Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013





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    Default Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    I have been asked by the king of travel reports, Stan Weakley, if I would post some excerpts from our (private) blog on our north-south overland trip. We did this trip between August 2013 and December 2014.

    **PLEASE NOTE: We were in Egypt and the Sudan in September and October 2013. We succeeded in entering Egypt through Nuweiba in the Sinai from Aqaba, Jordan. A few days after we cleared Nuweiba, a new military order was issued banning all private vehicles entering the whole of the Sinai Peninsula (previously it was only North Sinai). THIS BAN IS STILL IN PLACE (2017). Therefore, there is NO route available from Jordan (or Israel) into Egypt. I am not going to post our blog entries about Jordan and the Sinai as they are not relevant today.

    Also, getting from Aswan, Egypt to Wadi Halfa, Sudan involved the infamous passenger ferry - with our Land Rover on a barge which arrived some days later. The land border between Egypt and Sudan is now (2017) open, although the bureaucracy involved is still as arduous.**


    Into Africa
    Egypt, 24-25 September 2013

    Well, a day short of five weeks after leaving leafy Wiltshire, we have eventually got to Africa yesterday. Half way under the Suez Canal, we decided that we were now on African soil. The drive from Ras Sudr to El Maadi took four and half hours. The closer we got to Cairo, the more manic the traffic and driving. Luckily, we have experience of Nairobi driving, but Cairo driving is more idiotic. We found our way to the leafy expat suburb of El Maadi with no problems, and were warmly welcomed by our friends who had the cold beers ready for us. What a relief!

    This morning we set out to acquire Sudanese and Ethiopian Visas. Our friend kindly gave us a lift into the centre of the city and we walked to the British Embassy. Step 1 was to get a letter from the British Embassy explaining, with all suitable diplomatic courtesies, that British Citizens do not need a letter. This we got with a wry smile from the consulate staffer for the princely sum of £40 each. Armed with this, we set out to find the Sudanese Embassy. Well, an hour later - with our nerves in tatters having been driven all over the left bank by a manic young taxi driver with no word of English - we just shouted at him the name of the Sheraton. This he did know and managed to navigate to, but we found it closed for refurbishment. So, we shouted ‘the El Gezirah’, a large hotel we could see close across the river which he took us to. I had been hoping to find some fierce concierge to whom we could explain our experience and invite to arbitrate on the useless young maniac’s fare. However, we ended up at the back gate with rather gentle non-English speaking gate-keepers, so we simply dismissed our cretin with an excessive amount of money and walked in. There we found a lovely ‘limousine service’ man on the door who was kindness itself. Once we had explained what we needed, he sent us in for cold drinks, phoned the Sudanese Embassy to get a detailed description, and then appointed one of his drivers to get us there. Easy. One hour later, forms were filled, photocopies taken, our British Embassy letter presented, money paid and we were told to return tomorrow to pick them up. Thereafter, a short walk took us to the Ethiopian Embassy where we picked up visa applications and had a civilized and reassuring chat about timings etc. We return there tomorrow after picking up our Sudanese visas to submit our Ethiopian applications. At least they don’t demand a letter from the British Embassy.

    We have also been in contact with a fixer in Aswan for the ferry down Lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa in Sudan and he assures us that the ferry will be running after the Eid holiday in October. So, inshallah, our plans for going down the Western Desert will still stand.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Cairo Days
    Egypt, 25-29 September 2013

    Guests and fish go off after three days, but our friends have been polite enough not to hold their noses; we have been here for six nights. Cairo, obviously, gets bad press, but we have had a great time. The traffic is worse than Nairobi, it is filthy and chaotic, but somehow the city works. People are going about their business as normal, everyone including expats walk the streets at night and, apart from government buildings, barracks and the houses of big-wigs, there are no electric fences or razor wire. There are, however, tanks and armoured personnel carriers positioned at strategic points around the city.

    On Thursday, we picked up our Sudanese visas, and walked round to the Ethiopian Embassy to put in that visa application. We were told to wait in the street outside the Ethiopian Embassy and half an hour later our passports with three month visas were handed out of a hole in the gate. All done and dusted within 24 hours – how amazing was that? We then took a taxi to the famous Shepheard’s Hotel (rebuilt since its halcyon days) for a sandwich and a beer before meeting up with our friend to get a lift back to El Maadi.

    On Friday, Hugh serviced the Land Rover. This was done with the assistance of a band of Land Rover enthusiasts (one of whom, Sam, we knew from the UK) who gather every weekend on a street in El Maadi to tinker with their desert vehicles. There is more beer drinking done than tinkering and we were offered a beer at 9.30 am before we had even started work. We drove the Land Rover up on to the dusty sidewalk and proceeded to do the 5,000 mile service and check. We all decided that changing the oil lying under a vehicle in the dirt was not the way to go so, for that part of the service, we went to a nearby proper garage with a pit. We did, however, use our own oil and filters and that part of the servicing cost the princely sum of E£70 – about £7.

