Day 266: Anglin’ Fer Angola

23.09.09: 5am! Are you having a laugh? The bus didn’t leave until nine!! I could have had a good lie-in, although this will form the pattern of the next week of travel. The trip to the Angolan border was fairly uneventful, but I was happy that I got a seat all to myself, I wasn’t squished like a sardine, three people to a seat. And – shock horror! The driver’s mate gave out sandwiches and Cokes to everyone on board! How cool is THAT? Must be the first time that has happened since I was in Central America back in February. At the border. I didn’t have any of the hassles alluded to in the Lonely Planet. It did take them an hour to stamp me out (the ‘chief’ wasn’t there!) but apart from that, I got over the border without any problems, and (amazingly) no…

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Day 265: Hen’s Teeth

22.09.09: I returned to the Angolan embassy, fingers and toes crossed. I hung about for an hour or so before somebody came to help me. I was taken into the back room again and – miracle of miracles – was given my passport back with a shiny new ANGOLAN VISA IN IT. Woooooooooooo!!! It was only a transit visa, and I had only been given five days, but my word THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE. But someone up there likes me. I headed back over to MSF HQ waving my golden ticket around like Charlie Bucket. I’m sure everybody was duly impressed. The bus to the border leaves very early, so I missed the one for that day. No worries - Alex, Michael and I headed out for a meal (we found a great little Chinese restaurant – mmm... I haven’t had Chinese food for…

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Day 264: Visas and Viruses

21.09.09: Okay. Today was my DAY OF ACTION. I headed down to the Angolan embassy first thing in the morning, armed with my passport my old visa, my letter of invitation, my onward flight ticket (don’t worry – it’s just for show), photos, photocopies, vaccination certificate and a nice, shiny new $100 bill. There was no rhyme or reason as to who was ‘served’ first, so I just stood in the middle of the room full of people looking a little lost until somebody came to help me. They looked at my stuff and said that I needed a letter from my Embassy saying that I wasn’t an escaped serial killer or something. So I jumped a ‘taxi’ (a private car, but there are no real taxis in Kinshasa, so that makes every car that isn’t a 4x4 a taxi) to the Embassy and asked Parul…

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Day 263: Why Fool Yoda Is

20.09.09: Today was another DVD-fest, a Hitchcock triple-bill (The Trouble With Harry (Crap), Topaz (Good) and Marnie (Okay)) culminating in Michael and I watching James Dean chew the scenery like a starving billy-goat in East of Eden, which is nicely shot (mmm... Dutch Tilts) but is, quite frankly, as boring as hell. I think we both fell asleep at various points. Gimme Bruno any day. Something got me thinking about the most idiotic character in the Star Wars universe; no, it’s not Jar Jar, it’s that little bongo-brain, Jedi Master Yoda. From the word go, that grammatically-challenged frog is a Class-A fool. First up, he separates some powerful Jedi kid from his mum, and then leaves her IN SLAVERY for ten years. What? Why? Then he decides that space wizards aren’t allowed to get it on with the opposite sex. Even though (it would appear) that…

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Day 262: The Dirty Stop-out

19.09.09: A great lie-in was interrupted by my desire to watch as many of Alex’s DVDs as possible before I had to leave. So I camped on the couch and watched about seven films back to back. Ah, what bliss. Sorry Kinshasa, but you just ain’t got nothing I really want to see. That night, I was invited out to a house party with Alex and Laure. Michael had a business dinner he had to attend, so it all worked out quite well. We sat out in the garden of Alex’s friend’s house talking, drinking and eating (there was a great spread!) until the wee small hours. On our way back to Alex and Laure’s at the MSF compound, we stopped off at another friend’s house and promptly indulged in a bit of why-not-drunkenly-throw-yourself-in-the-pool shenanigans. It was FREEZING, but fun. I slept the night on Alex…

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Day 261: A Hard Day’s Night

18.09.09: So…after two days, I finally got to the Angolan Embassy and found out that there was a chance - an outside chance - that I could get a new visa, since I already had one issued in London. But I’d have to return on the Monday. Well, you didn’t think it would be easy, now did you? I hate it when people (idiots, mostly) say that the visa requirements in Africa are reciprocal for the difficulties an African faces in getting a visa for Europe. Don’t be so bloody stupid. Europeans don’t need to get an advance visa for anywhere in the Western Hemisphere – and is Bolivia currently flooded with economic migrants from the UK? I don’t think so. Pretty much everyone that I meet in Africa is desperate to get the hell out of this infernal place (understandably). What would happen if we…

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Day 260: Heroes Day

17.09.09: Today is Angolan Heroes Day, so the Embassy was closed. Looks like I’m going to be here for the weekend... Not that I’m complaining. I need a few days of R&R after last week’s shenanigans. So today I watched a disgraceful number of DVDs and then went for a stroll around Kinshasa. I found a little old brick church and sat for a while, enjoying the cool silence. I’m so fed up of Africa, it’s almost funny. I’m fed up of the smell, the litter, the hassle, the open sewers, the poverty, the horrific state of the roads, the awful, over-amplified music, the terrible food and (most of all) the constant state of paranoia that I’ll get arrested again for no reason. It’s no fun. Later on, Michael and I went for a beer. DR Congo is jaw-droppingly expensive – you’d be lucky to get…

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Day 225: The Best Chocolate Eclairs In Africa

13.08.09: I rushed to get my visas for Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo and Gabon. The visas for DR Congo and Gabon were straight forward, but the Equatorial Guinea guys suggested I come back tomorrow. Then it was a case of twiddling my thumbs for the day, discovering that one of my hard drives had died (with all the footage from Cuba to Malta on it!) and then finding somewhere to while away the evening eating and drinking. Yaoundé has a nice climate, it’s up in the hills, so it’s surprisingly cool. But as a city, it’s very very 70s concrete office blocks, which is never going to turn me on. But they have a cracking boulangerie called Calafata’s which supplied us with disgracefully tasty chocolate éclairs, so it gets a gold star and a jellybaby from me.

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