Still struggling to post photos – combination of glich and poor connection
Drove across the highlands, passing through the Atbara Gorge we dropped 2,000 metres only to climb up again before descending down to Matema, the border with Sudan.
Note for fellow travellers, make sure youv’e got plenty of dollars and or Sudanese pounds, as it’s very difficult to get cash in Sudan, as no ATM’s work due to the US embargo, which includes Visa/Mastercard transactions. Plenty of money- changers either side of the border and also in every town. Fuel (diesel in particular) was scarce with large area’s having none towards Khartoum.
At the border, first barrier, the customs building is on the right and lunch seems to be something of a moving feast, about an hour each side of 2:00 pm. We waited 45 mins until they re-opened at 2:30 and the Carnet was dealt with quickly, a bit of an arsy inspector who wanted to know where everything we owned had come from, he was looking to claim duty on Ethiopian purchases, though when he realised how many countries we’d been to he soon gave up, after having a bit of an argument about whether Uganda was in Ethiopia!
Up the road about 100 metres to immigration, note this is not meant to open until 3:00 when the generator starts up, but we were dealt with before this with no electronics,whatsoever (tough luck FBI) there was no registration at the border and when we went through we were told to sort it out in Khartoum.
One little surprise in store, was when we were told of a further stop another 100 metres up the road which is hidden another 100 metres behind the police station where there is a security office and man asleep. Very simple, quick and easy. Another 1 km up the road, final checkpoint and barrier, with fuel station beyond.
Off we went, it was very dry, very flat and VERY hot (40 degrees and it’s winter)
A stark contrast from the Ethiopian Highlands only a few hours before, completely different in both speed, climate and population which seemed to be non-exsistent, all of which was actually a pleasure and the few people that we met were very polite and incredibly friendly, which made a nice change.
Found ourselves a nice but rather pricey hotel, as it seems they all are here and quality they are not!
Got up early, chatted to a local guy, who invited us for breakfast, which here is the main meal of the day, but dosen’t start until 10:00 am, so we sadly declined. Went on our way, Khartoum bound, lots of smiling friendly policemen,with several toll booths along the way, though we were never asked to pay anything until near Khartoum when we were charged 3 sudanese pounds. Good modern road into the centre of Khartoum, a strange mix of modern buildings with African stuff in between.
Arrived at “The Blue Nile Sailing Club” not as exotic as it sounds, ie- a car park between the Nile and the main road, which was hardly the best spot in the world, but not as grotty as we had been led to believe, except the loo’s and showers which were disgustingly smelly. Our neighbours were a team of guys organising a cycle race from here to Cape-town (normally Cairo, but Egypt not good ) so started here instead, 40 people paying a crazy ammount of money to cycle.
Started the quest to find a route home, not alot of action as Saturday is Sunday here…………..to be continued.
Firstly we went to Baaboud Shipping, drew a blank as they only have sailings to Jeddah in Saudi and not up the Red Sea to Jordan as we had hoped.
Next stop, The British Embassy, to make inquiries , they were shut for a week, telephone number given on the board outside proved to be hopeless, tried an out of hours guy Mark’s number, who was quite helpful, but didn’t really know anything, he promised to get back to us when he had more information.
Off we went to The Saudi Embassy, where we were told to come back the following day. Thankfully another, more helpful chap directed us to a kiosk further down the road, where it seemed all applications had to be handled.
A very nice man, told us it would be SDG350 , but we would need a Jordanian visa and then our application would take three day’s, but it was certainly possible.
With our hopes raised (slightly) off we went to The Jordanian Embassy, the address given on t he website is wrong, so we were directed on to a second address, only to find that it had moved location.
At this point, Mark from the British embassy phoned us to say the Egyptian Embassy had confirmed the Wadi Halfa border was in fact open. Incidentally the Jordanian Embassy, for anyone who needs to know,seems to be near The DHL building, which all the taxi- drivers will know.
We decided, after all to gamble on The Wadi Halfa- Aswan crossing, with Saudi to Jordan as plan B.
Although we didn’t stay at The Acropole Hotel in Khartoum,we would just like to say how helpful everybody was here.
Firstly they did our registration for us, for a small fee and our passports returned the next morning,then they got our travel and photography permits processed at the ministry of tourism, we only had to provide passport photo’s and again, these came back the following day, with several extra copies free of charge. There seemed little point in wasting time and effort, looking for all these establishments, especially as we had enough on our plate with the various Embassies. They allowed us to change Dollars at the official rate with them and as ATM’s won’t give you any money this proved very helpful, though in Khartoum you get asked all the time if you want to change Dollars, just not at the right rate.
