Since I last wrote much has happened, but not much seems to have changed. I got a new passport, at great expense. My old passport, containing four of my seven required visas has had a very large corner cut off the data page, meaning there's no way I'll be able to fool border guards into thinking that it's valid. I've been told I don't need to return to the Iranian Embassy, Masha'Allah, as their finger print machine is broken. I've been told various things about the validity of the four visas in my old passport, ranging from the Kyrgyzstan Embassy telling me that I needed to get a completely new visa, through the Adventurists telling me that the Kyrgyzstan border guards are very relaxed to a very chilled Uzbek Embassy worker telling me that everything would be fine. I've had to pay for my Russian and Mongolian visas to be expedited. The amount of money this is costing is getting ridiculous. Apparently there is much nervousness over at the Facebook group as no one seems to have their Russian, Iranian or Mongolian visas, according to the website.
Parcel upon parcel has been arriving at my parents' house, mostly technology that Kai has ordered, I am wondering whether we will be able to fit it all in the car. I got a distinctly old fashioned Kelly Kettle for my birthday from Mum, which at least we don't need another cigarette lighter adapter for.
I came back to my parent's this weekend hoping to do a last shop for tools and spares, but unfortunately Pete at Steyning Motor Spares hasn't had his delivery yet and doesn't know what he will/won't have. And Hove Motor Spares still doesn't have an extra spare for us. Being a teacher my mum is on holiday from Tuesday, so I might be calling on her time somewhat as I am working right up until we leave.
Yesterday was not the best day of my life. My Iranian visa appointment (to pay and have finger prints taken, it's already been approved) was supposed to be last week, but was cancelled. There was another opportunity to go last Sunday at 9am, but I decided that during the week would probably be quieter and less hangover-y. I doubt they're that keen on hangovers in the Iranian Consulate. So I went yesterday at midday. Three other ralliers were there, and a representative from the Adventurists. We waited patiently. And waited, and waited and waited. It was hot, at least as hot as Iran. The Adventurist always seemed to be next in line, but never quite got to the front of the queue. After a couple of hours one of our number got seen, and was dealt with in about ten minutes and left. The rest of us waited some more. A child screamed on and off. At about 3:00 two woman arrived, loudly saying they had appointments for 3 o'clock. At about 3:30 a very arsey English guy arrived, waving his number in the air and asking if everyone else had a number too. At about 4:00 our rep finally got to the front of the queue. A short discussion ensued, and we were told that we wouldn't be seen. It turned out that we didn't actually have an appointment, but had been promised one, unofficially, from the Sunday 9am session. I made my way back to work, arriving five hours after I had left.
Half an hour after sitting back down at my desk, back wet with sweat, I received an email from the Adventurists with the subject line "Visas". But no, it was not in regards to the Iranian visa, this was an email letting me know that the Russian Embassy had returned my passport, sans visa, because there were not enough blank pages in it. The email went on to say that I would have to get a new passport in order to get my Russian and Iranian visas. Now the rally starts in three weeks, can you guess what passport renewal turnaround is? Yes, three weeks. A fast-tracked passport costs £130, almost double the normal price. I don't know why the visa service that the Adventurists offer, The Visa Machine, doesn't check how many spare pages you have as the first thing they do. I know I had at least one spare page available per visa we were applying for, I didn't know how many I would need in total. The Visa Machine website states
You MUST have 1 blank page free per visa (2 for some). A blank page must be completely free of all stamps.
The Adventurist I was emailing now told me:
The requirement of every embassy is to have 2 spare pages at the time of application.
I suggested they amend their website.
So, assuming everything goes ok from now on, I will have two passports, half of my visas in one, and half in the other. I can see this going down really well with customs officials.
UPDATE: We have since been informed that the finger print machine is broken and we will be able to get a visa without going back to the Consulate. Result.
We've been getting lots of (well, two) scary emails from the Adventurists regarding all the official, bureaucratic stuff that we need to get done before the start of the Rally, exactly 29 days away now, especially the Carnet de Passage. The Carnet is basically a passport for the car, which we need in order to get through Iran, and to be able to leave the Micra in Mongolia. I sent the form off a couple of days ago along with a colour copy of the details pages of my passport and the V5. Yesterday I realised that I had not ticketed one of the boxes, and after all the dire warnings from the Adventurists and the RAC (for example, if the colour of the upholstery changes, or the make of the radio, you have to get a new Carnet) and the cost of the damn thing I rang the RAC in a panic expecting some boring official to tell me in a nasal voice that I would have to do the whole thing again. But no, to my surprise a very nice, helpful and relaxed guy answered and told me they'd received my application that morning and not to worry, everything was fine.
In other news the Iranian embassy cancelled my first visa appointment. We have used the Adventurists' visa service (the "Visa Machine") to get our visas, which seems to be going well, despite initial hiccups with the website (it kept forgetting our dates) and confusion over what we actually had to do (I assumed, wrongly, that they would even fill in the forms for us, it didn't seem that clear what we had to do once we'd finished the website bit). My rearranged appointment is now on Wednesday, which will apparently be quicker than the more popular Sunday at 9am slot, which I didn't fancy much anyway. I think the reason we need to be there is to get our finger prints taken, something the Adventurists really couldn't have done for us.
However we can't figure out if the Russia / Azerbaijan border crossing is possible.
- A friend in Georgia, says her Azeri friend says it's open
- I called the Azeri embassy in London, he says it's open