“I made this report longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short”. Apologies to Blaise Pascal.
Admin, admin and more admin. We are terribly mired in the morass of African beaurocracy. We are now amidst the first really testing hiatus in our travels. Visiting the central business district in Nairobi is something of a nightmare. The traffic is incredibly heavy with long gridlocks over peak periods, limited parking and worries about the security of our heavily laden vehicle, containing all our camping equipment and personal possessions. This vehicle has been our home for 6 months now and we really could not risk it being stripped during a break in. It is also not easy to locate the various offices and then also exactly which counter/window to go to. Long, incredibly slow-moving queues and inefficient officials then have to be contended with. Whycliffe is worth his weight in gold with this. Others at JJs who have driven themselves into town have returned stressed, frustrated and often unsuccessful. Thank goodness for Whycliffe and JJs minibus shuttle service. Repeated trips because of beaurocratic snags are becoming expensive. Hopefully we have only 2/3 more short trips ahead of us. We have already spent 2 long and tense days in the CBD.
What have we ACHIEVED in the week we have been in Nairobi?
It seems very little, but things really take time here, the city center is incredibly busy and somewhat chaotic with severe traffic problems in the mornings and evenings.
1. Chris at JJs has repaired the plug-in connection of our console fridge, and the problem with our indicators.
2. Admin-wise I have finally managed to purchase our Comesa (yellow card) third party insurance for the rest of the countries we will pass through.
3. We have had our carnet processed and stamped out for leaving Kenya by the 20 October (a very generous period of grace), via the custom-less Lake Turkana border.
4. The letter of introduction for Sudan is being processed at the SA embassy. It has taken longer than the 2 days initially promised.
5. We have ordered the airbags for our air-helper rear suspension and these are being couriered from R and D Offroad in Cape Town. Despite extensive inquiries in Nairobi we have been unable to source them here. These should arrive next week and Chris at JJs will fit them for us. With our heavily loaded vehicle and some rough sections to Turkana, Slow Donkey will need all the help possible. There is an efficient DHL courier office at the Karen Shopping Complex near the Crossroads Shopping Mall (Nakumat) and the long-established (and cheaper) Indian-owned Karen Provision Store. They very capably organized all the courier arrangements and payments, thankfully saving us a visit to the main office in the city center. They obvious offer a door to door service and will handle the customs clearances and fees.
STILL TO BE DONE:
• Retrieve our letter of introduction from the SA embassy.
• Deliver it with our passports and the other documents, photos and photostat copies required to the Sudan embassy.
• Once done, courier our passports and all the required multiple documents to the Ethiopian embassy in Pretoria for visas. This has been arranged with a specialized visa company in SA.
• Once done, return to the Kenyan Immigration Office in central Nairobi to be stamped out of Kenya.
• Have the new suspension air-helper bags fitted and a 5,000km service done by Chris at JJs.
OUR PROVISIONAL TIMETABLE FORWARD.
• The SA embassy did not have our letter of approval ready for the Sudanese visa application yesterday as promised, today is a public holiday in SA and this means that we will probably only be able to pick up the letter on Monday 28th, meaning that our passport and visa application can only be in Sudanese hands later that morning (visa applications are only open from 9H00 to 12H00). Plus the Sudanese embassy is closed for the last 3 days of this week, being a Moslem religious holiday period.
• We can possibly count on a reasonably efficient 2-3 day Sudanese turnaround taking us to Weds/Thurs 31 Oct.
• We then have to courier our passports to a visa handling firm in Pretoria who will then help process the application at the Ethiopian embassy before couriering them back to us in Nairobi. This could take a week to 10 days if there are no snags, taking us to the about the 10 October. It is hardly credible that although Ethiopian visas are issued at the point of entry when flying into the country, things are so different when entering by road from the south. In this case the visa has to be applied for at the Ethiopian embassy of your country of origin. This applies to all nationalities as far as I can establish. It means that one is left in a foreign country (Kenya) in the technically illegal position of not having your passport and visa available for inspection. We have made color copies of our passport and visa and had them certified at a police station as being authentic, to possibly avoid problems. We have 2 passports but obviously only the one we have to send away has the visa. Apparently Kenyan officials regard anyone with 2 passports with some suspicion. God help us if the passports are lost in transit.
Strangely enough, when entering Ethiopia by road from the north, visas are readily issued at the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum Sudan. When we visited the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi, my pleas that their requirements that we send our passports away placed us in an illegal Kenyan situation, fell on deaf ears. Without our Kenyan visa it is going to be unwise to travel around too much outside Nairobi because of the risk of being arrested at a road block.
