East Africa Trip Post-Mortem…and a visit from the Drama Llama
So, after the unexpected early end of my trip and missing Yemen and Eritrea I was a little bummed out and down. But more…exhausted. Somehow, still managed to play some hockey after getting home and then crashing…hard…and sleeping for nearly 12 glorious hours.
Woke up, rubbed my eyes, and couldn’t believe who was hanging out in my condo:
Yes, the drama llama had struck again.
Barely 12 hours after I’d come home because Yemen was unsafe and I’d had to bail on Eritrea because after eight weeks my visa on arrival still wasn’t ready, there it was. Along with a note: “here’s your visa…please let us know if you will come tomorrow now.”
Tomorrow…yeah, um, about that…I’m kinda 8,000 kilometers away at the moment because it took forever. So, emailed the tour company to see how long I had to use it. 30 days from date of issue…which left 29 days to go.
Now, Eritrea is known for being suspicious of tourists, and outsiders in general. I’ve never had a visa take eight weeks to arrive before. I figure that if I didn’t use it, after all the favours that were called in to make this happen, the chances of me getting another Eritrea visa any time in the distant future were about as likely as ISIS and Elton John meeting up at the Western Wall to do a rousing rendition of Hava Nagila. That’s to say, I had 29 days to get to Eritrea or I wasn’t going…and my every country quest was going down the drain for the foreseeable future.
So, the only real questions were when to go and how.
I found the most practical time for me in the next 29 days, and then it was a question of how to get there.
I was still a bit sick and exhausted, and economy was absolutely out of the question. Lowest business class fares I was seeing were north of $4,000, so that wasn’t a very attractive option. I had enough miles to get me there on United, but that would deplete all my miles as well as costing me almost $1,900 to get home. That wasn’t attractive either. Then, I remembered I still had a large stash of US Airways miles that I could use on OneWorld, which Qatar was now a member of. Qatar and Turkish are really the only two airlines to fly into Eritrea (of any size) so just maybe…
Shockingly, DC to Doha was available on the day I needed. But there was a snag. US Airways doesn’t recognize Eritrea as existing, so can’t book flights there. Still, a roundtrip to Doha is only 100,000 miles in business, way cheaper than American or United miles, so it’s a great deal. Let’s see if I can get home from Doha. Nope, Doha-DC sold out for 2 days either side of the day I need. Doha to anywhere in the US seems sold out to. Let’s start checking other OneWorld Airlines…
Finally found a flight from Helsinki to JFK with availability, and I love Helsinki. Managed to piece together Doha-Stockholm-Helsinki with an overnight then Helsinki-JFK-DC the next day. Not idea, but it would work.
Now, how to get from Doha to Eritrea. Paid tickets were nearly $1,600 so that wasn’t exactly a great option. Turns out BA does recognize Eritrea, and will book it for just 30,000 miles/avios….which I don’t have. But you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to BA, which I did, and it was instantaneous.
So, I’m all booked. Supposedly I have a visa. Maybe second time’s a charm…. so, although there’s a short break in DC, this trip really isn’t over…. coming up:
Or, in total, this trip will be:
I’m already tired…but no rest for the wicked. Carry on my wayward son…there’ll be peace when you are done…
I can’t wait to see how this turns out!
You are awesome! How exciting your life is, YOLO to the max!
Just curious, did you ever make it to Eritrea? I know that others, like Chris Guillebeau, weren’t able to make it in so am wondering if your luck held. Thanks
Not yet, but the DAY AFTER I got home….they finally approved my visa…ON ARRIVAL! It was good for 90 days from issue, so I’ll be trying VERY soon…stay tuned!