    On Saturday, we saw the Khan (souk/bazaar) with our friends, and then we went quad-biking with them and their boys to the Sakkara pyramids. Here is the famous step pyramid, and from there we could see the Dashur pyramids and the Giza pyramids. It was fascinating to see the sharp divide between the fertile Nile valley and the desert with a succession of pyramids spread over miles.

    We had a fabulous day today when we took an Egyptologist with tourist van and driver. First stop was the Giza pyramids. Our guide, Mohammed, was excellent: knowledgeable, articulate and nice. We started at the top and worked our way down into the valley to see the Temple and the Sphinx. Wonderfully for us, but sadly for the Egyptian tourist trade, we had the whole enormous site almost totally to ourselves. Having a guide kept the touts etc at bay. We then drove into town and had a delicious Egyptian lunch near Tahrir Square. After lunch, we hit the Egyptian Museum which has very little guidance and terrible lighting, but Mohammed was able to select and explain some of the most interesting exhibits climaxing, of course, with the treasures of Tutankhamun. Wow!

    We have stocked up with food and drink, and head off into the Western Desert and the oases early tomorrow morning. First stop will be Bahariya Oasis.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Desert Nights
    Egypt, 30 September - 2 October 2013

    Well, the Western Desert is spectacular, and contains an enormous amount of sand. The Walrus and the Carpenter would have been aghast. It took us two hours to fight our way out of Cairo (including 6 October City, an unending complex of housing estates), and we got to Bahariya at about 1400. There we stayed at an organised (sort of) camp belonging to a jolly soul called Badry. We got our first taste of a true oasis, with a walk through his ‘garden’, as they call their date plantations, eating fresh dates off his palms. In the morning we drove around, trying to visit a Roman Arch and an Alexandrian Temple, but stumbled on the requirement for tickets, which we should have acquired at some unidentifiable tourist office somewhere in the town. So, we bought some Arab bread and vegetables, topped up with fuel and headed off to the White Desert.

    Gosh, this was spectacular. After some antsy prevarications about cutting off across country to the West of the road, we found our way into the centre of the main protected part of the desert, and up to a gorgeous little oasis with a small grove of palm trees and a lovely little dam of clear fresh water in which we were able to immerse our sweaty bodies in the nude. Rather than camp there and be plagued by flies and mossies, we headed back into the dry, and camped among spectacular weathered lumps of limestone and chalk. While shopping in Bahariya, a chap approached us to sell us some firewood which we snapped up, so we had our first camp with a real fire. Bliss. The stars above us as we sleep on our campbeds in the open are incredible. We also had a visitation from a sweet Desert Fox who checked us out during and after supper, but didn’t come and lick our faces in the night.

    Today we came further South to the Dakhla Oasis, which is a mass of rich agriculture below a beautiful escarpment of pink and grey rock with yellow sands cascading down the gullies. We are in another commercial, but empty campsite/lodge.

    Enroute here today, we overtook four cyclists who made us feel very wimpish. Two Irish girls, an Irishman and a Spaniard. They were on day 6 of cycling (yes – pedal cycles) from Cairo to Capetown. We stopped, refilled their water bottles, and left them in the middle of the desert with a tough headwind and about 150 kilometres to go before they hit any oasis. But they seemed pretty chipper, and if all goes well with them, we may see them again on the Aswan to Wadi Halfa Ferry. They are doing this trip in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres and Room to Read.

    We couldn’t recommend the Western Desert and the oases and, indeed, Egypt more highly. Contrary to rumour and expectation, we have received nothing but courtesy and kindness everywhere. So far, we have had very little hassle and no demands for baksheesh, but we do wish they would tidy up the public spaces!

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Out of the Desert and back to the Nile
    Egypt, 3-4 October 2013

    The dongle is working again, and here we are sitting on the banks of the Nile in a Nubian village just North of Aswan. Yesterday, we left Dakhla Oasis and drove through the desert to Kharga Oasis and camped right in the southern part near a town called Baris (a one donkey town named after Paris). We wild camped in the curve of a perfect golden crescent dune near some ruins called Dush. This is a deeply historic area – frontier outpost of the Roman Empire and key trading post on the caravan and slave trading route from Darfur in Sudan.

    Another long hot drive today brought us to Aswan. We actually had to deploy one of our jerrycans to get here, but managed to find some fuel in town after we arrived and had had a short rest – it is hot and getting hotter – a mere 41.7C in the car today. The refuelling performance would dismay some but entertains us: little organised queuing, but everyone is friendly and jolly and there is a massively complex manoeuvring of vehicles to get them in and out of what appears to be completely log-jammed forecourt.

