Monday, 27 June 2011

2 Down - 1 To Go

Okay, I now have a visa for Angola that is valid until the 24th August and a visa for the D.R.C, which is valid until the 7th September. I picked up my passport from the Embassy of DRC in Pretoria this morning and went straight to the Congo embassy, a few blocks down, and handed in my application. My visa for Congo will be ready on Thursday! So....I should be back in Windhoek by this coming weekend! :)

And today marks 2 months on this journey! :)

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Getting There

Thank you all for your quick response, emails, messages and suggestions.
I'm very happy to report that my visa for DRC will be ready by Monday. I dragged Hanret with me to the DRC and Congo Embassies in Pretoria today. Partly because she is far more experienced in 'the art of applying for a visa', partly because she just doesn't take no for an answer (which is helpful :)) ) , partly because her French is much better than mine...and the list goes on! :)

This time round was far less painless than dealing with the Angolan Embassy. I am learning though, and fast. Just make sure you have all the documentation you could possibly need...and voila!

I am now just waiting for my letter of invitation from the Congo and will apply for my visa on Monday. Which means my visa will then be ready by Thursday.

What all of this means is: I should be back in Windhoek by next weekend!!! Wooohoooo!!
Really looking forward to getting back on the road!

Thank you, once again, for all your support!!!

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Look What I Got!!! :)

Yay!! Finally, it's here. My Angolan Visa. All bright and shiny in my passport!!

Now, the technical bit:
The woman who helped me at the Angolan Consulate made a little boo-boo. She had told me that I have 60 days in which to enter Angola with my visa and then from date of entry I have 30 days in the country.
Turns out I actually only have 30 days in which I need to cross into Angola.
This might sound like ample time, but here's the snag...

Because I am now applying for my Congo and DRC visas in Pretoria, it's becoming a hectic time game. Processing time for both can be anything between a week and two weeks. Then, once I have those two visas I have to hop on a plane back to Windhoek. I then have, maybe two weeks, to enter into Angola. The longer the visa processing takes, the less time I have to make it to the border, the harder I will have to push.
Problem is: I don't have letters of invitation for either Congo or DRC. Friends are chatting to friends who might have friends in either of these countries and who might be willing to help. I'm trying to track down anybody/company in both countries, even through social networking. But I am really pressured for time.

So if anybody out there maybe has a friend/ knows someone in either or both countries who'd be willing to help, please let me know!!! Thank you!

The next leg is going to be one heck of a ride!!! :)

Monday, 20 June 2011

What's happening....

Just a quick update. I am still in Johannesburg, awaiting my Angolan visa. I should have it sometime this week. When I phoned again this morning they said to phone again tomorrow morning! Okidoki then.

In the meantime, I have decided to apply for my visas for the DRC and Congo as well, whilst I am in Johannesburg. Seeing as I will only have 30 days to get through Angola, it would be a big gamble to apply for my DRC and Congo visas in Luanda as that would probably delay me another two weeks. The total distance I will have to cover from the Namibia/Angola border to the Angola/DRC border is about 1 800 Kilometers.  Even if I maintained a 100km p/day average, it would probably take me about 16 days to get to Luanda (including rest days). This would then leave me 14 days to sort out visas for the next two countries plus getting to the border and with rest's just too much of a risk. I have no guarantee that the visas will be processed within two weeks. So all-in-all, it just makes sense to get the visas now.

This way I am sorted (visa wise) all the way to Cameroun. (I don't need a visa for Gabon - Yay!)

In the meantime I'm working on getting a print-media partner on board to publish regular updates and racking my brain regarding potential sponsors/possible sponsorship opportunities. A major potential sponsor, unfortunately, shot me down last week. I've lost count of how many potential sponsors I have contacted, met, spoken to etc. I'm running out of ideas, so if you have any...please feel free to let me know. :)

The question everyone is asking: "when will you be back on the road"?
I can't say for sure. It all basically depends on how soon I can get all these visas sorted.

On a lighter note though, I find it very interesting how I crossed my first border on a spectacular full moon, and now whilst back home...a lunar eclipse. I think my bike (Luna) misses me. She's so far away from me, on her own, in Windhoek. I think she blocked out the moon!! :))

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Angolan Visa Application Accepted!!!

Wooooohhhhooooooo!!! FINALLY!!! My visa application for Angola got accepted today!
Now I feel like I'm back in the game again. For a moment there I felt like a spider floating in space...disconnected from my web.
Soon enough I'll be back on the road again!! Yay! I am very excited to hit the open road again. Visa processing time is usually ten days, but I was told that I can phone on Friday and it might be done by then. Fantastic!

