Map of our route in Sudan
Few words about North Sudan in general
- It is probably the hottest country in the world but we experienced rainy season and needed to dig our Rusty out from the mud twice – ironically in the one of the driest countries ever!
- Sudan is under Sharia law, so alcohol is not permitted and is not available (they are very strict about that)
- People in Sudan are very nice and hospitable, plus crime is on a very low rate
- In terms of photography: You can apply for a special permit in Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, in Khartoum. Nevertheless if you are coming from North there are places which you want to take photos of anyway like for instance Pyramids f Meroe. I guess, it is more about not taking pictures of sensitive sites such us bridges, governmental buildings and so on. When we wanted to take photos of people, we were always asking for their permission (in 90% they agreed)
- From our observation Sudanese women wear either traditional or modest western cloths, however they prefer more colourful attire than we observed in Egypt or Jordan (there were black jalabiya preferred).
We arrived to Wadi Halfa around noon, but it took another hour before we left the ferry. We were not in hurry and that was mistake(!), but we totaly didn’t know what to do next and where to go. When we got off and we basically saw nothing…. the lake and sand.. lots of sand, some chairs set under sort of a tent and barrel with drinking water. We couldn’t find the other ovelanders as well. Nevertheless, someone nice man informed us that to get to Immigration and Customs buildings we could take a free bus. So we did it.
At the Immigration Hall they checked our bags (even food bags) and our passports, but no one could tell us more about the barge and cars. We knew that we would not get more info that day so we took a taxi (2 Sudanese Pounds) to the town to find some place to sleep…
Wadi Halfa – hmm..a really small town, which is actually busy only when ferry from/to Egipt is around. Otherwise it looks like abandoned, sleepy and dusty town from “Wild West”.
Now: It is important to get out from the ferry asap as later you will get problem to find a place to stay for a night. Everywhere we asked, there was nothing available. We somehow found a room in the cheapest hotel in Wadi Halfa. The Deffintoad hotel looked more like a jail and rooms like prison cells, but it was nice to lie down anyway. Of course there was no water in the bathroom – if I can call those “chambers” like that (We for some reasons didn’t take our own photos of that hotel – but we “borrowed” them from other overlander’s blogs.
Because we were so exhausted, we just went to sleep and slept till the evening. When we got up we walked around the town and bought some cold water and soft drinks. When we got back to the hotel, we got surprised. There was not any more rooms available so they solved that problem by adding more and more beds in the hall, which was actually outside (Sleeping in the open air)
Next morning, we were woken up by our missing overlanders Terri and Johnny and their fixer – Mazar Mahir. They found us, as Mazar told them that the Deffintoad hotel is very often taken by Polish people…Anyway Terri said that barge with our cars was coming that day in the afternoon, but firstly we needed to register our passports in ALIEN REGISTRATION OFFICE. They gave us directions and we went there.
Alien Registraion Office is located on the main street (green building). The entire registration took us an hour or two. We needed to fill special form, left many signatures and one photocopy each. We paid 50 USD each and we finaly had stickers in our passports. The whole procedure in Alien Registraion Office we managed to do witout the fixer.
After registration, we took a TUK TUK and went to the port as Rusty was already there. At the harbour we were told that we would not manage to do all customs witout a fixer as they would not to talk with us. We sort of got forced to cooperate with Mazar, who it seemed didn’t like Charlie.
Once the barge is docked, you will get problems with unloading your car from it. Sometimes they dock in a way than driving off from the barge is impossible. Anyway, in 2 hours and we figured it out how to unload Rusty and Terri’s and Jonny’s car (We build ramps from whatever we found nearby:D)
We needed to agree with Mazar that we would pay him 30 USD per car. I think that 30 USD included not only our fixer fee but also customs tax and port tax – however I don’t remeber. I also think that we might have paid less to Mazar than Terri and Johhny as he never went with us to Alien Registration Office. We thought that we would leave the port the same day, but Mazar told us that customs officer was too tired as he had long day and we must come back next day to finish clearing customs (Normally the port opens at 9Am and closes at 6PM, but due to Ramadan they had different opening hours). We were off back to the town. It was much less people so we could find a better hotel (Cleopatra Hotel) and we took a 4 beds room with Terri and Johnny we shared 60SP between ourselves. In the evening we went together for a dinner and all us ordered fried goat with bread.
Next day, we came back again to the port and this time custom officer came and checked firstly our chassis number and then our car. Charlie opened the back door, the guy had an quick look on our stuff, but to be honest he was more interested in photos we had on the Rusty’s ceiling that what we had inside. The whole procedure took him not even 10 minutes…
Few more things and we were back on the road again……
Being back on the road again was really great. It was very hot though and instead of nice cool wind we experienced a breath of really hot air – like from a heater or oven!. The road we took was freshly built by Chinese. It was in perfect condition – smooth tarmac, almost no cars and many kilometres through the desert. (That road didn’t exist in Garmin GPS, but maybe maps have been updated by now).
