DAY 102. WED 16/05. Wadi Halfa to Abri. 180 kms. Total 22220 kms. Bushcamp along the Nile. N20 49.174 E30 25.677
Paid for the hotel (7SP = 3.5 $ per person) before heading back to the customs building/port on our own 15 minutes before we were due to meet our man clearing the cars. Under the pretense that we needed photographs from the car 1st before we could register with the police but actually we wanted to check out costs for clearing the vehicles for ourselves as we thought what he had quoted us seemed a bit high and to make sure he was not overcharging us. We should have known better, this being Sudan, people are very honest and straight. Maybe too much exposure to the Egyptian way of doing things was to blame. Got some quotes from someone else for costs involved in clearing cars before getting cars off the barge. Ended up having to phone our guy from yesterday anyway as he had all the paper work already done and tear off slip for importation from carnet. He was a bit miffed that we had ditched him but it turned out that he had paid all costs involved already and had the receipts already waiting for us which we did not know before or we would not have tried to go on our own. (Costs we later verified at the cashier.) All that needed to be done was another check of chassis and engine number and brief "search" of vehicle by customs and we were basically done. Just had to reimburse/pay back our middle man. Once we understood what was going on and all charges were checked we were feeling better about the deal - if it had just been explained to us yesterday more clearly there would have been no need for all the "politics". There are basically 3 costs involved; Customs fee: 1600 dinar/16 SP and a local/harbour tax of around 24 SP. The 3rd charge depends on the weight of your vehicle - some type of road tax?. Can't remember the complete breakdown of charges exactly but we ended up paying a total of 74 Sudanese Pounds plus a commission of just under 20 SP to the middle man for a three ton vehicle. John's was around 60 odd excluding commission for a 1.7 ton vehicle. Also we left a small tip for the guys on the barge for looking after the vehicles which is expected. Funnily enough, no insurance though! Finally vehicles were done and we were free to go?. Well, almost! Still one more check on leaving the port area and then to the Alien Registration Bureau. Foreigners have to register here within 3 days of arriving in Sudan or face a fine when you leave. Done at the immigration building in Wadi Halfa. (sorry, forgot to make a way point but main road south out of WH about half way down with a few flags outside) Need a photo and some photocopies of your passport ID page and Sudanese entry stamp which they do there for you for a small fee. Then you have to go see the captain get a stamp in your passport and pay $34 each, another huge amount. Not a very nice welcome to Sudan - all we have done so far is pay through the nose! Anyway decided to get out of there before we spent any more money and headed off at about 1pm towards Dongola along the east bank the Nile after a quick "Coke stop" - us in front, as we had GPS tracks to follow, and John and Irena following. For most of the afternoon we drove through rocky mountains, hills, sand and dust cutting across a bend towards the river. Very corrugated gravel and sand road - one of our guide books describes it as the worst corrugations in the "whole wide world" but we do not agree - certainly no worse than we experienced in Mali or Tunisia, but still pretty bad. Stopped around 3pm under one of very few trees to take a break from the road and the heat. Cut up our watermelon still from Cairo which was lovely and refreshing in the heat. Only met up with the Nile around 5/6pm and started looking for a place to camp. Was getting a bit nervous around sunset, 7.30pm, as it was just village after village but eventually we found a nice campsite under some palms next to the river which had obviously been used before as a campsite just before Abri. Asked some locals if it was OK to camp before they came over with a bag of dates for us. Asked us for some whiskey - so much for Muslims in Sudan being strictly alcohol free? Had to lie and say no. Also invited us to come and eat with them at their house - tempting, but we politely refused. Nice little camp - even got the shower out to wash off some of the dust and sweat. Water must have been at least 50 degrees coming out of the tank so definitely no need to use the heater on the shower.
