Four Wheels Around - A Road Trip from the UK to South Africa

In February 2009 we are setting off on the trip of a lifetime from Brighton, E-Sussex, UK to South Africa. Furthermore, we are raising money for the British Red Cross along the way. This blog will cover our preparation until we leave and our adventures whilst we are on the road.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Aswan, Egypt Wadi Halfa, Sudan and beyond...

It has been a long time since I updated and that is due to the lack of reliable Internet connections in Sudan. When we arrived here last week I was immediatly surprised with how technologically developed Sudan is. Mobile phones are everywhere, in the most remote of villages you see people on their phones. The internet is more sparse. We are currently in Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan. There is internet here it is cheap and popular. Out of the capital connection seems rare.

I feel as though there is so much to write about since we left Egypt and even from the last few days we were there. I will give you a brief summary of a few things we have been doing and what has been happening to us, as otherwise this post could go on forever.

  • EGYPT! Before we left Egypt we stayed at a lovely camp called adam's place. The guy who runs it Yaya is an eccentric but lovely character who has a lot of interesting things to say. It is about 10k from Aswan central and on the outskirts of a quiet village. Anyway, one night we had left our washing out to dry on our makeshift washing line. We retired to bed, in the morning I went to reclaim some clean clothes for the day only to discover all that was left of our laundry was my manky old towel and one sock. Gutted. Somewhere in West Aswan their is a Nubian wondering around with my pants, Alex's shorts and t-shirts and one sock on.
  • West Aswan: We took a cycle on our new bikes to a little Nubian Village just across the West Bank from Aswan. As we stopped for some refreshment we noticed a naked man. Now this man was completly starkers. He had some kind of string beeds around his waist but other than that all was on show. The funny thing was that noone batted an eyelid. The man and women throughout Egypt would happily stare at me as I walk past because I am white and unveiled but seeing a mad naked man wondering through the village is normal - obviously!!
  • The Aswan - Wadi Halfa ferry: We had to say good bye to Carol......temporarily. We spent a day down at Aswan port trying to deal with the infamous boat. People were boarding the ferry from about 10am. There was a barge to follow the boat as well, which was being loaded up with anything and everything, including our cars. Boarding the boat felt like we had left Egypt (even though we still had 19 hours before we docked in Sudan). The whole environment was different to what we were used to in Egypt. Most of the passengers were Sudanese, they were all so happy to chat to us and they were all so proud to be Sudanese. The first thing that struck me about Sudan on that boat trip was how everyone was smiling. Everyone looked happy. Nothing was too much trouble for any one. It is something that I have come to love about Sudan in the week we have been here so far. The Sudanese seem to be some of the most happy and generous people who go out of their way to help you. Not once have we been asked for Baksheesh! Obviously, we have met a few individuals who have tried to rip us off and their are quite a few beggars on the streets of Khartoum but these people are not unique to Sudan and in every country we have been to, someone along the way has tried to rip us off, but so far our experience here has been incredibly positive.
  • I went off on a bit of a tangent there with my enthusiasm about the Sudanese, going back to the boat trip. We had our air conditioned cabins. It was nothing more than a small cupboard with 2 bunk beds but it had air con. I was cold for the first time in weeks! The extra money we spent for the bed was worth it for the air con.
  • Arriving in Wadi Halfa immigration takes place on board. As kwajas (foreigners) and being only four of us on board we were ushered to the front to have our paperwork completed. We used a fixer called Magdi. Fantastic guy, incredibly helpful, although coming from Egypt we were a little cautious about him when we first met him. As we came in to dock there were 3 doctors waiting to come on board the boat. They were wearing scrubs and surgical masks. Us foreigners were quickly summoned from our cabins and taken to the canteen where each one of us had to undergo a few questions and have our temperature monitored. The motion of the boat had made me feel a little light headed and nauseus and earlier I had even sneezed. I could just imagine being quarantined upon arrival in Sudan, how inconvenient would that be. Luckily we all passed our medical (no swine flu here!) and we waited just one day in Wadi Halfa before the barge arrived and horray, both cars on board and safely through customs and into Sudan!
  • Sudan: We spent about 5 days travelling down from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum. There are many different ways you can take the trip and we opted for the road running along the Nile via Karima and Ataba. We have heard a lot about the infamous road running from Wadi Halfa to Dongola in reality it was a lot better than expected. There is a lot more tarmac than we anticipated and where there isn't tarmac you can see the Sudanese working to build it. We covered about 200 miles off road, corregation, sand, dust and gravel. Carol (and Alex) behaved extremely well apart from letting a lot of dust in.
  • We bushed camped all the way down to Khartoum for a number of reasons. Obviously it is free so it saved us money, but also the Sudanese just don't seem to care. We camped up in the desert, on farmers land by the nile for 4 nights and no one bothered us. (Obviously we asked the farmers!) We drove through Ataba and on that particular day the temperatures had really got to me. I wasn't feeling too good and so Alex and I decided to treat ourselves to a night in a hotel with some air con and showers! We soon realised that staying in a hotel in Ataba was not going to happen. We were turned away from every hotel we asked in on the basis that they were full. We knew that this was lie (tourism doesn't really exist yet in Sudan so I doubt their hotels are full) I went in one to use the toilet to toilet and 3/4 of the rooms were open and empty. We were not entirely sure why we were so obviously discriminated against. We were informed by a cheery passing taxi driver that in the Ataba region there are higher taxes and mountains of paperwork associated with letting foreigners stay.
  • Khartoum: After a solid 6 days on the road. Some tarmac and a fair bit of sand we arrived in Khartoum a few days ago. We are camped up at the Blue Nile Sailing club with surprise surprise a view of the blue Nile. It is here in Khartoum that the White Nile (originating in Uganda) and the Blue Nile (rising in Ethiopia) converge. We haven't been to see the confluence yet but we will do before we leave. The Blue Nile isn't very blue. We have be joined at the campsite by some overlanders going the other way to us.. 3 South Africans on bikes and some fellow English in a Landy. It has been interesting to hear their points of view and recommendations about countries that we have yet to visit.

The above, is all a bit jumbled. I think the heat has gone to my head. It is daily around 45 degrees here. I am getting used to the extreme temperaturs, finally but I am still having trouble adjusting in the evening. During the night the temp does not seem to drop below around 30 degrees. In the UK we are lucky if we get this on the hottest day of the year! The heat is actually insane. I can't describe it. There is a constant hot wind which makes me feel like I am in an oven. I never feel cool. Standing in the sun for even a minute you feel as though you are burning and we are drinking on average about 6-8 litres a day of water each. (In 'normal' conditions it is recommended to drink around 2 L per day). We can't get enough water, we are always thirsty and water does not quench our thirst! It is ok for Alex he can wear pretty much what he likes but I have constantly got a long scarf drapped around me to keep me respectable. I get very cross!

So it is so far so good in Sudan. We are putting Carol in for a service tomorrow. She has done close to 8000 miles since we left the UK and it is about time we gave her a bit of TLC> We were very over excited when we found a whole street dedicated to Land Rover shops. SPare parts, old and new galore and someone to service her!

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