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Published: November 9th 2007
Gedaref was our last major town in Sudan so we re-fettled once again, buying vast quantities of bottled drinking water as both Ian and I were filling our internal water tanks exclusively with bottled water (to hell with the expense!) while carrying plastic containers with tap water used for washing bodies and doing the daily laundry. Our watertight tubs, filled with detergent and water and dirty clothes which are tossed about as we drive along have proved to be extremely efficient.
The drill is, set it all up first thing in the morning, rinse out all the washing on arrival in campsite, hang out to dry and, in the desert, it is bone dry within half an hour! We got other things in Gedaref too, like peanuts to nibble as we drive, yoghurt for breakfast, and bread and vegetables of course. By this time we were fed up with the continual road blocks where, “for our safety” they kept telling us, we had to produce our passports the details of which were laboriously recorded in some well thumbed ledger. Every time it could take up to half an hour to get our three cars through such a control - very irritating and tedious, but it was all done with a broad smile and the reassurance that it was “for our safety”!!
The road to the Ethiopian border was tarmac all the way, despite the guide books saying otherwise, so that was a pleasant surprise and we made good progress towards the border. We lunched just before we got there so that, should there be any delays, we would not be frustrated by thirst, hunger or full bladders. The countryside changed rather suddenly with lots of scrub with trees dotted amongst them. And suddenly there was a profusion of bird life which gladdened the hearts of us all. The border crossing was a tedious affair, for one reason the man who stamped our Carnets was at lunch, so we had to await his return, then there was immigration and of course passports had to be produced many times again. There was a river marking the border and the change of scene having crossed over was quite remarkable. Gone was the tarmac, the little shops either side of the road were nothing more than shacks. And the pitted road, limiting speed to about 5 mph, was littered with people, cows, sheep, goats and clouds of dust. We made a break for it only to be shouted at that we hadn’t gone through customs on the Ethiopian side!
So back we went to another dusty car park where we were scrutinized by some officials. I assume customs officials because they had no uniform or badges or anything to distinguish them from the rest of the rabble. Our fuses were a little short by this time but they only gave our cars a cursory glance before sending us on our way. I would like to think that they could sense our rising frustration, but that might be asking too much! We dashed the 20 miles or so to the main Ethiopian Customs office where, after producing passports yet again, we had our carnets stamped for entry into Ethiopia.
It was getting late so we dashed for the country outside the town and fortunately found what we believe must have once been the old road alignment where we were able to get off the dusty road and set up our camp. It turned out to be a good spot and we were not “found” by the locals till after breakfast the next morning. And the bird life around was wonderful.
We had managed to find beer at the border, campaigned by Jeremy whose supply had run out the earliest and whose thirst was the greatest. It was wonderful to sit round at sunset and be able to have more than one small beer knowing that we could replenish easily once again. We were just about to eat our evening meal when it started to rain! We could not believe it! Strange, not having had rain since Cairo. It only lasted about 20 minutes. We then resumed our meal undisturbed before retiring.
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