22 April 2008
Lake Nasser ferry crossing - Wadi Halfa (Sudan)
SARAH: We slept really well with the small cabin window wide open. The lake was so still it was beautiful to see the moonlight shinning off it. The 1st class cabin was great although we missed out on the crowded chaos of everyone sleeping on the deck. The toilets were another story and we got whafts of the stench through the night. In the morning we discovered that all the toilets were overflowing but people were still using them and the basins. They were also washing their feet in the basins and brushing their teeth (thanks for my leaving present physios!). And this was 1st class!!
BRUCE: First impression of Sudan? HOT! Mymymy. When we stepped off the boat at Wadi Halfa it was the hottest I think I've ever felt. The ferry ride was nice and we got a good nights rest in our cool cabin. We saw Abu Simble from the deck as we sailed past at about 7am and other than that the voyage was uneventful. When we docked we were stamped into Sudan and met on the boat by some guy in a tubin who wants to do our car paperwork. We told him that we would do it ourselves but he was pretty insistent so we will see what happens tomorrow. Getting off the ferry was almost as hectic as getting on but we made it through the throng, cleared customs and hopped in a Land Rover taxi to Wadi Halfa. It is a tiny place with dirt streets and we were taken straight to the police station for registration. Initially they were reluctant to do it today and wanted us to come back tomorrow but needed to be away early in the morning so they agreed to do it today. This was before we realised that Sudan was 1 hour ahead of Egypt and they were about to knock off! It took ages and we were not able to complete it as we needed to change some E£ into local currency as paying for registration in US$ meant that we'd lose out.
It was a bit of a mission finding a hotel but after a cold coke and a bit of slow walking we found a place and took 2 rooms. One for Andy and Noeleen and another for Taco, Brenda and us. The 'hotel' is basically a courtyard full of rope beds with a communal outdoor washing area with bucket showers and long drop loos, sometimes in the same 1m2 room! It will do but it is just so damn hot! After finding out hotel we stopped for a cup of tea from a tea lady with a stall on the pavement. She makes tea on coals and has all sorts of pots, kettles and jars around her which she dips into as she makes tea. Chai was good! We had dinner at a rooftop restaurant which was a great experience. We were proudly presented with an English that was full of really great stuff like LamBeef and Potata chipssy and a bunch of stuff that we could not even figure out. Our waiter came and after a lot of explaining we got him to write down our order for 4 chicken and chipssy and 2 fish. An hour passed with no sign of him but it was nice sitting up there with the sunset. Then a new waiter arrived to take our order. So here we went again and after much tooing and froing we settled on the hands up method as he went through the menu - foolproof! 10 mins later he came back again to take our order so we did the hands up thing again thinking that we may be on some sort of Sudanese candid camera thing. But in the end 4 chicken and chipssy arrived and 3 fish, one too many but hey our man had done his best. It was a great evening with lots of cold pepsi and finished off with a sheesha. God a good nights rest but it was hard to sleep in the heat, Wadi Halfa is an experience though! Ubhejane should come tomorrow and the offloading should be interesting.
DESERT DRIVING IN WONDERFUL FRIENDLY SUDAN
23 April 2008
Wadi Halfa - Desert camp
BRUCE: Did not get too much sleep last night, it was so hot! We shared a room with taco and Brenda and after a bucket shower in the long drop we went for tea with our tea lady. I ordered what I though was coffee but it turned out to be some kind of tea, not too bad. The bank does not change Egyptian pounds so we could have completed the registration last night after all as we had to change money on the black market anyway. After finishing off the police registration we headed to the port to see if the barge carrying the Landies had arrived. It had which was a relief, the only problem was that they had docked on a sloping quay so Taco could drive his straight off but Andy had a drop of ½ a meter and I had a drop of 1 meter to deal with. Andy suggested that we use his fibreglass waffle boards to create a ramp to drive down. I was not happy with this as they can break and if they did I could have done some serious damage to the Landy. He went first and they held up ok, apart from the cracking noises, so I agreed to give them a go. We lined them up with the wheels and I eased up to them in low 2, front went down ok with much creaking and then the back and it was cheers and smiles all round! (see video).
Clearing customs was a pain in the ass as there are a bunch of crooks that run this. Effectively they do not even work for the government but are the only people who have the forms that you need, and they charge 15$US for filling these out. It made me mad! Anyway after a lot of waiting around we got cleared through customs and were good to go. On the way we stopped in town and got some fresh vegetables and lamb chops before hitting the road with Philip, a German biker, in convoy with us. Philip has just left school and is travelling to Cape Town on an old 125cc Yamaha bike. It is going to be tough for him but at least in convoy we can look out for him. The road to Dongola is under construction and the track was hard to follow. We wanted to travel as close to the Nile as possible so just kept that in mind as we chose routes. The road was pretty bad with lots of corrugations. We passed through a massive rain storm which was weird in the desert but it cooled things down a bit to 45deg and helped with the dust.