Today I actually had some fun at the Consulate. I mean, it's not like the first time I have spoken or seen these people. The woman that was assisting me (very friendly and helpful), disappeared with my documentation through a door to the back. On her return she was accompanied by the Head of Consulate (who can't speak a word of english), with my mission letter in his hands. He looked at me and spoke really fast...all in Portuguese. I just smiled at him. The woman assisting me then told him that I do not speak Portuguese. He pointed at my date of birth on my visa application form. Then looked back up at me and stared at me, for what seemed like, the longest five seconds of my life. "What has my age got to do with anything", I thought to myself??
He then gave me a broad smile and said something else in Portuguese, gesturing with his hands like saying: "Come on in". The woman assisting me now played the role of translator and said: "He says: You are welcome to Angola". :) :) :) :)

Fabulous! Muito Obrigada!!
The Head of Consulate then proceeded to tell all and sundry in the office about me and what I am planning on doing. I had to show them my route on a big map on the wall. One of the women said: "I'll follow you on a scooter". LoL. Great, now they're even rallying for back-up!
I can only hope that future encounters on the visa application front will be like today's.

What happens now?
Once I have my visa (which seems like it might be either end of this week or early next week), I'll be on a plane back to Windhoek and my faithful Luna. I then have some Social Responsibility to take care of in Windhoek.
First National Bank, Namibia, is sponsoring the Namibian leg of my journey. In return I will be giving motivational talks at ten schools on my route. Four in Windhoek, six on my way North to the Angolan border. (Primary Schools)

I then have 30 days to make it to the Angola/DRC border, seeing as my Angolan visa is only valid for that period of time.
The break that I've had now (More than 2 weeks already), has also broken my momentum. I suspect I'll have to build it up again. But not too worried about that. Keeping in mind that the roads have been superb thusfar. Once I enter Angola, it'll be a very different story!

The adventure awaits!!

*Thank you to all the people who have jumped in and helped with: attaining letters of invitation, translating documentation etc. And to the staff at the Angolan Consulate in Johannesburg today. Because of you, I now can't wait to enter Angola!*

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Monday, 13 June 2011

Angolan Visa Update

Since I've arrived home Hanret has been spoiling me a great deal!
I had a champagne brunch on Sunday with my two closest, bestest friends. Hanret and Elise. Sunday evening Hanret and I went to the opening of the show, "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Teatro in Monte Casino. Hanret's been cooking all my favorite food! Pork chops, Lamb shanks, Oxtail!!! YUM!! :-))

Yum Yum - Lamb Shank!!!

Oxtail with mashed potato and salad!!

I would be lying if I said that I don't enjoy being home. Of course I enjoy being home!!! The open road is beckoning though!! But it's not like that would make any difference to the Angolan Embassy!

I went to the Angolan Embassy in Pretoria this morning. A good friend of mine and fellow adventurer, Shayne Robinson, was so kind to give me a lift! First, when we got there, the security guard nearly had a cardial infarction because we drove in at the gate!! (ooops. LoL)
Then they informed me that the Embassy is only open for visa applications on Mondays and Tuesdays. (Lesson #64839387293867: Ask specific questions when dealing with any institution that has even the slightest connection to any kind of government). I phoned yesterday to double check on their office hours. They did tell me what their office hours are but neglected to tell me that I can only apply for my visa on Mondays and Tuesdays. My own fault as well...I should be more specific!!!

Upon my return to South Africa I was told that the Angolan Consulate in Johannesburg had closed down. I phoned the number I was given, just to double check. The answer on the other side: "Roman's can we help you"? Wahahahahaha!!! "Can I have a four seasons with extra cheese and an Angolan visa on it"???? :-))

Today, at the Embassy, I was informed that the Consulate had NOT closed down. "Do you have a number for them", I asked. "No, sorry". (But of course you don't).
It took me having to phone the Angolan Embassy in Cape Town to get the number for the Angolan Consulate in Johannesburg!!! So I eventually do get hold of the Consulate and quadruple check on what their requirements are. Everything is pretty much the same, BUT, "all your documentation needs to be in portuguese". Oh and you need proof of returning flight ticket. "Ummmm...and if I'm not flying"? I ask. "Then your vehicles registration documentation etc".
"And if I'm cycling"? - At this point I had to take the phone away from my ear because the exclamation and laughter that followed got quite hectic! Then I could hear the whole office in the background chipping in.

After they all eventually managed to calm themselves down to a mild panic, the woman came back to me and said that I would need a letter stating my mission...and that also needs to be in Portuguese.

What this all means is that I have to get my new friends in Angola to edit my letters of invitation. (I have 2). They are both in Portuguese, but now I have to have them faxed to a different address altogether. All my other letters have to be translated into Portuguese. (This is currently being done). And then hopefully I can go to the consulate either tomorrow or latest Friday. And then we'll try AGAIN!!

