Kingsley Holgate on border crossing and visa wars

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 10 October 2018 Tags:, ,

Kingsley Holgate recently discussed the many hindrances involved in crossing borders in Asia with 3 Land Rovers on an overland expedition, “If you think Africa is tough – try crossing Asia to Kathmandu!”

It’s been nearly 3 months since Holgate’s Land Rover Cape Town to Kathmandu team departed from the V&A waterfront on Mandela Day, 8 July 2018 and they have successfully completed the African leg of the expedition.

From Dar es Salaam, the Landies were shipped to Istanbul and the team is now preparing to tackle the next challenging section through the Caucasus and central Asia. However, getting visas and organising border crossing in Asia sounds like a hair-pulling exercise, as Kingsley relates in his bush note, below:

Image credit: Kingsley Holgate Foundation

Border crossing and visa wars

“There isn’t a team member of this Cape Town to Kathmandu journey that doesn’t thoroughly enjoy expedition life. The freedom of the open road, wildlife, strange tribes, sunsets and countless campfires, the excitement of not knowing what lies around the next bend in the river, or where you’ll roll out your bedroll. For all of us it’s become a wonderfully challenging way of life. But there’s one thing that we’ve all grown to hate and that’s the ‘Visa Wars’ – the endless bloody paperwork that it takes to move ourselves and our Land Rovers across borders. If you think Africa is tough – try crossing Asia to Kathmandu!

Mountains of detailed forms to complete: mother’s name, father’s name and their places of birth, children’s details, your schooling and work history, identification marks, religion, travel history for the past 10 years – even pathology lab blood tests to prove we’re not harbouring HIV, TB and other infectious diseases. Thick files of vehicle papers, proof of hotel bookings, stamped letters of invitation, certified proof of permanent residence, travel insurance, stamped three-month bank statements, certified copies of passports and driver’s licenses…on and on!

It’s easy if you fly in to a capital city like a regular tourist, but for 3 expedition Landies loaded up with kit for a long journey across strange land borders, believe me, it’s another story. ‘Sorry that border’s just closed – you’ll have to go in via another country.’ ‘Don’t try and cross into that country with that other visa in your passport!’ ‘Kashmir – no, not possible.’ ‘You’ll need a military escort through that area…’ There’s the ongoing war in Syria, trumpeting Trump is tweeting Iran and Afghanistan is gearing up for elections – what about the Taliban? .

Then there’s the new buzzword, ‘Biometrics’ and the need to apply in person in your country of residence – trips to embassies for interviews, fingerprints and hundreds of photographs (each country requests a different size). It’s a bloody nightmare of waiting and suspense, juggling more than one passport and knowing that if just one country in the chain turns us down, we’ll fail. It’s especially challenging for Ross who’s in charge of all the logistics. The tension grows – it’s every overland traveller’s nightmare.

So please hold thumbs for us: after weeks of nail-biting suspense, we’re almost there. Just one more visa with some difficult paperwork still to go and then we’re off. Thanks for the interest and support – will keep you posted.”

For regular update, you can follow the Cape2Kathmandu journey on the Kingsely Holgate Foundation’s Facebook page.