We were only granted a two week transit visa to visit Sudan, and entered from Ethiopia at the border crossing of Gallaba and Metema. The cool temperatures of Ethiopia were a distant memory as the heat wave of Khartoum hit us like a brick wall. The capital of Khartoum warrants a few days visit, as we hit up two excellent museums (The National Museum of Sudan and The Ethnographic Museum), the colorful Omdurman Souq, watched the convergence of the Blue and White Nile Rivers, and visited Mahdi’s Tomb and Khalifa’s House. Interestingly, we stayed at the Blue Nile Sailing Club where the old cast iron gunboat Melikfrom Kitchener’s campaign from the 1880s can still be seen. From Khartoum, we drove northward to visit the Nubian Pyramids of Meroe, where astoundingly, our group had the entire complex to ourselves, something that would never happen in neighboring Egypt! From Meroe, we started an arduous 4 day push to Wadi Halfa, battling an ongoing sand storm (which pervaded our tent at night, sprinkling several inches of sand on top of all of our gear), soaring sky high temperatures (54.6 Celsius or 130.28 Fahrenheit), and long drive days. At Wadi Halfa, it was an exercise in patience as we had to wait for the ferry to Aswan. Thankfully, the Kilopatra Hotel had rooms with fans, so it was a bearable couple of days spent in sleepy Wadi Halfa. Our overall impressions of Sudan are extremely positive as the people are friendly, helpful and welcoming, fascinated that we were overlanding through their country. There was absolutely no begging (unlike the relentless requests for baksheesh in neighboring Egypt or the incessant begging for handouts in Ethiopia), and everyone commented on how Sudan shattered everyone’s stereotypes. We are very happy to have visited and would love a return trip to explore more of what this country has to offer.
24 Jul: Sure enough, we arrived to the border town of Gallabat around noon, and Nancy was able to collect all of our passports to get us stamped out to Ethiopia with no problems. The money exchangers at the border were offering amazing rates for the Birr to the Sudanese Pound, beating market rates for the Dollar, Euro and Pound. We exchanged our remaining Birr, but they wouldn’t touch our extra Kenyan Shillings. Chris was given the runaround at the border, with the guards stating that we were missing a vital piece of paperwork. Since it looked like we would have a long wait, Nancy had everyone assist with a truck lunch, and we stuffed ourselves with salad sandwiches. Nancy was vital in helping us with our credit card fraud situation today…she bought a Sudan SIM card and we bought enough minutes to allow us to call Egypt and the USA to sort out our Cairo-Tel Aviv flights. Thank God she was so patient in letting us use her cell phone and we absolutely appreciated her today. After Chris got the remaining paperwork needed to cross the border, we were finally allowed to cross over and our last FDNCTP (First Day New Country Truck Party) ensued, with nasty bottles of gin going round the truck. Chris ran over a baby goat that dashed on the road at the last minute, and to our surprise, we didn’t stop to offer the owner any compensation, but rather, Chris sped up out of there. It was quite sad as we looked back to see a local run out onto the road to retrieve the goat carcass. We finally pulled into a bush camp around 6 pm, and cook group 4 (Sean, Fi and Lisa) made a spam fried rice meal for dinner. Meanwhile, the truck party continued but participation was limited. The main excitement tonight was that Lucky gave Robby a horrible beard trim, transforming him into a porn star lookalike and Luke and Gin had their tent collapsed as they tried to sneak off early for some hanky panky. Luke retaliated by chasing everyone in the buff, and tea bagging Mel (with the “Roman Mask”…don’t ask). It was a fun night, but rather subdued for a typical truck party.