    While here we are planning on doing some admin, laundry and, most important of all, eyeballing our fixer for the Aswan to Wadi Halfa ferry-cum-barge combo. Assuming that we are confident about the ferry on 20th October, we shall return down river to Luxor to see the sights there. Who knows – we might even do it by boat. All the Nile cruise boats are moored up and empty here in Aswan and everyone is despondent about the lack of tourists.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Aswanning we did go
    Egypt, 4-7 October 2013

    We have had three very nice days in a rather beautiful place. While the main city of Aswan is no great shakes, it has its finer aspects – most notably its position on and view over the Nile, but the area overall is gorgeous. We are camping on the west bank just outside a delightful Nubian village. A Nubian village is rather satisfying: Most houses consist of rooms with barrel vaulting arrayed around a large courtyard, painted predominantly pale mauve or mustard yellow and ochre. Fields and orchards fill the narrow plain between the houses and river and rural life goes on as it probably has done for thousands of years – except it is no longer dominated by the annual flood due to the High Dam and Lake Nasser.

    On Saturday, we met up with Mohammed Abouda who is our fixer for the Aswan-Wadi Halfa ferry. He seems a jolly soul, speaks good English and knows the system. He has imbued us with enough confidence to leave Aswan and go to Luxor, but all will be revealed on or around the 20th October. We started the tortuous system of exiting Egypt with a vehicle by going with him to the Traffic Court; this was in a grimy office in what looked like a residential block of flats in the backstreets of Aswan. If there were any signs, they were all in Arabic. Documents were passed over, photocopies were taken, money changed hands, and a document was issued presumably saying that we have no traffic offences outstanding and are free to go. The fact that we still have two weeks here driving around does not seem to matter.

    After roaming around the real Aswan, we went for lunch in the other Egypt – The Old Cataract Hotel. Here soft-footed servants poured cold drinks and served lunch while we gazed on an attractive scene of palm trees, manicured gardens, water, rocks and ruins. The verandah overlooked the islands and straits of the First Cataract and Elephantine Island. In the river feluccas and small ferryboats plied their passage.

    Yesterday, we engaged another Mohammed (part of the family where we are camping) to take us on a motorboat up through the First Cataract. We had a cool and enchanting day on the river visiting another more touristy Nubian village for hibiscus tea, and wending our way through the myriad of islands and channels. Beautiful birds, crystal clear water, pharaonic remains, and some stunning houses (and some real shockers). We went for a wander in the Botanical Gardens on Kitchener’s Island, and had lunch under a tree on another little rural island. It made a lovely change from hammering across the desert in a Land Rover – the temperature was perfect. In the evening back at basecamp, the natives were drumming. A wedding was in progress in the house, but we seemed to sleep through it all.

    Today we visited St Simeon’s Monastery and the Tombs of the Nobles on the edge of the desert on the west bank. We had lunch at a felucca captains’ restaurant in Aswan, and then a lovely sail in a felucca in the late afternoon. This is the way to travel on the Nile – peaceful, cool, very manoeuvrable and stable.

    When we went on an overlanders’ forum on the internet this morning, we heard of a couple who were refused entry into Egypt at Nuweiba ten days ago because they were in a 4×4. This appears it might be a new military order banning 4x4s in the whole of the Sinai not just North Sinai as previously. This did make us feel rather shaky as we crossed that way on the 19th September. This couple had to return to Aqaba and are now stuck trying to ship their vehicle out of Jordan and into anywhere else in Africa. Phew – we were lucky!

    Tomorrow, we are heading back north to Luxor.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Karnak
    Egypt, 8-9 October 2013

    An easy run back down the Western Desert Road took us to the West Bank opposite Luxor, where we are holed up in Al Salam Camp, a little compound run by the friendly Ahmed. We have taken a basic hut as there is barely room to pitch our tent – although, on balance our tent and camp-beds would be comfier. But he feeds us good food and has what is clearly the Egyptian equivalent of Classic FM (including western classical music) playing gently in the background. As in Aswan, the West Bank is beautifully rural, with small canals and large banana groves. Just outside the compound we turn right and look across flat grass meadows with grazing cows – a bit like the Test Valley, really. All very pleasant.

