After arriving in Nairobi on Sunday we got ourselves organised for going out to get our visas, getting the papers together, etc, the next day. However we received some concerning information that caused us to change the order of our plans. On Tuesday we went to our first Embassy – Ethiopia – only to have our visa request refused. The concerning information was true. A new rule has been introduced, in the last couple of months – visas can only be issued in your home country or on arrival at the airport – embassies and land borders don’t issue visas. This seriously compromises our plans. We spent the rest of the day and much of Wednesday analysing our options. If we can’t get through Ethiopia we can’t get into Sudan or Egypt. Skirting Ethiopia by going in to Somalia, South Sudan or Chad are all pretty much out of the question on safety grounds. Although an attractive option, dropping down and coming up the west coast will be way too time consuming and we would have to leave Landy in Kenya and come back in a year or more to complete our trip. Shipping out of Mobassa is an option but then we both feel that will be a failure in our attempt at a true circumnavigation.
Eventually we decided to risk applying for our visas from the UK. That means staying in Kenya until we get our passports back. We decided that if they don’t arrive in time we still have a fall-back option of shipping out of Mombassa. If our passports don’t get back in time for that option we have the final option of storing Landy in Kenya and coming back in probably 12-18 months. That carries additional complexities as really Landy needs some TLC and a rebuild, the sooner the better. Standing in storage will not be good for his constitution.
Since arriving in Africa we have often heard the phrase “TIA” – This Is Africa. We’ve just been introduced to another one “AWA” – Africa Wins Again. Not yet it hasn’t we decided.
So, on Thursday, after downloading and filling in the visa forms, getting new photos, and all the other evidence required, I went into the DHL office and posted off our papers. We tracked our precious package online and it arrived with our family in the UK on Monday. Within an hour they’d turned it around, adding the postal orders and return envelopes to our applications forms and passports, and sent it off by Royal Mail Special Delivery to the Ethiopian Embassy in London that afternoon. Tuesday morning Royal Mail attempted to deliver the package at 7.49 am but found they couldn’t because the offices were shut that early and so returned it to the depot. After a couple of agonising hours on the internet and phone the situation was that the Ethiopian Embassy claimed not to have a ‘could not deliver card’, Royal Mail won’t re-arrange delivery without relevant information from that card. Eventually by some intelligent guesswork Paul pretended he knew what was on the card and re-arranged delivery but was told that wouldn’t be until Thursday. Royal Mail could not give a delivery time and so we faced a nail biting two days waiting to see if the delivery would be successful or not. With such inflexibility, we thought, it is no wonder Royal Mail is a failing business. As it turned out they did the delivery on the Tuesday afternoon after all. We’re back in the system again!