We have lost so much time with waiting for spares we had to make up some distance through the northern part of Sudan on our way to Egypt. The days were still as hot as hell and we kept riding to early mornings and then again in late afternoons.
Our route took us on the main road to Port Sudan which pass the Meroe pyramids. They say these pyramids are much older than the Egyptian pyramids. It’s not an expensive affair to visit the pyramids and the people in the small room even offered us some water and place to rest.
Some of the pyramids have been renovated and restored but in all honesty I think they made it worse. Our plan to wild camp was also flying out the window as we had to get to Wadi Halfa to catch the ferry in time. Even though the communication was difficult for some reason we understood each other and I kept in contact with our fixer in Wadi during the week.
We still had to cross two desserts on our way to Wadi. The heat was relenting, it really feels like somebody is blowing us with a hot air blower straight in the face. The one mistake I will not make again is to buy any black riding gear. Elsebie’s beige jacket definitively was not as hot as my black little number.
As we rode I tried to image how Lawrence of Arabia traveled around. The adventure at the time must have been mind blowing. Dangerous, difficult to say the least. Today people take it in their stride. Busses, trucks, taxi’s run the main roads bumper to bumper.
Luckily the turn off to Adbarah took us off the main road and into the Bayudha desert towards Merowe, a town to the north west. Just outside Adbarah we were stopped at a makeshift road block. The friendly men ask us our route and then asked us if we are sure we want to take this route as it goes through the desert.
There would be no help if one of the bikes should break we might have to sit it out for quite some time before we would encounter people. For us there was nothing to think about, that was going to be the route and since it was still early morning we had enough time to make Merowe by midday.
Midway a roadside ‘oasis’ popped up next to the road. The roof was roof constructed of poles and some palm leaves. As we got off our bikes a travelling salesman stopped. We got talking and he insisted on paying for our drinks. In the end we could only say thank you. The generosity of people in Sudan is beyond believe.
We rode into Merowi in the middle of the day and had to get out of the sun as soon as possible. On our way into town some policeman directed us to a house of a Nubian family. We could take rest there. That is how the Sudanese describe their siesta time to us. The Nubian people opened their homes to everybody. Their kind of hospitality is unrivalled. Always friendly and nothing is too much effort for them.
There are day beds under roof, made with ropes to allow for airflow. Late the afternoon we decided to head out for Dongola and make the best of the ‘cooler’ temperature.
Dongola is next to the Nile. We could smell water in the air as we came closer to town. The air got thicker as we road over the bridge and over the Nile into Dongola.
We headed to a popular hotel. Popular, not fancy. It’s an old place with very basic rooms. The place is clean enough and it’s obvious that many backpackers and travellers stay there. As we got off our bikes, ready to just relax, the receptionist came over and told us we need to go to the police station to get permission to sleep in the town and at the hotel.
From all our travels this must have been the most bizarre and weirdest request. We were really not in the mood for such nonsensical bullshit. The guy arranged a Tuk-Tuk for us as his directions he gave me was gibberish and dodgy at best. The policeman took our passports and eventually came back with a paper that grant us the permission to stay the night.
Truly WTF! We headed back to the hotel for some drinks.
The road to Wadi Halfa meander through the desert and follow the course of the Nile which flows out into Lake Nassar. All along the Nile the Nubian people farm and live in colourful settlements. I think a very special hike or bicycle trip would be to fly into Khartoum, take a bus or public transport to Dongola and then either hike, walk or ride a bicycle to Wadi Halfa following the Nile.
It is really safe and it is possible to camp anywhere next to the Nile or with Nubian families. It is easy to walk back to the main road and get a taxi or bus back to Khartoum. My only reservation is the lack of beers in Sudan.
Less than 200km before Wadi Halfa we rode past compounds with hundreds of people, trucks, pick-up vans next to the road with makeshift eateries. For the most there were no houses or shacks around. Only shallow dugouts in the ground covered with old torn apart sails flapping away in the midday heat. It was a perplexing sight.
Only later were we told it is people digging for gold. We were totally bowled over. The level of poverty and hope for a better life, living in the desert like rats in holes digging for a hope to find a morsel of gold. Good lord, it’s a hard life.
The sun was on it’s way turning orange when we rode into Wadi Halfa. Mazar our local fixer told we do not have to worry he will find us as we got into town. On Tracks 4 Africa quite a few hotels are listed. The problem with that was that all of them are labelled hotels but most of them are in fact just rest houses. The locals call them hotels but they are not.
Mazar found us at one of these hotels and he duly directed us to the Kilopatra hotel. The place is dirt cheap and all the local travelers or overlanders spend their time here waiting for the ferry. There was a fan in the room with two well slept in beds. We left most of the stuff on the bikes. We were assured it would be safe, and it was.
We did not waste time kicking off the bike boots and hit the dust roads for a night on the town. Wadi Halfa is small friendly vibey town with a very relaxed atmosphere. The people hang around outside after sunset when the air is cooler. They chatter like finches in a palm tree just before they go to sleep.
We dined on Shawarmas for less than 2USD for us both. Although we can not buy some beers the Coke is always cold and local tea vendor ladies dishes up the nicest spicy tasting tea with pleasing aromas.
waiting to watch some soccer.
The Heidenau on the back of my bike was on it’s way out. I think the heat of the last few days was causing of the delamination. The entire tread was busy coming apart. Mazar had a KLR there with as side car which was abandoned by the owners, a South African couple. They were unable to secure the documents to cross into Egypt and it would have cost them more money that what the bike was worth.
Mazar offered that we swap tyres as the one on the KLR were still good for some more mileage. The next day, Mazar, arranged all the necessary paper work for us to board the ferry and whatever documents that we had to have.
For Westerners getting use to squat toilets is a funny affair. We are not use to squat like this. The other more nauseating thing is the showers and toilets are most of the times a one unit set up. Cleaning and the smell of you know what does not seems to bother locals as much as us. And then the custom is to not throw toilet paper in to the toilet. For one the sewerage pipes are not designed to handle paper waste.
Secondly they do not use toilet paper. There are small plastic watering cans around which the locals use to wash their hands after a visit to the loo. Toilet paper cost almost 7 times as much as normal packets of tissues.