I’m applying for a new passport and it’s a far more stringent process than it was last time. I need a guarantor, someone who has known me for at least 12 months.
Having moved to Mount Gambier eight months ago there is only one person here who has known me that long, my boss.
My first passport was issued in December 1989.
It has the Australian coat of arms on the front.
My photo and details appear on page 2. I was leaner then, not fitter though. My signature was definitely more legible in 1989.
Page 3 tells the reader that “The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.”
Other pages are in French as well as English.
On page 6 I have entry and exit stamps for Mauritius, Botswana and Singapore.
My South African visa is stamped on page 7 in English and Afrikaans. There was a problem with that visa.
I obtained it before leaving Australia and it required me to enter the republic within six months of issue.
I changed my travel plans, stayed longer in Zimbabwe and headed to Malawi before wanting to enter South Africa.
Aware of the visa restriction I visited the South African trade mission in Harare. It’s the only time in my life I’ve used my race to personal advantage and I’m not proud of it.
There was a queue of black people stretching nearly a kilometre waiting to be served.
I ignored the queue and went directly to the counter, assuming correctly that being white they would assist me, and they did.
I had an interview with the consul, and he quizzed me fairly hard because I admitted being a journalist. That fact had been declared on my original application.
South Africa was internationally isolated at the time and journalists were not welcome. Although effectively an embassy, the Harare presence was called a “trade mission” because diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa did not exist.
I pointed out to the consul that I was a rural journalist and already had a visa; that I just wanted a new one. Eventually he agreed.
On page 9 of the passport I have stamps from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The page 10 stamps from Zimbabwe show I left the country on November 3, 1990 and returned on November 10. That was my fly-drive holiday to Malawi.
The Malawi stamps are on page 11, along with (strangely) my Australian exit stamp dated October 1, 1990 from Perth.
Page 12 has South African entry and exit stamps while my second South African visa from the trade mission in Harare is on page 13.
I just noticed the bastard consul limited my visit to 21 days whereas the original visa was for three months!
He must have noted my flight booking to Europe.
On page 14 is my collector’s item entry and the main reason I will never lose or surrender this passport.
There is a transit stamp for the Republic of Transkei. That was one of the apartheid states and it no longer exists.
I travelled by bus from Durban to Port Elizabeth and was told that because the road went through Transkei, technically I needed a visa.
It was a hassle getting one, but I now have a lifelong anecdote.
Page 15 has stamps from Hong Kong. The only other entries are for my second visit to South Africa in 1991.
Unfortunately there are no stamps from Europe. I didn’t require a visa for any European country except France, which I avoided for that reason, and they didn’t bother stamping the passport. Shame really.