Sudan, land of sand and camels
If there had been a country that I were afraid that we would have problems entering in to Sudan would be it. From all what I had read and heard from travelers Sudan was the country that could stop our journey.
After finally getting visas to Roger and Dan we headed for the border. Happy that we had our visas I still was not celebrating until we had actually passed in to the country.
Checking out of Ethiopia was the usual paperwork and inspections. At the same time a few local money exchange guys were trying to give us some ridicules exchange rates insisting that we needed local cash to enter Sudan and pay our fees.
On the Sudan side of the border it was the usual hustling, but not out of control. Personal visas went along well, smiles and greetings of welcome to Sudan. The bikes however took longer time, more paperwork than one can imagine that can be practical to keep track of, no computers, all carbon copy papers with multitudes of copies.
Then there was a short lunch brake before we finally had past through all of the loops. But again, very friendly and courteous officials and we truly felt welcome to Sudan and very happy to be on the way to Khartoum, the capital.
As most of you know Sudan was recently divided in to South Sudan and Sudan. The ongoing conflict in the border area has dominated the headlines for a long time and made people warn us about even visiting Sudan. We were far away from the conflict area and never throughout our visit felt any issues related to the oil war with South Sudan.
However we did feel the embargo in form of not being able to use credit cards for purchases or even ATM cards to get local currency. Fortunately we knew of this money issue and had enough cash to carry us through the country.
From a motorcycle riding view of Sudan we were happy to see less people living along the roads, villages were away from the highways. Traffic was reasonable until we hit the capital, Khartoum.
We were now riding in the desert so the occasional sand storm and high temperatures replaced the rain and cool mountains of Ethiopia.
We had a one days excursion to see the capital and after the usual museums we ended up at a local camel market at the outline of Khartoum. By the way no pictures allowed at the museums.
Our guide warned us that the sand storm would ruin our cameras so we might just sit in the van and look out the window. Having hauled the cameras on the back of the bike through what we had done the last weeks a little sand storm would probably not hurt.
Besides how cool would it be to get pictures of camels in a sand storm? The light was beautiful as it was filtered through a thick layer of sand blowing through the air. I could have spent the better part of the day at the camel market, but my mates had enough of sand in their eyes and everywhere else.
Perhaps in my next life I trade in my bike for a few camels and start wandering the world that way. I have read several books on people crossing deserts with camels and find the stories fascinating.
Hurry up and wait
We knew that the journey in to Egypt from Sudan would be a challenge. Despite the warnings the time spent to cross Lake Nasser and finally get the bikes to Aswan, Egypt, was still a big test on our patients.
With conflicting messages on when the barge that would take our bikes were to leave we hurried up to be sure to make it to Wadi Halfa before this barge would take off.
If there ever was a bottleneck at the Cape to Cairo track Wadi Halfa is it. To be able to continue north this is the only way. Here the bike has to go with a barge followed by a passenger only ferry.
The highlight of our stay was to meet other travelers waiting for the same ferry. Among these where two couples on two BMW 1200GS bikes and later a BMW 650GS.
If you do not know what a fixer is the short explanation in this case would be a person that helps you through the bureaucracy of a border crossing. You need a fixer to leave Sudan and you also need one when you arrive in Egypt. To get a good fixer can be key to pas the border smoothly, but not always is that the case.
Confusion and contradictions was all part of the game so when we boarded the ferry we found out that we actually only had one cabin. Fast thinking ($$$) and experience to the rescue and that night Roger and Vincent shared the captains quarters and Dan and I had the privileged to use their private bathroom.
With that said this was by no stretch of the imagination a comfortable passage, we were just very happy that we had our own beds while most people were crammed in to hot and stinky quarters.
Yes, it was hot and I still regret not trying to fry eggs on the tarmac in Aswan when the temperature reached 118F/48C.
Ramadan, the greatest religious observance in Islam, is an annual month of fasting had just started. This slowed everything down even more and we noticed that some people got a little cranky having not eaten all day. For this reason it took us three full days of waiting for our bikes although the barge had arrive the day before us in Aswan.
We could not had left Aswan soon enough and it was liberating to be on the road again after almost 10 days of waiting in Sudan and Egypt.
Not much to see this first stretch to Luxor, but the share joy of feeling the bike moving forward was a joy by itself.
Because of the rather hot weather we decided to take the Red Sea road up to Cairo and that way we had the pleasure of spending a whole day diving and fishing in the ocean.
We had been on the road for 66 days as we packed up the container in Alexandria, Egypt. What a journey It had been, just the few last days in Egypt had once again proven that media is one thing and the reality of being in a country that has created all of these headlines we have been reading is another experience.
Family and friends had warned us of taking out on this journey and warned us because they had seen it on TV or read about the problems of countries like Sudan and Egypt.
Our impression of Egypt was quite different from what we are fed from the media every day. Yes, we could see a struggling country with huge economical issues. Just looking at the incredible amount of new constructions along the Red Sea that all looked abandoned and the excising resorts barley keeping alive was a clear indicator of the state of the country.
We also had many a good conversation with people that themselves struggle with jobs and lives in fair of what the future will bring.
Another observation about Egypt is the traffic. Outside the larger cities not bad at all, but in the larger cities you better watch out and especially stay away from the taxi drivers, they are mad man.
As you see from this Cape to Cairo journal we have barley scratch the surface of what we experienced. The few stories and pictures that we have shared in this journal do not make the journey justice.
Africa is a place that has to be experienced; I just wished we had more time to do so, but we will be back.
Thanks for following us and we hope you enjoyed the ride.