the glass cabin about 15 minutes when Mr. Sambomatsu entered the immigration hall. He saw us in the cabin and came and tried to open the door. It was locked. He went to one immigration counter and spoke to the officer and pointed to us. The officer made a call on the intercom (there were no cell-phones then) and the cop who had locked us up promptly appeared and let us out. As the queue cleared out, Mr. Sambomatsu took out a huge wad of US hundred Dollar bills and slapped them on the immigration officer's table. Apparently Mr. Sambomatsu also spoke French. He said something to the immigration officer who quickly stamped our passports and we headed out of the airport.

We were in Paris for three days, which is the time it takes to get a Republic of Niger visa. On the fourth day we flew to Casablanca in Morocco.

PARiS 1991: We did the regular Paris tourist circuit: Arch de Triumph, which is a carbon copy of Delhi’s India Gate and not worth a visit. Eiffiel Tower, which is definitely worth a visit. For all of us Indians, it was the highest height we had ever climbed on a man-made structure until now. Moulin Rouge, which features the Folies Bergere, an open B00B dance (no bras and no halters – totally open as per Law of Nature) of 48 pairs (I am not sure about the number) of B00Bs in chorus. Every B00B presenter had to be five-foot-ten, White Anglo-Saxon Caucasian. It was the MOST hyped B00B show in the hole world at that time. It was definitely worth the visit and the munny at that time (1991) or any time. There was no internet, no google, no pornography, no facebook, no you tube, no mobile phones – no nothing. It was early December 1991 and it was damn cold in Paris, much more than I had expected.

CASABLANCA: We landed in Casablanca (Morocco) on 13.Dec.1991. All of us stayed at the El Kendara Hotel; drank at bar El Kendara; ate at restaurant El -Khaima, and had snacks at coffee shop El -Colibri. Mr. Sambomatsu was also there. We stayed in Casablanca for about a week. Honda has a large dealership there. Everyday we would go the dealer’s workshop and tinker with the scooters. We practiced how to remove the wheels, how to take out the tires, how to repair punctures. Dissemble and reassemble every part of the scooter. We were trained in repairing the scooter as best as possible in the week that was available.

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