We returned to the Ethiopian Embassy before 9am, filled out the forms, and submitted our application. After waiting over an hour and a half, the visa officer called over Nathan asking questions about our trip, and then mentioning that she couldn’t issue us a visa as the photos in our passports were too old.
We argued politely that our passports were 8 years old, but still valid for two years and had been accepted by every other country we had passed through so far with no problems. We argued that whatever picture was in our passports, they would always be old, whether it was one year or nine years, and that they are still valid, but the stubborn woman seemed incapable of reason in her thinking and she insisted that we needed new passports to obtain a visa for Ethiopia.
The other option for us was to visit the UK embassy to get a letter with an official stamp from them explaining that the passports should be accepted. If we didn’t get our visa that day, we would have to stay in Khartoum all weekend. We found the British Embassy, but it only opened at 11:00am. The Ethiopian embassy closed at 11:30am, and we knew it was going to be tight.
We each managed to get a letter from the British Embassy which cost us each $100/£65/€75, but we had no other option. We returned to the Ethiopian Embassy at 11:45am, but were luckily still allowed to get the visa processed. One letter and two hours later, and we had our visa. Thankfully we knew we would be out of the unbearable heat of Khartoum the next morning.
It appears that we left Khartoum at the right time. The heat that weekend apparently soared to a freak high of 50 degrees Celsius! Instead of being stuck in an oven, we were on our way to the Ethiopian border, with two new shock absorbers which had had managed to fit the previous day after the embassy fiasco had unfolded.
After around 2pm we had arrived in Gallabat and proceeded to stamp out of Sudan. Another problem of the visa fiasco and the Landrover repairs was that we had very little money left, and in Sudan we were unable to withdraw money from their cash machines. Luckily the border crossing into Ethiopia cost absolutely nothing. We completed all of the documentation procedures whilst being hastled by about ten locals wanted to help us, then asking for commission, but we crossed the border post (a piece of rope between two wooden sticks) for no cost at all.
The day turned out to be the longest drive of the trip, and we arrived in Gondor in the dark to find a hotel and go out into the town for a meal, and our first beer in 12 days. It was longest I had gone without a beer for 5 years, and as it slowly trickled through my stomach and into the liver, I was no longer ill, the loss of appetite had returned, and the shaky hands had stopped. The two meals and four beers had cost us less than £3/€3.50. We had arrived in Ethiopia.
- David Jennings & Nathan Topham
- Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom
- For the past 5 years, me and my best friend Nathan have talked about the possibility of travelling around the world by land and sea, and so finally we have a route, savings and time to set off around the world. What we are doing is living out a dream, a dream we share with many people worldwide, a dream of travelling this vast, diverse, beautiful and interesting planet, but unlike the many others who keep it as a dream, we have the tenacity to make this dream a reality.