Oftentimes when traveling to unfamiliar locations, we employ the services of a local ‘fixer’, who knows the area, language, culture, and most importantly the rules and regulations concerning importing expensive camera equipment. This shoot is no different; neither Tom nor myself have been to Djibouti, so to ensure we would be able to enter the country with all our equipment we decided to pay for the services of a local fixer.
Whilst back in the UK for the festive season, I sent away all the relevant paperwork (serial numbers, equipment descriptions and values, flight schedules) to the fixer so he could begin getting everything processed. We were concerned about being able to get the paperwork processed in time, the trip is pretty last minute for us, and we were headed toward Christmas.
Before, during, and after the Christmas season I’d been struggling to get hold of our fixer to see how things had progressed. Two days before I had to leave for Djibouti, I started getting really worried, and began chasing more keenly. Finally I got a response back. The overall tone of the e-mail left me feeling less than comfortable about the upcoming trip, I’ll not bore you with its entirety, but it read something like this…
‘Due to government offices being closed over Christmas, and the Muslim holidays we’ve had here, I’ve not been able to arrange the filming and customs permits. If you arrive in Djibouti as scheduled expect to be arrested on arrival and detained until customs grant us permission to release the equipment.’
Now, bearing in mind I was arriving the day before new years eve, and that all the relevant offices would be closed new years eve, new years day, and then we’d hit the weekend, this left with an interesting dilemma.
Option 1, go to Djibouti as scheduled and risk being detained for a number of days, and spending new years with customs officials in the holding area of Djibouti airport. Or option 2, delay my flight, hope the permits would be issued, and that I would still make it to Djibouti and onto the boat before the expedition boat left.
Instinct told me to leave as scheduled. These things have a tendency to work out for the best, and sure enough, they did. After a four-hour delay at the airport, a two-hour flight from Jeddah (on an ancient Russian aircraft with no seatbelts, that looked as if it should have been retired prior to cold war), and 5 hours of confusion at the airport in Djibouti, I was finally given my ‘journalist’ visa, and permission to leave with all of my gear; happy days!
Once at the hotel (home for two nights before boarding the MV Deli) I slept for almost 18 hours straight; I had lost three nights of sleep due to the tight flight schedule and lengthy preparations I had to make for the expedition, so was ready to recharge my batteries in preparation for two weeks of filming.