Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

9/11, 7/7, 28/11, Now it’s 24/7

[Ed - Written in January, when I was fucking pissed off and on the verge.]

Trying to be philosophical about my predicament I tell myself this is a measure of the post 9/11 world. I remember watching the live news coverage as the towers collapsed almost 10 years ago and prophetically thinking, “Things are going to be different, shitter, from now on.” That morning I’d just had a great meeting with a travel company and pitched them some tours I wanted to operate in the Algerian desert. They asked me to prepare some itineraries and prices so they could put them in their brochure. This was going to be my first big break in organising proper adventure tours, a new business I was really excited about. Then I came home to see the rolling news of planes flying into the twin towers. Islamaphobia took hold in a major way and there was no point preparing the itineraries and the prices. No one was going to holiday in Algeria.

That winter I’d just got back from an overland drive from the UK to Niger, crossing the stunning Djanet plateau and discovering what North Africa looks like when it has petrodollars. I’d established contacts with some local ground operators and together we agreed to I’d market their amazing tours in the UK via some adventure tour companies.

This week I was arrested under suspicion of terrorism in Pushkar, India, but I was arrested as a suspected terrorist once before, that same year, when I crossed the border from Algeria through the northern Tenere Desert into Niger arriving in the abandoned town of Djado. Terrorism was a comparatively gentlemanly affair before we all saw images of Twin Towers suicide attacks.

Unbeknown to me I’d driven the route taken by arms dealers that were smuggling weapons to Tubu rebels in the North of Niger. Niger, like several Saharan countries divided by the tropic of Cancer, had a Muslim population in the north in conflict with the non-Muslim government in the south. In Niger, at that time, the Tubu tribes in the north, who happen to be Muslim, were waging a pretty successful uprising over rights and self governance. These days it would be called an Islamic terror campaign, and the US would fund the government forces.

As a result of stumbling into this very tense situation I was arrested and spent 3 days held at a desert military camp in Dirkou, a seedy smugglers outpost full of traffickers taking Nigerian prostitutes and fake dollars bills up to Libya. The military explained they were acting under orders from the capital and then the call came that I was to be interviewed in Niamey by the National Chief of Police. I was made to drive my crappy Datsun Patrol 1500km across one of the world’s harshest deserts to Niamey, where I was interviewed by a French secret service agent. The French still run Niger and the Ambassador parades around the capital like royalty. The French spook paced confidently behind the broad leather chair of the National Chief of Police, aggressively asking questions. The police chief, a man so dark I couldn’t make out any of his features in the shuttered office, apart from his glistening perspiration on his forehead, stayed silent throughout. The interrogation didn’t take long to reveal I was just a muppet who had no idea what this was all about, and after an afternoon of repetitive questions, he instructed the police chief to find something to fine me and I paid £4 for a bald tire. “When do you think Niger will obtain independence from the French?” I asked as I handed over the money, probably the finest example of my unerring ability to piss off people in high places by not being able to keep my mouth shut.

So far, in Pushkar, I’ve done my best work ever at keeping quiet, and none the less I’ve made my sister feel like I’m ungrateful and uncooperative with all the hard work she’s done, the lawyer almost dropped me completely when I tried to negotiate a lower fee, and the British Embassy don’t want to touch me with a bargepole. Thankfully Avinash, the journalist at the TOI is on my side and doesn’t print any of my libellous rants that would land me in jail for sure. And I’ve stayed friends with my interrogating officers but I think that has more to do with the lawyer passing them sweeteners to look after my welfare – which would explain why he’s so expensive. Everyone keeps telling me to shut up, and I’m trying but this situation is so nuts that I’m clinging to this ridiculous notion that I’m not a bad person, and being truthful is my best protection.

Last night a hotel turned me away. They said I was trouble and didn’t want me staying there. I didn’t shut up there and told the owner a few truths too. I was so upset and it compounded with finding out the police report isn’t ready yet so the case will be adjourned, and the lawyer broke the news to me that when this comes to trial it will still take several days more. I broke down again and felt like I had no one left to call. Everyone’s pissed off at me. It’s made me reconsider the suggestion a few people have already made that I should speak to a psychiatrist. I’m not well. So if I piss you off, just put it all down to the ranting of a mad man.

Obviously I can’t post this, so now it seems I’m typing to myself too. Call the doctor!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?