25 Jul: Breakfast was at 6:30 am and for some weird reason, we had our tent torn down and packed along with all our gear prior to 7 am. Canned spaghetti was on offer for breakfast, along with toast and peanut butter. We were on the road by 7:30 am and Becky managed to snag a spot on the beach for a siesta before waking up and taking a few photos of the northern Sudanese countryside. There were a surprising number of dead cows and goats littering the roadside, and several of them had bloated up several times their original size due to the intense heat. At the first pee stop, Becky and Gin managed to step in some quicksand like mud, which made a huge mess of their flipflops and feet. Becky must have used up about 20 baby wipes in an effort to get the super strength mud off her feet. Our truck lunch consisted of tuna and beetroot salad, and we found the Sudanese to be quite amused and curious to our presence. They are quite friendly and it is great to not have to hear “give me money”, which seems to be the first words that every child in Ethiopia learns! We arrived to the outskirts of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, by early afternoon and waited by a gas station for a local guide to escort us into the city. The reason Chris needed someone to show him the route to our campsite, the Blue Nile Sailing Club, was due to the numerous low slung electrical wires throughout the modern city. We pulled into our sweltering campsite by 4 pm and immediately set up our tent before starting on a bit of laundry. It has been ages since we last washed our clothes, but with the serious heat of Khartoum, our laundry will be dry in no time. Becky decided to scrub our shoes while we were at it, so it was a good washing session. The Blue Nile Sailing Club is owned by a gregarious man named Kamal, and it is famous for housing the 145 foot long Melik, a gunboat used by Lord Herbert Kitchener’s campaign to recapture Khartoum and crush the Sudan Rebellion (in an attempt to avenge General Gordon’s death). It served a vital role during the Battle of Omdurman, and today, serves as the clubhouse for the Blue Nile Sailing Club. At 6 pm, Nancy had us grab 2 passport photos, $50 and a pen and we proceeded to fill out the necessary forms that would allow us to transit through Sudan. All foreigners require a photo permit and have to fill out an “Alien Registration” form, but thankfully the forms were straightforward and easy to fill out. Immediately afterwards, we set out with Lucky to scope out the internet situation, and found numerous computer stores, but nary an internet café. It was nearing 7 pm, and everything appeared to be closed already. We found a fast food joint and ordered chicken sandwiches (5 Pounds per sandwich) and they ended up being delicious and just enough food to tide us over until dinner. Since the internet situation was looking dismal, we decided to head back to camp to wait for dinner. Cook group 5 (Damien, Ichiyo, Laura and Gin) made a vegetable curry on rice for dinner and it was OK, a bit hot for the weather but tasty. A few folks were keen on hopping into their mosquito tents after dinner, but a loud group of locals had decided to use the central courtyard area as their socializing point. Chris went to complain and was told by one of the men that he was the owner and to shove it. Chris found a representative from the Blue Nile Sailing Club who immediately set the record straight and told Chris that the other guy was bluffing. Thankfully they relocated to another area of the club and the spotlight was turned off, allowing everyone to get a decent night’s sleep. The weather appeared to take a turn for the worst as high winds picked up and rain drizzled down, but it didn’t amount to much over the night as everything stayed dry.
