Heading South from Wadi Halfa we were continuing through the Sahara and on the lookout for pre Egyptian temples, despite there being a lot of them on our route somewhere in the desert we only found one.
Coming from the sandy tranquillity to the frantic bustle of Khartoum there were more cars trying to get through one cross road than we saw in the last thousand k. Eventually we finished up camping at the grand sounding Blue Nile Sailing Club, to me it looked more like a place where old dinghies go to die. Some of the history here is, it is the site of Gordon’s last stand, not 500yds./mtrs. From our tent, and amongst the dead and dying dinghies where we camp is the Melik, Lord Kitchener’s gunboat. And of course there is the confluence of the Blue and White Nile.
We wandered around Khartoum from one ministry office to another, being passed from one person that does not know what we are talking about to someone else who has no idea. We need a permit to travel and a permit to use a camera, but nobody in these government offices knows what government edict we are required to conform to. Later we got it all sorted out with the help of a Greek hotelier.
Now we are certificated up we are free to travel, as long as it to the places that are designated on our permit. And we are free to photograph, as long do not take pictures of things on the long list forbidden subject matters. I normally feel that no photo collection is complete without a snap of a government office building, petrol station or a public utility; but on this occasion I am going to have to give them a miss if I want to stay on the right side of the law.
Our next minor problem is, we changed some Egyptian money into Sudanese as we changed countries, and now in Khartoum we find that the ATMs will only accept some local Islamic card and not ours. So no withdrawals for us, this means we will have to adjust our spending policies. This may not be as easy as you might think; we are already living in a tent, and eating as cheap as we can. But most telling of all Sudan is DRY in more ways than one, we have wasted (if that is the right word) not a penny on booze.
Our last night in Khartoum we went to a mosque to see some whirling dervishes, there was a lot of singing and stomping and not a lot of whirling, but it was great entertainment.
The next morning we set off again out into the desert, (going out into the desert is a bit of a funny thing to say, as where ever you are the desert comes in to see you) to see the pyramids of Meroe. These pyramids are not as big as the ones in Egypt but are more than a thousand years older, and quite fascinating.
After leaving the pyramids we drove into a sand storm, I have to admit that this was not a sand storm of Biblical proportions, but as far as I was concerned it was a sand storm. Most of the time there a covering of sand on the road swaying like a moving pattern and a haze in the air, sometimes this haze turned to quite a yellow fog, and for one five minute period I had to stop as there no visibility whatsoever. I decided that we would not be able to put our tent up, so we would drive on to the next big town on the map and stay in a budget breaking hotel. As luck would have it the big town in question consisted of a mosque, two petrol stations some wooden shacks and about five hundred Bedouin tents, no room at the inn for us, we had to drive down the road get as sheltered as we could and sleep in the car.
Every town/city that we have been in, in Sudan has been a shambles, even the capital Khartoum, and covered in sand, sometimes it difficult to see the tarmac as there is so much sand on the streets and footpaths, but in Port Sudan it is a different world, almost European, clean, tidy, maintained, unfortunately this cleanliness comes at a price, and a price that is too much for our impoverished circumstances, so we cannot stay much longer than getting ourselves clean and our clothes clean before we head back to the desert and look for a way out of this country.
There not been many police checks on the road, but about 10k. from Port Sudan, and Port Sudan is to all intents and purposes the end of the road, we were stopped and asked “where are you going?” as always there is the temptation to make some witty remark, “where else is there to go? That city you can see down the road, there is nowhere else to go” And the silly duffer wanted two copies of each of our travel and photo permits, “for security purpose” he says, personally I would feel more secure if he was working in the fields. When we left Port Sudan the man the other side of the road just smiled and waved us through, he probably knew where we came from. We went to look at Suakin just down the road, we have a guide book for the whole of Africa, so it is rather short on information for each country, and it is twelve years old, so maybe a bit out of date. Suakin is an ancient port, and according to my book it costs $4 to go in and look round the historic buildings, allowing for inflation that is too much in our present circumstances. Since the authors of our book were here the place has fallen into serious decay. So there is no charge to see the piles of rubble. The later wooden shanty town is also in a sorry state.
Suakin is easily the most dilapidated town we have seen in Sudan, considering everywhere is in a sorry state that is saying something.
Our final stop is Kassala, a stunning setting turned into a shambles by the local inhabitants. But this is the land of the Fuzzy Wuzzy, who made their presence felt against Gordon of Khartoum and who were made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The Fuzzy Wuzzy’ Most of the men carry a stick for some reason, and a number of them carry a big sword across their back. Possibly living on past glories.
Tomorrow we leave for Ethiopia and we get out of the Sahara and the sand. Good bye the sand -yippee.
We have run right out of money, so we spent our last one and a half days in Sudan with not a bean between us. On the last road heading to the border there is a toll stop, that is a few tyres piled up either side of the road, a traffic cone in the middle and a policeman, we told him we had no money, he was a bit amazed and amused. As he was looking at our passports he realised we were from England, Manchester United and as we knew David Beckham and Michael Owen he let us go for free. It is good when you have connections. Later down the same road another policeman wanted to check our toll receipt, we showed him one we got a week ago and he was happy. And so were we.
This morning we arrived at Gondar, Ethiopia, it is looking good already they have beer, wine and best of all ATMs so now we can upgrade our living standards to cheap.
There are some more photos on http://picasaweb.google.com/mickhelen99
There are some map markers on http://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=468852.