    This morning we hit Karnak, taking Ahmed’s Felucca (or Floka as Ahmed describes it on his walls) captained by his cousin Hamdi down river for a couple of miles. We will not attempt to describe the temple complex – there are plenty of good books that do that, but it is staggering in both its size and the freshness of some of its painting and carving. When we finished at about midday, the wind had completely dropped. We drifted across the river, perceptibly losing ground to the current, and when we got to the far shore, Hamdi and his sidekick Ali worked furiously with punt and oar to try and move us upstream. This was clearly not going to work all the way back, and so help was summoned in the form of a tug, who took a line from us and hauled us back upstream in short order. We now lie in the afternoon heat, in the shade with fans gently blowing, and Ahmed’s three little children sweetly frolicking around. Gosh, it’s tough, this adventuring business.

    Things could have been otherwise. Ahmed told us yesterday of the attacks in the Sinai, including a car bomb in El Tur, through which we passed. Clearly, the new ban on tourists bringing 4x4 vehicles into South Sinai was based on good intelligence. It does not look like the tourism business is likely to improve very quickly. It is simply desperate: again we had a major tourist site almost to ourselves today, and there is a greying fleet of cruise boats moored on the opposite bank, where most have been for two years now.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Luxor: Home of Ozymandias
    Egypt, 10-13 October 2013

    We are becoming obsessed with all things pharaonic. There is so much to see around Luxor that one could spend months here and not see everything. On Thursday, we went with an Egyptologist guide, Khalid, to some of the sights on the West Bank – the Colossi of Memnon, the temple of Hebu, the workers village, tombs of some of the workers and nobles, and the tomb of the Pharaoh Ay. Up the western valley, Khalid showed us a new excavation of a potential new tomb. There are 63 known tombs in the Valley of the Kings, which catered for 76 kings over 600 years, so there are still 13 kings’ tombs to be found – and that is before one counts the potential number of undiscovered tombs of queens, nobles and workers. One does see the attraction of being an archaeologist here.

    On Friday morning, we went independently to Hatshepsut’s Temple (pronounced “Hat-cheap-suit”), four tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the Ramesseum. There is little point in us trying to describe it all as it is too overwhelming (and one cannot take photos in the Valley of the Kings), but there is an amazing online resource called The Theban Mapping Project. The Ramesseum contains the statue that inspired Ozymandias – but curiously the things that are missing are the vast and trunkless legs and the wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command: only feet exist and the face has been eroded or destroyed. But it was a single 1,000-ton block of granite before it fell, and the cartouche on its shoulder does, we are told, read ‘King of Kings’.

    We start the day’s sightseeing in the cool of the early morning and stop at lunchtime. After lunch one day, the thermometer in the Land Rover registered 53.7C. We then spend the heat of the afternoon back at Ahmed’s camp.

    We also spent a day in Luxor itself; we caught a boat across the river and went to the Luxor Temple, and then spent an hour in the excellent Luxor Museum. We had thought to treat ourselves to lunch in the Victorian “Death on the Nile” hotel – The Winter Palace – but ended up just availing ourselves of their Wi-Fi whilst having freshly squeezed lemon in the dim coolness of the English country house-style tea room as lunch was only served around the swimming pool and that seemed just too incongruous. Their gardens are beautiful.

    Today we did a day trip down to Dandara and Abydos Temples. The former is a parvenu, a mere 2,000 years old, but in stunning condition as a result. Abydos is the real deal, albeit much restored. But both have their roofs intact, and one starts to get a feel for how they looked in use. There were some navigational challenges finding Abydos, but the ever-friendly police check points managed to get us there. We eventually found ourselves in the middle of a dusty town confronted by a modernish office block or dam atop a dusty slope, asking the way yet again. The chap on the check point waved in a rather cursory way, with a pitying look. We then realised that the ‘dam’ was, in fact, the temple.

    Tomorrow we head back up to Aswan. It appears that the ferry will now be on the 22nd. Mohammed our fixer gave us a call, which is, in itself, an encouraging sign.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Waiting in Aswan
    Egypt, 14-18 October 2013

    Well, we got back to Aswan on the 14th – the day before the main Eid celebration. This holiday of Eid el-Adha is like our Christmas and New Year rolled into one; it is the celebration of the miracle of Abraham and Isaac, and involves much slaughtering of sheep and cows, and the resultant feasting goes on for four days. On the first day of Eid, we were taken round the Nubian village by Mohammed in the afternoon, but the slaughtering was over and the women were carrying huge platters of meat to distribute to the poor and were starting cooking for their families. In the past few days, we have visited the Temple of Horus at Edfu, the gorgeous Temple of Isis on Philae Island, and Kom Ombo.

    The main bit of news is that we have eventually met some other overlanders: three motorbikers arrived at Adam’s Home two days ago, and a Land Rover arrived yesterday. The bikers are a London-based South African in his 30s, a retired Lancastrian in his 60s, and a Dutchman in his 30s.

