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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Crossing the desert by boat...

Delicious meal cooked for us on a Fellucah in Aswan... the night before the harrowing trip to Sudan.
On the fellucah

When we last signed off, we had just loaded our bikes on a barge to Wadi Halfa. Because the vehicle barge is a full day slower than the ferry, this was to ensure that the bikes would be ready and waiting for the next “fifty point procedure”, as soon as we arrived in Sudan.

On Monday bright and early and as advised, we arrived at the Aswan High Port to be greeted by a chaotic scene – all manner of boxes held together with duct tape, bulging sacks, huge piles of woven plastic mats, millions of bundled flip flops, engines, electrical appliances, suitcases, loitering and unkempt policeman, screaming people and we couldn’t help but notice - our bikes. Exactly where we left them two days earlier on the barge now listing at an alarming angle.
After a couple of hours of investigation we finally establish that the barge had grounded its prop and the crew were waiting for engineers to repair the damage before they could set sail. There was nothing we could do so we turned our attention to getting ourselves on board the Ferry. With much apprehension, we headed for the customs hall, appropriately misspelled “Customs Hole” on a large sign. Thanks to our friendly fixers Mahmoud and Kamal we managed to deal with the remaining “procedures” to escape a country that we were now completely fed up with.

Brit and our very helpful "Sudanese Fixer," Mahmoud
Our bikes STILL ON THE BARGE :( Doesn't seem like they are in too much of a hurry to fix it... Egyptian time plus why move it when it provides a handy deck for swimmers???

We prepared ourselves for a battle of elbows to secure some decent deck space. The final stage of our escape from Egypt had arrived.

It was an entertaining experience loading our selves and our considerable baggage consisting of helmets, bike luggage, food for the journey and a keg filled with twelve litres of “back up” water. Brittany and I being the first to negotiate customs, constituted the advance party of our little band of over landers that had swelled to include three Dutch guys and one German. Our mission was to beat the masses onto the ferry and claim one of the infamous spots under the life raft, a location that many other travelers had recommended to get a bit of shade from the relentless sun.

Under the LIFEboat


Our little sanctuary from the heat...

Getting onto the passenger ferry was interesting to say the least and the fact that we are products of the greatest rugby playing nation in the world, stood us in good stead. Our scrummage skills were put to the test while we squeezed our way through the boarding hatch amongst hordes of loud, sweaty Sudanese all desperately trying to negotiate their huge awkward objects through the narrow space. There was no going back once you were on board.

We managed to claim the space under one of the lifeboats which was an achievement in itself given the circumstances and once the Dutch and German backup arrived, we went about setting up a ground sheet for shade and staking a claim on the limited deck space to provide somewhere to sleep for the night ahead.
The deck of the boat... packed to the brim... this is still early days...

Fellow passengers catching some shut-eye...

An hour later the upper deck was literally an obstacle course of cargo and bodies. It was so crowded in places that the easiest way to get to where you wanted to go was to climb over the ships railings and scramble along a set of two pipes that ran alongside. We waited on board for seven more hours before we finally set sail.
The next morning... everyone very ready to get off the boat and into Sudan!

Absolute chaos getting off the boat... potential for stampede seemed imminent!

It cooled off slightly once the sun went down and turned into a lovely evening that we spent chatting to our fellow inmates, reading and staring out over the dark water. My absolutely final word on Egypt before concentrating on the adventure ahead - considering that Egypt has more tourists per annum than any other African nation, without any exaggeration, Egyptian authorities of every form went absolutely out of their way to make our lives as miserable as possible and we learnt that there is no place for optimism when dealing with them.
As we approached Sudan, the sun rose from out of the dunes to illuminate our morning in pink and red hues, presenting us with a sunrise that will last in our memories forever and was consolation for a night of rough sleeping on the hard deck. A few hours later we passed close by Abu Simbel magnificent and surreal.

Beautiful Abu Simbel


Fast forward. Finally we are in Wadi Halfa equipped with the knowledge that we have another three days to wait before our bikes will reach us. Three days isn’t a life sentence by any stretch of the imagination, but the thought of keeping ourselves entertained in this tiny desert village is daunting to say the least. 
Wadi Halfa... dusty little port town. Really gives you the sense of 'the Middle of Nowhere!'
We have no other choice but to make the best of our situation, so we have decided to become experts on Wadi Halfa life, sampling everything that it has to offer.

Wadi Halfa Mosque!

Blogger in a local cafe... great Arabic coffee... very spicy!
Women wrapped in colourful shawls offering hibiscus or mint tea and heavily spiced coffee operate roadside stands. As we sit sipping coffee, ‘Salaam Alaikum’ and ‘you’re welcome’ rings in our ears and hands are offered to be shaken. A short while after a breakfast consisting of an omelet and bread we take a slow walk back to the air-conditioned comfort of our hotel room.

Dinner is enjoyed at plastic tables and chairs scattered randomly around the town square and on offer is bread, beans, aubergine, potatoes, chicken, goat meat and chili paste. Also an opportunity to discuss traveling through Africa with a group who are heading north in a huge truck.

By then we’ve broken the back of the day and proceed to walk off our dinner in the general direction of our hotel.

We were extremely disappointed to discover this latest set back, but I realize that it is all part of the story and we cannot finish the story by skipping chapters.What it does mean though is that the dynamics of our journey have changed to a race against time. This is something we would have liked to avoid.

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  1. sounds like an amazing adventure...

  2. My goodness nothing in the world like African time ;~D. Sorry about the latest delay but what is life without a challenge and you both have shown that you are more than capable of dealing with challenges. This certainly sounds like an amazing adventure we are all so proud of you both for what you have undertaken our love and good wishes are with you. Stay safe and enjoy the adventure ... Monique