I’m in Delhi. I got a Pakistan visa about 2 weeks ago. I had applied for an Iran LOI (letter of invitation - required for the Iran visa, through tour agency Stantours.com for a princely sum). I was waiting for the little code of confirmation to come through so I could go to the Embassy in Delhi and pick up my visa.
However, it was was not to be. A few days ago I got an email saying my application had been rejected. It felt like the worse thing that could happen and that I was back to square one.
I got some info that perhaps I might be successful with a transit visa if I dressed up in a shirt, bought them chocolates and printed out some photos so I went down to the Embassy. I was the first person in front of the window that morning.
I made the following pleas repeatedly to no avail: ‘It’s my last chance’, ‘I haven’t seen my wife in 7 months’, ‘I haven’t seen my family in 2 years’, ‘It’s for charity’, ‘I cycled from England’, ‘I’m making a travel documentary to promote sustainable transport’ and ‘my only other option is Afghanistan’.
The man behind the glass and marble was an older fellow. He had grey hair and his wrinkles creased up when he spoke. I projected that his job hadn’t been kind to him. His body language and manner showed he was indifferent to my plight. I concluded that he was used to acting in an emotionless fashion for his job. In this case anyway, he was sticking to his rules and regulations and it didn’t seem there was any way he was going to be swayed by my stories and situation.
He was very good at not showing any emotion. I still felt determined to see if I could change his mind. I decided to do a peaceful protest, inspired by Ghandi and stand in front of the window peacefully and calmly for the next two hours in the direct view of my friend. He avoid eye contact with me.
I think my actions had stirred things up. Eventually another man appeared who looked like a little like Gordon Ramsey. He invited me into a fancy carpeted ‘meeting room’ with glass coffee table. In Gordon Ramsey style (but without the F word) lambasted me for not having pre-organised my travel plans. He was less than sympathetic and had no interest in my pleas. He got angry, like if it was a cartoon he would have had steam coming out of his ears, and a very red face:
‘Can’t you understand this is a system! You have to be approved by the government.’
Eventually he did let me apply for a transit visa, but I realised that it was just to get rid of me and my chances of getting the visa were slim to nil. I only had 2 weeks left on my Indian visa so it was pretty pointless. Although it is not going to stop me going down to the Embassy again on Monday to continue to beg and plead.
I have thoroughly considered all my options. I’ve been through every alternative. I’ve been generating alternatives for the sake of it even if they were ludicrous ideas. Just to see if it triggered other ideas. I’ve considered Afghanistan but the overland travel permit for the Khyber area is currently not being issued to foreigners. From all the research I’ve done including talking to people who live and have travelled there recently, I don’t think its worth the risk.
My only other option is China but I have to wait until May to cross the border between Pakistan and China. I was told that the situation regarding getting Chinese visas is pretty dire at the moment with people paying 60 quid and being rejected for no reason.
I will still investigate this however, unfortunately I’ve been left with some difficult choices to make. Flying is absolutely against the ethos of the Ride Earth travel project and is a last resort. The world has come to normalise it even if it isn’t sustainable. I hope it doesn’t come to that. It would be a disappointing outcome.