March 10

Well, today put yesterday well into comparison in terms of bureaucratic nightmares.  By noon however, we’d applied for our Turkmenistan transit visas, and had a plan for solving our Chinese visa problem.  It started relatively well, with a quick trip to the Chinese embassy where we were told categorically that without the letter from our embassy we could not apply for a Chinese tourist visa.  This is the letter that we can’t obtain.  We called the British embassy, and were greeted with a message telling us that they were closed, but would be open 9-5, Monday to Friday.  Considering it was 945 on Tuesday, this was a little perplexing.  So we cycled off to the Turkmenistan Embassy, hoping that would go smoother.  It did, but before we could hand in the applications, we had to go and find colour photocopies of a couple of documents, and pay $10 to a local bank.  Simple surely?

I arrived at the bank and tried to give them some dollars before I was told that only Turkish people can use the payment services – I needed a Turkish ID number to use the bank.  Considering our application was hinged on this payment, I was a little annoyed to say the least.  I left the bank cursing our luck, to find Ryan on the phone with the British embassy, who had finally decided to open their lines.  He was having about as much luck as I was, which was none.  I started asking passing Turks if they could speak English, and so help me with my bank transfer, but none of them seemed willing to entertain me.  I decided to try people in the bank, as at least they had nowhere to run to, and as I walked in the teller asked if I wanted to go to Turkmenistan.  Sure, I replied, and she said that the man she was serving was applying and I could use his number – VICTORY.  Ten minutes later, I left the bank with our receipts, only needing some colour photocopies and to get to the embassy in 45 mins. Tight, but possible. 

Well, I turned up with ten minutes to go, and the man at the window did not seem pleased to see me.  I handed him over every document he asked for, until he asked for a second passport photo for Ryan’s application.  I didn’t have one, and started to panic a little.  If we didn’t get this application in today we’d have to come back to Ankara at some point, delaying us further!  Thankfully, he just reached over to Ryan’s first photo, ripped it off the application form it was on (the application form the website told us we needed to fill in…) before handing the now defunct form back to me.  Rapid problem solving with this champ, especially as it was getting close to his lunch time.

As it was now noon, Ryan and I went for some cheap lunch and mulled over our options.  The British Embassy told us we had some options and we chewed them over with some sandwiches, but none of them came out well – using local notarial services, or getting a different type of letter or something – so we decided to go back to the flat and figure out from base camp.  The obvious solution that we thought of back at the flat was just to get an agency to apply for us, and that’s exactly what we did.  Within a couple of hours, we’d figured everything out, sent our passports and information to Istanbul, and were back to planning our next move.  Considering we’d spent five days in Ankara and not achieved a lot, we decided that a bus to Cappadocia and then starting again from there was the best bet. 

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