26 Jul: It was still cool out at 7 am and we were still fast asleep when Robby jolted awake and realized we were missing breakfast. After fueling ourselves for the rest of the day, we got ready to sightsee and Lucky and Ichiyo asked to join us. Our first destination was the Sudan Ethnographic Museum (free entry) which was actually still locked up when we went to visit at 8:35 am (opening time was 8:30 am). A super friendly policeman asked us where we were from and if we wanted to visit the museum. He then climbed over a fence to get a caretaker to unlock the museum for us…what service! The museum immediately impressed us, with an interesting entrance and a massive war drum at the doorway. We were allowed to take photos so we snapped away at the more fascinating artifacts. Some of the highlight exhibits for us included a cow’s ornately decorative attire full of cowry shells, a “truth” stick that was used to detect thieves and liars (it was pointed to everyone in a crowd and the guilty party would inevitably act nervous and give themselves away), a model of an ingenious irrigation system, and the war drum. The policeman had abandoned his parked car to be our museum guide, and he expected nothing for it in return! Such is the legendary hospitality of so many of the Sudanese that we have met. Afterwards, we were keen on visiting the Sudan National Museum, which was a further 2 KM down the street on Sharia Al Nil, so we proceeded to walk along the waterfront but were quickly denied access near the Presidential Palace. Instead, we had to backtrack to circumvent the palace and eventually we made our way towards the National Museum which cost 1.5 Sudanese Pound (SP) to visit. It was fantastic, with lots of Pharaonic carvings and statues on the first floor, while on the second floor, there were fantastic Christian frescoes. On the outside of the museum, showcased in covered enclosures, were several Pharaonic temples that had been relocated from various sites throughout Sudan. They were fabulous, as we had the entire temple to ourselves and could vividly see the hieroglyphics engraved upon the temple walls. We spent a good bit of time here and the only other Oasis folks we met were Damien and Anna. Everyone commented what a shame it was that so many others had missed the museum, and we left together to try to find a quick bite to eat, as Lucky was getting hungry. A roadside stand serving up fresh falafel/boiled egg sandwiches came to the rescue for 2 SP each, and poor Ichiyo had a disaster in the mud when she slipped and fell. Thankfully she was able to get cleaned up so it didn’t ruin her entire day, and we continued on with our tour to see the confluence of the White and Blue Nile Rivers on a nearby bridge. A heavily armed soldier forbid us to take photos, so Damien suggested that we walk down to the river to take photos (hence the bridge wouldn’t be involved) and we went along with his idea, snapping a photo of a local fishing catfish in the corner of where the two rivers merged as one. Afterwards, we were keen on hitting the Afra Mall, which is touted as Khartoum’s best mall. Robby thought the taxi fare was 5 SP, but after we crowded in and the ride turned into a very long one, we surmised that the taxi driver actually wanted 50 SP, but there was absolutely no way we were going to pay that. Sure enough, a confrontation in the parking lot ensued, and we eventually decided that a generous amount was 30 SP, which satisfied both parties. The mall was quite pitiful, with overpriced clothing stores, quite possibly Africa’s most poorly stocked supermarket, and a movie theater showcasing older release movies in Arabic only. We did enjoy the air conditioning, and found that the mall’s best bargain was the inexpensive perfume (100 ml for 15 SP). After hanging out upstairs in the food court area, trying to take advantage of the free wifi zone, we eventually became bored and wanted to head back to the campsite. 8 of us (Ally, Lucky, Laura, Lydia, Ichiyo and Matt) crowded into a minivan for 25 SP back to the Blue Nile Sailing Club, where we hung out in the shade and attempted to do a bit of reading. Cook group 6 (Sara, Lars, Naomi) made a delicious hummus and tzatziki meal with mince which was well received by all. We hung out in the sailing club garden to have access to power before calling it a day and crashing for the rest of the night.
