28th - 30th October
If you look at the map of Sudan the distance between Wadi Halfa and Dongola is only 285 miles. A simple journey, one would suppose, but it took us 2 and a half days! We had met some South African travelers in Luxor who described this road as the worst they had ever been on, in fact they labeled it “The Road from Hell”. We now know why! A general description of the road will suffice for the full length. At first the road wound round desert hills strewn with small rocks and the gravel surface was badly corrugated. This corrugation got worse and worse and the option was either to drive slowly (at 15 mph) or as fast as one safely could (at about 45 mph). Either choice was wrong; the first was bumpy and slow and the alternative was bumpy and faster with the risks of hitting even worse patches where slowing down was imperative. The other option was to branch out either side of the track and carve ones own furrow in the desert. This sometimes proved to be a good idea and sometimes worse! When accelerating/slowing to/from 45 mph the bone-shaking the
car suffered was almost too much to bear, it felt that the car’s teeth - if it had any - would all fall out. I cannot sing the praises of the Toyotas loudly enough that they survived (well almost) this bashing. If it wasn’t corrugation, it was thick, deep sand with clouds of dust permeating the air for minutes after a vehicle had passed. Most of the way we had a following wind so the dust problem was even worse than it otherwise would have been. We all kept the ac on full blast with the windows wound tightly shut, hopefully to pressurize the car interior and so keep the dust from seeping in at any cracks or holes. Generally this worked quite well and we were thankful for the ac. Progress was slow, but we did enjoy the views we saw.
The further south we went the ground leveled off and the Nile bank subject to seasonal flooding widened. This ground was well cultivated and the villages, so sporadic and isolated in the north, now merged with each other and there was almost continual habitation all along the river. This made finding campsites more difficult but in the
end we found some lovely places. The locals were delightful! They welcomed our presence and respected our privacy - or were totally uninterested altogether. I don’t know which!! The first night was amongst some date palms with farmers’ land between us and the river. To our dismay the farmer started to plough the land with his tractor at dusk - and didn’t finish till 9 pm! Our second night’s camp was high on the river bank, totally isolated with lovely views at the life the other side. We perched our camp chairs on the edge of the bank and enjoyed the sunset, in much the same way as some people have been known to do at Kilifi in the past! Our southward progress was slowed for new reasons. The last day there was no hard gravel roads, just sand, and the road wound its way through the endless houses which delayed any thought of fast progress. We refueled twice; the first time from drums with the help of willing locals at the “fuel” shop while the second time was at a proper fuel pump where we had to queue with the donkeys with their cans for fuel strapped to their
carts. Where all this load went, we know not. When we at last hit the tarmac again near Dongola we found a river bank citrus orchard to camp in, which was again very successful.
We did have to make some minor (and even major in one case) repairs to our cars each evening. Batteries had moved, bolts needed tightening - none of it attributable to Toyota, but in each case related to preparatory work on our vehicles.
These 3 days were quite unforgettable, tiring for us and our cars, but what an experience!
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