16. Sudan

January 9, 2010 - Khartoum, Sudan

you must have all thought that by now we had been lost on Nubian trails in the harsh desserts of the Sudan....but we are well and ready to take you travelling.

On boxing day we woke early, as expected on travel days, and secured a seat on what we hoped was the right minibus. 5 hours and 180kms later we were at the border. What a frustrating trip of good tar used badly. We had a large coke for sustanance before starting border crossing rigmaroles. First Immigration (i told them i was a nurse and they wrote 'Noese', no wonder they think we're weird) then 100m to the next station for a stamp then another 100m to customs for our bags to be searched then the now common and acceptable informal money exchange to get Sudanese pounds from our Ethiopian Birr then about 300m to the long queue where our contact details for Sudan were written down then to the bus ticket office where we secured expensive seats on the local bus.....are you exhausted yet? With a sigh of relief we were on the road by 1pm with the unexpected guarentee of being in Khartoum by that night. The newly tarred road snaked through the sand dunes looking a bit stark and out of place. It looked as though someone swept the road on a daily basis or perhaps the tar and sand had come to some sort of agreement. The miles and miles of desolate landscape ended in mocking mirages. Somewhere between naps the road drew alongside the nile and the resulting oasis was almost unbelievable. Such fertility alongside such barrenness. We stopped around 6pm for the prayers at dusk in the hazy beauty. All the houses seem built out of the sand (or maybe the dust had meerly wraught it's signature on all it touched, changing whites and pinks to brown). By 9pm we rolled into the still bustling capital, Khartoum.

We were both a little disappointed by how easy this leg of the trip had been. We had been picturing a harrowing 4 day fight through swirling sands, perhaps on camelback, struggling to find water, ultimately proving our hardcore spirit .............. only to be cheated from the hecticness by being corraled onto an airconditioned bus that offered us water at intervals. Our greatest hardship was that the water was a bit tepid. Talk about being ungrateful!

We caught a minibus to the town centre then took a long 5km walk to The Blue Nile Sailing Club (BNSC) campsite recommended by our trusty Lonely Planet Guide. Dirty and run down, at midnight we were not about to complain. We set up our tent and only resurfaced groggily at 8am. We met Billy and Claudine, fellow South Africans motorbiking 2up from Cape to Cape (Cape Town to Norway) they then hope to sell their bike and buy bicycles so they can cycle from holland to China. WOW. Definately check out their blog. (Craig, you need to get in touch with them - we can see it now....Craig and Noah Bajaj the world. You might need to think about a sidecar!) It was so good to hang with people you immediately get. Aaah, you got to love South Africa. They even shared their biltong stash with us. Don't know if we would have been that generous if the roles had been reversed. Glad we weren't tested.

We decided that since the BNSC was not the mecca for expats that our book had intimated we would look for greener (or browner as the climate allows) pastures. These were found in Marwai Hotel near to the town centre. We spent 2 nights here in a baconied clean 3rd floor room and enjoyed the view, the sidewalk cafes, the little markets and the tea spots. We tried to order variations of local food but they kept offering us burgers, not undertanding our Shwarma, Foul or Filafel pleas. Finally we would sucomb while cursing the tourists before us who had made everyone assume that ALL tourists ONLY eat burgers.

We had to register that we were in Kartoum within 3 days of entry, pay another hefty fee (ontop of the visa cost) and then we were restricted to Kartoum. It was with some sadness that we realised that our time in Sudan would be have short and insular due to country politics and expense of life. The people of Sudan are really friendly and open, eager to accommodate. We definately have an IOU slip for Sudan. What a pity!

It was with even greater sadness that we found out that the much talked about and anticipated epic train trip that Blake had narrowly survived in 2005 (some of you may know Blake's humourous retellings, Salome) has not been running for the last 6 months. Talk about bleekness. What tales of hardship will we have to tell now? We grudgingly paid and caught the uneventful 12 hour long airconditioned bus ride to Wadi Halfa on Tuesday.

In the gentle light of dusk we hiked up a little hill and could see Lake Nassar below us. It was so beautiful and surreal. We shared supper with Peter, Duncan and Richard who are all travelling some variation of Cape to Cairo and beyond. So much in common and so much not. What a laugh though. We looked forward to a sleep and meeting again on the ferry the next day.

Aaah, the process to leave Sudan is as uneconomical as it is to arrive. From counter to counter and long walks in between after 6 hours of admin we were walking somewhat disbelievingly on the top deck of the Sagalnaam. At 5pm she finally 'heeve hoed' and we were off.

We hung with our travel buddies and played cards and ate supper - finally some localish food. At 9pm we all stood in awed silence as we glid (or glided?) passed Abu Simbel lit up on the banks of the lake. What manmade impressiveness. Thus humbled we all decided to go to bed - they to their 1st class bunks and us to the airy camp we'd set up on top deck. It was freezing. We donned all the clothes we could and managed to even sleep through the loudhailer calling all to prayer. Ugh, i'd be a failure as a muslem.


1 Comment

Michelle:
January 9, 2010
Oh Rach. Your last comment had me in hysterics! So you... loving the updates. Keep them coming!!
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