What started as a pretty run of the mill day in the rain forest ended being a tale of forgery on an international scale. Customs papers had been lost along the way, all of a sudden my artistic talents were of use.
The village chief was already at our breakfast table before I’d crawled out of my tent. Turns out he was a pretty good guy and a vegetarian, whatever that’s got to do with it. He was also the owner of the ducks I was interested in the evening before. Once everything was loaded and all aboard we pulled off the football pitch and back onto the road. There was plenty of thumbs up and waving as we departed so all ended well there.
Today we were heading further north to Ouesso and possibly the Cameroon border. We were making good time and negotiating the numerous checkpoints with ease. Just south of the Odzala National Reserve I spotted a gorilla sitting in a hollow next to the roadside, he was just sitting there casually munching on a branch. Caught by the surprise, I simply pointed and said to Gunter, ‘gorilla’. He looked but by this time we were several metres further along the road. ‘Are you hallucinating?’ he enquired. I didn’t think to press the button and stop the truck to reverse for another look.
Catastrophe then struck. While stopped at a checkpoint just outside Ouesso, Michael realised he’d left his import documentation at one of the four or five police points we’d passed through. We’d have to drive all the way back to where we’d started that morning in search of the official paperwork. After about 30km (18.6miles) Michael must have decided on a different approach. He had spares all he needed to do was put a pretend official stamp on the uncompleted form and they’d never know the difference.
I watched with curiosity as he covered the form with sellotape. Gunter pointed out that the form didn’t have an official stamp and I suggest the form would need completing before laminating. Attempt two involved the clever idea of using a coin covered in pink highlighter ink as a stamp which just looked rubbish. I suggested that if he wanted to forge the document I could help. Moments later I was checking my stamp-making technique with a two pound coin when a truck full of soldiers pulled up. ‘Just pretend you’re reading’ suggested Michael which seemed to do the trick.
The soldiers moved on and I returned to work. The stamp looked official and the form was completed and signed by Mickey Mouse, who else? I hadn’t a clue what the original looked like but Michael seemed to think it would do the job. Once again we headed for Ouesso and the border.
Between us and Cameroon was a river, however, when we finally made it to the ferry, guess what? The ferry was broken and might not be fixed until Wednesday, five days away! We’d have to find another route so headed back out of town and a couple of hundred kilometres further west. Night time was approaching and we found a nice spot off the road. Further inspection of some paw prints suggested a cat of some kind. Let’s hope, fingers crossed, a Leopard doesn’t drag me off in the middle of the night.