27 Jul: Breakfast was served up at 7 am again…ugggh, why can’t we sleep in since the weather is still relatively cool? We planned on visiting the Omdurman Souq today after breakfast, and Luke asked if he and Gin could tag along. Our group ended up being quite a sizeable one, as it included Anna and Damien, Luke and Gin, Ichiyo and Lucky and the two of us. We managed to grab a mini-van over to the souq for 25 SP, and Luke hopped into a van with Nancy, Katherine and Kendra for 15 SP. We walked around the souq for a bit, and immediately realized it was quite spread out. The US $ to Sudanese Pound exchange rate was quite favorable ($1 = 3.25 SP) so Robby exchanged $30. Becky found a unique leather/wood mask that she wanted to add to her collection, and it was priced at only 10 SP, so it was a bargain to boot. After wandering through the souq aimlessly, we finally backtracked to a shwarma joint where all of us ordered either a chicken or beef shwarma (3.5 SP) with a fresh juice (1 SP)…great value. The locals were extremely welcoming, smiling and saying “Welcome to Sudan”. It was a scene that repeated itself over and over again and we found the Sudanese to be some of the most genuinely friendly Africans we have met in this continent. Ichiyo wanted to try some fried fish, so a local accommodated her request and stated that it was free when she tried to pay. And he ended up giving her even more fish to share with the rest of us! We walked from the souq over to Mahdi’s (aka Muhammad Ahmad) tomb. The Mahdi was a popular religious leader who led successful rebellions against the Turco-Egyptian government of Sudan. Apparently, in 1884, he moved his military headquarters to Omdurman and died the following year in the fall of Khartoum of typhus. An ornate tomb was built in the Mahdi’s honor with a glittering silver dome and the site became a popular pilgrimage stopover for the Sudanese. However, the tomb was completely destroyed by the British after their conquest of Sudan, and what stands today is a replica built in 1947. It is closed to foreigners but we were able to take photos from the outside. Mahdi was succeeded by Khalifa (Abdullahi Ibn Muhammad), and he led his people until the decisive Battle of Omdurman in 1898, where Lord Kitchener killed Khalifa and defeated the Mahdists forces, thus sealing control of Sudan for the British. From Mahdi’s Tomb, we walked over to Khalifa’s house, which today houses a small museum. We took our time admiring the artifacts here, before leaving and attempting to find a taxi van to take us to the camel market, which apparently is a good distance away from the city. The round trip price quoted was 100 SP, and we debated if we were willing to pay it (we weren’t). So in the end, we hopped in the van for a ride to the Grand Holiday Villa for 25 SP, as we were told we could purchase a pool pass for the day. The hotel is quite posh and its prices reflect as the pool pass would have cost us a whopping 46 SP each. We opted to take the free hotel tour and even after looking at the inviting pool, declined to pay the money to use it. Instead, we headed into town to find a cheaper place to drink and 15 minutes later, we were in luck as we found a local juice bar where fresh grapefruit juice was served up for 2.5 SP. The locals swarmed us from all angles to chat it up with us, and everyone found it to be fun. Lucky even arm-wrestled a random stranger mere minutes after meeting him! Robby was ready for a break after our morning’s excursion, so we headed back to the campsite while everyone else walked around for a bit more exploring. Nancy had informed everyone that our tents had to be scrubbed with water, so we took care of washing our tent before Becky did a quick load of laundry and finished reading her book. In the afternoon, Kamal took us out on the Blue Nile on his motorboat, showing us the Blue Nile Bridge (Khartoum’s oldest bridge), the President’s house (a mansion on the waterfront) and allowed us to steer his boat. Awesome guy and we loved spending time with him. Becky and Ally were anxious to return by 6 pm as they both were on cook group tonight, and it didn’t take them long to cook up spaghetti for dinner, which went over well thanks to Naomi’s wine. After dinner, we hung out by the power point and did a bit of work before calling it a night.
28 Jul: Happy Birthday Chris! What a way to spend your 31st. We had a bit of a sleep in today as breakfast wasn’t until 8 am. However, since it had been a stifling hot night last night, everyone was up early as it seemed that we all didn’t sleep well. Becky had to work to get the fire going, and Nancy helped by adding lots of paper to fuel the fire. The jerry cans had to be filled before our departure, but Becky managed to squeeze in a quick shower before we left. Nancy advised everyone that no photos were allowed until we passed the airport, so everyone had to wait while we battled with the early morning rush hour to leave Khartoum. At about 10:15 am, we reached the outskirts of the city where we made a brief stop to stock up on cold drinks, snacks, fruit and the like. Nancy bought sausages and lamb and blocks of ice for cook group, and got irate when she noticed that someone had left the keys in the water locker and the tent locker was unsecured as well. She came back onto the truck to scold everyone and it jolted Sean into realizing that he forgot to pack his tent away. He immediately rushed off the truck to