Location: Blue Nile Sailing Club, Khartoum
Miles travelled: 778miles (Wadi Halfa to Abri – 121m, Abri to Karima – 305m, Karima to Khartoum – 352m)
Weather: 38ºC – too hot to handle
Today we mostly listened to: Treasure Island
It has been a while since we have been able to upload the blog – mud huts in the middle of Sudan don’t have power or internet yet.
So I think I finished up last time with the ferry. The morning of our arrival in Sudan we saw Abu Simbel from the boat. Even at 8am in the morning we could spot the hoards of tourists there – much nicer to see from the boat. The ferry got to the Sudanese boarder late morning and we finally arrived in the port of Wadi Halfa around 2pm.
The ferry arrives days before the barge with the cars so we had to spend some time in Wadi Halfa with not much else but the clothers on our back. So after going through customs (and not being checked at all – damn we could have smuggled beer in!) we headed for the Nile Hotel in the centre of town. When I say town, I really am making it sound grander than it really is! Wadi Halfa consists of a few hotels, two restaurants, countless mobile phone shops and a market.
The Nile hotel had beds for all the European contingent – but that really was all they had, just beds in mud huts with sand floors. The toilets were long drops and the showers pretty grotty. We ended up staying in a dorm with Pim and Git. Once we settled in at the hotel there really was nothing else to do but wait…..and wait for the cars to arrive.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait alone as all the other overlanders were in the same boat. We’ve spent lots of time chatting to John and Denise about the many trips they have done since John sold his business a few years ago. With the dutch contingent, the germans, swiss, czech and Brits we have met we feel like a little corner of Europe in Wadi Halfa. We even went really international at one point when a Japanese cyclist turned up. He started in Cape Town and is planning to finish in Japan in a year – he is even crazier than George!
Speaking of George we got to spend a night with him in Wadi Halfa – he had his bike with him so only had to wait one night for the registration office to open (every tourist must register in Sudan). On the Wednesday we all waved him off as he set off in the midday sun (only mad dogs and Englishmen!) to cycle in to the Sudanese desert. Turns out he would rather brave the African sun than the toilets at the Nile Hotel again!
I have to say as well that the Sudanese we have met are like a breath of fresh air after Egypt. You don’t get looked at half as much and everyone is really friendly that we meet. We’ve had lots of people come to chat to us for a bit – and without trying to sell you something – brilliant! So far Sudan is good!
News came on Wednesday afternoon that some of the cars had arrived and the others (including Monty) would be there the next morning. It was at this point that we realised that, with the weekend fast approaching, we had to get Monty off the barge, through customs and all the paperwork done in one afternoon in order to avoid being stuck in Wadi Halfa until Sunday! I have to admit at this point to going in to somewhat of a ‘Monica Moment’. The chap from the ferry company at the Sudan end – although nicer than mr Saleh – seemed to lack a little bit of get up and go. He had a whole day to sort out paperwork, but waited until the cars arrived to do it. He then kept getting things mixed up and giving everyone the wrong paperwork. So by Thursday at 2pm when Monty still wasn’t off the boat and the crew were starting to unload the tomato puree I’m afraid organisational Charlie came out. After much shouting, talking to the captain and telling everyone what to do we got them to stop unloading the stuff under the cars and suggested maybe taking the cars off first would help. This seemed to work and an hour later we had the vehicles off and at customs. As soon as got the green light we sped out of the port in a cloud of dust for fear of being stopped again by another official wanting to see our paperwork – we really couldn’t face another two nights in the Nile hotel.
So finally out of Wadi Halfa we could bush camp once again and sleep in the comfort of the tent (without all the bed bugs). We found a spot with the others that was marked on the gps as Camp Louis. It really was a lovely spot next to the Nile. Some of the guys only have ground tents so there was much joking about who would get eaten first by the crocodiles. We teased Roland, the German biker, so much that he didn’t sleep – sorry Roland, we were only joking.
The next morning we left early and headed on the new tarred road to Dongola. Until recently it used to just be dirt track, so I think we have had a very different experience to previous overlanders – who have taken days to get to Dongola. We decided to go off on a track with Alex and Jhost for a bit – just because we can – and that was awesome fun. Tar is good, but I cant help feeling we missed out on some of the villages as we sped past. I suppose I shouldn’t grumble – by all accounts the tar will finish soon and we’ll have a month or two of nothing but sand and dirt.
We’ve also started picking up hitch-hikers in Sudan – I think it would be rude not to considering we have a space in our car. We had two lovely women sat in at one point – giggling at us the whole way. So nice to see women again (and not in burkhas). Although in some ways Sudan is more Islamic with its laws, that doesn’t seem to translate down to the people so much, and it feels much more laid back – particularly for women.
We stopped in Dongola for water and supplies and investigated the hotel scene there – by this point we were seriously in need of a shower. All pretty grotty so we decided to bush camp again. We met up with Pim, Git, Alex and Jhost later in the day and decided to crack on to Karima to find somewhere. It was after dark when we finally found a spot. Monty and Rocco (the landcruiser) turned off road in to the sand no problem. Little Mitch got stuck within one metre of the road! We tried to pull him out – and had a little competition of ‘can the Land Rover or the Land Cruiser pull Mitch out first.’ Both failed, so we just decided to stop where we were and camp. As it turned out the road wasn’t busy anyway.
We are really getting in to the bush camping now and have purchased a pressure cooker so we can make nice sauces and stews on camp fires. We also attempted to make bread but all we ended up with was a black coal like substance so we need more practice with this!
We set off this morning to reach the Pyramids of Meroe (about 2 hrs north of Khatoum). Despite having the tops knocked off by some French dude looking for treasure they are still really impressive and unlike the Pyramids of Giza we were able to wander around them completely alone. We’re running low on Sudanese pounds at the moment and as there seems to be nowhere to change money past Wadi Halfa we had to haggle for the entrance fee. I even managed to exchange some pencils and a notebook for a nice bracelet.
After walking around the site for an hour and avoiding the camel men we headed on to Khartoum. We would have bush camped at the Pyramids, but we were so in need of a shower at this point that we decided to crack on. We reached the Blue Nile Sailing Club at about 7 and the cold, dripping, dirty shower was the just the nicest thing!
So our entry to Sudan has been fab – this country is great! We plan to spend a couple of days in Khartoum before heading on to the Ethiopian border. We need to cross before the 27th which is a big holiday here when everything shuts for 4 days. We are properly in Africa now so I think it is going to be harder for us to update the blog and photos. Peoples skin colour is getting darker, the roads are about to start getting worse, the clothes are changing and the music is becoming, well more African – we love it!