(finally) Sudan

I’m very pleased to tell you that I’m finally in Sudan, the standard of living has gone down, the cost of living has gone up.. but finally we’re not longer in Egypt… and that is a good thing!

Back-tracking a week; we left Luxor on Thursday and arrived in Aswan a few hours later, and by this point I should mention we’re now a convoy of 8, yes eight. Dave & Stef (in the Land Rover defender), Matt & Kim (couple since Cairo), Cam & Craig (the kiwis) and Ed and I.

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We arrived in the midday sun of Aswan (about 42Β°C), and the expression of: “hot like a hair-dryer” no longer applies, the air is so hot when moving, it’s cooler with your skin covered, or when you’re not moving.

After finding somewhere to stay the night at Adam’s Home a (sand pit 20km out of Aswan with no facilities), we rushed off to find where everything was, e.g. the ferry ticket office, traffic police station, traffic court building. I decided after the hot ride down from Luxor to ride in shorts and a t-shirt and here is where I discovered that it’s hotter riding with your skin un-covered than covered. Visor down on the helmet is more refreshing than with it open, I don’t think you can imagine the intensity.

We had a small incident with Ed loosing his only Egyptian number-plate on that trip into Aswan; which lead us to go on a wild-goose chase around Aswan looking for somewhere to re-fabricate us a set of number-plates. However, already knowing we had problems having only 1 plate (which we were issued in Alexandria), we were already interested in getting duplicates made in order for us to have less hassle at the ministry of transport. Pictures shows us at a metal workshop waiting for the paint to dry.

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Saturday, we spent the entire day waiting for our paperwork to be processed in order to clear our Egyptian plates from any traffic offenses (as you cannot leave Egypt unless you’ve paid any outstanding traffic debts). This was followed by a ticket purchase for our ferry that evening as soon as we finished at the court. We met a lot of overlanders here, some we already had met in Luxor, some in Alexandria, some just new faces.

Monday, we left Aswan (only just). After waking up at dawn, with no time for breakfast we rushed off to the traffic police station, in order to hand over our Egyptian number-plates, this took us a few hours of standing around getting hot, seeing all the other overlanding types all over again. Then, from police station we drove in convoy to the Aswan high-dam port to get processed for the ferry. At this point the convoy was of about seven 4x4s, and eleven motorbikes. Imagine this being a very subtle and tranquil activity that didn’t involve the locals at all. It had a feeling that like the circus had arrived to town, everyone cheering, waving, tooting and at times all three at the same time. It was fun.

Then arriving at the port… I can tell you now, this was the most confusing charade I’ve ever beheld: go to that man at the booth there, get a paper, go to a man in an office over there, get a stamp on the paper, go back to the first guy show him the stamp, pay him xyz, then throw away the paper. Queue up to have your luggage X-Ray scanned, whilst everyone else jumps the queue, then go and see some man, get another form, fill it out, pay for it and then throw that one away (this is how it felt even if the details aren’t exactly accurate or in true order). Many, forms later, and much emptying of my wallet we were done. Eventually by dusk, having drank 3 liters of water and not eaten anything I (we) was (were) eventually through. I was dehydrated (again) and not feeling particularly good I put the luggage on the passenger ferry; which ladies and gentleman, is a joke that only one would find funny having experienced it first-hand and long since forgotten about it. People were hauling fridge-freezers, 14″ televisions (yes 20 of them all boxed), sauce-pan sets, TV remotes, you name it… it was there. And, no, they didn’t put this in the ship’s hold, this was on the deck, down the corridors, in the cabins, everywhere!! People trying to sleep everywhere… and we’re not even set sail… trying to clamber aboard this boat was the last thing you want to do at any time of the day, in any state of health, in +40Β°C with dehydration, a banging headache, and frustrated from a day of African paper-work clowning you around and trying to place your luggage somewhere safe, was not fun. Thankfully, Matt and Kim had some hydration sachets and accompanied with some paracetamol we were back down looking for the barge to park our vehicles on, this joke continued for another few hours until finally it was discovered that there wasn’t enough space on the car/bike barge for 3 of the bikes, mine being one of them. I ended up putting my blind faith in Mr Salah (the barge organiser man) and leaving my bike parked on a cargo barge that’s heading to Wadi-Halfa. The barge was already stacked to its loading capacity before I and two German guys (on military KTMs) zoomed our bikes on it. No need for straps here in Africa, just don’t block the way for the barge driver to get into his cab.

Back on the passenger ferry: sleeping, was a free for all, 8 of us cramped into a tiny space we managed to reserve about 1.5 metres x 2 metres with all our luggage, situated on the top deck beside the bridge. I eventually found a ladder to the roof of the bridge and made it my bed for the night, staring at the starry night, with a warm breeze i was comfortable just in my t-shirt. Although after an hour or so someone else caught onto the roof idea then more and more people started cramming on and then by about 10 we were all told to get off the roof, and again at 11 and at 12, I slept through the night quite well all things considering.

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Tuesday: well waking up at 4:30am with the “call to prayer” by the most enthusiastic tannoy speaker you’ve ever heard, didn’t really shake me (despite being right under the loudspeaker), but later by about 5 or 5:30 I was up, taking photos of the sun-rise. We crawled by Abu-Simbel a few hours later not that it was all that, and by midday we at a small jetty (our final destination) of Wadi Halfa. This is where the circus jumped back into action, all of a sudden we needed to fill in forms again before we could get off the boat, and of course this queue was in the middle of the ship where everyone stood with their luggage (TVs, Fridge-Freezers, Saucepan sets, you name it). Obviously, it wasn’t this couldn’t of been done in the 17 hours before arrival, or in an office building off the boat, it had to be done then and there, holding all our luggage being shoved and pushed and with a heat and humidity intensity that makes paper floppy and ball-point pens to not work. Eventually, after much shifting about from one deck to another and passing our luggage out through the toilet window, we were on Sudanese soil.

Once on dry land, it was just a case of customs and then we were free to be extorted on a taxi run into town in a rickety Land Rover whose doors didn’t close, the steering wheel would vibrate into a wobble where the driver had to slow down for and generally gave you no confidence at all to sit in… in order to find ourselves a hotel for the night, oh yes, we went for the cheapest: 4 of us crammed into each room, launch-pad toilets with a hand flush from the watering can, showers come as a bucket and an old tin-can, and the beds are strung… with a bamboo roof. This is Africa after all!! πŸ˜‰ I guess we’re finally here. πŸ™‚

Let’s see when our bikes arrive… and if mine come with the others. πŸ˜€

Anyhow, I’ve got to rush back to the Police station to please the captain, I seemed to have been reeled in to fix his computer and said I’d rush back. In short, this is what I’ve written, I’ll add pictures soon!!

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