Mr Dilling also assisted us as travel agent/researcher……thanks Peter.
After several day’s in Khartoum, we left for Wadi Halfa on a fine road, both commenting on the ammount of burst and shredded tyres littering the sides of the road……….sure enough, we were the next victims. We pulled over and my mechanic got to work, he was assisted by a sweet old boy who poked some rocks behind the wheels to stabilise the car. With the wheel replaced, we discovered, somehow, that what he was really after, was a lift. I had to heave him into the back on top of our boxes, walking stick and all, we dropped him a few km down the road.
Although, not many people on the roads, the ones we did pass, smiled and waved, shouting welcome, welcome! Strange though, hardly any children to be seen and very few women.
There were some other battered old Landrover’s and plenty of ancient beaten up Bedford trucks, which were crammed full with people and goods, a fast and furious means of travel, they call these The Desert Taxi’s (bokasi’s)
On and off we followed The Nile, until we reached The Pyramids at Meroe,these are over 2,000 years old. In total, there are around 100. Sadly most have been decapitated by a mad eccentric Italian man, who was looking for treasure, but failed. We were lucky enough to be able to wild camp right beside them.
Michael was poking around under the car when I was approached by two men on Camels.So fed up with car mechanics, I decided to play tourists and went for a Camel ride!
It was amazingly peaceful that night and the stars, absolutely stunning, nothing beats camping in the desert, miles from anywhere, with no-one around,though the dodgy starting on the Landy,( since the mechanics messed up the electrics when fitting the new gearbox) adds a bit of spice when your so far from civilization, though I thinkwe could have relied on the camel men to come to our rescue!
We had a great nights sleep, peaceful, with no Call to prayer,dogs barking,traffic noise etc, it was 8:00 am before we woke up, unheard of.
The car DID start the next day and we carried on to Atbara, we stopped to buy a tyre to replace the burst one and swopped others for the spares,they are all fairly well buggered as they say, but always travel with two spares.
Cutting through The Bayuda Desert, very hot, not alot to see, other than sand, a scattering of mud houses and the odd camel ,no worries, this was the desert at it’s finest.
Arrived in the town of Karima, stayed at Al Nasser Hotel, a small basic, but clean guesthouse with a cold bucket shower. The friendly owner told us we must register with security, so off we went again a few streets away, filled in the neccessary documentation,then found a nice little street cafe with all the locals drinking tea and coffee. We ordered “ful “the staple here in Sudan. It basically consists of
brown beans, stewed for hours in a large metal caldron, this was served with a fiery chilli sauce and rounds of bread, it was quite delicious and as always we were starving. We washed it down with a couple of bottles of coke which despite our best attempts, still didn’t taste anything like wine!! (alcohol being illegal here)
From Karima we carried on to Dongola, crossing The Nubian desert, lots of dead and decomposing Donkeys on the roadside,these you smell long before you reach them. With the speed of the buses and desert taxi’s, which slow down for nothing, it’s easy to see why there are so many.
Dongola was full of street cafes,all selling felafel,fried fish and ful and the colourful fruit and veg stalls had plenty of nice fresh produce, a few reasonable dry good shops here too, including a pharmacy.
We drove around the dusty streets endlessly looking for gear oil, with a helpful young man who got in the car to show us where to look, at last we found some, but wouldn’t have without his help. For some reason they seemed to be demolishing half the town and the wall of one building collapsed before our very eyes!
That night we wild camped on the banks of the Nile, as we set up camp we were plagued by thousands of irritating little midges that got in your hair,ears, up your nose and pretty much everywhere else too. Managed to cook up some veggies, whilst batting the dam things, Michael braved it and had a washing bowl- shower, I’m afaid I opted fot the wet-wipe-wash……..again!
A fantastic sunset,followed by beautiful starry skies followed and the midges soon dispersed, we lit a small fire, it get’s freezing when the sun goes down, supped our bottles of seven-up(yum) and retired to bed early.
6:30 am the following morning after (a light) breakfast, we got a severe ticking off. Two men arrived and told us we were in the midst of an excavation sight, as we looked yonder we could see all these people hard at work…..woops!
Apparently Tutankhamen built a temple here in the 14th century BC and the Temple of Amun lies next to it. The area was excavated by the British in the 1930’s, but has been covered again by wind blown sand. Archaeologists have started more excavations of the town and cemeteries elsewhere on the site and continue to make new discoveries, unfortunately, that morning all they found was us!
We left quite quickly and in our haste to get away, veered off the track slightly and promptly got stuck in the deep sand, rather embarassingly, I got down on my knees and started digging us out, while Michael deflated the tyres. This seemed to do the trick and soon we were out. The workers must have had a good laugh though!
