Monday, 25 February 2013

the italian circus

Roll up! Roll up! Is that the Big Top we see in the port? It's 9pm and there are bright lights and a marquee inside a holding pen on the quayside. We enter and a friendly policeman in a clown's uniform invites us to leave our bikes near him and go over to immigration control.  We weave through about thirty cars and vans all with roofracks stacked high with white goods and bikes and all sorts of goodies from Europe.  Two portacabins house immigration and check-in.  At check-in there is a little chaotic queuing and an evident lack of anyone knowing what they are doing.  We get the necessary and probably pointless stamp on our tickets and then move over to portacabin no. 2.   

Here a resigned bunch of Tunisian men are all pushing forward half-heartedly towards the single doorway.  We meet a tall young South African woman here looking slightly out of place.  We join her and gradually inch forward.  Now and again a successful person emerges from the doorway and has to fight past the oncoming press of bodies.  Finally a female immigration officer comes outside and remonstrates with us all as if we were naughty schoolchildren.  It's rather insulting.   Why don’t you have two doors? I ask her, entrata and uscita? Am I putting my head in the lion's mouth?  My Italian is crap but she understands, and gives one of those expressive gestures that seem to say so much but in fact says nothing of use to us poor punters.  We all have to step back three paces.  As soon as she steps back inside we all steal forwards again.  

Finally entrance is gained to portacabin no. 2, we get ticked off a list, and the excitement is suddenly over.  Everyone disperses quietly to their vehicles and we retrieve our bicycles from the laughing policeman.  Now all we have to do is wait for the gate to open so that we can board the ship.  Ahh, but this ship is off to Africa.  The excitement starts to build again....

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