The next day, I was feeling awful again and just sat in the shade; whilst pumping water through my fragile body. There was also a stall across the road from the campsite that sold ice cold fruit juice which tasted so good – just what I needed – I think I became an instant ice-cold mango juice addict!
Khartoum was built where the White and Blue Nile’s meet. It is one of the more modern cities in Africa and has paved roads, high-rise buildings and the majority of services that are needed (although they do have ATM’s here, they cannot be used by any international bank cards!). The people here are extremely friendly, polite and hospitable. The riverside setting is attractive and Khartoum is very safe! BUT, it is hot!
Sudan is not a particularly rich country, but I am surprised how few beggars / homeless people there are here. Even in the large cities like Khartoum, beggars are seldom seen. The underprivileged seem to be well cared for by the general population. The very strict laws against drugs, alcohol and prostitution, that seem to plague the rest of Africa, also help to prevent people getting sucked into the downward spirals that often finds them living in the streets.
The following day I felt much better and set about registering myself at the Aliens Registration Office in Khartoum. The Sudanese think that anyone from outside of their country must have come from another planet and have thus enforced a rule that all non-Sudanese have to register themselves as ‘aliens’ on arrival in Khartoum – and within three days of entering a border post. Now, if only they had computers at the border posts they would be able to know who was in their country! To be honest, I think it shows arabocracy at its best and is just another money making incentive for the government officials. First I had to find the Alien Registration Office – none of the taxi drivers or policemen had any idea what I was talking about. I eventually got the address on the internet and set off with my GPS to find the place. After about two hours I eventually found the place – the signs to the office were in Sudanese (Arabic) and not in any of the official alien languages. To top it off none of the officials understood the particular brand of alien that I speak and I thus had no idea what I was meant to do to register. Luckily one of my fellow aliens understood Sudanese and I was sent back to the campsite to get an official letter from the Blue Nile Sailing Club to state that I was a guest at their campsite. With letter in hand, I returned to register, paid a whopping £S105 ($US 50), filled out my forms, gave them my photo and after a few hours of queuing I was a fully fledged and legal alien! (My form said that my address was: 1 Moon Rock Place, Mars (only a few light years from Perth) – no-one seemed to care – no-one could speak/read my brand of alien anyway - they had my money which is all that really mattered to them).
Later that day, I hooked up with Riaan (South African), Stephanie (Belgian) and Joel (Canadian) who are travelling together from South Africa to Sudan (and back again). It was great hearing their stories – they came up from Uganda to Sudan through the very dodgy southern Sudan region. Riaan and Stephanie are artists from Calvinia. Joel has been living in South Africa for a few years now and is completing his PhD in archaeology at Wits University (the university I went to). Joel has been rather sick since Livingstone (Zambia) and had apparently lost a lot of weight – he was off to see a doctor in Khartoum to see if he can identify the problem. The next day we went to town and had a huge ice-cream before doing some shopping in a huge (air-conditioned) shopping mall. I am not a big fan of shopping but I would do anything to get out of that heat! Riaan, Stephanie and Joel are all such great friendly people! I hope they make it back south safely.
The next day I decided to head off. There were two choices – firstly the loop road to see the Meroe Pyramids which was about a 300km detour - or secondly, the direct route to Abri Dom, straight across the desert to meet up again with the Nile River that had looped itself around. Because of my scary desert experience a few days before, I decided to take the shorter280km trip directly across the desert therefore minimizing my exposure to the desert elements. Besides, I would have more opportunities to see the much bigger Egyptian pyramids further up north. Also, I only had a two week visa for Sudan so I had to get going.
Wadi Halfa was founded by a handful of Nubian families from the original Halfa (now buried under Lake Nasser) who resisted the governments forced relocation. The ferry to Egypt now docks here and leaves Wadi Halfa every Wednesday to Luxor. This means that I have a four day wait, in Wadi Halfa, for the ferry to arrive.
As very few tourists visit Sudan, the Sudanese have very little in the form of decent accommodation. Facilities are generally poor throughout the country, with the exception of a few hotels in Khartoum. This makes comfortable travel in Sudan virtually non-existent. Travel here is rough and ready and if this is not your style, then Sudan is not for you. A tent is about as close to “first class accommodation” as you will get whilst traveling here.
There is a restaurant in Wadi Halfa that sells the most amazing mango juice!! (Have I told you that I have become a mango juice addict?) The mango is liquidized into a thin pulp and then frozen into an icy liquid that tastes absolutely amazing. I have never tasted anything as refreshing as this! A great thirst quencher for the hot sun and at only £S 1 (US 40c) for 500ml, it is an absolute God send.
The following day (2/6), the ferry was set to leave for Aswan (Egypt). The ferry is currently the only way of entering Egypt from Sudan – there are no land crossings between the two countries. Apparently a road is currently being built between Egypt and Sudan and it should be ready in the next five years.
The ferry left at 5pm. Alf, Anders and I managed to get a place on the top deck underneath the lifeboats which gave us some shelter from the sun. Andraes soon joined us, and we made ourselves comfortable for a night of sleeping under the stars.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is one of the least visited countries on earth due to its various ongoing conflicts which are predominantly in the southern and western (Dafur) regions. However, the northeast Nubian region is one of the safest places in the world and with some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth (and with a natural generosity that far belies their poverty), it make for one of the most enjoyable countries I have ever visited.
Jaag maar aan.