Days 544 & 545: Another Mad Scheme

28.06.10-29.06.10:

I was a little iniquitous last time I left Africa, and for that I am truly sorry. Africa is many things, but it’s definitely not rubbish. Infuriating perhaps, but not crap. Eritrea, or rather Massawa, really warmed the cockles of my heart, and it’s hard to stay mad at an entire continent, even if it did throw you in jail twice. So for the good bits – Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda, Egypt and Eritrea – Africa I salute you and hereby take back all the nasty things I may have said. Africa – you’re all right. You just need leaders who aren’t more evil than Dr. Evil’s Evil Petting Zoo.

Monday passed as Mondays on cargo ships on the Red Sea often do, without incident or report. I worked hard on my scribblings and watched Brazil kick Chile’s bottoms (a foregone conclusion if ever there was one). On Tuesday 29th June we entered the port of Jeddah and I was left with the gobsmacking notion that I was here, at this very port at this very time on Tuesday 29th December aboard the MV Turquoise, on my way to meet Mandy in Egypt.

Six months to come full circle. Six months to visit just 28 countries. And I’ve got 39 more to go, and I can’t press on to India until I blag myself a multi-entry business visa, and that could take weeks.

The task ahead is not a straight-forward one.

Happily, my phones were now working again, so it was no problem to text a tweet to let Mandy and my mum (who I think were beginning to panic a little) know that I was safe and well. Thinking about it, if I had gotten into Congoesque trouble in Eritrea, I would have been well and truly stuffed as there would have been no way on Earth to tell anyone what had happened to me. Eek!

After thanking the captain and the chief and disembarking, the shipping agent escorted me through Saudi customs (which again were surprisingly cursory), I was stamped back into the country and released back into the wild. It’s worth pointing out that the Saudi government only really started issuing multiple entry business visas a few months ago. Considering I’ve now been in and out of Saudi a passport-bending FIVE times, I simply wouldn’t have been able to do this last year. God knows how I would have got to Dubai and Eritrea would have gone unconquered.

Huge Kudos and thanks to Ahmed from Babood Shipping for helping me get to Eritrea!  You, sir, are a true Odyssey Hero.

Ahmed - The Man, The Legend

Talking of logistics (cos I know you LOVE hearing about them), after I popped in to see Ahmed to say thanks and my bestest chum in the whole world Turki had come to pick me up and drop me off at his house, I got on the internet to hear the news I didn’t want to hear. Maersk have said that they are happy to help with any other ship I need to clamber upon, EXCEPT the ones that operate anywhere near Somalia – they just can’t risk it. The second half of my cunning plan has fallen flat. It’s a NO for the Seychelles.

It’s time to get even more creative…

Okay, so how does this sound… the captain of the MV San Cristobal gave me a lead that so far I haven’t chased up. He said that there is a route from Malaysia to Seychelles. Hmm…

After a little bit of internetic research, I found that yes indeed there are ships that ply that route… taking about 10 days to get there. A lot shorter than the four-week round trip that I’d otherwise have to take if I left from Salalalalalalalalalah.

The cogs in my head started turning…

What if…

What if…

I take a cargo ship to India via Pakistan, then head to Sri Lanka from Cochin, then hop to the Maldives and back, Sri Lanka to Bangladesh, up to Bhutan, border hop, then into Nepal.

Special permission to cross into Tibet from Nepal then the sky train down to Beijing. A border hop to Mongolia, a trip to North Korea and back, then on the ferry to South Korea, Japan and cargo to Taiwan. Taiwan to Vietnam, through Cambodia to Thailand, up to the golden triangle to Laos and Burma, then down through peninsular Malaysia to Singapore, over to Borneo to pass through Brunei, then ferry to Philippines and then… then… start on the Pacific Islands, taking this approximate route: Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomons, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand.

Then, instead of ending in New Zealand as I head originally planned, I take a ship heading for northern Australia, do a hop into Papua New Guinea, then press on to Darwin, get over to East Timor, fight my way up the islands of Indonesia to Sumatra, take the ferry over to Malaysia and grab that cargo ride to The Seychelles, coming in from the Eastern, none-piratey side.

Thinking about it some more, it actually makes a lot more sense to do it that way. This way, I can be sure that there will be yachts to cadge a lift on in the Pacific as unless something goes dreadfully wrong, I could be there by September, and have at least a couple of months before the Cyclone Season begins.

The only sad thing is that there’ll be nobody waiting to congratulate me when I finish in The Seychelles. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

So… last week in Dubai I met a top bloke called Barry who works for CMA-CGM – there are ships leaving every Monday for Pakistan then India. So the only thing to wait for now is my Indian visa. After going almost a week without a decent shower, I was more than happy to crash out at Turki’s for the night – there’s no rush getting to Dubai as there’s no way I’ll be getting on next Monday’s ship.

Turki has just been done over on a business deal and is justifiably upset (I know how he feels) and so we went out for a scrummy Indian meal to cheer him up, but he’s really not himself this week. Which is a shame, as karma dictates that after helping me, the universe should help him. I guess it only works for Earl.

THE ODYSSEY WORLD VISA GUIDE

One of the things that holds back many people from travelling is the prospect of wasting time and effort attempting to get into countries that would quite prefer it if you didn’t bother.  However, it is a false presumption.  In more than 150 countries worldwide you can turn up without shelling out $$$ for an invitation first.

So here’s a comprehensive list of the visa requirements for British Passport Holders for every country in the world, although it may come in useful for other nationalities as well.

