Corruption, court and a crocodile

Don't let it run away!Well, it seems like waiting for diesel in Malawi can take a long, long time. However, not the waiting for petrol itself, but more everything that evolved from the waiting, is what kept us from keeping you updated on our wondrous adventures. We’ll try to give you a brief summary of everything that has happened to us, but keeping it brief might annoy you, as once again, our adventures are way to interesting not to tell in full detail.

The most thrilling day in Monkey Bay was by far he day that Marten had a close encounter with prehistory itself. Our man went swimming for a bit in the clear blue water of Lake Malawi when suddenly it hit him; the thing pulling at my leg is not Henk or Minne trying to piss me off… Two weeks earlier we had spotted it for the first time; its lean and muscled body motionless cruising the surface of Lake Malawi without rippling it, measuring a full two meters it was lurking between the rocks and its empty stomach was infecting its primitive brain. A decent rain season would have caused the fish to breed and than it wouldn’t have a reason to be so close at all. But the rains are late and the fish don’t breed and it grows hungry and Marten was there, feeling its sharp teeth piercing through his flesh, and that’s when he realized; “I’m being attacked by the crocodile!”

Panic and adrenaline fuel Martens efforts to free himself from the predators firm hold and as he’s dragged under water, his feet find a little grip which allows him to raise his head from the water and scream for help, while he pries his fingers in between the teeth and his own upper leg. Under water, the reptile shakes and wriggles with all its force, so that as soon as Marten loses his balance, it’ll spin around, disorientate and drown this LeftHand within half a minute. Suddenly the clenched teeth loosen their grip and with an effort, the animal is pushed away. But the retreat is only temporarily. As Marten, dazed and bewildered, tries to walk towards the beach and sees his friends charging in from the shore into the water, he hears a splash next to him. The adrenaline sill flowing through his veins tells him to lift his arm and stretch to the left. The crocodile is fended of, but manages to bury his claw in our heroes shoulder and leave a vicious scratch. At the same moment, Henk and other people present at that moment grab Marten as he stumbles through the water, while they make noise and smack poles on the water, to successfully scare the beast away.

So thats what a crocodile bite looks like on a white man's ass Marten walks out of the water and we see that his trunks are shredded and that a lot of blood mainly dripping from his fingertips. “My ass!” is everything that Marten utters, “It got my ass…”. He’s patched up and placed in a pick-up for a drive to the nearest hospital, where we arrive half an hour later and Marten has, once again, to deal with his fear for needles. Twenty stitches later Marten walks out again. A bit confused, but fully aware of the fact that he now has a valid reason to drop his pants in a bar. The same night, the croc is shot, while we enjoy a spitted goat. Marten grabs a knife and cuts of the jaw of his former nemesis, only to be handicrafted into a cool necklace.

Malawi, the corrupted heart of Africa
The reason for our stay in Mufasa in Monkey Bay is another story that’s worth mentioning. When arriving in Monkey Bay, we got directed to the Venice Beach backpackers, where we initially wanted to leave, because you’ve got to pay in order to camp there. When you travel in your house you don’t need to camp and we’d rather stay in a village or forest. But, the management insisted on our stay and we were even allowed to camp there for free. Well, free is a word that we like and so we stayed there to wait for diesel, in this country where petrol is a major problem. Something to do with the government buying to much fertilizer. Only in Africa. The waiting took about ten days and hastily we started to pack the car; the presence of diesel usually means a six hour queue and arriving at the pump when they just ran out, so we’d better hurry. While packing, the manager of the friendly place comes up to us and kindly asks if we can pay for accommodation. “No my friend,” we say slightly irritated, “we had an agreement, and that worked fine for us.” Obviously it didn’t work for him and ten minutes later a policeman arrives. The man grabs our passports and informs us hat we’ll get our documents back as soon as we pay the bill. Well, thats not a legal procedure, is it? There’s no paperwork, no complaint or anything, so we know how this works; a little bit for the manager, a little bit for the policeman. “Corruption!” We shout, “Take me to your chief!”. The chief however, is not co-operative at all and simply throws our valuable papers in his safe with the exact same statement. Pay your bill, and you’ll get your passport back. We want to show how patient and easy going we are and decide that it’s better to come back the next day.