check and sure enough, it was quickly evident that he had inadvertently left his tent behind at the Blue Nile Sailing Club. After conferring with Chris and Nancy, Sean hopped into a taxi back to Khartoum while we waited for him to return. It was a bit frustrating, but what else could we do but wait around patiently? After what seemed like forever (it was extremely hot outside, with reports that the temperature had soared to 47 degrees Celsius), an apologetic Sean returned with tent in hand. Finally, we were on the move again but despite the wind blowing it our faces, it felt like someone was blasting us with a hairdryer! Nancy bought us falafel sandwiches for lunch which we ate on the go, and we drove onward for what seemed like forever until we finally could see the peaks of several small pyramids in the distance. The pyramids of Meroe are quite compact in comparison to their Egyptian counterparts, and it seemed that the tops of all of them had been damaged in some way. It was 4:20 pm when we arrived, and we were informed that the site closed at 6 pm, which gave us plenty of time to explore the pyramids in depth. Entrance was 20 SP each, although the caretaker didn’t have a ticketing system and it was all based on the honor system. We wandered around the complex by ourselves as there was no English speaking guide and no other tourists in sight. Many of the hieroglyphics had faded away, but what remained looked quite interesting. Lucky paid 10 SP for a camel ride and he looked like he was having the time of his life on the back of his camel. We felt bad for the souvenir sellers as they didn’t get any business from the jaded passengers on this Trans Africa trip! By 6 pm, everyone had taken photos to their hearts’ desire, so we headed off for our nearby bush camp site. Nala got stuck in the sand and we all had visions of helping to dig the truck out but Chris managed to free the truck in no time at all by himself. The temperature was still scorching as we set up our tent, and we laid on our grass mat to cool down. Cook group 1 (Dowelly, Kendra and Matt) made lamb fried rice which took a while as the lamb had to be slow roasted. Just before 9 pm, dinner was called and everyone forced a bit of food down (it was still really hot and most folks didn’t have much of an appetite) before calling it a night.
29 Jul: It was a horrible night as the wind picked up in the early morning (around 3 am) and never let up. Mosquito tents were sent rolling across the desert, and even our pegged down tent became buffeted with heavy sands which blanketed our bodies, sleeping gear and tent floor. At one point, Becky got up to ensure the grass mat was still in place (it wasn’t, as Robby had already pulled it into the tent), and half of the tent lifted up and collapsed in on itself. What a nightmare. It was no surprise that at 6:30 am, Nancy came around informing us to pack up, as we were going to get out of there in a hurry as people’s tents were blowing away. We immediately tore down our gear and packed up, and were on the road shortly afterwards, grateful to be out of the sand storm area. By about 8:30 am, Chris pulled over so that cook group could make breakfast. It was still windy but at least the sand was kicking up in our faces. A few hours later, we pulled over in the town of Atbara, which was a water refill point. Chris instructed us to split into several small groups to refill the jerry cans, as we didn’t want to inundate any one kind Samaritan. That being said, we headed down the road and found a clean and fast flowing faucet, whose kindly owner didn’t mind us using. Once the jerry cans were refilled, we climbed back on the truck and drove onward towards the town of Tangassi. Little did we realize it at the time but 3 of our jerry cans were filled with the dirtiest, muddiest water you could imagine…it was only when we were filling up our drinking water that it became evident just how skanky the water was. In the town of Tangassi, there was a police check point which Chris blew past (they sent a guy on a motorcycle to chase us down) but thankfully the police weren’t very angry and they politely invited Chris to sit down on their bed as they processed some paperwork. The weather took a turn for the worse, with furious sand storms throughout the day. Visibility was limited and sand was in the air so we daren’t take out our cameras as they would have immediately seized up due to all the dust. Because it was impossible to get a good night’s sleep last night, Becky took a nap on the beach and immediately proceeded to drool all over Robby’s pillow. We drove pass more Sudanese pyramids, which were uncannily similar to the ones of Meroe. By 5:30 pm, Chris had found a suitable bush camp site, and cook group 2 (Marie, Robby and Lucky) made us bangers and mash for dinner. It was a hot night but we slept with our tent flap open (no bugs) so it was fairly breezy all night long.
