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20 May 2009

Did you know – The two temples at Abu Simbel, close to Aswan in Egypt, had to be moved due to the building of the High Dam on the Nile.  The salvage operation began in 1964 and continued until 1968.  The two temples were dismantled and raised over 60 meters up the sandstone cliff where they had been built more than 3,000 years before. Here they were reassembled, in the exact same relationship to each other and the sun, and covered with an artificial mountain

We are so glad we managed to get a first class ticket for the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa.  The ferry is really small, registered to carry around 570 people.  It really doesn’t look like it’s big enough to carry that many people.  Our cabin was small, but we had the luxury of air-con, which made the trip a lot more comfortable.  The boat was full, and people everywhere.  If you don’t have a cabin, then you have 2 other choices. Either squeeze into the seating area with the masses, or try and find a spot on the deck where you can try and sleep for the night.

Before I forget, here is a quick rundown of the procedures leaving Egypt and also for Sudan, for those planning a trip.  First the costs, a second-class ticket is Egypt pound 306 per person and the first-class tickets are Egypt pound 484 per person.  This also includes a meal voucher.  The cost for the car is Egypt pound 2,452 (I think this is for a car not longer than 5 meters, because it can fit on the smaller barge).  The ferry leaves Aswan once a week, on a Monday. You have to be in Aswan a couple of days before the ferry leaves, so that you can sort out some paperwork first. We did some of our paperwork on the Saturday (Mr. Saleh from the Nile Shipping company will explain exactly where to go).  First, you need to go to the traffic court to get a small piece of paper saying that you haven’t been involved in any accidents in Egypt.  Once you have that, you need to go to the main traffic police office to hand back your Egyptian plates.  Someone will usually find you in the police office to help you out.  It’s ok to drive around Aswan without the Egyptian plates for the few days. Nobody will stop you or say anything.  Once you’ve handed back the plates and have the piece of paper saying you haven’t been in accidents, then it’s time to go back to Mr. Saleh.  Only then will he issue your tickets.  You pay for the passenger tickets with him, and you pay for the barge once you arrive at the port on Monday. Mr. Saleh will also be at the port on the Monday.

You are supposed to arrive at the port around 10am (The ferry only leaves around 4 or 5 pm). First, customs need to check you car. Everything is supposed to go through an x-ray machine.  This is obviously impossible with a car, so the little arrangement is to pay the officers about LE20 to ‘let you go’.  We don’t like paying anyone extra (read‘lining their pockets’) for doing their job and managed to get through with nothing going through the x-ray machine and not paying them.  It took a little bit longer, but seeing that we were going to be there until at least 4pm I thought it shouldn’t be a problem.

After the inspection, it’s time to buy the ticket for the barge, and then to custom to complete the Carnet for departure.  This cost LE25 per vehicle.  Finally it’s onto immigration where you buy your exit stamp and they stamp your passport. All of this took about 2 hours. Then it’s time to wait again.

Back to the ferry, we had a good nights sleep in our air-con room, and it was generally not too noisy. Most people on the ferry wake up around 5am, just in time for the morning prayers.  We did however manage to sleep until 7 or 8 in the morning. We arrived in Wadi around 10 or 11 am. We handed in our passports to some immigration person the night before and had to complete it in the morning. Luckily, being the only foreigners on the boat, they dealt with us first.  We were also ‘privileged’ enough to be tested for swine flu by means of taking your temperature.  Again, we were the first to have our temperature taking by a person who may have been a doctor or a nurse or something like that.  You had to put the thermometer under your tongue, and this was obviously something I wasn’t really keen on.  After a bit of interrogation from our side, it was established that it was all clean and sterile.  They even showed us the little pot with the Dettol or whatever they use.  Not sure how long it will remain sterile after taking the temperatures of 500 odd people.

I’m not sure how difficult or easy the process is in Sudan,because we used Magdi (a local guy in Wadi Halfa) to do all our paperwork for us.  This turned out to be a good move,because he took care of absolutely everything. He registered our visas for us, got a ‘security clearance’ on a piece of paper for us to travel wherever we want to and dealt with customs.  All we had to do was sit around and enjoy Wadi Halfa..  He also made sure that barge docks immediately and that we could get our cars of first.  All in all a very easy process for us and it took us about 2 hours to get our cars when the barge arrived the following day,and we were free to go.