DAY 103. THURS 17/05. Abri to Argo. 209 kms. Total 22428 kms. Bushcamp along the Nile. N19 34.812 E30 25.048
Passed through Abri soon after leaving camp. Nice little town - can buy fruit, vegetables and bread. Otherwise much the same bad road as yesterday but following alongside the Nile for most of the morning and passing through small villages. Stopped late morning for a bit of a break from the road under some shady palms and more water melon. Later stopped to have a look at some rock paintings/carvings at Sabo (N19 55.842 E30 32.008) About 20 kays after Delgo the track leaves the river again, heading directly across some sandy desert before rejoining the river near Kerma. Just before Kerma we hit a bit of confusion as the GPS track we were following lead into a new waterway canal that had recently been constructed and there was no way to cross over it. So we had to double back a bit and cross onto another track before arriving in Kerma this time with John and Irena in front. Stopped for a quick much needed Coke to cool down. A long hot day in the saddle. Took us quite a while to negotiate our way through Kerma, including getting separated from John and Irena and taking quite a while to find them again, before finding the track south again along the river and similarly to yesterday come 7.30'ish, sunset time, we were looking for a campsite but the villages just seems to go on and on. Eventually around Argo we just headed right off the road towards the river over some dunes and camped in amongst the dunes next to some trees alongside the irrigated fields lining the river. Surprisingly we were left totally alone for the night - just the sounds of prayers, diesel pumps pumping water from the Nile, the odd dog barking and donkeys braying.
DAY 104. FRI. 18/05. Argo to Dongola. 80 kms. Total 22508 kms. Bushcamp along the Nile. N19 05.966 E30 29.771
Had a few kids watching us pack up this morning but all-in-all surprisingly left alone considering we were camping so near to a largish village. Again got offered food and water by the locals at the roadside while waiting to meet up with John and Irena after crossing back over the dunes to the road from last nights campsite. Regretted not being able to take up the offer again as it was first thing in the morning still and we had just had breakfast. The other 2 ended up going in front of us after this. We stopped after a few kilometers at a water point (N19 21.970 E30 29.348) to fill up our water tanks as we had been going through about 20 litres a day in the heat. Mainly drinking but also washing and showering. Didn't really worry about the others as we thought we would meet up at Dongola as we had discussed catching the ferry here over to the west bank. Had about 50 kays to go to Dongola with quite a few small villages which are tricky to find your way through and out the other side - also road works approaching Dongola (even a taste of the new tar road being built, but only about 2 kms long ;-( so we didn't rush. Waited at the turn off to the Dongola ferry but no sign of the others so went down to the ferry to see if they were there. No sign of them there either so waited a few minutes to see if they would turn up as we may somehow have gotten ahead of them through one of the villages. After a while when there was still no sign of them we decided they must have missed the turn off and continued straight along the road on the east bank that takes you all the way to Karima. So we went looking for them and drove about 10 kms thinking they may have stopped and waited to see where we were. Eventually we gave up and turned round as we had no intention of taking this road all the way to Karima. Heading back to Dongola (where we were going to make another visit to the ferry to see if they had turned up) we turned off on some sand tracks to have a quick look at Kawa Temple and recce out a potential bushcamp site we had on the GPS. At first took the wrong road/tracks and tried to cut across in the direction of the temple (about 8 km south of Dongola on the east bank of the Nile) but got bogged down so had to deflate the tires to get out before heading back to the main road. Once we found the correct tracks there was no problem, although the sand was soft in places, but the "temple" was quite disappointing - just the remains of a few columns sticking out of the sand about 50cms. But the bushcamp was spectacular - surrounded by a crescent shaped dune with a steep leeward face semi enclosing the site. No-one around - just a few nomads and camels so we decided to call it an early day and break for camp. But 1st we went back for one more look for the other 2 at the Dongola ferry, although by now we weren't expecting to find them - they were probably long gone, but it just made us feel a bit better. Waited there for about half an hour while we had a Coke before heading back to the dune to camp. Still early afternoon and boiling hot in the desert - although not far from the Nile completely surrounded only by sand - so set up the awning and just hid in the shade reading and doing a bit of the blog for the rest of the afternoon. So hot that you couldn't even touch the exposed metal parts of the Landy - definitely could have fried a few eggs, if we had any! After dark we got the shower out again for a quick wash before bed. [By now we were sleeping in the tent with all 4 windows and side netting wide open - only under the thin mosquito netting - to try get as much breeze as possible through the tent to keep cool.]