Don’t Panic! visas are a-coming

Had a few concerned emails recently of the “are you still alive” variety. Don’t worry, I’m fine, and making bureaucratic, although not geographic, progress. I arrived in Istanbul 3 weeks ago. That’s how long it takes to get approval for an Iranian visa, which came through today. I’ll pick it up tomorrow morning and apply for the Indian visa in the afternoon. I should have that by Friday. In the mean time I can work out how to get a Pakistani visa.
Pakistan aren’t issuing visas in Turkey to non-residents of Turkey. The options are:

  • Apply in Iran (crazy, going into Iran with no way of exiting in the direction I want)
  • Mail my passport to London so my brother can pick up the visa there then mail it back
  • Wait and hope my contact here can pull some strings (more on that later)

Anyway, now I’m making some progress with the bureaucracy I should start preparing the bike and things for the upcoming stage, which will be much tougher than the leisurely jaunt through Europe!

Folding bike destinations – guest post

The most observant fanatical followers of my website (so probably no one!) may have noticed I updated the Links page. One of the links I added was for Folding Bike Destinations, Ben Tyler’s blog about his travels with a folding bike. Ben asked me to write a guest post for his blog about my travels, and this has now been publishd on his site. Read it here!
Edit: the Folding Bike Destinations blog has disappeared from the internet, so I’ve made a .pdf of the blog post. Read it here!

Visa’s

This is a bit of a rant, not at foreign countries, but my own. In Istanbul I’ve met up with an Irish cyclist called Andrew who is heading the same way as me hopefully through Iran and Pakistan to India. We both arrived without visa’s. When applying for visa’s in Istanbul, the Indian Consulate requires a letter of introduction. Andrew found out from the Irish consulate that one for him is free. I went to the British Consulate to get one, and it costs 75gbp.
I know my government is currently bankrupting itself rescuing banks that are failing, but come on, 75 pounds for them to write my name and India in a template and click print.

Anyway, rant over.

edit: I was so ranty I even added an apostrophe to visas. What would Linda say!

Iran and Pakistan

I was so busy worrying about Iran, I forgot to worry about Pakistan. Having just read the FCO advice on Pakistan, I’m now shit scared. Since the bomb in a hotel a week or so ago, it sounds like chaos over there. British Airways have suspended flights to Islamabad, and the Consulate General of Pakistan in Istanbul are just not giving out visas for any reason at the moment. Even if I do get the Iranian visa, it looks like I can’t get a Pakistani visa.
The FCO advice is, as ever, very useful but difficult to comprehend with lists of names, but no map. So I’ve created two maps on Google, mapping out the FCO advise for Iran and Pakistan, so I can see the advice on a map instead of reading random names (the FCO should do this themselves…). The map for Iran is here, and the map for Pakistan is here. (edit: maps now removed to avoid confusing travellers with out of date information).

I was feeling pretty OK about Iran – the risks were there, but by exercising caution and using common sense, I’d only be in the “danger zone” for about a week. For Pakistan though, the FCO are advising against staying in Western hotel chains, from travelling at all to major cities, and the Balochistan “danger zone” is twice as big (and sounds scarier on John and Sally Watson’s website), and so would take twice as long to cross, as the Iranian side.

It’s all really putting quite a dent in my plans.

The only real alternative is to go north through the ‘Stans and China, and back south through Laos and into Thailand, or to fly over as originally planned – but I now think that’s cheating! But, to go through the ‘Stans and China now, the weather is getting colder by the day, and I wouldn’t be through for a few months.

Oh what to do!? Decisions and dilemmas!

Less frequent ‘day reports’

I’ve been thinking and realising that trying to blog every day is taking up a lot of time, and is unsustainable. It will become more (or less?) so as I head further into areas with less connectivity. Also, at the moment almost everything is going on the website, so what can I write in a book? I’ve got to hold some things back or no one will buy the book when I’ve finished the trip and written it!
I am therefore going to do fewer day updates, and instead do more ‘section updates’, with multiple days recorded in the same post and in less detail. As I’ve made it to Istanbul, and have plenty of time waiting around for visas, I will however complete the day updates to here.

I think also I can declare stage 1(a) of the trip complete and a success, with many learning outcomes for stage 1(b)!