Return to Cape Town at last; Courier stupidity; In which we briefly touch our new passports before sending them away again

In the end, all the bus-related stupidity of the previous couple of days didn’t actually cost us that much money. The first thing we did on arriving in Cape Town was to get a refund for the bus tickets we hadn’t used in Storms River because the bus didn’t stop for us. Given the trouble we’d already been through dealing with the bus company, getting a refund was surprisingly easy and painless. We’d hitched a ride to Mossel Bay and the tickets we’d bought there had been R130 each cheaper. We’d spent R120 on hostel beds for the night and maybe R80 for both of us for food, so we’d each only lost R30 on the whole escapade - about CAD$3.75. I wasn’t going to complain about that, but what it had cost us was time.

Couriers can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, especially DHL and especially in South Africa. Two days previous I thought I’d successfully arranged a pickup of our new passports from the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria for delivery to Joan’s house in Cape Town. This was by no means a simple affair and involved authorization letters and payment forms sent back and forth to DHL. I was told, by both the High Commission staff and by DHL that all the courier needed was our names and birth dates to pick up the passports. Imagine my surprise when I called the morning they were supposed to be delivered to see if I could get a tracking number, and DHL told me that they hadn’t been picked up because we hadn’t given them a file number. This was the first any of us had heard of the existence of a file number let alone its necessity, and so I got on the phone to the High Commission to try and find out what it was. I was furious with DHL for causing yet another day of delay, but when I got hold of the High Commission I was glibly told “Oh yes, your passports were picked up yesterday morning” (there are a lot of benefits to having an uncommon surname, I’ve found - one of them is that people don’t have to put you on hold to look things up). But now I was scared. I had a horrible vision of our passports lost forever in some sort of courier-limbo, picked up but not delivered, and nowhere to be found in their system. Just before I panicked, though, I called Joan and she made everything all right by telling me that they’d arrived safely that morning just as they were supposed to. It could have been so much worse, but how stupid can a courier company be, to think that a package hasn’t even been picked up when in fact it’s already been delivered?

So our passports had arrived that morning, but by the time we ourselves arrived it was too late in the day to send them out again with the forms for our Indian visas. We weren’t sure how long it was going to take to get the visas, so for all we knew that single day’s delay might have cost us our flight out on the 9th of February (I’m simplifying a bit - the actual situation was a lot more complicated and involved tentatively booked but unconfirmed airline tickets and other arcana, but it’s not worth going into). Suffice to say that the entirety of the day after we arrived was consumed with filling out forms, double- and triple-checking them, depositing money to the Indian consulate’s bank account, getting pictures taken of the correct size, writing cover letters and courier authorization letters, and arranging for yet another courier pickup. But after the courier had come and it was out of our hands once again, we relaxed with a sense of yet another hoop successfully (we hoped) jumped through.

Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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