Mufasa at nightfallThat next day, nine o’clock, we arrive at the concrete shack that’s supposed to be the police station and settle down under a huge mango tree to wait for the chief, who’ll arrive around lunchtime. Yes, that means about four hours of waiting, but hey, this is Africa. Also, waiting with the ThreeLeftHands is of course bound to be full of interesting events that make the time go slightly faster. At ten, the manager, our enemy, arrives to talk to us about a solution. His solution is a bit weird, however. Instead of talking, he looses his mind when Henk refuses to shake his hand and smacks him in the face. Minne also gets a fist across his lips and as a result, the fool is thrown in jail. Good for us, we figure, no we’ll definitely get our passports back.

At one in the afternoon, the chief of police arrives. He’s being driven in a police pick-up, while enjoying a beer. Again, this is Africa. The man sees us but plainly ignores us, which naturally irritates us. Minne and Henk keep their patience till two o’ clock and decide to take the initiative by walking in his office. They find it empty and decide to wait. An officer comes in and tells us that we’re not supposed to be in this office and have to leave. Henk, ever the wise-ass, says that our passports are not supposed to be there either and that we’ll just wait. As a result, we’re being evicted quite forcefully and a female officer dislocates Henk shoulder in the process. She also, by accident and accompanied by a lot of pain, relocates it by dragging Henk by his dislocated arm over the concrete for a couple of yards. Before he gets up, shouting and cursing, he’s grabbed again and thrown in jail, which is a two by two meter concrete room that is shared with four fellow convicts and a red bucket in which you can do your thing. Not funny. Henk is released after some hours, to find out we have to appear in court the next Tuesday for Public Disorder charges.

Henk preparing for courtA gray man sits on a small elevation behind an old desk that’s supported by some wooden blocks and finds us guilty in a very crude structure made out of tin plates and some wood here and there to cover the dents and gaps that they call ‘court’. We have to pay 5000 Kwacha in this cow stable, but if that’ll bring our documents back, sure, and so we enter the policestation to be handed two instead of three passports. “But wait, where’s Henk’s?” “Well, Henk is also charged with Theft by Trickery.” Sigh… “But what happened to our charges against the manager of that wretched establishment?” “Oh, ehm… yes, that was difficult… ehm… nothing…”

We find out, by asking around in shady alleys and talking to suspicious figures, that the man paid a 3000 Kwacha bribe to the police and we have to visit the capital, the ministry of Tourism and the national head of security to finally get a case against Ishmael, the devil manager of Venice Beach. Indeed, quite the effort but it’s the principal that counts. For us, at least.

A month of sitting in the glorified shack where justice is decided by people that buy other, more influential people, we also get Henk’s passport back. But not without a fine and a suspended jail sentence of sixteen months. So now we’re finally ready to leave. But how is that to be done without a penny left on our bank account..?

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18 Responses to “Corruption, court and a crocodile”

  1. Armand Says:

    EEEEEUUUUUHHH ouwe gekken!!!

    Dude….Mukkes jonge, ik ha ‘t wot let meikriegen dot ”dundee” verhaal.
    Bin bliid dochst d’r nog bist mon!!
    Marre… ost telefoanisch(kreas frysk nou:P) wer ris berykbaar bist must ff trochjaan nou, dan plege we ff n belletje!

