The Challenge of the Week: Finishing Africa

Surprise, we are still in Pointe Noire, Congo. We were originally planning on passing through the Congo on our way south in only two days but the powers that be decided that we needed to spend a little bit more time here. One month to be exact. We have been here for so long, I should probably look into hiring a real estate agent. To make matters more interesting, we have now overstayed our Congolese visas which is potentially a big problem, but here in Africa, even when you see a problem like this looming on the horizon, you are in many cases powerless to act on it. In the continuing saga of hearing absolutely nothing from the Angolan consulate on the status of our visa applications, we anticipated that we might be here longer than our original visas permitted, so last Wednesday, we started the process to extend them. The visa extension process was reportedly only supposed to take a day, but three days later, we still do not have our passports back. The main reason for the delay in processing the extensions is the arrival of the Congolese president here in Pointe Noire yesterday. Apparently, every public official and half-ass, passport stamping bureaucrat was needed to prepare in advance for his arrival and to attend all of the ceremonies celebrating the great and wonderful things the president has done for the country.

Being stuck here in the Congo for a month longer than anticipated has forced us to change a lot of our plans. Zambia and Victoria Falls will have to wait for another day as will the wildlife reserves in Botswana and South Africa. I came to Africa hoping to see some exotic wildlife, however, I fear that the only wildlife I will most likely see on this segment of the trip are the lions and cheetahs prancing through the savannah in faded paintings hanging in the musty office of the Angolan consulate in Pointe Noire. “C’est tres tragique!”

We were also on a relatively tight timeframe so that we could fly back to the States from South Africa to attend the wedding of Steve S’s sister, Katie. In order to avoid a lifetime of regret and condemnation to the dog house, Steve was forced to spend an extra $1,500 to ensure that he did not miss this important event. In total Steve spent about $2,900 on his flight back to Denver including the original ticket. Mark and I on the other hand had no choice but to stay behind and continue to try and get the trucks and ourselves out of the Congo and past the giant roadblock that is Angola. Steve waited until the last possible moment, but was ultimately forced to fly home yesterday. Luckily for Steve, he flew out in the morning because officials closed down the airport a short while later to receive the president and his entourage. Steve will make it to his sister’s wedding, but will miss the last 5,000 or so kilometers of Africa and the trip down to Cape Agulahs; the southern most point on the continent and the end point of the “cape to cape run.” (North Cape, Norway to Cape Agulahs, South Africa) So TWBR is one man down until we are reunited in Argentina… a country that for the time being feels like it could not possibly be any farther away.