At last Friday’s writing group the subject of being stopped while crossing borders / trying to enter countries, specifically North America, came up. It reminded me of what is now a funny story of when I once travelled down to Vilanova by car.
A once dear fried , Richard, said he’d like to stay in our home in Vilanova for a few months if that was alright with us. It was fine with us as unless we were there on holiday the place was empty. Instead of rent he agreed to spruce the place up a bit too.
As neither of us were working much at the time we decided that it would be best for us to drive down together to share the driving, then after a week I could fly home leaving him to his own devices. Taking his car would mean that he was more mobile while staying in VnG.
Having never been to Andorra Richard wanted to go through there, and to stock up on cheap cigarettes at the same time. It seemed like a long way round, adding the challenge of driving in possibly heavy snow, and crossing additional borders, but , against my better judgement, I agreed.
We set off through the Channel tunnel and drove down through France. Everything was fine. When we crossed through into Andorra and started to climb the condition of the roads became progressively worse. At this point I left the driving to Richard, it was his car after all. At times he clearly had trouble keeping the car in the direction we wanted to go.
Crossing the border into Andorra was no problem. Richard did his shopping and we headed on to Vilanova.
At the Andorra-Spanish border we were stopped by very officious and very good-looking customs Officers, two men and a woman. They asked the purpose of our trip, where we had come from, where we were staying, how long we would be there, and on and on. They took our documents and held them while they asked us to unpack the car, all this in the driving snow.
More than one time they asked us if we were carrying any drugs. Of course we weren’t. They didn’t believe us. Once we had emptied the car of everything they started to bang on panels and unscrew some of them. To say Richard was livid is an understatement. Fortunately I managed to keep him calm enough.
Whether it was the cold or nerves I suddenly needed to go to the toilet really badly and as the two men were pulling the car apart I asked the woman officer where the toilets were. She asked her colleagues if it was okay for me to go and was told that one of them had to accompany me to make sure I wasn’t disposing of anything. I told her it was fine and commented that the one headed our way was cute and asked if he was interested in me. Wrong move. He was not happy and escorted me to the toilet with the utmost seriousness, while his partner continued to search the car.
As I came back from the toilet, still escorted, the other officer emerged from the car with a large plastic bag of white powder. I couldn’t believe it. Richard hadn’t had the car long. I asked if he had checked it over before we came, as I had suggested. He replied that he hadn’t.
The bag of white powder was taken into the offices for testing while I imagined a future locked up in a Spanish prison having done nothing wrong. I was angry with Richard, scared and very very worried. Richard tried to tell me we’d be okay and that I shouldn’t worry. I couldn’t listen.
After a while the officer came out without the bag of white powder. He looked very stern but then smiled telling me that it was only talcum powder. He had told me in Spanish so when Richard asked what he had said I told him that it was cocaine and that the owner of the car would have to go with them while I was free to go. I realised this was mean, but was so angry with Richard for not checking the car over before our journey. I didn’t keep up the pretense for long and told him the truth. We were free to go, once we had reloaded the car.
The officers returned our documents and told Richard that he should legally have snow chains on, and if he ever came back into Andorra to make sure he had some. However by this point the tension had gone out of the situation and the two officers seemed quite friendly. I was so relieved that I thanked them and told them that if we ever crossed paths in Sitges I’d at least buy them a drink. The cuter one smiled enigmatically.
Once we were ready Richard drove across the border and down the hill without looking back. As soon as we were some distance into Spain and the snow of the higher mountains was behind us Richard pulled over. We both took in deep breaths of the clean air happy to still be free men.
For the life of me I still can’t imagine what a bag of talcum powder would have been doing hidden in a car. OR perhaps it was something more valuable but we were duped? If so I am still happy we were set on our journey aain.