It’s still very hot here. It has been between 40 and 43 degrees in the shade everyday.  Who knows what the temperature is like in the sun.  This is definitely a big contrast to our –20 degrees in the Pamir Highways of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.  Lets hope we find a good balance between these extreme temperatures soon.  Until next time…
26 May 2009

Did you know – Sudan is the largest country in Africa and it has borders with 9 other countries.  The other countries are Egypt, Libya, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

We decided to take the route along the Nile via Dongola and Atbara to Khartoum.  It took us about 3 or 4 days to get to Khartoum.  To be honest, it’s nothing special.  We had some bad weather again, with very dusty and windy conditions.  We did however manage to experience some of the local hospitality.  We were driving through some villages in the north, where at one village we came across most of the village people sitting beside the road (their houses are right next to the road).  We drove past, waved at them and all we could hear was the shouting stop, stop at us.  We stopped and they invited us for another super sweet cup of tea and a little bit of conversation. Before we knew it, all the village kids were there too and we became instant celebrities again.  After a relaxing 15 minutes or so with them and feeling a bit more refreshed, it was time to move on again.

We spent a few nights in the desert on the way to Khartoum again.  All you need to do is come of the road and drive a kilometer or so into the desert and you’ve found your spot for the night.  We did spend a few nights next to the Nile too, but it was a bit trickier, because it is all agricultural land.  We found quite a good spot the one night though.  It wasn’t long before someone came along (luckily he could speak a bit of English).  I started talking to him and told him we will be staying here for the night.  It turned out to be his land and he showed me around a bit.  He did also warn us to be very careful, because there are very poisonous scorpions around.  To prove the point, him and I went hunting for a scorpion.  It wasn’t long before he found one to show us.  Quite a beast, at about 5cm long and a yellowish colour.  It was safe to say we didn’t stay up too late that night and took refuge in the safety of our beds.

Khartoum is a big city, and our first experience of an African capital city (instead of an Arab capital city).  It didn’t really grab us that much, but Alex and Katie seem to like it a bit more than us. It was here that we met our first South Africans on the road, and they really made our day.  Howard, Roger and Jaco are riding from Durban to Dublin for a charity called Pebbles Project.  This is a charity in SA who works with children who have been affected by alcoholic mothers.  This means that they are basically alcoholics when they are born, because their mother’s don’t or probably rather can’t stop drinking.  You can support them if you like.  If you want to donate something to their cause, you can do so via their website, mototour.co.za.  I was so pleased as well, because it turned out that Jaco is Afrikaans and it was so nice to speak Afrikaans again.  I really do miss speaking Afrikaans, and after almost 12 years of living in English speaking countries, I can feel the effect of it too.  My Afrikaans vocabulary isn’t as ‘sharp’ as it should be. Maybe it’s a sign that we need to be living in SA again.  Jaco was unfortunate enough to break his shock in Kenya, and he’s been riding like that through Ethiopia.  He’s hoping to get a new one in Khartoum.    We also got invited to a nice Nile cruise by them.  One of their sponsors/supporters (who has an agent in Khartoum) arranged a night cruise on the Nile and we were spoilt with good food and cold drinks.  It was really a very nice evening.  Thanks guys for inviting us!!!

Would you believe it too, we saw our first bit of SA here in Sudan too.  We drove past a Steers and a Debonairs pizza place.  We couldn’t miss the opportunity to have some good pizza, and had to get a couple of large ones.  They even had a ‘Braai Feast’ on the menu, boasting topping like boerewors and the like.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, so we had to go for something else. Nevertheless, it was still very nice.

I think it’s time for us to leave Sudan.  It is just too hot here and you can’t sleep at night.  It was 38 degrees last night (the whole night) and the breeze almost makes it worse, because it is a warm wind.  It’s time for us to head to the Ethiopian highlands.  I think it will take us about 2 days to get to the border. We’ve heard a few horror stories about Ethiopia.  You can’t camp anywhere, because there are just too many people and all you hear the whole time is ‘faranji’, which means foreigner, and you, you, you being shouted at you, or ‘give me money’, or ‘give me pen!!!’  So, until next time then, from the chaos which is Ethiopia.