    Nou monnen, dot lêtste hoekje mar eebm flink trochsette hi, ot hjim überhaupt fon plon binne hjir wer ris te kommen hahaa…

    Thumbs up,
    groetnis Armand

  2. Steven Says:

    Well, that’s very interesting story about the crock.
    On the rest of the story… I don’t believe you can stay at a hotel/rest house for free when the actual objective of running such a place is to have people stay whom you can charge some money.
    I think either you were naive or stupid or simply playing it cheap. It’s very important when we travel, east-west-north-south - to respect the rule of the law.
    Please don’t to Africa with the thought of bossing people around— next time and next place you do that you may not have a chance to go back to Europe.

  3. Henk Says:

    I think it was a combination of the three. After more than a year of traveling, yes, its safe to say we’re still naive, stupid and cheap. Thank you Steven! Read the freaking story! A man a man, a word a word, its as simple as that. Nothing to do with law or rules. Its about people thinking they’re able to bend the law and take advantage of travelers. And succeed. Corruption is a happening problem, my friend.

  4. Steven Says:

    I heard about your story in the Malawi local papers. being a traveler myself I like to know more of where I am at etc, thru local newspapers. One day your story caught my eyes and I followed it.
    I stayed at Venice Beach, right after your departure. I spoke to the locals and Ishmael, an excellent manager at the Venice Beach. It seems you were very stupid and cheap. It is sad to hear or see some Europeans that travel around africa and treat the locals with such disrespect. It embarrasses all of us good travelers.
    My entire stay at Venice Beach was incredieble and one of the best places I have stayed at during my nine months traveling in this beautiful wildness. I have read your freaking story and you, with your arrogance -seems to have deserved more jail time in Monkey Bay! Hope the next time you travel you will be more respectful!!

  5. Henk Says:

    If Venice Beach one of the best places you’ve ever been and Ishamel is a good manager, there must be a chromosome missing somewhere in your system. Have you seen the state of that place? Lonely Planet comments on it as ‘constant under construction’, for several years now. The place is near to falling apart. Further, a manager that hits its customers in the face is a blatant idiot. I might be arrogant, but also we saved two lives in Monkey Bay, donated blood and next to that, we volunteer in every place we come. Usually, we live on our own supplies, which we buy from the locals, to the community much more profitable than your kind, traveling from backpacker to backpacker, making the rich more rich. Read our website, you ignorant fool, open your eyes. That we’re not your average Joe Jerkoff, doesn’t mean you’re better than us.

  6. Steven Says:

    No comments!!!!

  7. Linda Says:

    Go Henk Go Henk :)

  8. Henk Says:

    ‘No comments’ is the easy way out. Much cooler to say ‘yes Henk, I’m sorry and you’re right.’.

  9. Steven Says:

    Henk - I still think and believe you are an idiot cheap ass, though I am glad you never got eaten by that hungry crock. So, just shut your freaking mouth and enjoy your family and home.

  10. Henk Says:

    Well Steven, I think we can establish that your comments decrease in …uhm… whats the word..? Not inteligence, but something of the like. Furthermore, I don’t see the need of shutting my freaking mouth on my own freaking website. If, and I stress the ‘if’ you’d read this site, you would’ve known that I’m not in the near vicinity of my family and my home is an orange car. I must agree though, that I’m an idiot. For several reasons on which I’ll not elaborate for now. Ah well, at least you provided me with some fun.

  11. Emily Says:

    Ouch, that looks sore! The croc was bigger than it looked from the viewpoint. Lucky escape!

  12. Alex Says:

    Unreal story. My girlfriend and I stayed at VB Backpackers in late February–probably right after you left. I can certainly believe the story; that was the most dishonest, scam-filled hostel I’ve ever come across. Eventually the guys who run it started to hate us because we were clearly not going to fall for any scams whatsoever (bon fires, ‘free’ rides to town, lying that the buses aren’t running and we need to get a ride from them, etc). I’m glad we got out of that place more easily than you did. Hell of a setting, though!

  13. Neill Says:

    Great reading your stories and even better meeting you at Mufasa. Please let me know when you guys are in Cape Town again. I have place for you to stay and would be happy to cook for you this time!

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