Crossing Lake Nasser
So time to leave Egypt and enter the real Africa. The only way to enter Sudan from Egypt is by a long ferry trip across Lake Nasser behind the Aswan dam. There is a road to Wadi Halfa over the border but it is closed. Thus began the long voyage through paperwork and water to move from one country to another. Egypt has to be the worst in the world for the convoluted morass of red tape.
We left the Nuba Nile Hotel at noon and arrived at the Port about 12.30pm. We were allowed to move ahead of locals aslo trying to board - after all we had 1st class cabins booked and so we had priority... We passed through about 8 checkpoints - police, passport control, ticket checkpoint, meal ticket checkpoint, take-back-meal-ticket checkpoint and issue you another, pay exit tax, passport stamped and then Sudanese immigration control. Finally we boarded at 2pm. We located our 1st class cabins - the picture says it all... Russ had bought some calico in the maket at Aswan - we had been warned that we might like something clean between ourselves and the mattress. Our cabin was inside so no window (sorry I mean porthole, Dad) and hadn't been cleaned in quite a while!
We amused ourselves wandering around the ferry, watching people board and settle down on deck for the journey, watched baggage and goods being loaded on, and watched as hundreds and hundreds of bags of onions were loaded onto the ferry and onto a barge that it was apparently going to tow behind it. And we waited and waited and waited... we finally left around 8pm.
In the morning we had still not crossed over into Sudan. We filled in time by wandering onto the front deck to watch the shore slip past and by swapping our meal tickets for breakfast - beans, pureed lentils, gravy, some limp salad and a banana. The banana was quite nice. We watched Abu Simbel go past and knew we hd reached the border when the ferry slowed down and tried desperately to sound its horn. After farting for several minutes, the horn suddenly worked and we all nearly fell into the water with fright - we were a bit closer to it than we had thought. A police boat pulled out of a seemingly deserted part of the shore, circled and took off again.
We arrived at Wadi Halfa about 1pm which made it 25 hours since we had left our hotel. Next was more waiting and waiting and waiting for immigration and passport control. Two hours after docking we had our passports back and joined the crush to get off the boat. The crowd was still so thick and pressing that you couldn't see until the very last moment that the step off the boat onto the dock was about 60cm high! With bags on back and in both hands, the only way up was on my knees!
We could see our cars on the barge that had brought them separately so we all walked around to unload them. No drama there but the next stop was another round of government paperwork. Finally we drove out of the last police checkpoint at around 6.30pm, but with our Alien Registration not complete. No-one, not even locals, can move freely in Sudan - permits are needed for all travel. That had to wait for the next morning.
So a short drive into the desert just outside the town found us our first bush camp in the Nubian Desert - far enough away for the sky to sparkle with a million stars but not far enough that we couldn't hear the early morning wake-up call from the mosque.