I’ve split the world into four main categories: No Visa Required, Visa On Arrival, Prior Visa Required and Letter of Invitation (LOI) Required.

No Visa Required: You beauties!! Note the (very) high prevalence of prosperous, confident and democratic countries in this list.

Visa on Arrival: Not quite as good as no visa at all, but much, much less hassle than:

Prior Visa/LOI required: Crikey. What a bitch. Don’t turn up without a visa to any of the countries on this (mercifully short) list of grubby and inhospitable nations.  They will fly you straight back home again at your expense because you didn’t ask their f—ing permission first.  So go queue outside their ostentatious embassies in the pouring rain for hours, pay them a bundle of fivers and then wait and wait and wait for the privilege of visiting their stupid godforsaken country.

I find the whole process quite demeaning – it’s like having to write to someone to ask if you can attend their wedding – take the hint man, take the hint – these countries are obviously not much interested in you, or tourism in general.

Many of these countries hilariously require an onward ticket, some want you to write a begging letter to come in, others want a letter off your employer or even copies of your bank statements… remember this is not to LIVE THERE, this is just to VISIT FOR A FEW DAYS.

The worst of the worst require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) – I’ve cast these down into the very lowest rungs of hell.  Not only do you have to pay extortionate amounts of money to Ambassador Ratbag for the stamp, you also have to pay someone in the country to ‘vouch’ for you.

I would actually like a list of all of the illegal refugees and economic migrants pouring out of our rich democratic nations and claiming asylum in… Nigeria? Papua New Guinea? TURKMENISTAN?? Seriously? WHAT?

I hold Australia in particular contempt for this policy – it is the ONLY rich westernised power on an otherwise quite hellish list of paranoid basketcases.

Oh, and by the way, Aussie tourists are granted a SIX MONTH stay in the UK, upon arrival, for free.  So, Australia, when you ask me in your rasping nasal tones where the bloody hell am I – I guess I’m in a country that welcomes me with open arms rather than a punch in the face and a bill of sale.

But look on the bright side, there are 150 (other, better) countries which don’t make you beg for permission to pop in for a visit…

Here’s your at-a-glance VISA MAP OF THE WORLD:

World Visa Requirement Map
World Visa Requirement Map For British Passport Holders

NO VISA REQUIRED (WOO!)

AMERICAS
Antigua & Barbuda
Argentina
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bolivia
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Grenada
Guatemala
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago
Uruguay
USA (but you do need a prior visa if you arrive on private boat or plane)
Venezuela

EUROPE
Albania
Andorra
Austria
Belgium
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kosovo
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
San Marino
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
UK
Ukraine
Vatican City

AFRICA
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Lesotho
Malawi
Mali
Mauritius
Namibia
Rwanda
Senegal
Seychelles
South Africa
Swaziland
The Gambia
Tunisia
Morocco

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Bahrain
Iraq (Kurdistan only, entered from Turkey)
Israel
Japan
Jordan (if you enter on the ferry from Egypt)
Kuwait
Oman
Palestine
Qatar
South Korea
Taiwan
The Maldives
UAE
Yemen

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Brunei
Fiji
Kiribati
Malaysia
Marshall Islands
Micronesia
New Zealand
Palau
Samoa
Singapore
Solomon Islands
Thailand
The Philippines
Tonga
Tuvalu
Vanuatu

VISA ON ARRIVAL

AMERICAS
Cuba (well, I got a visa on arrival, but I came on a yacht…)

EUROPE
Armenia
Turkey

AFRICA
Benin
Burundi
Cape Verde
Comoros
Egypt
Kenya
Mauritania
Mozambique
Sierra Leone
Tanzania
Togo
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Jordan
Lebanon
Nepal
Sri Lanka
Syria

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Burma (but only valid for border regions)
Cambodia
East Timor (though no longer available on land border with Indonesia)
Indonesia (though not available on land borders with East Timor and PNG)
Laos

That’s over 150 countries where you can get in without asking prior permission.  Now here’s the naughty list:

PRIOR VISA REQUIRED

AMERICAS
Suriname (letting the side down there somewhat)
Cuba (but I doubt they’d turn you back)

EUROPE
Belarus (no surprise there – they still have the KGB)

AFRICA
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Congo
Cote D’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Eritrea (best obtained in Jeddah – next day delivery)
Ethiopia (best obtained in Nairobi – same day delivery)
Gabon
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Liberia
Madagascar (but it’s free, so can’t complain)
Niger
Sao Tome & Principe
Sudan (best obtained in Cairo – same day delivery)

ASIA
Afghanistan
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Burma (for travel into interior)
China
India (AND now requires you to leave for 60 days between visits!)
Iraq (for travel beyond Kurdistan)
Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia
Tajikistan

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Australia*
Papua New Guinea
Vietnam*

*visa obtainable on arrival at airport with prior permission over internet

LETTER OF INVITATION (+ PRIOR VISA) REQUIRED

AMERICAS
N/A

EUROPE
Azerbaijan (no LOI required if visa bought in Georgia)
Russia

AFRICA
Algeria*
Angola*
Equatorial Guinea*
Libya (AND you must pay for a ‘guide’)
Nigeria*
Somalia*

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Iran
Kazakhstan
North Korea
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia*
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Nauru

*To make matters worse, these visas can only be obtained in your country of origin (although it is possible to get a Nigerian visa from Ghana and an Algerian visa from Mali if you’re lucky).

Right.  That’s it.  If there are any mistakes/updates/excuses you’d like to make (this is pretty much all off the top of my head), please comment below.