We were driving towards Dongola, however sun was going down and we needed to find place to camp overnight. With Terri and Jonny we took small amount of offroading and we found nice bush camping under palm trees (Sudan is sparsely populated, therefore wild camping is much more pleasant; in peaceful atmosphere). In the morning we noticed that actually we were camping on a farmer’ s fields. We saw a guy trying to make a fire. When we got up, the guy came to us and we though that he would tell us to move from his fields, but he just wanted to lend a lighter. After 10 minutes he came again and he wanted to give us the lighter back, but we said that he could keep it. The guy was sooo happy…and he only got a lighter…
TERRI & JOHNNY BLOG:
We were on the road again. In Dongola we bought some fruits and vegetables. They were very expensive, but I am not really surprised as Sudan is basically covered by sand and rocks.
Finally, we drove to Karima. Karima itself is not that interesting, however area around the town is beautiful. There are well-preserved pyramids and temple complex. The entire site, except the Temple of Mut, is totally out of charge. We decided to have a lunch over there. We explored the place and came back to Rusty. Then we noticed that Terri and Jonny were coming. They parked and went to see pyramids up-close. Not even 5 minutes and there were back and… sort of chased by a tall guy dressed in white jilaba (not quite sure if that cloth has the same name in Sudan). Because he didn’t speak English communication was …interesting. Our British friends thought that maybe he chased them as he was a guide/guard watching the site and nobody paid him. (He also had some ID – but in Arabic, so there could be written anything ). He was gesticulating and showing on Karima town…We were politely saying: “We don’t understand what you are saying, we don’t understand Arabic”. And basically we smiled…The guy smiled as well and because Rusty’s sliding door war open he came inside our van and sit down on our bed! Everybody got confused as nobody expected that. Charlie in a very nice way showed him that, actually we were going in opposite direction than he was pointing and he also added that we were actually in hurry and needed to go now. The guy still didn’t know what we were saying… Finally Charlie also said very slowly (like narrow-minded tourist)and in English : “Youuu staayy, wee gooo…. ok?” The guy’s face expression was priceless…but he got off Rusty…Terri and Johny got into their car and we got into our. We looked at the guy, smiled, waved to him and drove off. In a side mirror I noticed his confused face and his hand waving back to us. Me and Charlie think, that guy just wanted a lift to Karima or he wanted to offer himself or another person as a “pyramid guide”…. Don’t really know, don’t think it was about payment as every guide says the site is for free.
Meroe is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile. The site is marked by more than two hundred pyramids. Additionally, they are identified as Nubian Pyramids because of their distinctive size and proportions. That beautiful place was also our camping spot for the night. Our British friends came there firstly and they texted us GPS Cordinations. We parked behind the hill in front of Pyramids and we got surprised – except Terri’s and Johnny’s car, there was another one…It was amazing Polish married couple with their son driving from Cape Town to Poland in self-converted Toyota. It was surprising and so great to hear someone speaking our language:) . Polish family invited us for a tea and of course for a chatting. Unfortunately, I was feeling horrible – got another dehydration and instead of enjoying lovely company I was on the car trying to get better. Charlie, Terri and Johnny took the Polish family’s invitation up, however they didn’t drink normal tea, it was a very special tea sample taken from Poland, which was kept for special occasion. Our new friends took something traditional from home in order to share polish taste with others, but they never expected to meet overlanders from Poland (especially that they were almost at the end of their trip), therefore it was perfect occasion and additionally we were surrounded by beautiful scenery . Nice time spent on chatting, on telling stories and adventures was interrupted by strong wind and sand storm. It was a real sand storm, I till that moment, saw only on Discovery Channels or some movies. In the morning were woken up by some small kids, who were trying to sell some small souvenirs, and camels’ burping and yelling.
After breakfast, Kasia, Jacek and Konrad gave us some useful info about campsites, attractions and roads in African Countries they have already been and we said good bye to each other and we were back on the road again…towards the capital of Sudan – Khartoum
Before we started looking for a campsite in Khatoum we decided to have a car service – for the first time after nearly 10.000 km. After some searching around we found a good place to do so. The garage was recommended to us as, so we were told, the main mechanic/owner specialised in Old Mercedes Benz cars (and so he did!). We didn’t quite believe this as, while looking for oil,filters and a reasonable garage in Khartoum, we learned a few things about East Africa. This really is TOYOTA-land – You will get anything for any Toyota ever made… but not much else. Synthethic or Semi-Synthetic oil (5W30/40, 10w40) is literally unheard of and virtually impossible to get, while mineral is the oil of choice (15w40/50, 20w40/50). Anyway, finally we did manage to find our 10w40 + filters and after an hour’s work, Rusty got „refreshed” – we changed the oil + oil, diesel and air filters.
MERCEDES SERVICE – Khartoum Bahari
NASRADIN mobile phone: 0912885024
We were camping at Sudan National Camping Resort, which was very cheap and actually we found some shade under the tree. We paid 30 SP (5,5 USD)for two people and car/night. We discovered as well that Sudanese people are not only very hospitable and nice, but also very honest. Charlie accidentally paid too much for a campsite and when the owner noticed that, he came back and gave us back what we over paid. A really pleasant surprise after Egypt.
