Friday 4 April 2008

1st April 08

Date: 1st March 2008
Location: Big Milly’s, Ghana
Weather: African thunderstorms and scattered clouds, 32°c
Status: Ben – The happiest I’ve been in 3 weeks! Colonel – all ready to go!

The absolute total transformation of the trip continues to amaze me every day and the last few have been no different at all.

Monday morning first thing arrived at the Angolan embassy suited and booted with a file packed with charity-expedition based literature and a determined head like never before, oh and of course with Case and Kerry in tow as the official “support crew” for the mission with Owen’s no show now meaning very little.

As we found the reception area a lovely lady greeted us and asked why exactly we were there, for an overland visa of course….and how her persona changed, “we don’t issue them from here as they only last for 30 days from the day of issue and that would be today and you’ll never make it in that time….so you can fly in but no chance of driving there!” That put the brakes our plans big time.

So I thought I’d try the charity card just in case (before trying the big bribe card of course!) and presented my case of how I’m raising money for African based charities, have been planning this for 5 years and desperately need to get through your country to complete the expedition. “wait here and I will speak to someone” was the rather abrupt answer.

10 minutes later she returned took my phone number and said the ambassador will call you when he has decided if anything can be done. We left feeling dejected and beaten.

Sitting on the wall outside the embassy waiting for Matt to return and a car pulls in, we nod, he nods and the gate closes. 5 minutes later the guard asks us to re-enter and make our way to the reception, the Chancellor is there with the Afritrex business plan in hand which he’s just read…..after much discussion and to cut a long story short, he tells us that he will arrange for the two embassies on the border of Angola to be informed of our arrival and that both vehicles and all passengers can collect our visas from whichever embassy we decide and that we can have safe passage through his country!! How we celebrated inside, he must of known he’d just made the trip south possible for the first Overlanders in nearly 2 years as we smiled from ear to ear, and so we should!

Well done Afritrex. “Return tomorrow morning with a copy of the application form, a letter describing what we require and 2 passport photos and I will make it happen for you!” he said….this would be easy!

Off we trotted doing cartwheels up the street with the Nigerian Embassy as our next destination but this time armed with completed forms, letter of invitation, copied vehicle docs and the $100 required for the visa….this one should be easy in comparison. Signed in, sat down and met the interviewer who went through everything and confirmed that we’d done as expected and to return on Wednesday at 3pm to collect them.
So from the bottom of the world to the top in just under 10 week…..Malaria, Silvi leaving, nearly putting the Colonel in a container as the route was impassable to having the opportunity to get the next leg of the trip completed as I’d always planned it in my head!

And now the passenger list, again previously it was going to be just me and Case each in our own vehicles heading down the coast but still dangerous and costly, but in the last 2 days that’s all changed again and now we have 2 full vehicles; me with 3 on board and Case with a full truck with 6 people! Lets explain….

Kerry the guy from Hong Kong who I met in Bamako arrived in camp on Saturday night and wants to come, Alex (Matt’s Aussie cousin) is flying back from Rabat on Thursday and visa pending is coming all the way to CT and now the revelation from last night….the wicked travelling Canadian family of 5, reduced from 6 as Sky is off home, have asked if we can fit them in!! These guys have travelled 55 countries over the last 3 years and are wicked fun too, so the more the merrier and on Mon/Tues we set off with 2 full vehicles, bag loads of experience, some trepidation of the roads and conditions ahead as the rains are starting almost as I type this in the central belt of Africa….but with a massively sprung step throughout!

Bring it on……

End of day location: Big Milly’s – not for long
Distance covered: 42kms of admin

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