Today’s blog comes from one of our country’s most recognized wildlife biologists/outdoor writers/television show host of Trailing the Hunter’s Moon , Larry Weishuhn. Although universally known as “Mr. Whitetail”, Larry trails the “Hunter’s Moon” throughout the world in search of big game hunting adventures.
“What did you say?” asked my wife. Without realizing it I was speaking to myself but also speaking out loud as I was going through a final check list of things to take with me to Burkina Faso, Africa hunting there with my hunting partner Tim Fallon from the FTW/SAAM on a hunt arranged for us by Global Sportsman.
“Sorry, didn’t know I was talking out loud. Want to be certain I take everything I need or could possibly need on this upcoming trip. Burkina Faso isn’t one of the normal US sportsmen hunting destinations, so really not certain what to expect, so want to be prepared. I’ve not talked to anyone that has been there. I know where it is, and got some information from Steve Turner with Traveling with Guns who sets up my flights for me on hunts. But, as always I want to be prepared.” She simply shrugged her shoulders and walked away…. Earlier that morning I had made copies of my Global Rescue membership card (THE card I don’t leave home without), the front pages of my passport, my 4457s for my Ruger .375 Ruger Guide Rifle, Zeiss scope and binos, and cameras. Too, I made several copies of my passport photos, something I’ve started doing when traveling abroad on hunts because occasionally they are needed for hunting and gun permits, and finding someone who can do passport photos in a “foreign port” isn’t always possible. I also made certain I had a good supply of “cards” supplied to me by The Wildlife Gallery to be attached to the skins and skulls of the animals I planned to take as well as extras (these laminated cards contain all the necessary information about where the skins and skulls need to be cleared, where they need to be shipped, as well as The Wildlife Gallery’s information and my personal information as well). Not only do these look professional to the PH and his staff, they make their lives easier and insures I get the animals I personally take.
I put copies of the 4457 in with my rifle in my Boyt gun case, as well as a copy with my passport and then also in the looseleaf notebook I carry for each of my trips which contains copies of all the items mentioned above as well as copies of flight itineraries, blank forms that might be needed (as in the case with Air France, a statement regarding the fact I am shipping a firearm with me to my destination, each flight requires such a for to be filled out and presented at the gate before boarding). I also put my 40 rounds of Hornady .375 Ruger ammo in my gun case in a separate TSA approved locked case, as required by Air France. I checked and double checked numerous times to be sure I had copies of all the paperwork in my notebook as well as being certain I had my passport in which was the required Burkina Faso visa. Too, I packed and repacked several times to be certain I had all my other essentials for a hunt into a distant land. I’ll cover some of those, another time. Finally it was time to leave to the San Antonio airport with Andrew Garay, my “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” cameraman/field producer and Tim Fallon, who’s wife Ms. Susan graciously dropped us off at the airport. The flight to Ouagadougou (pronounced Wog-ah-do-go) was a long one. Leaving the plane we were met by a representative of the safari company and were quickly ushered into the customs area. When my turn came I presented my passport to the Burkina Faso official. He looked at it, turned to the page where my Burkina Faso visa was displayed and then got at strange look on his face. He spoke no English, but pointed at my visa and shook his head, and said “No!”
Hurriedly I looked for the person who had met us at the airport who spoke thankfully a little English. He came over and spoke to the official. He then turned to me and said, “It is not good! Dates wrong! Date for April not February!” Oh no! I had had the visa done months before, but never checked to be certain the Burkina Faso government had put in the right dates. I didn’t know quite what to do. But through sign languages and his broken English, I finally figured out I would need a new visa which could be done at the airport. So he ushered me into another room where such things were accomplished. I handed the official my passport thinking they could simply change the dates on the visa, but was told through my “interpreter” that would not be possible. I would have to buy a new visa, and it would have to be paid for in Burkina Faso francs rather than the Euros I carried (which we had been told would be required). The Burkina Faso held my passport, something I don’t like to do leave in anyone’s hands but my own. The interpreter and I went to get money changed, which turned into quite an ordeal in itself. Back at the visa counter, I handed the official the amount she had told me, but then wasn’t surprised when she asked for even more. There was little I could do so I handed her the rest of the Burkina Francs I had exchanged for. Then through the interpreter I was told I would need two passport photos for the new visa. THANKFULLY I had those in my notebook, otherwise very late that night I would have had to have found a place where I could have had passport photos taken. That would have been disastrous! I was certainly pleased I could hand the official two, cut to size passport photos that I had with me! I was told through the interpreter I could pickup my passport in two days…but then he also explained that the receipt I had been issued would serve the purpose of both my USA passport and Burkina Faso visa while I was in their country. Reluctantly I left my passport and was able to finish the process of picking up baggage and finishing clearing customs. A call that night to the PH (we quickly learned he only spoke French and no English. I speak English, and understand Spanish and German, but NO French!) we were hunting with through and interpreter at the hotel, explained we would not have to wait for my passport that he would make arrangements to have it picked up and delivered to me in camp. I’ll have to admit there were anxious moments for several days of not having my passport in my possession. But then true to the PH’s word, my passport was delivered on the 7th day of our hunt. Travel in foreign countries can be a bit “interesting” these days. Thankfully I had had the forethought to make extra copies of my passport photos. Had I not done so the trip to Burkina Faso could have become extremely “interesting” in a negative way. I take the blame for not checking the dates on the visa to be certain they were correct, which is something I should have done as soon as I got it done. I did go back and look at my original paperwork submitted when I asked to receive a visa and it showed the dates we were to be in Burkina Faso and no dates were mentioned about April. The dates were changed when the Burkina Faso Embassy wrote it out. When leaving the country, the Custom’s official asked why I had two Burkina Faso visas. I explained what happened through the excellent interpreter provided by the safari company on our way home. The Custom’s official, smiled at me and spoke in his native language as he handed me my passport. The interpreter looked at me and said, “The Captain said to humbly apologize to you for your problems and that that you should have not had to have bought another visa. He said the customs official on duty that night should simply have changed the dates. He again apologizes for any inconveniences and he hopes your stay in his country has been a good one, and he hopes you will return.” The hunt had indeed been a good and a successful one and I’d dearly love to return some day. When I do I’ll be fully prepared once again and this time I’ll be certain the dates on my visa are correct!