Days 466-472: A Dead End

11.04.10 – 17.04.10:

So there’s always plan B, right? Well, it all seemed simple enough. According to the Lonely Planet I could get a transit visa for Saudi as long as I had a Bahraini visa and a valid ticket from the bus station. So first thing I was up and at ‘em heading over to the Bahrain embassy. The weekend here runs Friday and Saturday, so it was open and pretty soon I had my visa and was heading over to the Saudi visa agents to try and get that transit visa. I was a bit worried it would take a few days, but the awful truth was that it wouldn’t take any time at all – they only give out transit visas for residents. As I’m not a resident, I can’t get one.

I had painted myself into a corner.

The next day I tried at the Iranian embassy to get a transit visa (plan C – head back to Iran, take ferry to Bahrain from Bushehr), but again there was no chance. In fact, the guy in the embassy was so rude that I considered dropping Iran a few places in my League of Nations, but that would have been petty.

Plan D was to get on a cargo boat, but nobody would take me without some kind of certificate of seamanship. Plan E was to take an oil tanker, but it was deemed to dangerous. Plan F was to hire a boat but it would cost £12,000. Plan G was to go with a bunch of fishermen, but that didn’t work out so well last time, plus they didn’t want to take me anyway. Plan H was to get a lift with somebody going to the Bahrain boat show next week, but nobody was going and so my last throw of the die – Plan I – was put into operation: get a full, multiple entry Saudi visa.

A transit would be no good, even if it came from London it would only get me as far as Bahrain before I had to send my passport back to London for another transit visa to get me to Qatar and then ANOTHER transit visa to the UAE. And the chances where they wouldn’t even issue the transit visa in London on the grounds that, well, why didn’t I just fly?

It would take a minimum of two, maybe three weeks. I had charged full-pelt through the amazing Central Asia and now I would be stuck in Kuwait for the best part of a month. The driest spot on Earth. No booze, no bacon, no bars, no pubs, no clubs, no dancing, no kissing, no holding hands, no old buildings, no live music, no bohemia and certainly no cavaliers.

Hugh’s dad’s company in Liverpool agreed to sponsor my visa application (there are no real tourist visas, it’s a business visa or nothing) and so I knew I’d have at least a fortnight of twiddling my thumbs until my letter of invitation came through.

But as always it was CouchSurfing to the rescue. Through Michael, my CouchSurfing host, I met the admiral Heitham (from Kuwait but living in Preston) and Josie (from California), and then through them I met the Kuwaiti CSers – a German guy called Dominic (whose place I moved to after a few days at Michael’s so as to not outstay my welcome), a Dutch girl called Jannie (whose place I moved into after Dominic’s) and a top guy from the Philippines called Ruban who was also staying with Jannie.

But first things first, I had to sort my computer out. No sooner had I bought myself a new hard-drive (anxious to rid myself of these troublesome tapes that keep getting me into trouble) than my computer went the way of the Norwegian Blue Parrot – it was in desperate need of one of those wipe-everything-and-install-everything-again malarkey moments. Well, what do you expect after 16 months on the road slutting it about with whatever naughty little wi-fi connection was swanning around at the side of the road?

On hand to resuscitate old Dell-Boy was a guy who spotted me looking lost with a computer under my arm and invited me into his workshop. His name was Abbas and he ran Tip-Top computers in the IT district of town. A Tip-Top chap too – he not only bought me lunch and dropped me at the Aquarium while my computer was being fixed, he also waved the fix-it fee and loaded my laptop up with all my favourite programmes. Hats off to ya, Abbas!!

Meanwhile, Heitham (the coolest Kuwaiti in the world) and I hung out over the week. He busted a gut trying to get me onto some kind of maritime transport to Bahrain, but without success. On the Friday he invited all of us CouchSurfers up to his family farm near the border with Iraq. We all piled into a convoy of 4x4s and headed out onto the large but deserted highway north of Kuwait City, stopping on the way to mess about in the sand-dunes and to take this picture:

Once we got to Heitham’s farm, we broke out the barbecue and I had myself a cracking night with my new CouchSurfing buddies from all over the world. See? Even in a place as dull as Kuwait you can still have a good good crazy time if you know where to look.

Days 473-479: Kuwaiting For Godot

18.04.10-24.04.10:

My second week in Kuwait was a little more sedate than the first.  I managed to pull some awesome shapes on the website… check out all the new features – GPS, playlists, passport photos, updated heroes, new forum, at-a-glance diaries, a checklist and a brand new forum.  Phew.

Kuwait is… well, how can I put this…?  Not the most Graham Hughes of cities. There’s no old stuff, the buildings are ALL concrete (as if there was a build-one-get-several-hundred-free offer on), there’s no booze (legally at any rate), you can’t kiss/dance/hold hands with the opposite sex (you can do all three with the same sex, that’s fine and not a bit gay in the slightest) and it seems that the only god worshipped around these parts is mammon – hanging around the shopping malls are literally the ONLY thing to do.

Ah, well, no – there is something else you can do, and that’s to drive like a maniac for no apparent reason other than you want to get yourself and everyone in the local vicinity killed.  In souped-up sports cars, boy racers and spoilt rich kids race up and down the dual carriageways at arse clenching speeds, attempting to outdo each other as to who can produce the most mangled corpse.

The sad thing is that given the lack of sex, booze and rock n’ roll, this is the only way these kids (and they are all kids – not many make it to the age of 21) can blow off steam, strut their stuff and make their mark in the world.  Death by channelled testosterone.  Whoopee.  But even the adults seem to be all to willing to join the choir invisible – you’ll see them cut you up – they’ll have no safety belt on, they’ll have their four year old kid on their lap and they’ll invariably be on the phone.

Oh, and those who aren’t driving sports cars are driving SUVs – you know those horrifically ugly Chelsea Tractor pollution-mobiles favoured by the lower orders that are 27 times more likely to kill you if they smash into you at speed?  Yeah, them.  Wonderful.  The driving here is (in my humble estimation) the second worst in the world after Nigeria.  The sad thing is that everybody tells me it’s the same story all over the peninsular.

The big news of the week was that the admiral Heitham went home to Preston and left me in the capable hands of Jannie and Ruban.  On the Friday we went to Dominic’s for a house party were I met a guy from Chile who had lived in Nigeria for a few years and explained the way of thinking there in one clear sentence.  Every day IS the last day of the world.  Put like that, I get it – the corruption, the madness, the religiosity, the suicidal driving… it all kind of makes sense.

Now what’s Kuwait’s excuse?

Next Month >>>