Drive Day, Central Asia Visa and Burger Feast
Last night was again very windy. Although my tent was protected by a few bushes the wind was so strong and the ground my tent was standing on so soft that a few picks came out in the middle of the night. During nighttime I needed to get up 3-4 times, first to align my tent with the direction of the wind and then a couple of more times to put picks back in, thus avoiding my tent from falling down on me.
For today we had nothing planned but driving towards the Strait of Magellan which we will cross tomorrow. On the way we stopped in Puerto Natales so people could return their rented camping equipment and todays cooking group could shop for food.
I had none of these duties and went to an internet café instead to check my emails. It’s very much funny how attached we are to the internet today and how it spans the world. While being on my first overland trip in Africa I had no access to news, my family and friends for three months. When travelling today you try to get online whenever you can.
Staying connected also enables long-term travelers like me to work on the planning of the trip while going and not plan everything in advance. Today I received an email from my friend Michael informing me the visa service has returned my passport and I now have all necessary visas for my Central Asia trip from Istanbul to Beijing. There were three visas outstanding I have asked the visa service to obtain: Iran, Turkmenistan and China. For Iran you first need a reference number which needs to be issued by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also for Turkmenistan you need a letter of authorization. Therefore, applying for all required visa is a lengthy process. If you use a visa service it can also be quite expensive as I paid 440 EUR for the three visas mentioned above including visa fees and the fees of the visa service.
Unexpectedly the visa for China was also a challenge. Usually China issues tourist visa with a duration of 30 days which are valid for three months after they were issued. While this is perfectly fine for the standard tourist on his two week vacation, it’s an issue for overlanders like me. First I will need two months travelling from Istanbul to the Chinese border and second I will stay for three months since the country is so huge and there is a lot to see and experience. A letter from Dragoman confirming I have booked and paid this long-term trip with them along with hotel booking confirmations and the kind request to issue me a respective visa turned out to be helpful. I received the double entry visa as I have requested it enabling me to spend two times three months in China. This visa will also enable me to leave the country between my two trips from Istanbul and Beijing and from Xi’an to Kathmandu. I will use the week between the trips to do a little side trip to South Korea which isn’t far away from Beijing.
You might also ask how it’s actually possible to apply for visas while travelling. The key in my case is a second German passport and a good friend back home holding the contact to the visa service. Usually you are only allowed to hold one passport but in special cases like mine, where you would need to interrupt your travel for several weeks just to apply for visas, you can actually receive a second passport which is valid for six years instead of the regular ten.
After driving all day we arrived at a place with the atmosphere of a ghost town. There were many empty houses and nobody on the street. At one house we spotted a farmer and asked him for permission to camp on his ground. He agreed and charged us 30 USD for the whole group.
We were pretty early today and it was still daylight. After pitching up my tent I went for a walk to take some pictures of the ship wreck in the ocean and the empty houses. In the meanwhile the cooking group prepared dinner. We had very delicious burgers with melted cheese, fried onions and salad.