30 Jul: After breakfast, we were on the road by 8:30 am, with the goal of heading to a water refill point to fill up our jerry cans, which were emptying at an alarming rate. Everyone was drinking so much water to stay hydrated in this heat, so it was vital to get more water as soon as we could. Chris found several taps at a gas station, so while he refueled, we took turns filling up the empty jerry cans. Everyone started dunking their scarves in the ice cold water that we had reserved for our drinks, giving us a few minutes respite from the relentless heat. The temperature at lunch today reached 54.5 degrees Celsius, and Nancy attempted to fry an egg on the side of the road. The egg whites cooked immediately, but surprisingly, the egg yolk proved resilient. In the afternoon, we passed the Dongala police check point, which was relatively painless and we were able to proceed with minimal hassle. It was a surprise when Chris pulled over in the mid-afternoon for a swim in Nile River but the first few attempts were aborted due to steep banks, crocodile infestation and a difficult landing. Finally, on the sixth or seventh attempt, Chris found a suitable spot for us to take a quick dip in. Nancy warned us that crocodiles are in the Nile so it was enter at our own risk but since we were in such a shallow section (and there were 25 of us in total), the ruckus we were making would have scared any animal away. It was a washing, shampooing and cooling down frenzy and morale was instantly improved as tons of dirt flowed from our bodies. Afterwards, we had another short drive to our bush camp, which was a nondescript desert type area. Luke’s cook group (Anna, Luke and Katherine) made pumpkin risotto, which tasted great with the fake cheese powder it was accompanied with. Yum! Unfortunately, it was a hot night tonight and coupled with the fact that there were so many bugs flying about, we opted against sleeping with the tent wide open. As a result, it was one of the worst sleep session ever as it was simply sweltering inside our tent…we slept miserably in pools of our own sweat. And whoever said overlanding was a cushy affair!?
31 Jul: We broke camp at 8:30 am and reached the town of Wadi Halfa by 11 am. Finally, we had reached our destination we had been striving for these past few bush camps. Wadi Halfa is a tiny town, and we wondered what we would do to fill the time when Nancy briefed us that we would have free time until 4:45 pm when we would have to meet back on the truck to fill out our Sudanese exit forms. About half the truck got stuck with a truck guard duty (single person at 30 minute intervals), and we headed over to the only Internet Café in town to check on our email. It was relatively fast, and we were done in about 20 minutes (2 SP). Luke joined us for lunch (he wasn’t feeling 100% due to the heat) which was at a local joint where we pointed to the fried meat (lamb) and got served side dishes of herbs and bread…yum for 7 SP. Afterwards, we bought some cordial mix for our water and changed money ($25 worth with Damien and Anna who split $50 to exchange with us so we could get the rate of 3.25 with a larger note). It was scorching in town so we headed back on the truck and Chris drove us over to a nearby fish packing plant (Nubian Fisheries) where we could refill jerry cans and get new blocks of ice. It was amazing dumping ice cold water from the coolers on top of us, and each of us got a little thrill as we went from superhot to super cold in mere seconds. The owner of the Nubian Fisheries offered us a free tour of the facility, and we got to see how Nile Perch gets weighed, gutted, packed and stored. He even let us into the -40 Degrees Celsius freezers (although he didn’t find Chris shutting the door to be very funny). He was a very nice guy and we thanked him for his time and the tour. What an experience to go from +50 degrees to -40 degrees in less than two minutes! We drove back into town and scoped out a nearby hotel (Kilopatra) to see if there were any available rooms to upgrade (there weren’t until tomorrow). At a quarter to five, our passports were handed back out and Nancy walked us through filling the Sudanese exit forms, before handing them off to her handler and driving out towards our bush camp just outside of Wadi Halfa in some kind of a quarry area. Our Sudanese contact bought fresh falafels for everyone to accompany dinner, but Nancy must have forgotten about them as they never surfaced. Cook group 4 (Sean, Fi, Lisa and Mel) made a tasty beef sauce served with mashed potatoes, while the rest of us celebrated LEBCTP (Last Ever Bush Camp Truck Party) with a bit of alcohol and lots of 40 week-er stories. We had to pack for the upcoming week and clear out our overheads so it was a pit of a packing session as we tried to get ourselves organized. It was a hot night but there were no bugs so we slept relatively well with our tent door zipped wide open.