We also were positively shocked about Khartoum. We expected something more like Cairo – very polluted, busy city, but it wasn’t. The city is much smaller, less populated and cleaner. Driving around is more pleasant. People rather are careful on the roads. We noticed more international drivers as well.
The capital of Northern Sudan is built where two Niles meet (You can actually see the water colour difference from the White Nile Bridge – you are not allowed to take photo there as it is deemed an object of military strategic importance.) Khartoum is also a very modern city – plenty of new, high- rise buildings and paved roads. We also were feeling very safe there, which I guess was very significant.
We couldn’t find big supermarkets, like Tesco or Carrefour, but there is plenty of stores, where you can find various ranges of products (food, cosmetics, cloths, plates, pots, cutleries, bowls, glasses and many many more) [Around 90% of those good were made in China.] In one of those shops we bought a seriously great frying pan for only 4 USD! In Khartoum we also discovered two thing we want to tell about: one is Debonair Pizza – the leading pizza restaurant in Africa established in South Africa (we paid 6 USD for two, crispy, huge pizzas) and second: amazing, freshly squeezed lemon-mint juice for little money in the famous restaurant on the main street (Don’t remember the name though).
Time we spent in Khartoum was very peaceful. Ramadan had finished and everybody was happy and celebrating for 4 days. We were recovering and also doing washing and cleaning the car. We also had company of Terri and Johny, so it was nice to spend some time with others. Charlie decided to find a good hair dresser. We found a nice place to do his hair and Charlie got a Royal hair cut! The guy was amazing, he tried his best and he did a great job! Moreover (as a curiosity) he actually was Eritrean not Sudanese.
When we arrived to Sudan it was August and it was supposed to be the most rainy month of the entire rainy season. When we crossed the border it was even hotter than in Egypt and there was not even a tiniest chance of a drop of rain to fall from the sky! We thought that rainy season is just a fairy tale, remembering that we were in one of the most arid countries on earth, but one night at the camp site we were woken up by a weird noise…. a really loud tapping sound! something was hitting our Rusty – it was RAIN, which we hadn’t seen since we left Poland. Because it was raining, the temperature also went down and everybody felt relieved from the heat. The rain was so heavy that, when we opened sliding door in the morning we noticed that we were in a small lake. Few hours of rain and the campsite got literally drowned in 1000 of litres of waters and the previously rock hard ground suddenly got very soggy! I didn’t want to wait until it all would dry up and I asked Charlie to move our Rusty on some dry piece of land. Charlie very reluctantly agreed and that was mistake as we got stuck! Yes! We got stuck on a camping ground! It took us few hours to get our Van unstuck from the middle of the newly formed lake, and without Terri’s and Johnny’s help it would probably take few hours more! Anyway, we experienced dry and rainy season in one country not even in one week😀
Due to personal issues Johnny went back for 10 days to the UK and we agreed to drive further with Terri and cross Ethiopian Border together (As I already said, it was nice to drive with someone for a change). We were a little bit worried about entering into Ethiopia as few days before their Prime Minister died and they had national mourning. Terri and Johnny already had lots of problems with getting Ethiopian visas in Khartoum, so we thought that at the border the officials would get problems with letting us into the country. Anyway, Terri and us left Khartoum and in one long day we almost reached Ethiopia. We decided to bush camp 10 km from the border as in North Sudan wild camping was generally amazing and peaceful. We left the tarred road and followed a narrow, but hard bitten track (into the bush). We didn’t go far, we just needed to be invisible from the main road. In the middle of the night it started raining again and when we woke up we discovered that we were in the middle of mud fields! We still could see our tracks from yesterday, but unfortunately our joy didn’t last long. Suddenly, as we were preparing to leave, a giant herd of cows let by the herd man passed us by causing that not only our tracks were gone, but also the road changed into muddy mash. Well…we didn’t have much time to wait till all would dry so we decided to drive. Terri drove off, slightly smashing her car and we of course got stuck – at the end of mashy road. It was impossible to get from there without help.We were digging and digging… even some local people started coming and helping us , but it was still not enough strength to push Rusty from mud. Terri drove back to the nearest village and asked for help. She came back with some guy with land-rover, who finally pulled us out for 50 SP! After 3 or more hours Rusty was rescued and we could continue to drive to the border (Qallabat border).
At the border – Sudanese side
In comparison to borders we already had it was no that bad! It was time consuming, but it wasn’t painful. We needed to wait to get our carnet stamped out as the guy had problems with finding his stamp. While Charlie was dealing with the car papers, I was watching Rusty and coping with bunch of guys who wanted to exchange Sudanese currency into Ethiopian Birrs at very bad rate. Then we needed to go to Immigration building and fill the exit forms. Unfortunately , they didn’t have pens and I needed to come back to Rusty to take some. On the the Sudanese side the procedure of leaving the country took an hour.
Moreover, that border was rather small and it reminded me of „Sunday Market”, where you can buy basically everything. Charlie bought a kettle for 2 SD (!), flip flops for me as my previous ones drowned at the campsite in Khartoum and some weird, Ethiopian bread made of sourdough (Ethiopian food will be better described letter:P)