    In the Land Rover are two young Brits. Alex drove on his own through Egypt having succeeded in taking a newly restarted Ro-Ro service from Iskenderum in Turkey to Damietta in Egypt. Richard flew into Aswan yesterday. And then this morning, a Polish couple rolled in, but they are not staying here, don’t have visas for Sudan and are determined not to use a fixer; we fear they won’t be on the ferry this Tuesday. We are all gathering for the ferry to Wadi Halfa. The motorbikers and Richard need to get Sudanese visas at the Consulate here in Aswan. We hope they succeed in doing so before Tuesday…

    We have just been joined also by the cyclists we met in the Western Desert. They are all fit and well, but obviously had a very trying time cycling up the valley from Luxor, with much harassment from the young locals due to Eid celebrations combined with a local horse fair. It looks like there could be quite a scrum of us on the ferry.

    There was a huge Nubian wedding here at Adam’s Home last night. This time it wasn’t just drumming, but the full-blown loud speaker system with music and dancing. Us overlanders gathered down at our tent and drank cold beers out of our fridge. When we went to bed, the party was just getting going and the noise was considerable. However, we went straight to sleep and slept through the 300+ people celebrating until 0330. The motorbikers, sleeping in a room off the courtyard, right in the fray of the wedding, had a more restless night.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Agatha Christie Mystery
    Egypt, 21 October 2013

    It is all becoming a bit like an Agatha Christie mystery: we just have to hope it isn’t “Death on the Nile”. The assembled cast are:

    • A Brazilian family (children aged 3 and 16 months) with Peugeot campervan.
    • A Dutchman, a South African, and an Englishman on motorbikes.
    • Three Irish and a Spaniard on bicycles.
    • Two Englishmen in a Land Rover.
    • Two Poles in a 4×4 van.
    • Two Australian motorbikers.
    • 12 Japanese on public transport.
    • And us….


    In the wings are:

    • Dragoman, an overland travel company with a huge truck.
    • Kamal: An Egyptian taxidriver who is the fixer for part of the cast.
    • Mohammed Abouda: An Egyptian felucca captain who is the fixer for the two Land Rovers (us and the English chaps) and for Dragoman.
    • The barge operator.
    • The ferry operator.


    The Plot:

    • Everyone wants to get their vehicles on a barge and themselves on a ferry down Lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.
    • Some have visas for Sudan, and some are waiting for them.
    • The motorbikes and the Brazilian campervan have been loaded on the rice and sugar barge (despite none having Sudanese visas yet). There is a second larger barge, which rumour says has been booked by Mohamed Abouda for Dragoman. Mohamed has told us to be ready to load on this on Tuesday morning, prior to catching the passenger ferry.
    • The Dragoman truck is still stuck in Customs in Damietta port on the Mediterranean coast; the driver needs to get it down to Aswan some 1000km away, but is apparently not allowed to drive it here: he needs to hire another big truck to transport it; once in Aswan he needs to load the vehicle on the barge and then fly to Khartoum. However, he doesn’t have a Sudanese visa, and his plan is to get to Khartoum and then take a bus to Wadi Halfa to unload the truck from the barge.


    The Mystery:

    • Has Dragoman booked and paid for the special larger barge and are we, the Land Rover teams, sub-renting space from Dragoman?
    • Will the barge wait in Aswan until Dragoman get here?
    • When will Dragoman get here?
    • If the Land Rovers and the Dragoman truck do go together on the same barge, will the Land Rovers be unloadable at Wadi Halfa without waiting for the Dragoman driver?
    • Where do Mohammed Abouda’s loyalties lie? With Dragoman or with his other clients (us and the other Land Rover)? Primarily, it must be with Dragoman, but how long will he wait?
    • How much influence does Mohammed Abouda have with the barge operating company?
    • How much are we prepared to spend to get this barge underway?


    to be continued…

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    The Exodus from Egypt
    Egypt-Sudan, 22-23 October 2013

    We have made it to Sudan! We loaded the Land Rover on the barge – skilfully reversed up a very steep ramp by Hugh. However, the barge is unlikely to leave Aswan until tomorrow – inshallah.

    The ferry wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and the cast of characters increased with a Hungarian hitchhiker, an elderly Italian in Gucci shoes, and a German lady with her Egyptian boyfriend.

    Wadi Halfa is pretty much as we expected – a dusty, sleepy frontier town, but we have found a shop with Wi-Fi. We are not going to buy a Sudanese SIM card for the dongle, so communication will be sporadic and only when we can find Wi-Fi.

