The year is coming to an end now and this is the 1st thing all people back home are telling me! I’m sure all of you really look forward to the December holiday!
I’m currently at the Red Sea at Sudan’s only international harbor, Port Sudan. It’s very humid and hot here and we are also hitting the rainy season in this part of the country. It rained here yesterday and it was quite a funny feeling to receive rain in the Sudan. We are now in the middle of a view religious holidays so Port Sudan seems like a ghost town. Only a few shops are open but one should not expect to do any business in these few days. I met up with Nevell again yesterday after having split up for one week. This is how my one weak journey went:
I left Dongola early Sunday morning to do a 400km stretch to the most northern town in Sudan, Wadi Halfa. It was a beautiful drive all along the Nile River. It reminded me of driving in the Keimoes/Kakamas area in South Africa where one also drive next to the Orange River.
DONGOLA TO WADI HALFA: 431km
I set up a personal best record of 226km without stopping for my 1st morning shift. I like setting up records and breaking them to achieve better ones are even better. This 226km stretch took me about 3 hours. I took a pit stop on the banks of the Nile River where 2 local farmers invited me to breakfast. The meal consisted of funny dough bread, beans and a sort of sour cheese/milk kind of thing. After 8 months in Africa I still don’t eat everything, so I took a few pieces of the bread and that’s it! They like all the Sudanese people are really friendly folks so we made a bit of communication in the broken English he could speak. He also showed me some of the crocs sleeping on the opposite banks of the river. After the meal I used their woven grass mat to take a 30 minute siesta. I was now in the Nubian Desert which is the biggest desert in Sudan and after another few hours whilst driving through these barren areas I arrived in Wadi Halfa at 15:00. The Nubian people (speaking the Nubian language) built their traditional houses all along the Nile River and live there in their hundreds. These houses are built with a lot of windows to create a natural air conditioned home. They put their beds outside the houses at night where they sleep to escape some of the heat.
Wadi Halfa is the newer version of the town Halfa. During the construction of the Aswan dam many years ago the town Halfa was located in the dam basin and therefore the government had to remove the people and relocate them to Wadi Halfa. The relocation caused a lot of havoc and the government had to remove them by force. Wadi Halfa is the town where one goes to take the ferry on Lake Nasser (Aswan Dam) to Aswan in Egypt. I went there to check out the place and to meet up with Mazir Mahir who is the local Sudanese fixer for any cargo0 into Egypt. I explained to him the problem of not having a Carnet and he made a phone call the Automobile Association in Cairo to consult them. I’m still waiting for his reply but it seems that if we want to go this router we will have to take the ferry to Aswan, leave our bikes there and take the train to Cairo to get the Carnet document to take the bikes into Egypt. This whole process could cost us up to R8000. (1200USD). He cannot tell us at this stage if we will get some of the money back!
I filled up my tank in Wadi Halfa and drove 15km out of town and slept in the desert somewhere. I had to drive the same way back again to the south because the alternative route was 370km of sand road which is not recommendable because the sand is deep in a lot of places. There is also no town or people for a stretch of 370km so if something happen and I’m alone….?
WADI HALFA TO DONGOLA: 417km
This was another 400km+ day for me on the long and lonely road through the Nubian Desert. By now I have figured out a way of stretching my legs while riding the bike because after a few hours sitting in the same position one gets a bit stiff. I put both my legs on the crash bars in front and then lean forward to stretch my hammies and back.
Late that afternoon I decided to climb one of the hills next to the road and it was really rewarding. It was a beautiful view of the Nubian Desert and for miles and miles I saw only desert. This was a good hunting position and I could have pulled a nice few shots with my 30-06 if I had it with me.
I have developed 2 riding shifts, the one from 7:00 – 12:00 and the afternoon one from 14:30 – 18:30. During 12:00 and 14:30 it’s just to hot to ride for me and I use this time to eat, drink water and rest on the beds at a local truck stop.
That afternoon after doing 417km I pulled off the road for 2km and slept in the desert again. The moon was beautiful and for most of the time one doesn’t even need your torch.
DONGOLA TO ATBARA: 408km
During my afternoon break I enjoyed watching a Chinese movie with the locals at a local truck stop. The Africans really like their Chinese movies, especially if there is a lot of fighting with Uzi’s. I charged my I-phone and cell phone at this truck stop because the 12V charging point on my bike is not functioning that well any more. This was my 3rd night of camping in the desert, it’d really a good experience and one saves a lot of money. Usually I pick my camping spot where there is no one else in sight! That night after just completing my meal the wind was blowing in a southerly direction as I heard voices about 400m away from me. I could not understand it because I made sure I was not close to any village or people. Later I heard a car start and the voices disappeared so I figured it was people on the tarmac road stopping for a pee or something.