• With an Ethiopian visa, we then have to return to Kenyan Immigration in the chaotic city center to be stamped out of Kenya. The reason for this of course is that Kenya has no border formalities available when leaving to Ethiopia via the Lake Turkana route. They understandably will not stamp us out until the Ethiopian visa is in the passport. This probably means we will not be able to leave Nairobi until about the 11 October.
• We have already had our vehicle carnet stamped out by Kenyan customs in Nairobi, but must be out of the country by the 20 Oct by the latest. This gives us only 10 days to get from Nairobi to the Ethiopian border, which is possible but it is going to mean that we are going to have to compromise on spending time en route at the Aberdares, Mt Kenya and Laikipia wildlife areas which is a great pity. We can perhaps do this on our return journey south.
• The Lake Turkana route takes from between 5 to 7 days depending on how far one is prepared to travel each day, so things are getting unpleasantly tight.
GUIDE FOR ADMIN PROCEDURES.
A. Letter of introduction/good standing from South African embassy. You have to attend the SA Consulate personally. Obviously present your passport and then fill in the form. Your fingerprints are then taken and obviously checked to confirm your identity in SA you are then checked for any misdemeanors and then the letter is issued. We were given the impression it would take but 2 days but it took 4. Unlike some other countries you do not have to pay for this. This letter is required for your North Sudan visa. The SA embassy/consulate is in central Nairobi in the embassy district at (I cannot find these GPS points). They promised to message us when the letter was ready. This did not happen, so we phoned the visa dept to confirm that it was done before travelling into town. NOTE: Many of the EEC countries embassies are refusing to issue these letters. The suggestion is to then beg a letter from them stating that they no longer issue letters of introduction and get them to affix an official stamp. You might have to pay for this service. .
B.Ethiopian Visa. The consulate is located in central Nairobi in the consular district at S1° 17.185' E36° 48.557'. Visiting here was a complete waste of time. The lady official in charge of visas was unhelpful and bluntly stated that we had to apply for a visa from our country of origin as we were approaching from the south by land. When we pointed out to her that what she was advising was in fact illegal in Kenya she personally phoned the ambassador who would not budge. The point being that the Kenyan authorities require you to have your passport and visa with you all the time (as is the case all over the world) and could even arrest you if you cannot produce them. This requirement to courier your visa to the Ethiopian consulate in your country of origin only applies if you are entering Ethiopia by land from south to north, but not in the opposite direction when a visa is easily obtained in Khartoum apparently. This is inexplicable and applies to all nationalities and is especially strange seeing that a visa can be obtained at the airport immigration when flying in. Just do not try and be clever and think you can fly in and out and thus obtain a visa. Apparently recently people were turned away at the land border when trying to circumvent these unusual requirements. This visa official could or would not even provide us with a list of the documents and information that needed to accompany the application, saying that this should be obtained from Pretoria. An agent or a friend can hand in/forward the application at/to the Pretoria Ethiopian Consulate, you do not have to appear in person. This regulation appears to apply to all non-Kenyan nationalities who also cannot obtain this visa in Kenya. For this visa application most use a reputable visa application business in their home country and then courier their current passport (with all the recent stamps and visas) to them.
Accompanying your current passport must be:
1. Completed and personally signed application form. The application forms have to be completed and signed personally and are downloaded from website of the Ethiopian Consulate in South Africa.
2. Copy of passport main page (A4 page size) and current visas including copies of the Sudanese visa and all the other visas or stamps gathered along the way. This is to prove that you have been on the road for some time and could not have applied for an Ethiopian visa prior to leaving as this would have expired, or that you were uncertain of the timetable involved.
3. Two passport photos.
4. Copies of vehicle registration papers certified and in colour preferably.
5. Bank statements for the last 3 months signed and stamped by the bank proving sufficient funds.
6. Copy of yellow fever certificate.
7. Payment, in the form of proof of payment, which must be done at the Hillcrest branch of Nedbank in Pretoria, the embassy account no is 260 217 3924.
8. A typed outline of your proposed itinerary.
9. Proof of a booking for accommodation (do this online), the payment only has to be done later giving you time to change your mind and even cancel the booking before payment is due. You can print out the booking confirmation and submit this as proof, this is a mere formality.
10. Carnet, colour copies of the front cover, inside cover and of the last 5 stubs which have already been used.
11. Preferably already have your Sudanese visa already in the passport.
12. Courier these all to someone at home to deliver it and pick and your passport from the consulate and courier it back to you. We used a visa application firm (MDS VisaPak.net) for this and DHL. DHL have a satellite office at the Karen Shopping Center near the Crossways Mall and Karen Provision stores, use this GPS point as a guideline for parking and ask for directions. S 01 19,376 E 36 42,385.