    However, we are intending on going through Sudan pretty fast – not just because of Sharia law and no alcohol, but because we need to get to Ethiopia in time to meet family at Bahir Dar on Lake Tana on the 8th November. The rest of the family and friends fly into Gondar on the 10th November, and we set off on a 10-day trek in the Simiens on the 11th.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2017/07/10 at 04:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Inshallah in Wadi Halfa
    Sudan, 23-27 October 2013

    The last few days have been idle and frustrating but, inshallah, the barge will arrive on Sunday. The customs, however, are not working today, so, even if it arrives early, we will not be able to unload the Land Rover and clear until tomorrow morning at best.

    The bikers and the Brazilians had their vehicles on a different barge which arrived the day before yesterday, and they headed off with broad grins yesterday morning. Two of the cyclists also left yesterday morning. However, one of the cyclists has had a nasty dose of amoebic dysentery from which he is now recovering and we will be taking him and his partner, with their bikes in/on the Land Rover when we get going and we will re-unite them with their colleagues when we catch them up.

    One of the motorbikers – wrongly identified in the “Agatha Christie Mystery” blog as Australian bikers but, in fact, a Dutchman travelling with a New Zealander – has had his motorbike refused entry into Sudan. He lives in Switzerland and got what he thought was a Carnet de Passage (the vehicle’s passport) there, but it does not look like anyone else’s Carnet and does not contain any details of the motorbike (registration number, chassis number, engine number). So much for Swiss efficiency. Needless to say, he is distraught and his Kiwi travelling companion has left with the other bikers. We are not sure that the Dutchman is doing much to help himself and is depending on the faint chance that he will be issued with a Sudanese Carnet de Passage which will enable him to get his motorbike out of the port. Thereafter is the big question, we think.

    The Sudanese are all delightfully unmercenary and immensely kind and welcoming. There is no great sign of any work of any sort going on, and a large proportion of the population appear to spend their day lying on charpoys or chatting in tea shops. There is a little area full of useful shops selling metal pots, plastic shoes, tinned and dried food, cheap clothes etc, but no fresh vegetables or fruit to be seen. There is, however, a little internet cafe, with an excruciatingly slow and intermittent connection. Hence, we can post this.

    Wadi Halfa and this whole area had its heart knocked out of it in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the High Dam at Aswan was built. Old Wadi Halfa, apparently, was rather like Aswan with a corniche, trees, old houses, agriculture, shops and businesses. It was abandoned when the waters rose and most people left. Those that stayed had to rebuild their houses and lives some distance away and that is the Wadi Halfa that we see today.

    The hotel we are all staying in might take over as our benchmark for grottiness. However, we have a bed, a squatter loo and a shower, a kitchen which serves an unvarying diet of chicken and bread, and we are safe. Those left on this odyssey of patience are the Polish couple, the Brits, the Dutchman, and two bicyclists.

    However, we always knew that this crossing from Egypt to Sudan was one of the most difficult – the passenger ferry goes once a week and the vehicle barges go as and when they are full. The passenger ferry takes 18 hours from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, and the barges cannot sail at night and even when they are underway, their speed is much less.

    What we didn’t tell you in the last blog is that we took a cabin on the ferry instead of sleeping on deck with the mass of humanity. This was a good call and, although the cabin was not dissimilar in cleanliness to an Indian train, we had a good air-conditioned night. We woke at 0500 in time to see Abu Simbel as we passed close by at dawn. What an amazing sight.

    Inshallah, we will be off tomorrow. Ho hum…

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Chronicle of a Barge (or "Agatha Christie Mystery: The Conclusion")
    Sudan, 27 October 2013

    25 September:
    Mohamed Abouda (our fixer in Aswan): “The barge is booked and will sail on 20 Oct”

    11 October: MA:
    “The ferry and barge will now leave on 22 Oct”

    15 October: MA:
    “The Dragoman truck will leave Damietta shortly. We will load the barge on 21 Oct”.

    Friday 18 October:
    MA “We will load the barge on 22 Oct. The Dragoman truck will arrive that morning, load and the barge will sail later that day.”

    Monday 21 October:
    MA: “The truck has left Damietta”. We happen to know this is not true as one of our fellow travellers is actually in touch with the Dragoman driver. However, we are uncertain who is actually telling lies – Dragoman (who need to keep the barge waiting) or MA.

    Tuesday 22 October:
    We load the Land Rover on the barge. There is no sign of the Dragoman truck. MA: “It is just leaving Damietta. The barge will sail tomorrow and will arrive on Thursday”. We sail on the ferry.

    Wednesday 23 October:
    We arrive in Wadi Halfa. We hear that the Dragoman truck really has left Damietta.

    Thursday 24 October:
    The truck has arrived in Aswan and loaded. At 1600 hrs the barge sails.
    Mazar (our fixer in Wadi Halfa): “It will arrive on Saturday.”