1 Aug: Happy Ramadan! Today is the first day of Ramadan, and we had been forewarned to expect minimal activity around the town. We were up at the crack of dawn, but lingered in our tent as it was still relatively cool out and we didn’t have to be up for breakfast until 7:30 am. An hour later, we were rolling in towards Wadi Halfa, where Nancy told us to stand by until she could work out the details on our hotel for the next two nights. It was with bated breath that we realized Chris was driving towards the hotel that we had checked out the previous day, the Kilopatra Hotel (we suspect the owners’ meant “Cleopatra”). The AfricaTrails truck was in the parking lot, and we heard that their passengers caught an earlier ferry and were awaiting the truck on the Aswan end. Nancy ended up getting us a total of 4 rooms, which were to have five people each in two rooms and six people each in the other two rooms. Because Chris and Fi were unable to get their own room together, they ended up sleeping on the floor of one of the six bed rooms, making for an uncomfortable eight people in the room! It was 10:30 am by the time we got our rooms settled (we ended up in separate rooms), but at least each room had a working fan and electricity. We spent the majority of the day either snoozing or else working on the website, completing the Kenya section just before dinner. As the day progressed, our rooms gradually became hotter and hotter, to the point that it was uncomfortably stifling within the confines of the room. The showers were warm water (heated by the sun) and our wet laundry dried in no time at all on the sunny balcony. It seemed that everyone was swapping photos today as we all had our laptops out and were working on trip stuff. At dusk, Dowelly was keen on hitting the town to see how the locals were celebrating breaking their fast, so we (Mel, Luke and us) joined him for an evening meal. Everyone else was gathered at a restaurant where they enjoyed a “cocktail” meal which was a montage of everything (beef, eggs, beans, bread) but we were keen on seeing what else was on offer so we head over to a local dive that offered roasted chicken (16 SP each for a half chicken), ochre, beans and bread. Lucky had asked us to bring him back some food as he was guarding our computer gear. Our dinner was quite tasty but the only leftovers were some pieces of bread, which we stuffed with onions and falafel for Lucky (1 SP for the falafel). It was already 9 pm by the time we returned to the hotel and everyone sat on the deck to cool down and catch the evening breeze. Lucky, Matt and Becky placed their bed mattresses on the floor directly beneath the two rotating fans, and it was a great night’s sleep for all of them. Robby meanwhile sweltered in his room, as it only had one fan and was not as breezy as Becky’s more spacious room.
2 Aug: It was fantastic being able to lie in this morning with no early wake up for breakfast. By 8:30 am, we were stirring and when the power cut off at 8:45 am, it was time to get up. Thankfully power was back on by 9:30 am, but in the short time that it was out, the temperature seemed to soar. Robby put together peanut butter/honey sandwiches for breakfast and we spent the remainder of the morning lounging about in our respective rooms, reading and working on the computer for a bit. Robby had awoken to dozens of flea bites, so Becky helped rub in some anti-itch ointment all over his back and other hard to reach areas. Becky finished reading two books today (Touching the Void by Joe Simpson and The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony) while Robby worked on backing up files. We figured that internet access in Egypt would be readily available, so we didn’t check email today and instead, managed to hang out at the Kilopatra hotel all day. Becky watched “Due Date” with Robert Downey Jr with Ally and Katherine and Kendra. Robby went out to eat dinner with Dowelly and Lars (smoked a sheesha pipe afterwards), Becky and Matt tried to help a local Sudanese guy program his TV (he wanted to watch videos from his USB drive on his TV) but they were only able to show him how to play slideshows of jpgs which was the only format that the TV recognized from the USB drive. It was another scorcher as we wet our sarongs and tried to get some sleep. Ally had been complaining about pain in her back, so we helped place her mattress on the floor directly beneath the fans so that she could get a better night’s sleep.
