Sudan

 

 

 

 

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Sudan

(1 611km -  26days)

 

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1 December - Metema - Galabat - Doka – 88 km

It was a hot and windy day as we cycled crossed the border into Sudan.  I did not feel 100%, but we struggled on until we reached the town of Doka where we camped at the police checkpoint, the reason for camping at the checkpoint was due to the availability of water.  The police always seemed to have plenty water, and we could wipe ourselves down and had water to cook with. Before setting up camp, we first cycled into the village to find food and found only potatoes and tomatoes.

 

The Sudan is a conservative Muslim and desert country and not in my wildest dreams did I think I would cycle The Sudan twice in a lifetime. 

 

 

 

2 December – Doka – Gedaref – 90 km

The following day we pushed on to Gedaref about 90 km away and another scorching day - my second day in Sudan and the second day I had to drag myself along. I felt weak, nauseous and had no energy. While filling up with water at a petrol station, we spoke to a local farmer who gave us 50 Sudanese Pounds, and we headed straight for the nearest hotel. The man will never know how handy that money came in, as I was vomiting all night and at least I could do so in the privacy of my own room. 

 

3 December - Gedaref – Migreh – 97 km

The next morning I felt much better. We tried to register with the police, anyone entering Sudan needs to register with the police within three days of arrival. We were informed that it was hard for them to do so and that we should rather register in Khartoum!  Give me strength!  It was already 11h00 by the time we finally left. Fortunately, the wind died down a tad, and we reached Migreh in good time - a distance of about 97 km. Once again camped at the police depot to be close to water.

 

4 December - Migreh – Desert camp – 110 km

We were, unfortunately, travelling into the prevailing wind, and there was not much pleasure in cycling, it was a task that had to be done. Encountering a headwind is never a pleasure, but when you have to cycle into the wind day after day, it becomes a mission. Most days it was head down, one pedal stroke at a time.

 

I am only 100% sure of one thing, and that is that nothing stays the same. Everything comes to an end and sooner or later the wind had to stop. It was apparently not going to be on that day. The only positive was small villages at regular intervals along the Nile where we could have a Marinda or a Pepsi. Although we were cycling on a tarmac road, the road was in poor condition with heavy traffic (large trucks) all seemingly heading for Port Sudan, Sudan’s main port situated on the Red Sea. I was dead tired almost every night, and Ernest had the job of making food after which I usually went straight to bed.

 

 

5 December – Desert camp – Wad Medani – 41 km

The following day we cycled from our desert camp to Wad Medani which was only about 41 km, but as Wad Medani is quite a large town with accommodation and food, we stayed for the night and ate falafel after falafel. To this day I swear it is the best falafel in the world.

 

6 December – Wad Medani – Desert camp – 81 km

It was 81 km from Wad Medani to our next desert camp and another exhausting day on the road. It was again blistering hot with a strong headwind. I felt tired and nauseous - things were just not going my way. As we pulled off the road to set up camp, I immediately had about a 100 thorns in my tires. This was the last thing I needed!  Ernest was a star and quietly went ahead and changed both tubes and filled them with sludge. I had no energy to even think about changing tubes.

 

Once the sun sets, it got dark almost immediately, and we always had to find a camping spot at around 18h00. The mozzies were ferocious, I had no idea there were so many mosquitoes in the desert the safest place was in our tents.

 

7 December – Desert camp – Truck stop – 71 km

We woke on the morning of the 7th and knew it was going to be another day of battling into the wind, Ernest in front and me following as closely as possible, but we made little headway all day. There may be no beer in Sudan, but at least there is always cool water to be had. Each village had a shelter with various pottery urns filled with water, which stays amazingly cool in the heat. That night we found a truck stop with restaurant, showers and toilets where we camped at the rear and enjoyed the luxury of a shower.