13. Photostat copies can be made at a Photostat shop named Chapa with branches at the Galleria and Crossroads shopping centers.
C. Sudan visa application.
The embassy is in central Nairobi in the embassy district and there is parking. The GPS points are S1° 18.141' E36° 47.369'. They are open for visa applications from 9H30 to 12H00 only and I think are closed on the Moslem religious day of Friday. The application usually takes 3 days to process for non-Kenyan residents, Americans, 1 week or longer. Accompanying your passport you need.
1. Copy of main page passport on A4 paper.
2. Two passport photos.
3. Letter of introduction from your embassy in Nairobi.
4. Copy of front of your credit card.
5. Carnet, copy of front cover and inner cover. (This includes both driver and passenger).
6. Two completed visa application forms.
7. Two copies of yellow fever certificate.
8. Copy of vehicle registration papers.
9. Valid passport, for 6 more months and sufficient pages.
10. Fee of KSh 14,000, Americans KSh 14,000 (USD 14).
11. We were granted a 2 month single entry visa.
D. Exit stamp from Kenyan immigration.
• As explained if leaving via either the eastern or western Lake Turkana routes you will have to be stamped out by Kenya Immigration in Nairobi as there are no Kenyan immigration officials at this border post (although the Sudanese have).
• Report to Kenyan Immigration offices at Nyayo House in central Nairobi. GPS points S1 17,222 E36 49,117. (T4A gives S1° 17.245' E36° 49.098').
• Facing this large building you will see a yellow sign on the outside front wall at about first floor level on the far left of the building. This sign states FOREIGN NATIONALS MANAGEMENT SYSTEM and points to around the left corner of the building.
• About halfway along this left side of the building is a single entrance to various window counters. You need to go to window 6, with the following sign above it: Applications – Visa, - Extention of visitor passes, - Reporting arrivals and departures. As you enter there is a machine producing waiting numbers. One is uncertain which section to select but press any and take the ticket and join the queue at 6. The numbering system is ignored. The official will only stamp you out if you already have a n Ethiopian visa in your passport. You are given a period of grace to effect the border crossing but no-one is sure exactly how much is reasonable. The consensus at Jungle Junction was less than 3 weeks.
• Note, the offices close between 13H00 and 14H00 for lunch. The whole process is rather chaotic but see if you can get the required form and fill it in before standing in the queue. There is public parking available at a fee around this area but is very full and will require some waiting.
E. Exit stamp for vehicle from Kenyan customs.
• This is done at Times Tower at the Kenyan Revenue services in the Nairobi CBD. The GPS points are S012 17,432 E36 49,444. Enter from Harambee Avenue or Haile Selassie Ave (easier) and you should find some parking after a wait. Do not park illegally as they clamp your wheels.
• Pass through the extensive security and proceed into the second of 2 large entrances at the front of the building. The process is very complicated amongst the long queues and no-one seems to want to help you. Without our fixer Whycliffe I don’t think we would have made it.
• Go upstairs 1 floor on stairs to the left in the main hall. You will be let into a large office space via security and locked doors, where an official will fill in your carnet exit form. We were given a grace period of about a month on request. You can exit earlier but not later than the set date.
• Then go to ground floor counter no 4. Here the carnet is checked and you are given a hand written note for the sum of US$40 (you can pay in shillings) which you have to photostat at a photostat shop outside the building.
• You then go back into the same hall and pay the money at a branch of the National Bank of Africa (NBA). They will give you a receipt which you then have to go outside the building again to have a copy made.
• This receipt and copy is then handed in at counter 19 where you are issued with a “sticker”. This is actually a foreign vehicle registration token which you have to have available but not display as such.
All this detail will be very tedious for most readers, but will certainly be of assistance for any that will have to go through these same processes. Anything to make the pain and frustration easier for others! I will be noting all the requirements, details and addresses once we have completed all these formalities. If one does not require the flexibility we rightly or wrongly wanted, I would very strongly recommend that the visas for Ethiopia and Sudan be applied for in your home country before leaving. I am not entirely convinced that the reward of flexibility is worth all this trouble. Exactly this sort of mindless beaurocracy is what may still cause us to turn back south before Egypt. Also adding to the administrative burden is our choice of the Lake Turkana route. Crossing to Ethiopia via Marsabit and Moyale where there are full border crossing facilities, would also cut out a lot of the formalities. I am assured that the rewards of using Lake Turkana outweigh the hassles. We shall see! I will edit and update this page as needed when the formalities reach completion.