January 11, 2012

by Kunal Modi in Daklha, Morocco

Saturday, 7th January I realize if the ambulance isn’t fixed by Monday, I’ll have problems flying to any European country as my Schengen expires on 14 january. Flights to europe out of Dakhla are on Mondays and Fridays. If I have to fly out, I have to do it on Monday to leave sufficient time for a connecting flight to London. If the ambulance gets running on Monday after we try Colin’s filter bypass method, I would travel with the team to Mauritania and still have enough time to reach Bamako by Friday.

Sunday, 8th January After his Youtube and Internet research, Colin found out bypassing the filter isn’t an option. Talk with Steve in NJ concluded we will have to wait till monday to find and ship the filter and transmission oil. But he didn’t rule out possibility of other problems too. By this time I had to finalize my decision to fly out on Monday subject to availability of seats. Unfortunate and hard one to take, but had to avoid any further legal, immigration and possibly jail I decided to fly to Las Palmas on Monday.

Monday, 9th January 11:30 am : Freya, Mike and I reach Canaria airlines office. 2 seats to Las Palmas left. I pay 1170 dh and reserve a seat.

2:00 pm : I gather and pack my stuff from the ambulance. It was a weird feeling. The ambulance was my mobile home for the last 3 weeks. Unknowingly, I had developed a sense of belonging with it. Seemed I was leaving my home.

3:00 pm : 4 of us had a last photograph with ambulance together.

3:05 pm : We reach Dakhla airport. Stephen interviews me on the camera. We are stopped by the police and the police asks for a written permission. I misunderstood and show him my ticket. That pissed him off more.

3:10 pm - 3:40 pm : Stephen interviews me outside the airport gate. Time for reflection. Everyone is thinking how we reached here. I am trying to figure out if I took the right or the wrong decision to leave the team. I concluded that there is no right or wrong. When I join the dots backwards, I will definitely have a story.

3:50 pm : Immigration officer finds out I stayed for 20 days on a 8 day visa. I express my surprise and show him the validity date. He is unamused, keeps my passport and asks me to wait by the side. He then continues with passengers. Myriad of thoughts run through my mind. I had imagined myself from being fined, detained and imprisoned. I see Freya and team outside the immigration area. 5 mins, 15 mins, 30 mins, 1 hour. I was running out of patience. I started overlooking officer’s shoulder again and again. Uncertainty is my weakness. I had known this by now. Another officer comes by. Asks what language I speak and my nationality. I replied English and India. He asked the officer to stamp my passport, smiles and hands it over to me. I do not know what is that suppose to mean or what procedure and rules they followed. But I wasted no time. I put my passport back in the pocket, wave to the team and Freya and rush to the gate where the whole plane was waiting for me. It was a 18 seater charter plane. It was the smallest, scariest and the noisiest plane I have ever sat.

5:00 pm : The 18-seater plane takes off. I close my eyes. Thanked God. Thanked Freya and Colin for showing me the way.