Run the equator: Time to change continents

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Time to change continents

Latin America was beginning to feel too much like home after three-and-a-half months of asking "donde esta el bano" and saying "gracias" a thousand times a day. When things that were once so different, so new, start looking so familiar and cozy it is clearly time to leave, time to move on. At least that's true when it comes to traveling...

We're in Cape Town now, after a few days spent in Pretoria and a quick drive to Johannesburg. Having a rental car makes getting around much easier. We'll spend some time in and around Cape Town and then we'll head east to the Garden Route - a beautiful stretch of coast in the Western Cape province - before heading back to Cape Town on a different road, to start our overland tour going northwards.

One main reason for spending time in Pretoria was to apply for visas for those other African countries we will be visiting. Tanzania and Kenya formalities went smooth as ice, with a turnaround of one day each. Since we had the car, we were able to pick up the Tanzania visas and apply for Kenya the same morning. While for those two countries both of us needed visas, for the rest of them it was only I that had to get in line and beg. Malawi went surprisingly smooth - on the phone they told us it would take three days to issue the document, but when I got there they told me to return and pick it up the next day. Malawi was the friendliest consulate so far and the most pleasant surprise - apart from the fact that we drove to the wrong address in downtown Johannesburg, where the consulate had been before moving to the suburbs (I had forgotten to check before leaving), and then had to get directions to the new location over the phone and argue among ourselves over how to get there...

However, I hit a wall with Zimbabwe - the Johannesburg consulate told us they were not expediting visa applications anymore, not even with the extra fee, and that the process will take a minimum of a week, whereby the passport will be sent to Zimbabwe and back. Hell! visa or not, my passport wasn't going to go to Harare without me, by rail, road, air or any other way. We decided therefore to forgo Zimbabwe altogether and cross directly into Zambia instead (no visas needed for all bona-fide tourists), where we will reunite with the tour three days later. The tour company agreed and will provide transportation from the border to Livingstone, by one of their preferred vendors. Only Botswana and Namibia are left now, and I will apply for the former tomorrow.

I don't have any pictures of Pretoria. When everybody - locals, tourists and travel guides alike - tells you that the crime rate in South Africa is appallingly high you start believing them. Although we never felt unsafe during our time there, I just didn't feel comfortable flashing a big and obviously expensive Canon SLR camera on the streets. Besides... there's really nothing to photograph in Pretoria. Now that I'm in Cape Town, the tourism capital of South Africa, I started to pull out the camera more often, but I still don't feel as much at ease as I was in South America.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Angela and Fritz,

How long will it take for things to change over here in Bolivia? There are two very interesting presentations at by Hans Rosling about the speed of change in 200 different countries who might give you an idea how fast each country is changing. From my own experience, 35 years, I can tell you quite a lot has changed here for the better.

Hans and Gardenia, Cochabamba, Bolivia.