15th March 2014 Entered Sudan with only a slight delay at the Sudanese customs. We had read on other blogs that this crossing, at Metema, was very costly and complicated, taking five hours to get through.
The only payment was for some police charges that amounted to 20 Sudanese pounds, AUD$3.87. There will be more with a registration payment in Khartoum, (see “Tips in Travel Notes” section)
Today is our first bush camp and it is in what looks to be arid land next to a Boab tree and an outcrop of rocks. We have met other travellers who have told us it is quite safe to do this here in Sudan.
Warmer weather now 35-40 degrees in the day.
16th March 2014 Proclaim the bush camp a success as we had a quiet night under a full moon with a cool night. A visit from the Bedouins would have been nice.
We had a look at The Blue Nile Sailing Club, in Khartoum, which was THE place for overlanders, however we found it to be rundown with bad toilets and for what it was, expensive. Instead we were able to park our car in a walled enclosure at the Khartoum Youth Hostel where there are clean toilets and showers with hot water, for a reasonable price. Also there is power to the car and WIFI. Ready to apply for our Egyptian visas tomorrow.
17th March 2014 Spent the morning registering as aliens for Sudan, not cheap (see “Tips” in Travel Notes section) and just veg-ing out in the afternoon before going for a stroll in the evening for dinner. Khartoum is a modern city in lots of ways i.e. all manner of consumer goods, restaurants, car dealerships and so on but still plenty of dirt roads and, watch out for some of the holes in the pavement, some are as big as a cave, bad at night. Definitely an OH&S (now WHS) issue.
We will get the Egyptian visas in Aswan.
18th March 2014 Sudan is 99% desert with very good roads and many road blocks manned by various government bodies, police, army, toll collectors, customs etc. who all want to see a different document some of which we don’t have. They seem to give up in the end.
We headed north and lunched at the Meroe pyramids before stopping overnight at the El Nassr Hotel in Karima. Strolled around town and had a great chicken and dips plate at an outdoor kitchen in their bazaar area.
The Sudanese are again very friendly people who will not badger you at all.
19th March 2014 Started early by taking a look at the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal archaeological site and loading up on Sudanese cakes (similar to Lebanese) for breko.
Our Tracks4Africa map for our GPS really led us astray today, taking us on the completely wrong road, which led us to some sort of military installation (PROBLEM). No one spoke English at the two roadblocks here and they directed us to the Army base to “GET PAPER”. We were able to drive straight into the base with no ID or search, with the soldiers smiling and waving us in before explaining to us that we were on the wrong road (I think “PAPER” meant “MAP”). (no problem). We must have been their entertainment for the day.
Drove 500K through desert and are now at Wadi Halfa where we ship the car to Aswan, Egypt.
Along the way, throughout Sudan, we notice huge ceramic urns at the side of the road every few K’s. They are water for people waiting for busses and are filled by good Samaritans.
20th March 2014 Goodbye car. Loaded it onto the barge and hope to see you some time soon. It was the only item on the barge, spoiled brat!
Our Agent who took care of all of the ticket, customs and exit details is a fellow named Mazar Mahir(firstname.lastname@example.org) who I would recommend as he was able to arrange everything within a few hours. Others have spent up to ten days at each end. He also showed us around town, we had a coffee and met some of his friends. He seemed to know everybody.
He actually asked for no money and when I enquired what would be a fair price for his services he said only what you are happy with. We had heard US$30 and another traveller paid $40 so we paid $45 as he spent most of today on the dealings and more tomorrow.
The barge fees have gone up, only this week, by US$100 which made the total price US$550. US$40 still at the Aswan end.
There is, apparently, a road, which can be used to bypass this ferry service, but it is only open to trucks. Why???
21st March 2014 Started the day by walking into town, knowing we had to kill time until 2pm when we would be picked up for the ferry to Egypt, and noticing how many razor blades were lying around in the dirt streets, a small mystery. Went to a cafe for breakfast and had black ginger coffee when a shisha/ hubbly bubbly/hookah was produced and, not wanting to offend the supplier (and as an x-smoker) I smoked but did not inhale the aromas. The Internet cafe wasn’t open so I went for a haircut instead. This was interesting because I took my queue and sat down but when it was my turn nothing happened. I did not press the issue and waited, one of the barbers disappeared. I waited, nothing happened. I thought I had offended them in some way. In the end I asked you cut my hair? And he did it, no problems.
These barbers give you a cup of tea and a chat; they don’t use the traditional tools. Sure they have an electric cutter but the intricate work they do with a razor blade, often breaking it in half in the packet before use. This is what you would you call a close shave, cold water and razor blade held in hand and as he approached the jugular said at this moment, do not move. They also use the razor blade pressed up against the comb to cut hair to the exact requirement. Not one drop of blood spilt.
This explains the razor blades on the streets but not my trust of a complete stranger holding a razor blade to my neck.
Returned to our hotel about midday and already Mazar was they’re telling us to get ready to go to the ferry. This we did, got to the terminal melee and waited for the next five hours to board.
I think Mazar spelt backwards is wizard; he weaved his way through the red tape and got us on.
The voyage was better than expected with many welcoming conversations, a good meal, and the deck wasn’t as uncomfortable as we thought it might be, bearing in mind that the ferry was filled to capacity with some 550 Sudanese, Egyptian and two Aussie passengers although I bet it’s the first time Judy has slept next to a rather large Arab (she gave him what for in the argy bargy department when he moved out of his designated area, according to Judy).
In the morning had an Arab breakfast from the galley, boiled egg, bread, spicy beans and some very tasty goo. The Arab boys on the other side of us came around and created a salad feast which they invited us to and which we did not refuse. (I forgot to use my right hand but was soon advised of the correct way to eat).
They are all interested in us and like to know what we think of them and their country. I can only respond in the positive.
On arrival in Aswan the same confusion reigns. This only happens every day, but as “Tourists” we get waved through. I found myself apologising to the queue as we went past.
Our man in Aswan, Kamal, met us and we went through the rigmarole of collecting our car, which was conveniently there at the dock, on the barge, next to where the ferry berthed. But getting it was another thing. The exit ramp looked mighty steep, but forget that, there were three or four mooring ropes holding various other vessels in place, in the way. OK release one. Our ferry, a large ship, started to drift away. Plan B, move the barge slightly to the left and———–through.
We are now at our hotel having had a quick stroll through the bazaar (souk) and a meal and the first beer for some days at a harbour side restaurant.
The following day we completed the formalities, tied on the Egyptian number plates and headed for Adam Home, an overlanders meeting point 20k north of Aswan.