Saturday, May 4, 2013

Passing it on

Here's the third and final part of my passport cavalcade, my way of filling the time while I wait for my fourth passport to arrive in the mail.

This time I will review my passport from 2006. The pages are generously filled, so we'd better get started right away. 
It is evident that this passport has been around, despite me having kept it in a plastic folder most of the time. This was my first machine-readable passport, as indicated by the little icon at the bottom of the front page.

On the back I have forgotten to remove a small sticker given to me by a kind man in Kenya.
Upon just opening the passport there's little information about me yet. Instead we get an introduction to archaic Norwegian symbol art. Inside one of the hexagons there is a microchip with information about me.

Generally the same information as could be found in my previous passport, except that this time there appears to be a need to emphasize that I am of the male gender. Also new, a few holograms to make the passport fancier and more expensive to make.

I don't know what witchcraft they have used in the signature field in order to mess up the scanning of this page, but it's probably well done and a great idea.
For some reason, page 2 has never been bothered by anyone, but on page 3 we get to the action.

I was going to The Gambia on a cheap fixed-dates ticket for two weeks, and I figured that was too much time for such a small country. So I went to the consulate general of Senegal in Norway and got a visa for that as well. The Gambia is just about entirely surrounded by Senegal, so it was the obvious choice for an add-on trip.

This turned out to be a smart move. In The Gambia I just got on buses by random, and one of the times I did that, I discovered that when I got off the bus again, everyone there spoke French instead of English. I had crossed a border during the bus ride, without really knowing it. I was in Senegal.

Now, I loved being in a new country, but my passport contained no information about me leaving The Gambia or entering Senegal. That can be a huge problem anywhere in the world, and in Africa in particular, it can be an expensive problem.

So I did the obvious thing. I bought a few potatoes and set about to make a stamp. I got a guy in my hotel in Casamance to write a note that said, I hope, that I had officially passed into Senegal, and I stamped it. In addition I put the name of the border crossing I assumed I should have used, and an incomprehensible signature, next to the visa in my passport.

It worked! Thank gods for silly countries that haven't gotten to the age of computers yet!
Here you can see that I have both entered and exited The Gambia. I had to glue this page closed when I arrived to The Gambia for the second time, from Senegal, without having left The Gambia properly first. Doing that prevented the border control in The Gambia from checking whether I had been to Gambia before, or whether I still was there, so to speak.

In addition, page 4 says that I have traveled between South Africa and Lesotho across the dramatic Sani Pass. Google that if you want to see some photos of a scary and steep road in otherwise excellent surrounding.

On the next page I have returned to South Africa and left it again, and I have entered Australia safely through Perth, on the very western end of that continent.
Do you like my visa to India? Type TV means tourist visa, not transvestite.

In addition to that one, we see two oval stamps related to it, entering and exciting the subcontinent through Goa. There's also an exit from Sydney, Australia, and a visit to Guatemala. Three contintents on that page. 
Here are some more Guatemala, plus Mexico stamps from the same trip, as well as a South African exit.

To the right, the tiny country of Belize contributes two geometrical stamps, and I have been to Swaziland and Singapore. I don't really remembre what that Gambia thing is. I suspect it may be a test stamp from when I struggled with the potatoes. It doesn't look better than what I was able to create, at least.

If we count the potato, there are four continents on that page!
We're back to the Senegal story.  After a lot of grumbling and suspicious looks, the border control officer in Senegal agreed to stamp me out of the country, albeit upside-down. I wavered between trying to sneak into The Gambia or to just enter it while trying to hide my previous entrance. In the end I decided to take the smallest risk, so I got my second Gambia entrance stamp.

When I later left Gambia, I first got an exit stamp for my first entrance. Then I was sort of all clear, but I still decided to sneak into the country again. This is not as hard as you may imagine. Then I got another exit stamp, for my second official entrance. So now I think I'm all set to return some day, no worries. Especially since I'm getting a new passport before that. :)

At the bottom left there's an exit from Johannesburg, South Africa.

To the right I have entered and left Brasil, possibly through Recife. Another cheap last minute ticket.
These two pages are almost all Mozambique. They love formalities and big documents there! I was delighted to discover that I entered the country through the Namaacha border post. I remember that when I was a child and there was something about the war in Mozambique, the reporters were always signing in from the Nama Atchoo province, as I remembered it. 

Another tour of the Yucatan Peninsula to the left (Mexico and Belize here, Guatemala will shortly show up again). To the right there's a quick visit to Jordan, where I mainly just wanted to see Petra properly.
Turkey sells visas at all their international airports, and I assume they make good money from selling tiny stamps for 20 dollars a piece. It didn't seem like any checks or work were performed at all, so it's just a tourist tax, really.

Then there's an exit from Kenya, and an entrance and an exit for both Guatemala and Belize. If you're going from Cancun in Mexico to Tikal, you're almost bound to do so by going via Belize. Even though you're just spending a few hours there and you don't stop anywhere, you still have to pay the full entrance fee every time you enter Belize, even if you're extreme and do it twice in one day. 
I've been to India once again, this time to see the Himalaya foothills, the Taj Mahal and a few other amazing sights. I chose a multiple entry visa this time, just in case, because it turned out to cost the same. I could have returned anytime "for free" during the next six months that way. 

To the right there's another visit to Turkey. I wasn't in Antalya or Marmaris, no matter what you think.
On the left and top right you can see the traces of a tour through South-East Asia. I flew cheaply to Thailand and immediately bussed out of there through Malaysia and Singapore, flying back to Phuket, Thailand to return home. It was a good trip, with Malacca and the Cameron Highlands as the highlights. Interesting bar code thingy in the Malaysian stamp.

Beneath the Thailand stamps is an entrance to Tanzania, accompanied by some mysterious notes. It may relate to the officer searching for a while to establish that Norwegians must pay 50 dollars to be allowed into his counry. In the bottom right I have visited Curacao.
Ooooh. Kenya have such fancy visas, this one prescribed to mister Christian.

On the right there's an entrance to the flamingo country of Bonaire. Although it's in the Caribbean, it's really part of the Netherlands, so that's why it looks like an EU stamp. I've also exited Tanzania, and there's a three day visit to Qatar on the far right. That's more than enough for Qatar. 
A collection of Stamps from the ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, the main part of the former colony/semi-country called The Dutch Antilles. Very tourist-friendly stamps, they are.
Checking in to and out of the Cape Verde island of Boa Vista is very cozy. The actual border control takes place in open air at the airport, before you collect your luggage. There's a real risk you can get a sunburn before you even enter the country!
A stamp from the USA, granted to me as I began on a thorough excursion to the theme parks of the Orlando area in Florida, with a heavy emphasis on the Disney parks. 
A tour of Morocco and Western Sahara. Unfortunately, Western Sahara is currently occupied by Morocco, so I didn't get any stamps there.
No stamps on the final page of my passport, but we should dwell upon a couple of misspellings in the passport information to the right. How embarrassing!

(Mistakes: "inne haveren" instead of "innehaveren" and "intresse" instead of "interesse".)

So there you have it. Now I'm completely done with my old passports, and I'm more than ready to receive a new one!

(I'll soon be back with some photos from my recent trip to the Caribbean.)
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