 

While sitting outside our tents, we started chatting to a Sudanese man who could speak English and showed us his English books. The surprising thing was that he told me, quite blatantly, that I am lying and that I did not cycle there as women cannot do such things and there I was sitting all hot and sweaty!  He further continued to inquire whether I had any education and after I confirmed that I did indeed attend school for 12 years after which I spent quite a few years pursuing further studies, he then started questioning me (just to check guess). Fortunately, the questions were not very hard LOL, more like general knowledge. Exasperated he exclaimed, “But you can’t drive a car!”  By that time, I had lost interest in the conversation as we were apparently worlds apart. You can’t blame the man for his way of thinking as that is what he has been told from a young age. 

 

8 - 11 December – Truck stop – Khartoum – 50 km

Finally, we cycled into Khartoum where we camped at the Blue Nile Sailing Club which is the best place (only place) to camp in Khartoum, as it is next to the Nile with a gentle breeze coming off the water. There we also met Clive and Denise a British couple on a 1954 Triumph on their way from London to Cape Town. We also met Charles and Rensche also on motorbikes heading south. It was great meeting them as they told us all the places we could get water in the desert.

 

We spent the next four days in Khartoum trying to extend our visas (without any success) and trying to register with the police. The rest of the time we spent eating anything in sight. 

 

12  December – Khartoum – Desert Camp – 106 km

It was Wednesday 12 December when we finally cycled out of Khartoum, another day battling into the wind and by 17h00 we had only done 105 km. If ever you want to cycle through Africa, do it from North to South. At least the prevailing wind will be mostly behind you, not like us. 

 

13  December – Desert camp – desert camp - 86 km

The following day the wind was exceptionally fierce, we left the Nile to take the desert road and cycled straight into a desert storm, sand blowing everywhere, with bandanas around our faces we pushed the bicycle through the thick sand. No road, no direction, not even a path, hoping we were heading in the right direction. At one stage, I had enough of this madness, I threw the bicycle down, kicked it and shouted to the wind, just to realise that I might have broken my little toe in the process!  I felt defeated but picked up the bike and limping along, pushing the bike into the wind. What a sad sight we must have made - two lonely cyclists at snail's pace through the desert.

 

 

 

14 December - Desert camp to Desert camp – 81 km

On this day we only managed 81 km from one desert camp to the other. There were hardly any water stops today, and I saw nothing all day but Ernest's back wheel. He must have been dead tired by the end of the day but said nothing and still had the energy to cook a good meal of pasta.

 

15 December – Desert Camp – Deba – 111 km

Eventually, we reached Deba where we met up with the Nile again (it felt like meeting an old friend). The wind seemed to be getting stronger every day.

 

16 December – Deba – Sali – 92 km

On Sunday we cycled 92 km from Deba to Sali. We were cycling close to the Nile encountering numerous settlements right on the banks of the Nile. We turned into one of the villages to fill up with water for the night and promptly got offered a room. We hardly lit our stove to make supper when a large tray laden with goat milk cheese, olives and dates arrived. The desert folk were incredibly hospitable, and I think they gave us their sleeping quarters while they slept in the kitchen.

 

17  - 18 December – Sali – Dongola – 71 km

It was a further 70 km to Dongola and needless to say that it was another day into the wind. We stayed the 18th in Dongla where we did laundry, cleaned ourselves and got more provisions for the road ahead. All the while stuffing our faces for the next big desert starve.

 

19 December - Dongola - Kerma – 54 km

We left on the morning of the 19th and stayed on the western side of the Nile while headed for Argo where we crossed the river using a small ferry. From Kerma it was about 53 km to Kahli (not sure whether that was the name). The 'muggies' are ferocious and got in everywhere - your nose, ears, mouth and food. In the evening it was a matter of pitching your tent as quickly as possible and hiding inside till after sunset when they miraculously disappeared. We made a bit of an open desert crossing and what a good thing Ernest had a GPS and that Charles had given him some readings on where to find the river again. We camped on the bank of the Nile under palm trees that sounds a lot more romantic than it was.

