A few minutes ago, I got a text message telling me that my Mongolian visa got issued. This means I have my Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Mongolian visa, as well as Turkmen and Russian invites. I still need to get my visa for Azerbaijan and China, and, depending on how our plans in China turn out, for Kazakhstan and Russia.
I also got approval for two months of unpaid leave (a while ago, actually).
The last weeks were filled with rather unspectacular activities. We spent our time filling in visa forms, negotiating, and researching. We experienced a few setbacks: as we registered our ambulance with the organizers, we realized that by the rules, it is too old. And, after sending pictures as proof of it's good condition, the organizers asserted that it's not only too old, but also too rusty. We still think it's the best ambulance we can get, and even though we found another one that is in accordance with the rules, we believe our ambulance is superior and we will try very hard to make it work. Because none of us has the necessary skills, we set out to find a trustworthy mechanic. This mechanic needs to have the right adventurous attitude and the willingness to solve unusual problems. Finding this mechanic turned out to be more difficult than anticipated, but after some rather disheartening conversations ("I don't think we can do that"), we found Franz Lötscher from http://www.loetscher-ott.ch. He also thinks we're insane, but he will help us with our ambulance.
And then there is China. Driving through China is complicated (we expected that). We have a few offers from Chinese agencies to get the required permits, but right now we're stuck waiting for the other pieces of the puzzle to fall into place: we need to know our exact route including dates, and provide proof of hotel bookings and return flights. Right now, we still don't know whether we will be able to use the Altai border crossing, and we're still negotiating trying to avoid fixed dates.
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