16 January 2011
Total Distance: 13 950 km
Distance covered today:574km
Start: Quara Hotel, Gonder, Ethiopia
Finish: Hipton Hotel, Kassala, Sudan
It is always with great anticipation that we depart in the morning when we know we are going to another country, a new country, different culture, different everything. Ethiopia served us with more mountain passes all the way to the end as we levelled out to the Ethiopia/Sudan border. Not only mountains but also people as per usual nearly every meter of the way. The Ethiopian border went smooth and within a few minutes we crossed into no-man's-land. What is to await us? So many stories, news reports & bad press. First stop passport control. The amount of people inside is sitting all along the wall and I knew it is going to be a long wait. As I walked in the officer behind the window called me over and took my passport and stamped it and send me with a big welcome on my way to the Customs Officer who needed to stamp our carnet to import the vehicle. He stood up behind his desk, shook my hand and ask to please sit down. Next something happened that I have never dreamt could happen. He called an orderly and asked for an extra cup and served us both a tiny yet super strong coffee. We talked about this and about that and once that was done, he stamped our carnet and wishes us a safe journey.
After the border everything changed - no more people, no more mountains, no animals on the road. The people still lived in huts however we soon discovered that the variety of houses is quite big. Our first major town was Gedaref and we had to do some business including changing money as we cannot use our ATM cards in Sudan. Our GPS mapping system in Sudan is rather poor as we have warned by other travellers coming from the north, so we had to revert to the old system - talking to people and with hands and feet trying to figure out where to go. Inside the Forex Bureau once again I was greeted with smiles and welcomes and ushered to the front of the queue. No paperwork, no questions and only one thing was needed - trust. I was given a very good rate for Dollars and off to find a Sudanese sim card. Street seller ran out of sim cards and one taxi driver saw me walking and when told what I was looking for he took me in his tuk-tuk and as we drove through very colourful markets he asked everywhere for a sim card until he found a shop. Once I got out and asked him the fare, he told me it is free and welcome to Sudan. Welcome we certain do feel with this hospitality. Then off to the fuel station. At R3.6 a litre for diesel, we can stay in Sudan forever.
We decided that as we only need to be next Monday the 24th in Wadi Halfa to prepare for the ferry crossing to Egypt, that it is pointless to sit in Khartoum for a week, so we took off on a fairly unknown route to a town called Kassala. The area north-east of Gedaref is so flat it makes a pancake look like a mountain. We see cultivation like sorghum (or something similar), plenty of cattle, a few goats and herds of camels everywhere. We arrived in Kassala shortly after sunset so could not really see the town but we were keen to explore it tomorrow morning. We drove past an open air restaurant with a barbeque in the front and plenty of patrons so after we checked in, we had to explain again with hands and feet what we would like to get. We actually good a large plate of yellow rice (with raisons and turmeric just like mom makes it) and half a chicken on top. It was the best chicken on the entire trip so far and the fresh juice we got with it, was just purely outstanding. With a watermelon we bought earlier for dessert, we fell with smiley faces asleep.
17 January 2011
Total Distance: 14 495 km
Distance covered today:545km
Start: Hipton Hotel, Kassala, Sudan
Finish: Baasher Hotel, Port Sudan, Sudan
We got up early to explore the town. Kassala is built on the foothills of a massive inselberg which looks very similar to Spitzkoppe. The town is made up of markets, bus stops, huts, petrol stations and plenty of little makeshift restaurants on the street where men would come together to have morning coffee. We stopped at one where I could see they were selling 'olie bolle', that lovely deep fried dough rolled into small balls. As it was only men sitting under the tree, poor Arina had to wait in the vehicle. I tried to explain to the man I only wanted 6. He insisted I must take 15! I tried to explain we are only 2 people, but to no avail. I opened my wallet for him to take what it cost because I could not understand what he said. He took out one Sudanese Pound (about R2.30) and smiled. I asked him for 2 cups of tea and again he took one Sudanese Pound. Took Arina's tea and olie bolle for her and went back to be civil and shared the remaining olie bolle with all the patrons drinking the lovely sweet tea.
We continued north and once again it was rather flat until we saw in the distance scattered mountains very much like the ones at Grunau in Namibia. The villages are really poor however everywhere people are waving at us and only at one petrol station did we have people begging for money. The houses show the poverty though. The straw roofed huts often disappear to make way for a small tented unit which looks like a giant skeleton covered in material. A large 'spinal column' made from a flexible timber is supported with a 'rib cage' to the ground. This is covered with sheets of cloth and material to about half a meter from the ground. Sometimes it is just mud huts and the mud bricks are obviously not strong and often we see crumbling houses. Transport is old converted English Bedford trucks. Theft is obviously non-existent here because these trucks don't even have side windows.
As we got closer to the coast, we expected it will be flat again, so we were pleasantly surprised a great road weaving between the black mountains which reminded us of Vyfmile Poort just before reaching Vioolsdrif in SA. This road burst out onto relatively green pastures hugging the Red Sea. Port Sudan is a large harbour town with some 500 000 people. It is surprisingly clean and organised and we had another awesome fruit juice sitting across the harbour watching container ships being loaded and watching the sunset colours change into purples and pinks. So far Sudan has lived up every minute to what we heard from people - that is a hospitable country filled with people who cannot do enough for you. Even at road blocks the officers are always friendly and when hearing we are fellow Africans, the goodwill increase even another notch.
We always get to the internet with great anticipation to hear from everyone and it is great to hear that all is well with family and friends back home. We are blessed with good health and no major issues.