    Saturday 26 October:
    Mazar: “The barge will arrive by 1600 hrs”. We climb the hill behind the hotel at 1600. No sign of the barge. We descend. “Well, Mazar, where is the barge?” “It will be here tonight”. Later that evening, Mazar: “The barge has crossed the Egyptian Sudanese border. It will keep moving and be in by morning”

    Sunday 27 October:
    0900 hrs:
    “Is the barge in yet, Mazar?”
    “No, but it is coming”.
    We go to the port.

    1100 hrs:
    “Well?”
    Mazar: “The captain is not answering his phone”
    “How do we know that the barge has not sunk?”
    Mazar: “Because then the phone would not ring at all.”

    1200 hrs:
    Another barge leaves Wadi Halfa heading North. Mazar tells the Captain to phone when he spots our incoming barge.

    1330 hrs:
    “The barge will be here in one and a half hours!”

    1530 hrs:
    The barge arrives. Captain of the barge: “Do you have a tip for the crew?”

    1700 hrs:
    Having cleared customs, we drive triumphantly out of the port.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2017/07/10 at 04:51 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Sudan Days
    Sudan, 28 October - 1 November 2013

    As we didn’t have the time and/or internet connection whilst in Sudan, we thought we would give an update. Sudan was rather more beautiful and pleasing than expected: we set off from Wadi Halfa at dawn on Monday morning and enjoyed a desert drive to Dongola with good views of the Nile on our right. We were travelling in convoy with Alex and Richard in their Land Rover, and with us were two of the cyclists (one of whom had required a few days rest to recover from a nasty dose of dysentery). We caught up with their cycling colleagues at Dongola where we had a good lunch together and, in the afternoon, the two Land Rovers headed East across to Karima. We ended near a spectacular cluster of pyramids at Nuri (did you know that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt?) and found a wadi in the desert nearby to camp – with a fire – having bought some wood in Dongola.

    The next day we started to get a hint of ‘real’ Africa, with a skim of green pasture and some low trees, as we drove across to Atbara. At mid-morning, we spotted a nice Acacia for shade, and drove off the road to pause below it for a cup of coffee. As we got out of the vehicle, we were mildly alarmed to find a pickup, with chaps waving weapons, had followed us off the road. Happily, this was merely a bunch of zealous Sudanese police who had been curious to see two Land Rovers suddenly turn off the road in the middle of nowhere. Handshakes and smiles reassured them, along with our passports, and we parted friends. That evening we wild camped again near another clump of pyramids at Meroe (did I mention about Sudan’s pyramids?), and the following morning Alex and Richard shot off early to get Ethiopian visas in Khartoum. We followed in slower time, taking a short diversion to visit the 6th Cataract on the Nile. This is one of the few Nile cataracts that still exist – the others having been submerged under various dams. Whilst not exactly foaming white water, it is an impediment to river travel and it was a lovely green, cool, peaceful place. Near the cataract, we had a cup of coffee at a charming shack “tourist resort” on the river, but the young entrepreneur in this remote spot refused payment.

    Back on the busy main road from Port Sudan to Khartoum, we dodged trucks and suicidal buses; eventually we arrived safely at the Blue Nile Sailing Club in central Khartoum. Have no illusions that it reciprocates with the Army and Navy Club or has Royal Yacht Club status – its colonial heyday peaked in the late 1960s – but we liked its location right on the Blue Nile with a grassy terrace and tables and chairs. In the middle of the compound lies one of Kitchener’s gunboats now used as the club office. The camping offered was in the carpark, and so we went to have a look at the ‘National Camping Residence’ which some Sudanese had recommended as being vastly superior. This, when we found it, had the air of a refugee camp, and is clearly used by Sudanese on the way to/from the Hajj or villagers called in to participate in national parades. So back we went to the Blue Nile Sailing Club, via an abortive attempt to find an expat area with a recommended supermarket.

    The next day, the drive up to the border was an amazing transition to real Africa, getting greener and more hilly. The road up the main valley of the Blue Nile was busy with trucks and the dreaded buses, but as we turned off East, through extensive fields of millet, it was clear that we were travelling through savannah country. Nine hours later, we stopped just short of the Sudan/Ethiopia border. Spotting a track into the bush, we pulled in. Sadly Alex, behind us, had also spotted the track, but failed to spot that we had stopped. One short, sharp bump later, we were mightily impressed with the strength of our double wheel carrier which had absorbed the impact unharmed. Alex’s Land Rover had sustained minor damage to a sidelight, wing and bumper.

