Day 42 - The Journey into Sudan
Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
68Trip End Nov 07, 2007
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Distance Travelled: 6600km
Frame of Mind: Triumphant
Night 39 - Back To Gonder
Back to Gonder for a pizza, pick up some last minute supplies/parts and get locked in a bathroom. I had to fashion a screw driver from the shower head to unscrew the door frame. That didn't work so had to unscrew the window frame to escape that way. No luck. Three stories off the ground with no purchase on the outside at all. And I was completely naked. So screamed out of the window till someone alerted the hotel staff, they smashed down the hotel room door (no spare key) and then simply turned the key on the outside of the bathroom. Many grins were forthcoming from the staff at the hotel after that.
Day 40 - To the Border
I had my last (few) beers for a while, as Sudan is strict with all that sin stuff, a good hot injera tibs and went to bed with the largest insect I have ever seen. I thought it was a rat from the sound it made.
Day 41 - Crossing into Sudan - 17 Sept
I rose early and packed everything up, ready to be at customs to check my bike through when it opened at 7am. No such luck. A little after 8 the official with the stamp rocked up. It was gone 9 when I got to the Ethiopian border. My last injera and Ethiopian coffee, some money changed and some biscuits bought (Ramadan the other side - who knows whether it will be possible to buy food during the day?) and I was ready to brave the infamous Sudanese customs and immigration.
Immigration was a fight. One official wanted the equivalent of 65USD for 'registration' that I knew I had to do in Khartoum anyway. I refused and much to-and-fro-ing ensued. I agreed to register in Gedaref instead. I didn't. I knew he was blagging when the immortal words "give me money" came out of his mouth. I've heard that too many times from kids around Africa to think this was anything official!
Customs was a doddle, if a little time consuming. The chap was very nice and friendly and everything got sorted in as short a time as possible for a fairly tedious process. Then I was on my way, and what a nice surprise awaited me....
The alleged road-from-hell that takes 8-12 hours to do the 155km to Gedaref has been replaced by the-road-where-angels-tread. Beautiful tarmac all the way, extending to Khartoum. Wonderful. Cruising. I could potentially reach Khartoum the same day. I had planned on three days!
Sadly it was not to be. The temperature soared and I was very hot, bothered and dehydrated. I had not packed the suncream in an accessible location so was getting crisped slowly. But at 100kmph it was not so unpleasant. Until my brand-new-bought-in-Addis-no-more-than-2000km-on-it chain snapped. In the middle of nowhere. Now, I have spare links but no chain-breaker. I was a bit stuck. So Ik cobbled something together with a spanner, a new link and some brute force. It didn't look too safe but kept me on the road for another 30km (going very slowly) until it broke again. So, onto the back of a pickup truck and into the middle of nowhere to an alleged motorbike expert. I doubt this unnamed town had seen a whitey in many a year. For what reason would anyone want to go there I ask you.
However they managed to cobble together a fix that looked better than my attempt but so many of the links were damaged that I held very little hope that it would last. I definitely need a new one in Khartoum. Fingers crossed that I'd get there. The guy with the pickup truck had demanded 15 Sudanese Pounds (about 7.50USD) from me for the trip he was making anyway and I don't know whether the mechanic was a little embarrassed at his countryman's greed but he refused to accept payment for his services. Same story again: greedy guy, good guy.
So with the light fading I zoomed (well, more of a zum) off to try and get to Wad Medani, the next big town, by night fall. No such luck. I was flagged down as the sun was setting by what I assumed was another police checkpoint (that don't just look at your passport but write down every little detail, slowly, requiring translation at each point. To be honest I'd started waving my way through most of the checkpoints, feigning ignorance.) but this time decided I'd best stop. I was actually a whole load of Muslim men breaking their Ramadan daily fast near a village called Amdangla. They were inviting all weary (and hungry) travellers for refreshments. I eagerly accepted.
An ice-cold lemonade was pressed into my hand (at first I thought it was VERY murky water and sipped tentatively, but it was delicious), then some more iced-tea type drinks. I feasted on dates, Sudanese ugali (much softer and nicer than the TZ type) with a variety of sauces. Then it was time to pray. I watched with a cup of sweet tea in my hand and a cold water in the other. It was an extremely peaceful and unified scene, much more togetherness than I have felt during many church prayers. After a bit of chat (the verbal kind) with Ahmed, Ahmed, Woosif, Sadig, Rodwan and many others and more tea I was invited to their village to spend the night under the stars.
I had a lovely cool shower with 'luxury' soap and changed into a freshly laundered Jallabat (apologies, I am transliterating myself) that Ahmed's father, at whose house we were all staying, had lent me to wear. He afterwards insisted I keep it, as I looked so good in it, he said! We watched football on television with a hoard of other men from the village in the back garden of the house and I fell asleep under the stars on a bed they had brought for me for that purpose. Despite much insect repellent I got bitten lots, and it did get a little chilly in the middle of the night but it was a fantastic evening. What a wonderful introduction to Sudan.
I only realised very late that since crossing the border I had not seen a single woman. Perhaps I wouldn't for the whole trip. Except breakfast was served to me in the morning by Ahmed's mother. Hot milk and chocolate biscuits! What a setup for the day! This is the sort of hospitality I had heard about in Sudan. I had heard this about many places but none had actually lived up to the reputation. Many people are quite snooty about it: "you need to get off the tourist trail and see the REAL XYZ", but I think these sort of incidents are few and far between in a place like Ethiopia. There will always be a demand for money later on. Or clothes. Or a pen. Or a penknife. I truly hope that Sudan does not disappoint in this sense. I felt guilty not having anything save a Tanzanian card and a photo to give them to thank them for their kindness.
Day 42 - To Khartoum
Just after 7am I set off to Khartoum, arriving just after 10. Even by then it was fierce hot. Get used to it Clark. At least it ain't raining.