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Published: January 12th 2010
Well here I am in Khartoum! In my last update I was just dashing off to get some last min stuff done before getting the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa the next day - 4 Jan. The ferry ride was great. In truth it got a bit stale towards the end, after 28 hours on boat and queuing for ages in the hot dinning room to complete the police checks and passport control, but all the beaurocracy aside, the actual ferry ride itself was good fun. The key I think was securing a good spot under one of the life boats so that I was both out of the sun and out of the way of people going to and from the galley and toilets. During the night the deck was completely covered with sleeping people and far better to be stepping over or on someone else than being stepped on yourself 😉 In the end I didn't get much sleep anyway with the guy next to me playing Koran recitations on his mobile all night, but I got enough and I suppose the sleep I did get must have been deep because I woke up with the
dawn feeling perky and happy with the world.
Disembarking was kind of chaotic. Not that I was expecting anything else! Busses came up to the 'Quay' to take us to the customs offices and port authority, but the scrum to get on was borderline violent. In fact it was violent. People trying to get in windows and doors and elbows flying. I couldn't be bothered and opted to walk the 1.5 km instead. Figured I needed to stretch my legs anyway after so long on the boat. In the end the whole process was pretty easy. Mostly because I managed to get a lot of help from the overlander guys who had helped with getting the bike sorted a few days before. The barge with the vehicles was already waiting for us and after only another hour or so of waiting around, getting passports and carnets stamped and checked, and handing over the required fees (55USD for the bike and 40USD to 'validate' the visa I'd already spent 100USD on back in Cairo) we were allowed to leave the port on our vehicles and head into town.
"Town" is perhaps a bit too grand a term for Wadi
Halfa. "Collection of dusty buildings" is better. Still it felt really great to be there. Suddenly I felt like things were getting properly interesting. It was warm, but not too hot, people were friendly and not constantly in my face, and there were vibey African tunes playing and the smell of roasting meat in the air. After a masive and delicious meal of beans, salad, eggs, mutton, felafel and bread with some of the overlander crew, I packed up my things and got everything ready to leave the next day.
The desert was amazing. My general pattern was to stick to the tar roads in the morning and build up some kilometers then either find a good place to eat a late lunch / early dinner at some local kiosk or pick up some supplies with a few hours left in the day to find a suitable place to camp. Then I'd head out into the desert proper - literally just getting 40 or 50 kms from the last town, finding a stretch that seemed uninhabited and then swinging off the road into the sand, driving 10 or 15 kms to a nice looking spot and pitching my tent.
At first the sand caused me some worry... no fun getting stuck in it on your own in the middle of nowhere... but after some tentative and cautious riding I soon realised that it was so nicely packed and unbroken that I could cruise along the top crust without breaking through and the bike felt solid as a rock and just so much fun to ride.
Camping in the desert was also just what I was hoping for: Beautiful vistas, canopy or stars and ear ringing silence. I did 4 nights like that and might have done more but got caught in a sand storm on the last night and got so covered in dust and dirt that I decided to call it and head for Khartoum and a shower. 4 days in the desert and then getting dumped in fine dusty sand has a way of focussing the mind on simple things like running water and a clean sleeping bag 😊
Khartoum is an interesting city. Hot, even at this time of year (mid 30's C today) and dusty and dirty. But I like it. People are friendly but content to leave me alone to do my
own thing and it's a pleasure after Egypt to just be able to wander around and have a look at things without the constant hassling from annoying vendors and touts. I arrived on Sunday to find 2 fellow bikers I had met on the ferry had arrived before me. On their big 1200 BMWs they had gunned it through the desert and must have passed me on the road while I was off-piste somewhere because they had only left from Wadi Halfa 2 days after me, their bikes being on a later barge. Both very friendly and good company and we chilled a bit and took a wander round town to get some food and browse the market. They left yesterday morning, planning a 700km stretch in search of beer in Ethiopia. While I like my beer as much, if not more than, the next person, 700km in a day is way too much mileage for me and in any case I felt Khartoum had more to offer than what I could see in a single night and half an afternoon!
So yesterday was spent washing clothes and charging batteries and so forth. I have managed to break the
USB port on my GPS and so can't charge the thing on the bike any more. This is a real pain and annoyed the hell out of me when it happened (unmarked speed bump which I hit hard and jarred the cable enough to destroy the slot). I can still plug it into the PC thankfully but it's never going to charge on the bike again so I am left with having to stock up on batteries and keep my rechargeble ones topped up at every opportunity. Shrug. So it goes! I am more or less over it now 😉
After the 2 bikers left on Monda morning, some other guys I'd met on the ferry and in Luxor pulled into the site. They're a Welsh couple and a German couple with 2 kids, each traveling separately but have hooked up for this leg, and possibly Ethiopia as well. The Germans have a fantastic old converted fire truck type thing (see pics in previous blog) and the Welsh - who share my surname! - are in a fully kitted out landy, with roof tent and the works. I spent last evening relaxing with them and chatting about routes and
stuff. They invited me to join with them to the Ethiopian border at least and I might stick with them for a bit in Ethiopia as well... everyone keeps slagging the place off to me: how the people are difficult and kids throw stones etc etc, and so I reckon it could be good to have some company for a few days at least and check things out. I don't think I'll spend too much time in Ethiopia, but will see. I got my visa here in Khartoum yesterday and can stay a month so will have to see how much I like it!
And that's all for now folks. I have no idea how much internet access I'll get for the next few weeks, but when I do I will be in touch. Hope you're all well and keep the notes/texts/emails coming - it's always great to hear from you.
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