    After a good night in the bush, we were at the border at 8 sharp the following morning, and were through in just two hours. We then had a simply beautiful drive up into the Ethiopian Highlands, winding up through green hills, with the impressive walls of the Highland escarpment ahead of us. At about 2000 metres, we crested the lip and had a sensational two-hour drive on dirt tracks through a patchwork of green fields to the edge of Lake Tana, where we fell into ‘Tim and Kim’s Village’, a lodge-cum-campsite on the shore of the lake. Cold beer, gin and tonic, a camp spot under a fig tree, lovely gardens, friendly pet dogs, clean showers and loos, a beautiful view of the lake, delicious food, and warm and friendly hosts all make for a “petal opening” experience. Staying here at Tim and Kim’s were two of the motorbikers from Aswan and Wadi Halfa who had succumbed to the joys of this wonderful spot despite being on a deadline to get to Cape Town by the middle of December.

    So here we now sit, awaiting the arrival of family and friends in one week – a perfect climate, brilliant birds all around, and some gentle exploring by boat and foot in prospect. As I said before, it’s tough this adventuring.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Thanks WW, it is sad to note that Egypt has become even more difficult to traverse with no camping in the desert and no visits to an oasis allowed at present. At least the road border between Wadi Halfa and Egypt is now open alleviating the delays involved in the ferry trip you had to undertake. It remains regrettable that we did not proceed the few days north to reach Egypt from Sudan but our reasons were probably valid at the time.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Fascinating stuff. Thanks WW (and Stan). Do I understand correctly, that one can now avoid the whole ferry business, but would be restricted to the main Nile Valley road all the way Northward?

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Yes, except for a short vehicle ferry ride to cross the Nile in Egypt from its east to its west bank. The long delays waiting for the passenger ferry and then the vehicle ferry are something of the past.

    In my reading it still appears that crossing the Sudan/Egypt border even by land remains a tedious and expensive process. Some are doing it without a fixer but most do pay the fixer fees on either side to speed up the border crossing and to deal with the complex administrative tangles.

    The major problem at present remains getting your vehicle across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe either to or from Egypt. Crossing via the previously popular routes via the Arab countries likewise appears to be a major impediment. Some appear to find a way but obviously I have no first-hand experience in matters Egyptian.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Quote Originally Posted by RodS View Post
    Fascinating stuff. Thanks WW (and Stan). Do I understand correctly, that one can now avoid the whole ferry business, but would be restricted to the main Nile Valley road all the way Northward?

    Thank you, Rod. As Stan says, there is still a short ferry from the east bank to the west bank of the Nile. My understanding is that the Western Desert and the oases are restricted areas at the moment due to the situation in Libya (and in the Middle East) and one would have to take the road up the main Nile Valley. The best forum for current advice on North Africa is the HUBB (Horizons Unlimited).

    There are reports of overlanders attempting to cross from Egypt to Sudan (and vice versa) without the assistance of fixers. My advice is that - unless you speak and read Arabic and understand the opaque bureaucratic system - use a fixer. It is not that expensive and saves days of worry and stress. Mazar in Wadi Halfa is a really nice, calm and extremely competent man. He knows everyone on both sides of the border crossing which is in itself worth his weight in gold.

    There are overlanders who have succeeded recently in shipping into and out of Alexandria. This, by all accounts, is a tortuous, expensive and time-consuming business, but it can be done with time and patience. There are no ferries across the Mediterranean and shipping into/out of Alexandria is the only way. Fixers and good shipping agents are essential. In 2013, we were on plan E for crossing the Mediterranean and it was the most complex part of the whole trip!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    This difficulty with shipping vehicles seems to be the most important factor reducing the number of people attempting to self-drive the Cairo to Cape route. No doubt the security situation in Egypt and neighboring Arab states is not helping matters either.

    Although it is a pleasure for those traveling those routes with regard to privacy and availability in campsites in the short term, in the long term I remain concerned that many of the iconic stop overs will be forced to close due to lack of business. Some of the busiest ones complained to me of an 80% drop in turnover. I gather that in the 2 years since we traveled, many of them are looking rather run down and tired because the finance for upkeep is no longer available or justifiable.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    It is undoubtedly true that the decrease in numbers of overlanders doing the "pure" route from Europe to Cairo and on to the Cape is due to the instability in North Africa and the Middle East.

    Many people - who had wanted to drive Cairo to the Cape - are now shipping their vehicles to South Africa or Namibia and looping round southern and eastern Africa, and then, presumably, shipping their vehicles back from Kenya or South Africa. If there are still a number of overlanders doing this, then the iconic stopovers ought to still be relatively busy: but those places aren't. Perhaps this is because there are so many alternative places to stay nowadays and a bit of luxury can be too tempting even for those on tight budgets? We met a number of young and impecunious travellers who flopped into a banda or hotel at the first opportunity whilst us oldies pitched our tent!

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Egypt and Sudan: Excerpts from our blog September and October 2013

    Thanks (I think).

    The two of you are rapidly talking me out of it.

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