The Visa Run

On arriving back from our wonderful trek we received the news that it was not going to be possible for us to go back through Myanmar to China. There had been an uprising by an ethnic group in Shan Province and as a result of this no permits were being issued to transit through that section which was next to the Chinese border. So now what to do? We had two choices. Ship the truck from India or drive it through Pakistan to China. The only problem was that Pakistan would only issue a visa to British citizens in London unless they were residents of another country. The shipping option did not look attractive, we didn't want to ship and the routes and timings weren't ideal either so we took the decision that I would drive the truck through Pakistan. Gilly and the girls would fly over from India and meet me in China. So as soon as we got back I booked flights to London for the following day. We had been told by the visa company that dealt with all visa applications for Pakistan in London that a visa usually took 2 weeks to issue but could be longer. So it didn't make sense booking return flights, I would just have to book them as I went. The following morning I said goodbye to Gilly and the girls. It was really hard as we have spent the last three and a half years all together so going away was a real pull. At least they were in a nice spot just outside Pokhara with friendly local people and everything they needed close at hand. The first flight was Pokhara to Kathmandu on a little prop plane. It was only a 25 minute flight but it was to cause untold problems. First we were told all flights were delayed because of flight congestion at Kathmandu! Then we were told our plane had a mechanical issue and an engineer was coming on a flight from Kathmandu. When he arrived he promptly proceeded to kick the front wheel, then pull at it before declaring everything as being ok. It didn't exactly fill you with confidence. I had allowed over 5 hours between flights at Kathmandu but we were been further and further delayed. Eventually 5 hours late we took off. But the 25 minute flight ended up taking over an hour, again because of flight congestion over Kathmandu. The views of the mountains on the flight were wonderful but to be honest I was too busy looking at my watch to enjoy them. We eventually landed at the same time as my flight to London via Mumbai was due to leave. I dashed between the domestic and international terminals in the hope my flight had been delayed but to no avail the desk was already closed. Ok I was travelling very light, I had an iPad and a credit card I just needed to book another flight. The only problem was there was no wifi in the airport and my SIM card chose just that moment to expire. So off I trooped to find the Oman Airways office as I knew they had a flight out later that evening. At the office they told me they only dealt with operations and didn't sell tickets. For that I would have to go into town. They kindly provided me with the address so I flagged a cab and dashed into the evening rush hour. Fortunately the ticket agency was still open and they were able to get me on the flight leaving that evening that would end up arriving at Heathrow at the same time as my original flight. There was just time to grab something to eat and sort out cancelling the flight I had missed before it was back to the airport. Fortunately things got a lot easier from then and it was a smooth flight via Muscat to London. On arriving at Heathrow I jumped straight on the tube to head over to the visa company and submit all my documents. Everything was in order but when I asked how long it would take I was told at least 10 working days and possibly longer, not a good sign. Since I would be waiting around and as I have 2 passports I thought I would jump on another flight and head to Spain to see my parents. So first I jumped on a bus to Gatwick checked into the airport hotel and booked a flight for the following morning. It was my birthday but not much of a celebration just me, a burger and a pint of bitter in the hotel restaurant. The next days flight to Spain went smoothly. After not having flown for nearly 9 months I had now taken 5 flights in 4 days. I used to fly a lot for business but can't say I have missed it. I spent a lovely week with my parents in Spain. The weather was good and we just relaxed apart from taking a few walks.   It was so nice to see them. We took the opportunity to catch up with some friends as well as enjoy some wonderful Spanish cuisine and a good old Sunday lunch. The day before I was due to fly back I received a text saying my passport was ready to be picked up. Fantastic and after only 8 working days. So as soon as I landed at Gatwick I caught the train over to the visa office where I received my Pakistani visa. Result. As it was the start of the Easter holidays and as I had already arranged to go and visit my sister and family I caught another train to the South Coast. We had a lovely weekend catching up as well as eating and drinking well.   On the Saturday evening we popped for a few pints in the local pub followed by a curry, just how I remember a typical Saturday night out in England. Then on Sunday we went over to some of their friends for a lovely afternoon and evening. Rob, Gill and their kids were great hosts and cooked us a lovely meal as well as keeping us well watered. But it was time to get back to Nepal and Gilly and the girls. Nick my nephew kindly drove me back up to Heathrow to catch my flight back to Pokhara via Bangkok and Kathmandu. It was going to be a long time on the plane. Whilst it was not great the family been split up for 2 weeks at least we now have a route out of the sub continent and it was great for me to have the unexpected opportunity to catch up with everyone in Spain and England.

Visiting Parents in Spain

It seemed strange leaving South America after so long but at least when we arrived at our first stop in Europe, Spain, the language was still the same.  It had been a good but long flight and Alisha and Lucy had refused to sleep on the flight as they were too busy watching movies so when we arrived In Madrid they were exhausted.
We then had a four and a half hour drive to Altea La Vella where my parents live.  My parents have owned property there for over 35 years and I have been a regular visitor so returning to the small pretty village was like returning to a second home.  It had been over a year since we had seen my parents so we were really pleased to see them. 
     As my mum had recently suffered a dislocated shoulder we did not do much in the 5 days we were there but that was just fine with us.  We chatted and caught up on things and even had a couple of afternoon siestas as we got over the jet lag.
The weather was fantastic so the girls were able to enjoy the pool and we could sit on the balcony until late in the evening enjoying the view.
We did manage to take a few short strolls along the beach a couple,of kms away but other than that we did not leave the village the whole time we were there.
       One of the things we enjoyed was going out for dinner most nights.  As I know the village so well I always want to revisit certain familiar restaurants.  We did not eat anything fancy but had some lovely tapas.  One thing I was really keen to have was a great Paella.  The restaurant over the road from our apartment, El Mallol, makes a fantastic one so we settled in there for Sunday lunch.  It did not disappoint and we even took the left overs away with us for later.  I first went to El Mallol nearly 40 years ago and so it is nice to go back.  We also know the owners and people who work there who are good friends of the family.   
We were fortunate that while we were there it was my Dad's birthday.  Alisha was keen to cook him a birthday treat.  So we invited my parents over to our apartment where she cooked him pasta bolognese followed by Apple pie and custard.  It was a big success and very tasty.  
         Not to be outdone Lucy made a chocolate cake for birthday tea the next day.    
While we were in Spain we heard that the ship that the truck was due to be loaded on was stuck outside the port due to a strike in the port.  Anyway after 2 days it was all over and the ship docked.  It is now on its way to South Africa, hopefully with the truck on board.
It was also time for us to move on after too short a stay in Spain so it was back to Madrid to catch our flight to London.