Day 1,371: Icarus, Not Daedalus

Tue 02.10.12 My incredible plan for Sunday night was stay up all night drinking and partying at Chili’s Bar in Unawatuna. Then I was to take first express bus back to Colombo at 6am AS I HAD WORK TO DO!! I had to take my passport, photos, application form, cruise tickets, air-tickets, bank statements, itinerary, inside trouser measurement and father’s maiden name to the Madagascan Consulate in order to get my Madagascan visa (third time lucky!). Then I had to go to the Indian High Commission and ask them (very nicely) if they would be so kind as to give me my visa a little bit quicker. All went surprisingly swimmingly. I got the Madagascan visa there and then. The lady at the Indian High Commission told me to come back in the afternoon. I headed over to the shopping mall’s foodcourt and hooked myself up…

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Day M209: The View From The Bridge

Mon 23.04.12: One of the more interesting things about travelling to every country in the world is it allows you to make comparisons. Sweeping sweeping generalisations aside for one moment, there are certain trends and nuances that are hard to pick up on unless you’ve been to the country in question. Of course what I think of a place is tremendously subjective, but through personal discourse with locals and a healthy obsession with world events, I feel I’m at least a little bit more informed than most – well, I know where the country in question is, what borders it, what colonial powers once stole it and whether it’s a free and fair democracy or not. In any case, it’s handy having some first-hand experience to be able to fit the jigsaw of life on Planet Earth into a some kind of geopolitical context. Today the…

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Day 886: An Open Letter to Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson

05.06.11: After the death threats I received for slagging off the Cape Verde police force on this very blog, I learnt a pertinent lesson: don’t say what you really think until you’ve left the damn place.  I was therefore saving my torrent of abuse concerning the Australian government's wretched treatment of tourists until after I was well shut of the otherwise good land of Oz. However, after finding out it’s going to cost me $255 to extend my AUSTRALIAN TOURIST VISA (which I shouldn’t need in the first place), the dam has burst. The fury leaping out of my fingertips must be converted to 1s and 0s and plastered all over the net before I explode. The Aussie Tourist Visa (that’ll be $29 please, thanks KA-CHING!) lasts just a paltry three months.  Then you’re supposed to fly to another country and back to renew it for…

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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…

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Day 695: Gadzooks!

26.11.10 When I'm done with all this, I plan to turn The Odyssey Expedition into a board game. The ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ cards are going to renamed ‘Shipping’ and ‘Visas’.  I can plan for all other eventuality, but when it comes to shipping and visas, I keep getting dealt wild cards.  Take today for instance, instead of just turning up at 2pm and picking up my visa, there was a problem: I had no East Timor visa in my passport. I roll my eyes. YES THAT’S BECAUSE I’M AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT COME HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD FROM MY OWN FREE AND FAIR COUNTRY TO SEEK ASYLUM IN YOUR COUNTRY WHICH HAS NO FREE HEALTH CARE, NO WELFARE STATE AND THE FRAKKIN’ DEATH PENALTY. WOOP WOOP WOOP!! Or I could – could – have two passports.  Maybe. Oh.  We need both passports. I didn’t read this…

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Day 691: The Authorisation

22.11.10: It was a 9am showdown at the East Timor Consulate in Kupang.  Luckily for me, Simon and Chesa where there, and Chesa, being Indonesian, could explain my predicament to the lady a damn site better than I could.  I had applied for my visa authorisation FOUR WEEKS ago, and heard nothing in reply.  The lady made a phone call and said that the authorisation had been sent last month.  No it hadn’t.  I had flashbacks to when I had to explain to my mum back in 1997 yes it did matter if you spelt the email address incorrectly. The lady said to go and wait for the email confirmation, they would resend it.  So I did.  I went back to Edwin’s joint and twiddled my thumbs, refreshing my email every now and again.  I knew that if I didn’t get the authorisation today, when I…

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Days 585-592: The Boat Race

09.08.10-16.08.10: “I always like going south – it feels like walking downhill” – Treebeard India, being the awkward bugger that she is, flips the usual northern charm/southern coldness idiom on it’s head and gives us a country in which, in no uncertain terms, lures wayfarers down south to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and then refuses to give them back.  After the frantic, pestering, unrelenting hustle and bustle of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi, the soothing backwaters of India’s most laidback state are more welcoming than a home-cooked meal and a cuddle on the sofa. It’s tidy too - for India! All of Monday was spent on the train heading down south, not much to report except that the train was remarkably cheap (less than a tenner), it was comfortable and (most importantly) fun.  One of the joys of Indian trains are the chai…

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Day 537: OK, Where’s The Catch?

21.06.10: Turki gets up at some horrendously early hour of the morning, but I was allowed to sleep in until 8am, and then we both headed over to the Eritrean Consulate. Again, Turki took a day off work to help me out (miles above and light years beyond the call of duty). A little man dressed in red with horns, a pointy tail and a pitchfork hovered over my left shoulder whispering it can’t be this easy, it can’t be this easy… But it was. I didn’t even need to fill out a form, they did it for me. And when they told me I could pick the visa up later that day, I almost broke into cartwheels. So can I pay for it in Saudi money? Of course! Do I have to pay it into a bank that’s on the other side of town? Don’t…

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Day 533: Burning Up On Re-Entry

17.06.10: The bus rolled into jolly old Dubai at around six in the morning.  If there is a time of day I dislike more I am yet to meet it.  The Deira district looked as wonderfully shabby and dysfunctional as ever, and I slunk into a little Indian workers café and ordered an omelette and bread breaky washed down with a nice hot cup of chai. At 7.30am, I headed over to the Indian Consulate to get the ball rolling with my Indian visa – the idea being that the time wasted waiting for the damn thing could be constructively used attempting to get to Eritrea from Saudi.  After queuing for over an hour with all my stuff in the hot hot morning air of urban desert Dubai, I got knocked back at the front door by a friendly guard who explained I couldn’t get the…

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Day 511: Qatar On A Hot Tin Roof

26.05.10: Urgh me drinkie too muchie.  I’ve seriously put on a stone in the last six weeks, what with all my Dominos pizzas and KFC.  I need to get moving and get grooving before I turn into a big fat Jabba slug.  I found out that the bus for Qatar (only 40km across the sea from the island of Bahrain) would be leaving from Dammam in Saudi at 5pm.  As the next bus to Dammam was leaving at 3pm, this was going to make things awkward – Dammam is only an hour away, but it’s a bit of a risk as if the Saudi border guys wanted to make the bus wait, there wasn’t a lot I could have done about it – I could very well miss the bus to Qatar.  I therefore elected to take a taxi (at great expense – fifty quid’s worth…

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