3 Aug: We knew the next 24 hours would most likely be some of the most miserable of the trip, so everyone tried their best to sleep in this morning. When we finally woke up, everyone took their time packing their bags and getting themselves sorted for the ferry ride from Wadi Halfa to Aswan. The temperature was already soaring, so we kept drenching ourselves in the shower to cool down. Our highly anticipated bus finally arrived just before noon, and we said goodbye to the welcoming Kilopatra Hotel for a short bus ride to the harbor. It was packed on our bus and poor Luke, Sean and Chris had to squat or bend over for the entire ride. Once at the main harbor area, we were told to stack our bags in one location, and sit in the waiting area. Thus, the long “hurry up and wait” process began. Eventually, we were handed our boarding tickets, got our passports stamped out of Sudan, and managed to get some lunch down before a massive queue to get inspection stickers on our bags (which promptly fell off). Then it was a fight to get loaded up onto the bus for another ride to the ferry. Since we were the last ones to get our luggage inspected, we were one of the last to get onto the ferry and all the good spots under the lifeboats on the top deck were already taken. We squeezed in under one of the boats, and put out our grass mat to allocate some space for ourselves. It was crowded, hot, and uncomfortable and morale was not high as we realized we likely had another 20+ hours of these arduous conditions. Chris brought the truck tarp and he enlisted a couple of the guys to assist in getting it strapped up so that we would be out of the sun. It was very hot, and anyone making the mistake of touching the upper deck with their bare feet paid for it immediately. While boarding the boat, we were handed a dinner coupon and Chris told us that the kitchen was already serving food in case anyone wanted to catch an early dinner. We figured that it would be ideal to beat the mad post-Ramadan rush to dinner, so around 5:30 pm, we fought our way down the stairs to the first deck where we cashed in our coupon for a meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, tomato/cucumber salad, bread, and pasta. Our ferry was supposed to depart at around 5:30 pm, but it was around 6:25 pm when we finally heard the engines start up and then we were finally on our way. The top deck was getting more and more crowded, and there were a bunch of young, immature men who started taking inappropriate photos of the girls and making lewd comments. They would either stare the girls down or sit down right next to them on the deck space making it an uncomfortable situation. Everyone could immediately tell the Egyptian influence as up until now, the Sudanese men were very polite and respectful. Unfortunately, their Egyptian counterparts were quite the opposite, as they stared, whistled, took photos, and generally molested almost every single foreign girl on the upper deck. Once the boat started going, there was finally a breeze, so we read until it was too dark and then tried to catch a few hours of sleep. Chris had briefed us that four hours after departing Wadi Halfa, we would be able to see a lit up Abu Simbel on the left (port) side of the boat. Sure enough, it was a gorgeous sight to behold although quite impossible to take any photos to do it justice. It was extremely crowded under our lifeboat and we divided it up into three sections, with Damien/Anna and Marie/Lars in one area, followed by the two of us, and then Lucky/Naomi and Katherine/Kendra in the last section. We had loaned Ally our grass mat on the outside deck, but she awoke to find a guy sitting right next to her making lewd comments, so she immediately packed up her stuff and asked if she could lie down beside us. Anna angrily protested that the other lifeboat had only 6 people beneath it (Sean/Sara, Mel, Matt and Laura/Lydia) but Ally insisted she had a right to sleep wherever and if anyone else minded, they could feel free to move. We didn’t weigh into the controversy and it was a cramped night’s sleep as we were literally head to toe with each other all night long. Thankfully there was a breeze, albeit a hot one, but at least we weren’t sweating profusely despite the high temperatures. At around 11 pm, Nancy came by to tell us that the immigration official was stamping us into Egypt, so she needed everyone to come downstairs immediately to get that sorted out. It was a fairly pain free process, although we had to walk the gauntlet of men to get down to the lower deck and some of them harassed a few of the girls who weren’t appropriately attired…Goodbye Sudan and Welcome to Egypt!