Desert sunrises, Nile sunsets

November 20, 2008

Nile Sunset

Nile Sunset

Tuesday 28th October

Since leaving Aswan I have suffered paroxysms of guilt, thinking that I’ve been overly harsh on Egypt and its people. This is probably a symptom of the bleeding heart liberalism that I am prone to from time to time. We’re on the Wadi Halfa ferry and it’s great to be on the move again, albeit with Elsie aboard some barely floating dongola about 10 hours behind us.

We arrived at the ferry port as instructed at 9.30 on Monday only to find that the fuel station shown on the Garmin didn’t exist so we had to promptly turn round and head all the way back into Aswan to fill up our tank. Diesel is in short supply until we reach Dongola, so this was tedious but necessary. Back an hour later Mr Salah met us and finessed Elsie through customs (read what you like into that but the car wasn’t searched.) Another hour of bafflingly illogical stamping, sticking and form filling (one official with 3 stars on his shoulders filled my name in as LONDON, Multiple) and we’re through and drive down to the dock. Where we wait. And wait. There is plenty to distract and amuse, Sean uses up one of our meal tickets and has what looks like a pretty passable standard chicken and rice meal. We watch from the boat as the hold of the barge is filled with the most improbable mix of cargo, from Toshiba twin tub washing machines and fridge freezers, to wooden window frames, an enormous amount of red onions and plastic buckets, the contents of which we discover a few days later, are pickled vegetables.

Our fellow travellers include 2 Italian guys on bikes, 2 Polish couples on bikes, a South African biker we’d already met in Aswan called Johann, and an English couple, Mark and Felicity who are driving a Landy 110 called Bob. All of us are planning to go all the way to Cape Town. There are also a couple of Polish women who are backpacking, and a mystery cyclist but he hangs out on the deck as he is rumoured to speak fluent Arabic.

Land Cruisers & red onions

Heart in mouth I drive Elsie onto the barge at about 5pm, and then all we can do is wait some more. The westerners are segregated into a small area of deck outside the wheelhouse, the rest of the deck is utterly covered by African passengers and their luggage. Our First Class cabin, although pretty grotty, is a welcome refuge from the crush, and when one of the Polish girls shows us the switch to turn off the air conditioning it’s a bearable temperature. We stay up on deck as the sun goes down, chatting to our fellow travellers, and then at about 7 the boat seems to move, I go for a quick look and see the barge pulling away ahead of us. Bye Elsie! It is very disconcerting to watch the car fade into the distance, we have so much invested in her. Having seen Adrian & Linda’s hopes dashed in Libya I’m very conscious of our dependence on our car.

Stay up on deck for a while wondering at the amazing night sky and enjoying a clandestine beer, chilled to perfection on the artic air conditioner, and then some fuul and bread, and bed.

Tues 28th October

Woken this morning by everyone scurrying out to look at Abu Simbel, and Sean flicking one of our First Class cockroaches into my bed by mistake.

Abu Simbel, which was moved by UNESCO when Lake Nasser was created, was as expected, thronging with tourists, but looked pretty impressive as we sailed by.

We docked at Wadi Halfa at about midday – Hello Sudan!! We were soon found by the local fixer who took our passports, and whisked us through immigration, and into a taxi to the Deffintoad Hotel. We had a brief hiccup when the fixer wanted to overcharge us all $12 each for registration, but this ‘mistake’ was soon rectified, leaving the fixer $130 out of pocket. For those of you who are interested registration in Sudan costs $30 maximum and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. There is not much to do in Wadi Halfa, except drink shay at the tea stalls, and provide amusement for the local population.

Wadi Halfa side show

Wadi Halfa side show

Wednesday 29th October

The barge arrived, it was a relief to see Elsie intact and above water. The unloading of the cargo was hilarious to watch – what do they do with all these red onions?? – and eventually Sean drove Elsie off over a makeshift ramp and some folded tarpaulins.

At 5pm the formalities were over, and we all drove off into the sunset, to our first Sudanese bush camp

Wednesday 28th October – Sunday 2nd November

Between the Nile and the desert

Between the Nile and the desert

These days have been blissful, some of the best of the trip so far. The road has run alongside the Nile and passed through a series of small Nubian villages. There is virtually no other traffic, except donkeys, and everyone waves and smiles.

Laid back Nubia

Laid back Nubia

At the first village we reached, overlooking the Nile, we were greeted by a bunch of lovely Nubian ladies, who expressed a keen interest in Sean and Vicek, clearly on the look out for tall men.

Nubian Lonely Hearts Club

Nubian Lonely Hearts Club

We’ve bush camped every night, the Nile on one side, the desert on the other. We’ve had occasional visits from villagers, who have mostly just watched us, bemused, but a couple of nights we’ve just been completely alone, away from anywhere, watching shooting stars, and drinking our smuggled beer around the fire.

Camp visitors

Camp visitors

The driving has been challenging and great fun, sometimes the ‘road’ is nothing more than a kilometre long sandpit, which has been tougher for the bikes than for us. Our little convoy has shrunk to just us and Johann, a South African biker, on his way home from London. Mark and Felicity headed off straight after Wadi Halfa, making a beeline for Ethiopia, the Italian bikers were next to go, seeking a hotel in Dongola, and then, sadly the Poles suffered a fuel pump failure, so we lost them South of Karima, but promised to catch up in Khartoum.

Sean helped dig a pick up out of the deep sand south of Karima, and lost his second pair of shoes so far, so we scored him a replacement pair in Atbara. Are these so uncool they’re cool??

Tragic!

Tragic!

Monday 3rd November

Sadly our desert idyll has drawn to a close, and after a brief visit to some more pyramids at Meroe we’ve reached Khartoum.

Still speaking ;-)

Still speaking 😉

We’ve run out of US Dollars, and are having an interesting time trying to get more money as due to US sanctions the usual credit cards, internet banking etc doesn’t work in Sudan. Grrr! We’re heading for the Ethiopian border in the next couple of days. Watch this space!

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2 Responses to “Desert sunrises, Nile sunsets”

  1. Crystal said

    I think Seany’s new shoes are ace!! Keep rocking you crazy kids, loving reading the adventures Sxxxxx

  2. Jane Burdekin (Smith) said

    Have read every word so far and thoroughly enjoying your adventures. Can’t wait for the next installment.
    Sean – I cannot believe how grey you are – time for the grecian – me thinks !!

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