With the Landy behaving reasonably well, it was only a matter of time before something else took a turn and sure enough the invertor blew up and our solar panel lost the will to live. Solar we can just about live without, it helps in keeping the fridge going when we stop for a while, but the invertor, is a pain, as we use it all the time to charge phones, camera and laptop when on the move. With power points hard to come by and the laptops battery lasting about an hour these day’s,communications might get a little scarce from now on. It had a good life,but was full of sand and dust when Michael took it apart.
Continued following The Nile for mile upon mile through the desert until we reached the small market town of Abri on the East bank of The Nile.
Almost immediately, we were greeted by a young man called Magzoub, who spoke very good English and was friendly and helpful.
According to our book the only hotel to stay in Abri is The El Fagre Hotel, appropriately pronounced El Fucker and has half a dozen grimy rooms! Not so anymore, as we were soon to find out, Magzoub has built himself his own hotel, in traditional Nubian style, but with proper loo and shower, although not yet completed,it was lovely, with nine rooms set around a courtyard overlooking the Nile, complete with electricity. SDG 50 (£5.00) per person per room, though this is likely to increase when work is completed.
For other overlanders-Nubian traditional guesthouse, Abri,North Sudan.GPS 20.48’23. 56N 30.20’49.64E
We had a late breakfast/ lunch (Nile Pearch), fried, with a spicy sauce, salad and bread, with Magzoub, followed by tea and a shared shisha (water pipe) in a small cafe meeting his friends, Along with the Malawians, they are, without doubt, some of the nicest people wev’e met on our travels.
Magzhoub invited us to his friends Nubian wedding in a village nearby.There were masses of people of all ages, they shook our hands and seemed more than happy to have us there,although we felt slightly out of place, Magzhoub insisted it was fine.
Introduced to the groom, dressed in his jallabiya and looking very smart, he let us take some photo’s,we used the Polaroid, so we could print the pictures instantly and give them to him as a small present.
The bride was a slightly different matter, she was in a darkened room with several other ladies and is not allowed out until after dark when the music and dancing starts up. They had already been married in a mosque, so this was the reception
Before marriage the bride is prepared with inscence, smoke baths, heavily decorated with Henna, elaborately dressed and covered in jewelry. On the wedding night the bride and groom go to The Nile to wash, to ensure their prosperity.
The bride herself was, of course looking beautiful, but was very shy, all the other ladies fussed around her, positioning her on the bed for photo’s which I gave to her, she seemed to love these. After this, we found all the guests wanted their photo’s taken too!
For the feast, huge metal platters were laid out in the courtyard, with little dishes arranged on them, containing all sorts of tasty things, Lamb stew, Aubergines with garlic, spinach, beans and tomatoes, salad and fresh bread, followed by sweet tea of course.
We decided to leave before the proper celebrations got under way, it would have been interesting as they love their music, but we didn’t want to out-stay our welcome, hitting the road with a huge bag of dried dates Magzhoub had given us.
That night we camped in the desert, it was absolutely freezing, so we snuggled up in our tent, fully clothed with plenty of bedding……yet it was only 6:30pm!
Although around 30 degrees in the day time, temperatures drop significantly at night, especially in the desert. It’s winter here at the moment,in summer temperatures reach can reach 45- 50 degrees, which must be unbearable. Apparently it hasn’t rained since 1988 !!
Met up with Masar in Wadi Halfa, he’s our fixer for the ferry crossing into Eygpt. We had been communicating with him a few days prior to this and found him at his house…….eventually.
You can organise this yourselves,but it requires alot of time, effort and patience,all of which we are quickly running out of !
You need to arrive 2-3 days before the ferry leaves, to insure all the immigration procedures have been completed for both us and the car.
The weekly ferry is the only way to cross into Eygpt from Sudan, as the land border remains closed.
The voyage takes around 18 hours, give or take a few, the captain only sets sail, when he considers it full, but it sounds to me like it’s always full to overflowing. The car goes separately on a barge, usually at around the same time but takes longer to reach Aswan. This is were Masar comes in again, as he has to have the keys and drive it onto the barge, as we will already be en-route.
We have met a lovely young Swiss couple, Stefan and Marissa, also travelling in a Landrover, they are taking the crossing too, so we have some English speaking company, this is good news as Michael and I ran out of converasation some time ago!
Hoping to pass through Eygpt fairly swiftly for obvious safety reasons.Taking the coastal road along The Red sea, into Israel to catch a frieghter to Italy……..that’s the plan, though never a good idea in Africa!