23 January 2011
Total Distance: 16 328 km
Distance covered today:364 km
Start: Wild camping in the desert some 100km east of Dongola
Finish: Wild camping in the desert close to Arbi
We woke up to a wonderful sunrise all alone in the large expanse of the desert. We are truly grateful for a brand new tar road which connects Khartoum with Wadi Halfa 900km north of it. Until as recent as 1 year ago people had to cover a very rough gravel road while we are smiling along the way and able to enjoy the desert scenery.
This morning we continued westwards through the desert to the biggish town of Dongola. Here we quickly sent our blog update, bought some veggies and were off again. Information on the area north of it is a bit poor but our GPS gave a few interesting pointers like Tombos Rock and Sabo Rock painting. For both we had to search as the old road indicated on the GPS does not exist anymore. We got to Tombos Rock only to realise it is on an island and thus can't get there. We made it to Sabo Rock paintings a bit later and it is more engravings and not paintings. However, we were not disappointed this time as a small hill with lots of loose black basalt rocks was covered in numerous engravings. Most of them are very rough, but some are very clearly defined and one can see animals like cattle and even ostrich. They also depicted the sails of boats however without guidance from someone in the know, it is very hard to judge the age of these engravings. We continued a few kilometres further which the GPS indicated was the 3rd Cataract in the Nile (counting from the mouth of the Nile upstream) and on the eastern side is a massive natural rock buttress with the ruins of an old English fort on the very top. We climbed to the top and it offered spectacular views of the Nile to both sides. The river is quite wide at this stage and I would guess 150m wide. On both sides of the snaking river is a very thin green line of irrigated vegetation and behind that, desert, rock and sand reaching into the distant blue horizon. The rapids are not that amazing but it is clear that no boat will make it pass there so how the Egyptians of the old times got a boat passed here, is unclear. But if they could build pyramids then this little obstacle would have been a mere slight nuisance. We saw a lovely green patch of grass and an acacia tree below and decided to head down there for lunch. We just sat down when we saw a young boy of no more than 12 tending the crops of beans. He approached us with a large smile and we invited him to join us for lunch but he just shook his head with a smile. After a short while his father arrived and again the invitation was extended to him. He took a mouthful and then his son joined but also only a mouthful. We could see they really enjoyed the chicken salad but through pure courtesy they did not want to take more of our food - even though it was way too much for us. Through hands and feet he explained to me that on the rock buttress' base there was more paintings. So off we went while Achmed, his son, showed Arina their vegetable patch. Now, once we got to the foothill of the buttress, I was completely gob smacked because right there in front of my eyes was carved into the rock two creatures I would not have dreamt could have been here. Elephant and giraffe. Each about 30cm in size and I was in awe of such a sight. How long ago could this have been since elephant and giraffe roamed this area? Was the area a lot greener or was it desert elephant like in the Kaokaland in Namibia? So many questions and we can't get the answers.
I was really grateful to Achmed and his father for this generosity to take us to a place we would have not have known about as not on any of our maps nor GPS is this indicated.
We continued to a village called Abri and as it was getting dark at that stage, we headed away from the Nile again into the desert. This time the desert is a lot more hilly and we were lucky to find a sandy dry river bed where we could put up camp. Another night under the stars and not a soul in sight.
24 January 2011
Total Distance: 16 532 km
Distance covered today:204 km
Start: Wild camping in the desert close to Abri
Finish: Soccer Field, Wadi Halfa
We first headed into the town of Abri for some vegetable shopping. The bread they have here is round, about 20cm in diameter and about 3cm thick. It is really divine as it is taste wood oven baked. Close to the entrances of the towns and dotted through out the town are numerous water stands consisting of large clay pots hanging from steel frames. Any person who is thirsty can come and help him/herself to the water. There is even drinking places for the donkeys. The vegetables are wonderful here in Sudan. There is an abundance of lovely vine ripened tomatoes, oranges, pomelos, carrots, marrows, potatoes, onion in nearly every town. I will not call the people rich as they live in very moderate mud-brick homes but every now and then one will come across a village where the whole town's houses are painted in whites or yellows. The people live in modesty and will share everything. What will be long remembered is the people waving at you and calling: Welcome in Sudan.
We even found a place with a pressure hose and a car wash so the Land Rover is all clean and white again.
It was only a short drive but very beautiful through pitch black mountains on both sides of the road. And suddenly there we arrived at Wadi Halfa, our last stop in Sudan. Here we will need to get all our paperwork in order for the boat trip to Egypt. We will catch a ferry on Wednesday but the vehicle will go on a separate barge and we hope to be in Aswan on Thursday evening. When exactly we will leave, well in the morning, maybe the afternoon, most probably the evening ins'alla.