Dates: 28th September 2009 to 27th October 2009
29 Days - but see below
South Africa second trip miles = 2961 miles (4738 kms)
Trip miles = 20201 miles (32322 kms)
click for COUNTRY FACTS
Border Crossing and entry requirements - the trials and tribulations
We arrived at the Lavumisa border crossing over to Golela in South Africa; a sleepy little crossing without anybody wanting anything. Even the few market stalls at the gate were an orderly affair.
We wandered into Immigration and filled out the exit forms and got our passports stamped, just before a minibus full of people joined the queue. Onto Customs where the chap refused to sign the vehicle carnet saying it would be stamped once we left the southern African union (RSA; Swaziland; Lesotho; Botswana; and Namibia). I argued that I must have it stamped as why was ours stamped before, when we went from South Africa to Botswana, if that was the case? He steadfastly refused to complete the carnet but in the end, to shut me up, he stamped it but refused to sign it. I walked over to the South Africa section and asked the police at the gate, they confirmed that the carnet didn’t need stamping but would only be inspected. Out of Swaziland we faced the South African post!
We walked to the other nearby building that was the South African Golela Passport Control but the time spent on the carnet now meant we were behind the earlier minibus queue. Eventually, it was our turn at the counter. After much flicking through our passports the immigration officer asked if we had a South African passport. When we said ‘no’ he said we couldn’t enter as the Temporary Entry Permit issued when we first arrived in Cape Town, was only for 90 days and had expired. He couldn’t or wouldn’t issue us a new 90 day one but grudgingly gave us a 7 day one and told us we would have to go to a Home Affairs office to get it extended.
On reading the guide book, it appears that had we entered South Africa from anywhere else but Swaziland we would have got a new 90 day permit without problem, but from Swaziland you can only get a 7 day one: the book goes one to say there seems no reason for this other than out of spite! What we should have done was enter South Africa from Mozambique and got a 90 day one prior to going into Swaziland. As it was, we now had to get it extended and the nearest office was in Richards Bay on the coast and we must get it done by the Friday. This meant we needed to rush the first part of this coast. The carnet was inspected but not stamped! We left the crossing somewhat disappointed and annoyed as we hadn’t expected a problem.
Having been advised to get to the Home Affairs office early we departed the Richard's Bay campsite on the Friday by 7 a.m. and got to the Home Affairs office by 7.20 a.m. Fortunately the office was next to a shopping complex and we managed to park right outside the Home Affairs door and joined the ever increasing queue. When the doors opened at 7.45 a.m. there was a scramble to get to the first desk where people were directed to the various other counters dotted around: we were sent to counter 2 for renewal of temporary residence permits and, fortunately, we were the only ones there. We spoke to a lady who told us we would have to wait for the immigration officer who was out at the moment.
Ten minutes later a man dealt with us. It went downhill from there:
The application for an extension probably wouldn’t be processed until next week.
We could only get it extended, maybe, until our flight home on the 29th October (this had been the longest open flight we could get although we can easily extend as planned) – copy of tickets required.
They also needed;
Proof of sufficient funds in the form of a bank statement (ours are all electronic and our premium bond certificate wouldn’t do), but a photocopy of our visa card was okay.
A letter explaining why we needed an extension.
An explanation of why we had no permanent address in South Africa.
Vehicle ownership proof.
And some money, 425 rands each, about £35, for the processing of the application.
So we sat there and filled in the forms, wrote the letter explaining what we were up to, gathered up the necessary documentation and handed it over to him. I then had to queue up at the cashier’s desk to pay the 850 rand, which took ages, then back to him to process. All of this was merely a precursor before he submitted our application to the Chief Immigration Officer who may, or may not, grant the extension. They would ring us when it was ready, but he did say to go for a walk, which we took as an indication that it may be processed sometime that day. Fingers crossed!
We walked across to the shopping mall and bought some odds and ends from Game and then had a mid-morning toasted sandwich while waiting for the phone to ring. We also tried to work out a plan. We were hoping to go to Namibia and then Botswana before dropping back into South Africa for early December but might have to re-think that as we may get a 30 day permit or one up to 28th October or possibly only another 7 day one: which would involve going through what we were doing now to get that one extended. We were, however, resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t get a 90 day one.
At about midday we returned to the office to see if there was any chance of getting it today. I was queuing when the officer spotted me and came over say it had been approved and the lady at the counter would stamp our passports; half an hour later we left with permits up to 28th October, as we had expected.