 

We are really into our sweet black tea by now, and we can hardly wait for the tents to be pitched so we can boil some water for tea (strange things one does if there is no beer around - my mother will be so proud of me). 

 

20  December – 53 km

The worse was still to come as we had to do an open desert crossing, moving away from the Nile where it makes a big loop and where we planned on going straight. The Nubian desert is not all sand, in places, it was nearly mountains, rocky and bumpy, from time to time we would hit soft sand and had to push the bikes for long stretches. The area is plagued by windstorms that became our biggest enemy, and with bandanas tied around our faces, we leaned into the wind. By then everything around us looked the same, in the distance, a structure loomed ahead, on reaching it we found four motorbike travellers huddling together trying to have a bit to eat out of the wind. They were astonished to see us and offered us a few chocolate biscuits, a prized item in the desert. They had problems of their own. Although they were going with the wind, the motorbikes are much heavier than our bicycles and sank much deeper into the sand. Eventually, they wished us good luck, and we set off into the wind again

 

21  December – 52 km

For days in a row, we could only manage app. 50 km and camping in the wadis at night. It was getting terribly cold at night and in the early mornings, and I was a bit reluctant to get up with the result it was 9h30 - 10h00 before we got on our way.

 

22 December – 72 km

We managed to do another 72 km. It is getting really cold at night and in the mornings, so I'm always a bit reluctant to get up, and it is 9h30 - 10h00 before we get on our way in the mornings which does not give us a lot of sunlight as the sun was setting around 18h00. We tried our best to do longer distances, but the going was dreadfully slow and catching the weekly Wadi Halfa/Abu Simbol ferry on the 26th, seemed more and more unlikely by the day.

 

23 December – Akasha - 74km

We cycled 74km to Akasha. We tried to leave a bit earlier but still only got away at 09h00. The road was deteriorating now, and we soon left the Nile and headed over the mountains. It is getting worse by the day now, not only the wind but also sand, corrugations and mountains. At least we reached Akasha before dark, and there was even a small shop with limited supplies, so we filled up with water and headed out of the village and camped in a dry river bed. Ernest by now has to warm up some water for me to wash as it is freezing cold after sunset. 

 

24 December  - 59 km

We woke to another freezing cold morning and after some sweet tea set off for the next stretch. The road was quite bad, and we had to do a fair amount of pushing of our bikes through the sand. We were still heading over the mountains, and there were no water stops or villages along the road, except for the one about 30 km from where we camped. A further 30 km along the road we found a road camp and the people there were kind enough to fill our water containers, so we had enough water for cooking and washing. Our days now consisted of drinking sweet tea in the morning while shivering from the cold, pushing our bikes through the sand of over the rocky part in the heat and wind and set up camp in the wadis.   

 

25 - 26 December – Wadi Halfa - 72km

On our way to Wadi Halfa, a surprise awaited us, 30 km of tarmac!  We were immensely happy for this gift, and we were all smiles cycling into Wadi Halfa where we had the luxury of a hotel room and food.

 

The next day we were up early to purchase our ferry tickets, get our police stamps and a million other stamps to get out of Sudan. Our visas had by then expired, but even with all the checking and stamps no one said a word, and we could not wait to board the ferry and get out of Sudan before anyone noticed. The only way to get from Sudan to Egypt overland is by ferry from Wadi Halfa to Abu Simbel in Egypt across the Aswan dam. The border between the two countries runs somewhere across the lake and after a day of sailing a speedboat comes hurrying along, police jumped aboard, and we nervously handed over our passports. Fortunately, no one noticed the dates and we were free to go, phew!

 

We headed for Wadi Halfa and received a great gift as 30km of the road outside Wadi Halfa is tarmac!!!  So we reached Halfa early for a change and found a local hotel and some food. The next day we were up early to get our ferry tickets, police stamps and a million other stamps to get out of Sudan. The ferry left at 16h00 and we even splashed out and treated ourselves to a cabin on the boat!!

 

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