Hmmm, ‘hitch-free’ not exactly (remember, OIS states on their website that they strive ‘to expedite hitch-free travel from the Netherlands to Nigeria’, see 21 Jan.). When we came to pay for the visas, we were told by OIS staff that, for the time being, the Nigerian Embassy in The Hague has decided not to issues tourist visas. This is the same embassy that, last week, provided me with the link to start the application process. On their website is nothing about this sudden change of mind, and other travellers in our group have obtained their visas – in other countries – without any problems. How to proceed further? ‘Call the embassy’, is the advice.

This is easier said than done, because the embassy doesn’t answer the phone, and leaving a message is impossible, the tape is full. There is a mobile number, for WhatsApp messages. From where I do get a response, confirming ‘no tourist visas’ and on the question how long this is going to last, ‘can’t say’. Not very communicative, either. When I finally manage to talk to somebody in the embassy, they still cannot say how long this rule will be in force, ‘you know, it is the Ministry that decides’. He helpfully suggest that I could consider other visas, but when I ask about a business visa for instance, he tells me off: ‘you can only get a visa for what you are coming to do in our country’. And then he refers to the website, where all possible visas are listed. Indeed, there is a 64 page document, with requirements for religious visa, sports visa, study visa, even a wide variety of work visa, and then visa for spouses that accompany people with religious visa, sports visa etc. Nothing that I could possibly contemplate, also because all of this needs an invitation letter from inside Nigeria. Even a transit visa is not an option, because with an expedition like ours we don’t know the exact date we will be entering the country. Oh, and trying the Nigerian Embassy in Brussels yields an angry employee yelling to apply in our own country. Stupid!

Not to waste a full day in The Hague, we go to the Embassy of Cote d’Ivoire, where we spent five minutes filling in a form and two hours waiting, only to be told that we don’t have all the required documents, like fake hotel bookings and the lot, and to come back in two days’ time. At least here the people are exceedingly friendly, just not well coordinated. And when we do come back two days later, they speed-process our application, with multiple entry as a bonus. Done!

In the evening I start the online visa application for Ghana, which helpfully tells me that I can interrupt the process at any time, because the information entered so far can be retrieved later. Which turns out not to be the case: when I get stuck on the last page, because something is missing, I’ll have to start all over again. Great! But, we manage to complete the process, and send off the passports and all the supporting documentation the next day. Fingers crossed.

the result? 10 Feb.

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