“It’s been a long road, getting from there to here.
It’s been a long time, but my time is finally near.
And I can feel the change in the wind right now. Nothing’s in my way.
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more, no they're not gonna hold me down.”
Where My Heart Will Take Me, Written by Diane Warren, Sung by Russell Watson, Theme to StarTrek Enterprise
So the plan was simple – fly back to the UK from India in November, get a new Algerian visa, head off for 6-8 weeks in the desert, return to the UK get a Nigerian visa and head off for my new placement in early February. Alas, the reality was not so straight forward.
First, the Algerian government decided to stop issuing tourist visas. After several attempts during December to wangle one, including new invites, supposedly moving my trip to the north of the country, discussions at the Djanet end with tourism officials, we had to accept that time was conspiring against us. I had to hand my passport to VSO for the Nigerian visa in a minimum of 3 weeks before the intended departure date of Feb 12th. By the second week in January, still without explanation, I finally drew a line through my hope of seeing the Sahara this year. The only upside was that I was able to get the money back on my air ticket – good old Air Algerie! I later found out that the Algerian army had crossed the border into Mali on December 20th, ostensibly to quell problems caused by AQM but elsewhere viewed to be to prop up the Malian authorities as uprisings started in the north of Mali. I can only suppose these plans were underway much earlier and my proposed trip fell victim to the knock on consequences of the Arab Spring in North Africa as its fall out trickles south into the countries of the Sahel and the turmoil being caused by the now 4th Tuareg Rebellion in northern Mali and Niger and its silently developing humanitarian crisis
Then the proposed Nigerian placement departure date was put back 2 weeks. And then again to March 4. And then once more to March 16th.
In all this meant that I ended up living out of a suitcase for 4 months and necessitating the goodwill of friends to supply food and a bed in various places up and down the country. What it is to have such amazing friends! You know who you are, I love you all. Without your help I would have had to call off doing this placement.
Then yesterday confirmation from VSO that the Nigerian Embassy will issue me with a visa and my passport will be returned by 15th and I should be aboard the evening flight to Abuja on 16th.
So here we go now, the build up begins …….