ATBARA TO GEBEIT: 425km
This was my last big stretch to complete the 1400km from Wadi Halfa to Port Sudan. The wind became quite strong closer to the Red Sea and I struggled at 65-75km/h for most of the day. I also saw a few small sandstorms this day which was quite impressive. I did not eat that morning because all the small shops were closed and later that morning friendly guys invited me to yet anther breakfast at a truck stop. These truck stops are really helpful on these long stretches of bareness. Most of the time you can find a cold drink and something to eat. I laughed so much when I asked a Sudanese lady to take a photo of me: she aimed the camera in the wrong direction to in fact take a picture of herself then another guy who also did not have a clue tried to help her…the one tried to grab the camera and the other one tried to take the picture instead…it was so funny that I just started laughing. I got up from my bed and gave her a quick lesson of how to take a photo.
Just before sunset I made a last stop to buy a cup of coffee, Sudanese dates, local bread and “Laughing cow” cheese. My dinners at night in the desert are straight forward: 3 breads sandwiches with Laughing cow cheese on them and then maybe a can of peas.
It was getting dark and I still could not find a decent place to set my tent because the wind was very strong and I wanted to find a sheltered place. After riding fort about 15km in the dark I was in the middle of a few mountains and took the 1st small track into the mountains. It was a beautiful night with the moon being very bright and clouds hammering through the mountain peaks driven by the strong wind.
FINALLY THE RED SEA
Another 100km and I saw the Red Sea for the 1st time. I completed this stretch of 1800km in 4 days which was a record distance for me. I have had enough of my bike for the next few days!! the Red Sea looks like one big dam with no waves at all. One sees many cargo ships going between Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Port Sudan.
I met up with Nevell and he took me to our hotel. Our room has zircon and it’s really a blessing after a few days of driving through the desert. The harbor of Port Sudan is quite spectacular with all the big ships loading and offloading cargo.
SHIPPING BIKES TO JORDAN??
We were supposed to meet the guy today who might ship our bikes to Jordan but it’s another some sort of holiday here so no offices are open. As soon as we have spoken to him we will know our modus operandi for the future. It might be a possibility to ship them but then we will have to fly to Cairo ourselves and take a bus to Jordan. Another problem we are facing is that we are running out of cash and there are no ATM’s here that accept Visa cards. No Credit cards work in the Sudan so we will just have to wait and see….
At most of the truck stops the locals buys one a cold rink and most of the time they invite you to meal with them.
Hygiene is really low here: many of the cheaper hotels are quite dirty and there are a lot of flies in most of the restaurants. The cups are not always that clean and the people touch their feet a lot and greet you with the same hand. Most of the toilets stink and the urine smell are overwhelming.
While resting at a truck stop and being in the presence of 2 women they BURPED a lot 2m away from me. They will sit and speak to each other and the next moment you just hear a BIg BUUUURRRRRP!!!!…and this is quite normal……I just laughed and found it quite as profound, ha ha ha!!!
I very cute little girl also handed me a lot of sweets at one of the truck stops. Every 5 minutes she would pitch up with another type of sweet, she was very cute!
AMANDLA’s (MY BIKE) MECHANICAL CONDITION
After 34500km on the bike it still runs very well. Sometimes it gives a few coughs and makes a funny sound when I start him in the morning! The shocks are also sick once in a while but for now Amandla is still running like a dream!
Long discussions between Nevell and myself
We have had endless discussions between the 2 of us on the way further north, east west or even south. Don’t think that I am frustrated that we cannot go into Egypt or the fact that we are actually blocked at the moment. I see this as one big adventure because like I wrote in my previous blogs there are so many possibilities. I have even done a lot of research in my Africa Lonely Planet of flying the bikes to Morocco and do a few countries in West Africa. We have looked at the map from many different angles and have come up with all sorts of ideas of how we can get out of the Sudan. Most of our ideas are quite far fetched but it’s very funny and we have a good laugh about some of these ideas. It’s at this point where I am glad that we are not on a very tight schedule and that we have a fixed route otherwise the story could have been quite different
Some info on Central African Republic (CAR Sudan is bordered by the Central African Republic to the south west. I also did some research on this country and whilst reading through my Lonely Planet it was quite disappointing to read through which chaos CAR went in the past 50 years. This African country is another example of how a bad and corrupt government totally buggers up a country with huge potential. The president at that time went to a few African countries to borrow money with the aim to uplift the country but instead the money just disappeared. They borrowed money from South Africa and Libya to mention 2 and France (CAR was a French colony) had to repay the depth of over 20 million US dollars. The police and other government officials were not paid for months so one could just think what uproar this created.
Today CAR is still relatively unstable and it seems that there are a lot of police stops on the road where corrupt policemen will try to bribe you.
I would love to have been in all the African countries this continent has to offer! Traveling in central Africa is where one would get the real African experience I think!
Some info on the Size of the biggest countries in Africa
Before Zaire broke up into Congo and The Democratic Republic of Congo it had a size of 2,65 million square km. Below is the facts:
- Sudan : 2.5million km2
- Democratic Republic of
Congo : 2.345 km2
- Algeria : 2.3 km2
- Libya 1.8 km2
The photo below was taken in the Nubian desert at sunrise.