We stopped to camp at 6ish and had to hide in our cars while the wind howled outside in a sand storm. Eventually it blew itself out and we were able to have a braai with the lamb/sheep chops and had a nice evening around the fire and a wash before turning in.
24 April 2008
Desert camp - Delgo (bush camp on the Nile)
SARAH: This heat is like nothing I've ever experienced and I woke up in night as a
fierce hot wind blew through our tent. It doesn't ever cool down here and I'm sweating continuously day and night. By 9am it was close to 40deg and we all started in convoy. Philip was struggling a bit in the sand and then his chain came off and got all graunched in his bike. I thought his chain had had it but after 1 hour we managed to fix it, although standing in the 50 deg sun was nearly unbearable. Our priorities
have suddenly changed in Sudan and cold drinks and water have become the most essential things. Our fridge didn't survive the ferry ride since the battery ran flat and we are struggling to charge it up and cool the fridge down in this heat. All we're doing is drinking!
We split up with Andy, Noeleen and Philip after the chain incident, as they wanted to push on faster to Dongola. Personally I think they are mad to go any faster on these bad, corrugated roads and their landy or bike could take a fatal hammering but they were determined so we said our farewells. Brenda and Taco are travelling more at our pace so we carried on with them and passed lovely Nubian villages with houses with brightly coloured doors and gates. The mud houses were so well kept and clean. Everyone's faces were smiling and a genuine wave and HALLO were given by all. They all beckoned for us to stop and come into their houses too.
We stopped for lunch under the shade of a palm tree and then wandered down to the Nile river bank where Bruce saw some huge turtles sunning themselves on the river bank. I didn't realise there were turtles in the Nile. We were invited to sit under the trees with a lady but unfortunately we had to push on.
A bizarre incident happened when a friendly truck driver pulled up next to us and in broken Arabic/English explained that our friends in the Land Rover and motorbike are just 10mins ahead in the next village. He said something about Philip needing to get Petrol as he'd run out. He indicated for us to stop and we had a glass cup of sweet tea with the friendly road workers at what looked like a truck drivers stop. We then followed our truck driver towards the next village to meet the others. Since he was working on the road he couldn't take us all the way and since we weren't quite sure of the story we weren't sure if the others were still around, but kept our eyes out as we searched for a campsite.
Finding a 'campsite' next to the Nile wasn't that easy as everyone wanted us to stay with them. One man showed us his field and gave us some spring onions and then wanted to sells us a fuel filter from an earth moving machine that was building the road. We eventually found a great field away from the road and we found the owner and asked if we could camp there. Bruce and I took the chance to reorganise the roof rack before we all went down to the Nile for a wash, although I'm still not sure if there are crocodiles here. It was great to wash away all the sweat and dust and finally feel a little cooler for the short time the wind cooled me.
We had a good pasta dinner under the spider tree with thousands of insects and moved our car away from the tree to put the tent up. Another hot evening.
ICE IN THE DESERT
25 April 2008
Delgo - Kerma (Desert bush camp)
BRUCE: I don't think I've ever seen as many big spiders in one place as at our camp last night, they were everywhere. A dog that took offence at the Land Rovers in the farmers field meant that we did not get much rest last night so we took it easy in the morning and only left at 9ish. It was more of the same, passing through beautiful villages full of friendly people. I was feeling a little dehydrated so when we stopped in a village for a cold Pepsi I had a rehydration sachet and it seemed to do the trick. We stopped for a rest under a big tree at about 12pm and we noticed that the right front wheel has developed an oil leak. It seems to be from the steering swivel joint housing. We cleaned it up and decided to check it again at camp this evening. The road seems to be getting steadily worse and we are travelling in first and second gear most of the time. We stopped for lunch under another big tree and discovered that Taco and Brenda's water supply had been depleted! They have been great in sharing their filtered water with us but it has meant that they have run out sooner than expected. We transferred 25liters from our jerry to their tank and Taco and I decided to try and find some water from a well that we'd seen back up the road. We left Brenda and Sarah under the tree and after about 1 hour of searching we returned empty handed. As we arrived back at the tree we found that a freezer truck had got stuck whilst sharing some of their ice with Sarah and Brenda. Taco towed them out with the help of our sand ladders and they were back on their way to Wadi Halfa to collect a load of fish which they are taking back to Khartoum.
