Edit Blog Post
Published: November 9th 2007
26th - 28th October
We were not looking forward to our crossing from Egypt to Sudan, and we were not disappointed. We were told to be at the dockside at Port Aswan by 10 am and we were - after a 10 mile drive from Aswan town. It took the usual prolonged and disorganized time to get all our paperwork sorted before we could actually take our cars onto the dockside where the ferry boat was waiting. Sandwiched between the ferry and the dock was a barge, about 6 metres in width and about 50 metres in length. It was driven from a wheelhouse at the stern and there were two open holds along its length. There was space between for 4 vehicles to be parked crosswise, and this is where we eventually put our cars. The fourth car was a large German camper van, driven by Bernard and his wife Maria, whom we had met first in Luxor.
Having loaded our cars we then found our cabins in the ferry itself. They were first class cabins, which meant that there were only two bunks in each of them, a chair, and an ac unit - which worked very efficiently - and an opening porthole. The loos were down the passage and were quite indescribable in their unpleasantness. There must have been about a dozen first class cabins and we never really explored the second or third class accommodation. I shudder to think what it was like! The top deck of the ferry filled up with people very quickly until there was hardly any deck space visible between the packed luggage and bodies. So moving about the boat was almost impossible! Before the barge with the cars left at about 2 pm the captain demanded the car keys. We dug in our toes and refused to hand them over. The authorities insisted that we did so that the Sudanese guards at the boarder crossing before the arrival in Wadi Halfa could inspect the cars. We still refused insisting that anyone was welcome to inspect our cars at any time provided we were there. The Germans were the most adamant and in the end the authorities conceded, but not without the warning threat that the barge might be turned back at the border. My view is that the barge crew wanted somewhere comfortable to sit and sleep on the voyage!
We eventually sailed at 5 pm, not long before nightfall. We had a communal picnic supper and drank as much of our beer as we could as we knew that Sudan under sharia law banned alcohol and we didn’t want to get caught out. We slept pretty well, watching occasionally through the porthole as the desert shores passed by, illuminated under the full moon. Next morning we awoke for another picnic and then managed to find a deserted foredeck where we could watch proceedings. We passed Abu Simbel which was clearly visible from the boat. The ferry hove too at the Sudanese border, marked by a spaced line of drums anchored across the lake. An official launch huffed and puffed around us for while and we took on some officials who then accompanied us to Wadi Halfa.
We arrived at Wadi Halfa at about 11 am and the ferry was skillfully moored alongside a very temporary looking landing stage - it could not really be described as a dock. We were taken in hand by a local Mr Fixit, wearing a white robe and a white turban. He was a charming old man and, with the help of his much younger and more charming colleague, saw us through all our formalities. The taxis in Wadi Halfa, in the main, are all clapped out old Landrovers. Having cleared customs uneventfully, we bumped our way in one of the Landrovers the 3 kms from port to town where we were directed to, and deposited at, the Nile Hotel - the best in town.
The only option here was a bed - at 7 quid per night. And there were four beds to a room. And they had four rooms available. So we took four rooms, one for each family (the Germans were with us too), and made the best of it. Each room had mud walls, one window, an earth/sand floor, a crude bed with a cruder mattress and a matt ceiling/roof. The loos were long drops and there were cold showers where the water was only switched on in the evening. There were no basins. Instead there was a trough with a tap in the yard. I can recall Michael Palin’s account of the exact same place in his Pole to Pole program - and the look on his face when he described the place to camera!! We all felt the same! With an hour to go before sunset we were told that our barge with the cars had arrived, so we dashed back to the port to unload them. Sadly we were barred from taking photos of this exercise because of “national security”. Our cars were okay but the large German camper van had moved during the voyage and had had to be lashed down even more securely to stop it from falling overboard. Not a nice thought. We were thankful to have our cars back with us and, although not cleared through customs at that late hour, they were at least safe and sound. For supper we went to the town centre around the corner where we had a sort of open air meal at one of the 3 cafes, all of which had TV sets showing the same football match. Despite the discomfort we generally slept well that night.
We were up at first light and off with the Fixits to clear the cars from the docks. This proved to be far more lengthy than we had anticipated mainly, I suspect, because of the wheeling and dealing between our elder Mr Fixit and the authorities, possibly involving the apportioning of the dues we had paid. When we did return to the hotel we speedily packed our cars and were off at about midday on the road south to Dongola.
Tot: 2.212s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 13; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0391s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb