Tuesday 9th November/day 36: Wadi Halfa.
Upon arriving in Wadi Halfi, Rob was in Land Rover heaven, the place was awash with old series Land Rovers lined up outnumbering the old Toyotas ready to ferry people into Wadi Halfa. Despite any visitor needing a photo permit, Sarah was soon ignoring this and off taking pics! Anway, she was not arested and is still here!
We shared a taxi (5 SP pp/10 mins) with a couple of back packers and the two ‘old Germans’ who were more than eager to get going. Having been dropped off at the Nile hotel (apparently the best) we quickly discovered it was full, then followed a steady trek around WH pricing up accom…reminiscent of inter-railing days. Must say that the quality does vary and we avoided the 5 SP mud prison-cell and finally settled on a shared room with the two back-packers we had met at the up-market Cleopatra hotel splashing out 15 SP pp! (£3 per bed)
Soon after we were joined by all our fellow overlanders, who also either shared rooms or set up tents in the first floor landing (stone floor and open to the air) as did the French family! Some of the bikers camped on the roof.
We joined forces with the many of the others and signed up with a fixer to rush Alfie through customs. US $40 per vehicle.
Dinner was eaten at one of the cafes in what can only be described as the ‘square’ while watching the locals go about the business during the evening. Dinner constited of ‘meat and veg, fried meat and potatoes’ – tasty but needed to eat it quick before it cooled and all the fat solidified! A couple of soft drinks in addition and the bill came to a heady 20 SP! (£4)
10th November/Day 37 Wadi Halfa – Camp Louis: Odometer – 79527
The backpackers left at 6am for their coach to Addis Abbaba so we were also up and early. Soon we heared the rest of the European Union up and about which was all very convivial. Next steps was to register with the police. Therefore, having found ‘the yellow building’ we then spent the next hour of so walking back and forth from one office to the next! But everyone was very helpful albeit a pricey hour. $100 pperson plus 3 SP pp for the pleasure of entering Sudan and another form to be stamped.
But before we knew it, we had got the the nod from the fixer that the cars were in and all drivers were needed….the girls were left at Wadi to drink more tea and 7-up and waiting for the blokes to return.
Unsure as to whether Alfie would start and whether Rob would have to bump start but all good and Alfie started! The cars were soon backed off the ferry and on their way through immigration. Nothing was searched so a few beers could have been smuggled in!
Alfie was the second overlander to be spotted heading back into WH which was a great relief.
We decided to head out of Wadi Halfa and agreed with the UK bikers that we would meet them 12 kms down the road at a campsite that was on Robin’s list of campsites, but not T4A so having driven 12 kms and not seen anyone we decided to head for Camp Louis (via T4A) which turned out to be a waypoint which a previous overlander had logged, but what a spot! Overlooking the Nile, we were able to watch the sun go down with no-one around us…bliss. Unfortunately it also turned out to be one of the windiest nights so far and we thought we may take off.
Camp Louis N 20 42.874 E 30 21.417 approx 1.5 – 2 hours from Wadi Halfa.
11th November/Day 38 – Camp Louis to bush camp somewhere in the desert. Odometer 79735
Wow, great start to the morning seeing the sun come up over the Nile and no mosque to wake us up. We were visited by a local fisherman who we think offered us a outing in his boat but after much sign-language we managed to say politely ‘no’ and managed to get on our way south into Sudan and the further into the desert.
Another day of driving through some lovely small villages with great names such as ‘Abu Tarboosh’, ‘Babood’ and ‘Abu Sara’. The villages here are much cleaner than we have seen in Libya and Egypt which is wonderful to see. Here there is a more clearly defined village centre rather than a spralling row of make-shift huts and houses again very common in Libya and Egypt.
Temperatures are now reaching 50 degrees plus by mid-morning. Thank goodness for the fridge. We thought southern Egypt was hot! It appears that we didn’t drink sufficient water today and was our first day of feeling a bit ropey due to the heat.
The target for today was Jebel Barkal, temples from the 25th dynasty Nubian king. Much much quieter, in fact we were the only people there. You just park up in front of the temple and walk up to them. We could have camped near by but as it was still only early afternoon and baking hot we decided to head on south and decided to bush camp.
We faced our true Sally sat nav and Michelin map challenge thereafter. From Jebel Barkal we headed for Karima where we aimed to pick up the desert road to Atbara and onto Khartoum. Finding Karima was OK, and successfully found the new bridge to cross the Nile but could we find the road out of Karima, could we hell! Sally started to take us south via the main Nile/Korti route rather than the Bayuda desert, and thinking we were being sucked too far along this road, we thought we would change tack and head for the ‘tracks’ option with Sally. Well, we next found ourselves driving up and down a road with Sally saying ‘turn right, turn left’ but all we were doing is turning off the tarmac and onto sand. After a little bit of hefty discussion we thought we would trust Sally. So off we went, our first true off-road/tracks adventure. With the heat still in the 50s we drove around a few huts and headed for a track which looked like a few cars had driven down that day and was vaguely on the same line as the Sally. Rob drives and Sarah directs from looking at the Sally. About 3 kms in we started to get a bit edgy thinking we can’t do this for some 280 kms!
Thankfully, a pick-up appeared from no-where (as they seem to do in Africa) and despite very limited Arabic and English between us there was sufficient understanding by the locals who told us to follow them…which we did across a number of tracks to arrive at the intersection with the new tarmac road to Atbara. Alfie did well and even Sally at last caught up with herself the told us we were on the correct road!
We are discovering that there are a number of newish roads which used to be tracks and now tarmac which don’t appear on tracks for Africa or are not perfect on the Michelin maps, but that’s Africa for you (…and the Chinese building their new roads). Apparently if we had carried on the road south we would have picked up a sharp left turn onto the road across the desert.
A few kms down the road we took a left in behind some rocks for another night of bush-camping. Again, just us and nothing around. The temps dropped quite quickly which was a huge relief following the heat of the day.
Bush camping: N 18 08.824 E 32 3.245.
12th November/day 39 – Bush camping some 45 Kms of Karima to Blue Nile Club, Khartoum. Odometer 80273.
We thought we may have our greatest challenge yet as Alfie wasn’t starting well and we had got stuck in the sand a bit last night (Alfie decided the exact location of the nights camping), but Alfie fired up first time and we pulled away nicely. Over the more solid sand and rocks to the edge of the road when Rob stopped slightly short of hard core and promptly got stuck again! Low ratio on this occasion didn’t get us anywhere apart from sinking further, so out with the shovel and a dig. 10 mins later we were on tarmac, phew!
Today’s drive was through the Bayuda Desert which turned out to be one long tarmac road through, yep, more barren desert! Nothing much to see apart from the odd camel and donkey and being impressed by the vast irrigation system which is stretching into the desert.
The road from Atbara to Khartoum was dangerous with coaches overtaking anyone in their way.
Overland tip – there are no fuel stations from Karima to Atbara so make sure you have a full tank or have spare in jerry cans.283 kms/176 miles.
Fuel stop at Atbara. N17 39.936 E 33 54.977. 1.03SP/Litre.
We left the desert and arrived in Khartoum mid-afternoon and decided to check out the three other camp sites listed on Tracks for Africa. Two don’t exist any longer and the National Campsite turned out to be a piece of sandy gravel in the middle of a sports complex. So with heavy hearts we went back to the Blue Nile. We had read and heard a lot about the Blue Nile and its poor reputation was spot on. Despite the great location and history, Kitchener’s boat the Malik is still here…there is only space for camping on the car-park, the showers were a trickle and loos revolting. Also, it costs US$15 per night for 2 people and roof tent, such a rip-off.
I expect in its hey-day during the Colonial days it was another story and was a very well-heeled place to be seen at, but sadly it is very tatty now to say the least. It’s a pity someone doesn’t invest again.
Despite the location, we did meet up again with some of our overlander friends and were able to share stories of their adventures across the Sudan desert. We were also pleased to hear we weren’t the only ones who were unable to locate the road out of Karima!
13th November/day 40. Blue Nile Club, Khartoum. Odometer 80940
A day of rest and diary updating huddled under the shade. By mid-day we were joined by Donna & Dave, Brad & Amy, Robin & Helen. Rob decided to take action against the heat and rigged up fans within Alfie and the tent.
We had heard that we also needed a letter of introduction from the UK Embassy in Addis to enter Ethiopia into addition the Carnet. We had emailed the UK Embassy whilst in Aswan and were lucky that we had received a reply, however, everyone else from the UK hadn’t, so the afternoon was spent copying/pasting/amending the one letter for everyone’s use. Let’s just hope the border people can’t see the fakes!
Hot! Probably the highest temps any of us have ever experienced.
Distance travelled 0 kms.
14th November/day 41 – Blue Nile Club – side of road somewhere south of Khartoum. Odometer 80940.
An early start and a busy day for Team Alfie as we needed to find the Ethiopian Embassy for visas and the Landrover garage. Alfie started well which was a relief.
20 mins later and we were vaguely in the right area of the Embassy when we opted to stop outside a UN building and Sarah was sent off to ask for directions. Within seconds we had our very own UN escort to the Ethiopian Embassy – excellent!
We had heard that the embassy only issue 30 visas a day so we were relieved to see that we wre 7th and 8th in the queue. More paperwork was completed and we parted with US$20 pp and told to pick our visas up 2pm the same day.
Next stop the Landrover garage! Not too sure how to explain the area where all the garages were, but if you can imagine one massive grid of sheds crammed full of cars in varying states, donkeys and carts mixed in, roads soaked in oil and fuel………we drove around for a while and eventually found the Landrover ‘lane’. Negotiated a price for and oil change (25 SP) – great – Rob backed Alfie into a spot which was promptly blocked by another car. Were we stuck? Didn’t they trust us? The oil was emptied and then they asked for the new oil. Despite asking if the 25SP included the new oil, it now didn’t so Rob was escorted to another lane to buy oil. Sarah at this point took refuge in the shade.
Rob returned with oil and was soon stuck in a conversation with a local. Along the lines of the forthcoming elections, Southern independence and then onto “not everyone in Sudan can be trusted…” At this point Alfie was oil-less but also blocked in and Sarah was gone! What was Rob going to tell Shirley?!!! Rob had already been offered 400 camels and two barrels of beer for Sarah back in Tunisia and was now wondering if the ransom was going to be higher!
Oil change complete, bonnet down and then Sarah walked out of the shade. We can’t print the exact words Rob said to Sarah but Sarah interpreted these as “what a relief to see you”!
The car which was blocking us in was moved and we were on our way again.
A stop for lunch, back to the Ethiopian Embassy for 2pm and we were off again into the desert heading south to Ethiopia. We had planned around the Eid holiday re the ferry, but hadn’t expected that half of Khartoum was to head south in a coach convey. We got stuck behind it! Another stretch of crazy driving until the light started to fade we pulled into the Sudanese equivalent of the little chef/truckers stop, where we sat until it had got cool enough to put the roof tent up. Probably not the most picturesque of stops but meant we could get away early in the morning.
Distance travelled 0 kms.
Khartoum – We found Khartoum to be a bustling place with plenty of investment – more importantly, projects being completed, unlike some places to the north of Sudan… UN vehicles are visible but not in a threatening way. It’s just so bloomin’ hot.
15th November/day 42. South of Wad Medani to Sudan/Ethiopian Border: Odometer 81158
Ah ha! Noisy night but early start. Packed up and away at 07:00 only to stop again at 07:10
Our first major breakdown. Alfie started well and we headed across the road to fill up with diesel only for Alfie not to start. Thankfully we were on a slight slope so we rolled away from the fuel pump and stopped again.
A tank full of crappy fuel broke the stop solenoid. And Alfie. Just as Rob was starting to work Alfie locals arrived who then took over. They were all very helpful but Rob knew what was wrong but they still insisted on checking the fuel filter (which they then proceeded to break the fittings from the bulkhead) and then finally the stop solenoid.
Alfie is now the Forest Gump of Landrovers – he will run and run and run…
10:45 and we were off again. We had hoped we would make it to a great campsite in Ethiopia on Lake Tana run by Tim and Kim by the evening of the 15th but these plans were now blown. Instead we decided to head for the border.
A short distance down the road we came across Robin and Helen (bikers) having a break so we pulled over to check everything was ok and check out their plans as well. We agreed that we would all meet up at the border later that day.
The roads were much quieter today and we had a good run down towards Ethiopia. The scenery was starting to change. We were moving from the desert into green shrub-land and acres of farming and corn fields. The road also started to deteriorate some 80kms from the border with pot-holes and uneven surfaces. We also started to pass more military posts where soldiers were sat with automatic machine guns (hmmm).
Rob spotted more bikers on the side of the road and we realised it was Andy and Diane, also bikers from the Uk. This time, the news wasn’t so good. Andy had hit a pot-hole and the bike had gone over. Both were pretty shaken and Andy had ripped a hole in his elbow. A quick bit of first aid plus plenty of water and a lot of TLC from Team Alfie raised spirits. To ensure they were ok, Alfie followed Andy and Diane to the border where Robin and Helen finally caught up.
Now the Sudan – Ethiopian border isn’t somewhere we would recommend. We were met by another set of fixers who were helpful in pointing us all in the right direction. Again, this consisted of a various trek around three buildings and lots of waiting around. Sarah opted to stay in (the non-starting)Alfie and was told to close all windows and lock all the doors. The fixers then stood guard whilst Rob was sorting out the carnet. Infact, we were glad they were there as they shooed a number of less than delightful people away. The only downside was that the temperature was still in the mid-forties and Sarah sat in her very own Alfie-sauna and gradually drank nearly every last drop of cold drink from the fridge!
Approx 18.30 we crossed the border (a rickety old bridge) from Sudan and were in Ethiopia. With passports stamped but Carnet yet to be done we were shown to a spot adjacent to the Ethiopian customs house. We wouldn’t describe this as a camp spot but it did us for the night. As we were by the bank and customs we also had a guard (with gun) to watch over us.
Found beer – hurrah!
We were taken to what could be called a restaurant and decided on some simple food – omelette and bread, but they had run out. Apparently no Inerja either so decided on veg and bread which turned out to be salad. Despite everything about never eating salad whilst travelling we tucked in. Rob took the option of drowning his veggie-salad in vinegar, salt and oil in the hope of killing anything nasty which may have been in there.
Metema (border town) – A truly horrible place. Buildings made up of mud, tin, plastic, all very dark and creepy. There is no mains electricity. If anyone approached us they were shooed away. The loos where we were camping have now won the prize for the worst facilities of the trip. A mud-hut with a corrugated door, which any of us could have coped with, but behind this was a hole with a two small blocks of wood either side of it…yuk. A brief glance into the abyss revealed a writhing mass of maggots and stuff. We’ll leave the details to your imagination. Thank god it was dark and thank goodness for the sterilising liquid you get these days, we virtually showered in it that night!
Overlander tip – make sure you get your letter otherwise you will be held at the border to sort it out which we wouldn’t recommend. The French and German couples were held at the border for days until they got their letter. For all UK overlanders looking to travel south into Ethiopia send an email to adabavisainfo @ fco.gov.uk with details of yourselves and vehicle and you’ll get a prompt response.
Travelled 394 kms.
* Wadi Halfa ferry. After we set sail we took the passports to an office at the back of the 1st class restuarant to get stamped. The top part of the immigration form was also taken. We had read that our temperatures needed to be taken, but this wasn’t the case this time. All very quick and soon were ushered out dodging the guy snoring away in the bunk bed.
* As the ferry arrives in Wadi Halfa, Sudan immigration board and you need to fight your way back to the 1st class restaurant where more paperwork is completed. You are aksed a few questions before being handed the top half of the immigration form – make sure you get this stamped. We were the first people through this process just by chance, and despite asking ‘is that all?’, ‘can we go?’, there was another man lurking in the corner who we didn’t notice and who had the vital stamp needed for the form! We only discovered how important this man was once we had been turned back at the exit from the ferry resulting in another squeeze, push and shove back up to the 1st class restaurant! A very sweaty experience!
* On arrival in Wadi Halfa, you are met by fixers, but we ignored these and walked up to immigration and were through very quickly. Bags were not searched.
* As soon as you are through immigration you are then swamped by men wanting to change money on the black market. We got a good rate for Egyptian pounds to Sudanese 2:1.
*Sudan is hot hot hot. Litres of water or soft drinks need to be drunk each day.
* No beer….boo…
* Hotel Cleopatra (Kilopatra) – there only appears to be one or two twin rooms, the rest are 4 single beds or more so be prepared to share. 15 SP pppn and need to be out by mid-day. Drop loos and showers, cold and drippy. Also, take sleeping bag liners to sleep in.
* You can stock up on water, bread, biscuits etc and some fruit and veg in WH.
* Rob managed to get a local Sim card so we could get 3G internet access wherever we wanted.
* Would recommend getting resgistered with the police first thing in the morning as this is then out of the way. Take two passport photos, plus copy of your passport ID page. If you don’t have this ready you can get copies done at the office the right of the police station. You will have to go in here to also get a copy of your Sudanese visa. Cost was 3 SP.
* Donkeys look much healthier in Sudan than Egypt.
* Roads are much improved and we are finding a lot of tarmac. We still don’t recommend driving at night, although roads are quiet camels and donkeys still have no road sense and are often found loitering in the middle of the road.
*Sudanese people are lovely and are far more eager to help than hassle you. (as per everyone in Egypt)