SARAH: Brenda and I waited in the shade waving at passers by. Out of nowhere a truck pulled up in the sand beside us and called us over to say a friendly Sudanese hello. Taking us to the back of their truck they showed us it was full of cool ice blocks. I was so excited I wanted to jump in. They were driving from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa to collect fresh fish. With smiles they insisted we each take a huge block of ice and we said goodbye (ma-salam). However they found out that they were well and truly stuck in the soft sand and Brenda and I had to help them. They tried using our spade to dig themselves out but only sank deeper. Eventually Bruce and Taco returned and together we used our sand ladders and taco towed them out and they were on their way leaving our sand ladders worse for wear.
BRUCE cont.: It was quite late in the afternoon when we got back on the road again and luckily we passed a mosque of sorts that had water that they were happy to share with us. We filled Taco's 65l tank and our 25l jerry and now have water that should last us to Port Sudan. The road changed as it left the Nile and crossed the desert in a big bend in the river. We were driving on a track with bermed corners that wound its way though the rocky desert. The sun was setting and the sand had turned a deep purple colour. We had a waypoint for a camping place that others had used but when we found it we discovered it had been blown to bits, literally! They are blasting granite in the area. We found a great spot in the desert to camp near by though and settled in.
I checked the right front swivel joint housing and it was still leaking a little, although the oil level had not dropped much. I cleaned it up and sealed the joint with grease and we'll see how this holds up but we may need to get it sorted in Khartoum. Sarah and Brenda cooked us an onion soup, which was great for our dehydration, and we chatted about our plans for the reset of Sudan. It may make sense to go to Khartoum first and then to Port Sudan but we need to know when our book will arrive in Khartoum. Had an awesome shower from our water bag hanging off the roof rack and went to bed with a night cooler than we'd had in a while.
BROKEN BIKES AND THE UNFORGIVING ROAD TO DONGOLA
26 April 2008
Kerma - Dongola (Lord Hotel)
This morning it was just cold enough for us to enjoy a cup of tea and coffee. It was only 32deg when we got up at 6:30am. We had a nice cool (or it felt cool) breeze last night so got a good nights sleep. We had a chat about the route and it looks like we will go to Khartoum first, then Port Sudan and get to the border via Kassala. We passed through the biggest town that we'd been through so far (Kerma) and got some great photos of people going through their daily routines. We stopped for a cold coke and a flaffle in town and it was the first time in Sudan that someone has asked me for money. An old man asked me to take a photo of his children and after I did he asked for money. When I said no he was a little ashamed a quickly disappeared. We carried on at a slow pace through the town and the road got quite sandy in places. At one stage we lost it completely and had to double back. We also went through some really bad bull dust, not as bad as yesterday but more than enough to cover everything in a layer of dust. We hit the tar road and for the first time I was really glad to see one. The landy has taken a hammering and, other than the oil leak, I wonder what is damaged. We got to the ferry crossing by Dongola and were met there by Philip! His bike had overheated in the desert and had broken down. He had been towed to a village by Andy and had brought the 125 to Dongola by truck.He was a little shaken and we told him that he should come with us to our hotel, relax, have a cold drink and tell us all about it. We also said that we'd make sure he got to Khartoum and I hope he felt a little better. We towed him into town, sat him down and he told us quite a story!
He had been with Andy and Noeleen the last two days and they had also had some trouble. Apparently Andy had bottomed the vehicle out trying to cross a ditch and the gear box had broken. They were towed out by the truck driver we had met and had tea with, and one of the truck mechanics had got them on the road again, apparently just before we had had tea with the driver. They must have camped very near to where we were in the farmers field. The next day they started out and before long Philip's bike had overheated, it sounds like he rode it without coolant for some time before it broke down. Andy had then towed him through sand to a town, found Philip a truck for his bike, and headed to Khartoum to have his Landy looked at. All I can say is that I'm glad that Taco and Brenda and us took it so slow and easy, really nursing the vehicles and what is one of two really bad sections that we have of the 25,000km to Cape Town.
Our hotel is basic, but better than Wadi Halfa. We took a room that we will all share and there is a shower although again it is in the longdrop. It is like a compound on a farm or rural servants quarters. We went out for dinner at a little local restaurant that was showing the Sudan v Bafana Bafana football that we won 4-2 and after dinner we had a look at Philips bike and it does not look good. We will try and find a mechanic tomorrow.