A few people have asked what I plan on doing regarding the countries that still lie ahead? Well, that's my focus whilst in South Africa right now. In the meantime, I'm having all my documentation done in English, Portuguese, French...and if I can find someone to help me, Arabic as well...just for good measure!!!!

Current documentation.

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Monday, 06 June 2011

Back Home

As you will have noticed from the heading, I am currently back in Johannesburg!
My flight from Hosea Kutako airport in Windhoek, landed on Saturday.

There is one very simple reason as to why I am back home - to sort out my visa for Angola. After fighting with the Angolan Embassy in Windhoek for a week, I had had enough and just couldn't waste any more time. On Friday I went to the embassy again for the umpteenth time to try and resolve the issue. This time I was fortunate enough to have someone behind the counter that could actually force a smile. He was very helpful. I explained my case to him (again), and he referred me back to Pretoria (again). What made me decide to come back was the fact that I now needed to apply for an extension on my Namibian visa as the Angolan Embassy requires that I have a 6 month visa in Namibia before I can apply for my Angolan visa. (This was the first time they had divulged this information)!!!

Coming back home is both exciting and taxing emotionally! It was hard enough to have to say farewell to my nearest and dearest when I launched from Cape Town! I had prepared myself to not see them again for a very long time! The actual issue of having to sort out my visa doesn't bother me one bit. That's all part of the journey. But having to now leave everyone AGAIN...that gets to me. But hey, whatever it takes.

Luna and all my gear are still in Windhoek. I am awaiting a letter of invitation from Angola (which should be here today, hopefully), then it takes ten days to process the visa. Once I have my visa in hand, I'll be on my way back to Namibia and back on the road again!!! Wooohoooooo.

Being back home now, does give me the opportunity to catch up on a few things though. Which is great!!!

I'll keep you all posted and you'll know the second I have that elusive visa!!! :)

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Friday, 03 June 2011

Life in Windhoek

I arrived in Windhoek almost a week ago, as you all know. The weekend was spent meeting some of Ray's (my host in Namibia) friends, getting in some rest and catching up on some more mundane duties like doing washing. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I really launched into setting up everything I want to do whilst in town. My first port of call of course being the Angolan embassy!!

I hovered into the embassy on positive thoughts and a Yoda-like attitude as to what needs to be done. "Apply for my visa I will. Give it to me you must". Squash me like a bug, they did! LoL!! I was told that I need to have insurance (which my non-existent budget just doesn't allow), and a letter of invitation.

Okidoki. So my focus then turned on obtaining at letter of invitation. I then had to leave my visa hunt to get to my first live radio interview in Namibia. Had a wonderful time in studio with a lively team at RadioWave!

Thereafter I had a meeting with a potential sponsor and then off to Cycletec to see if we could organise some TLC for Luna! Busy day!!

Tuesday I was off with map in hand, negotiating my way through the city center on Luna on route to an interview with The Namibian.

I had another interview lined up for the afternoon and met up with George, the Namibian country coordinator for Iduka. My interview got postponed and I dropped Luna off at Cycletec for a service.

In between all of this Ray, was on his phone, ringing up all his friends and friends of friends who might have friends in Angola who might be able to help!! :-))

Wednesday was a VERY productive day!! Up and going early with my first meeting with Dixon Norval at First National Bank. (If you've read Riaan's book, you'll know who he is!) Some quick brain storming with the marketing team resulted in some sponsorship from FNB! Woohoo! I can now breathe a bit! In return I will be giving motivational talks at 10 primary schools on route! Awesome! :-)

From there I spent some time in town and even donated blood at a local shopping centre! Quickly ran into an internet café and then off to Cycletec to pick Luna up and get to my interview with Republikein newspaper.

Interview and photos with FNB representatives done, it was off to Namibia Breweries for a meeting with their marketing team! (I will have to wait until next week to divulge news resulting of this meeting)!!

And last night I had dinner at the beautiful River Crossing resort with the social responsibility manager of Desert Star. A great evening, good meal and new friends made!!

I will be back at the embassy this morning pursuing my elusive visa. Last night though, I made us spaghetti bolognaise and played a board game with new friends. :-)

The Namibian getting ready to distribute around Windhoek...

...the story about a woman on a bicycle!!

Windhoek skyscrapers...

...and a Windhoek street market!

Tokkie en Ziggie from Cycletec giving Luna some loving attention!

Finding time in a busy day to donate blood!

Dinner with Rochelle at the beautiful River Crossing resort

Meeting up with Caleb Thole, an Iduka volunteer from Malawi.

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