We are in Aswan, the place where you have to be if you want to get into Sudan. If you think about the huge boarder Egypt and the Sudan are sharing, it is quiet strange that the only way to get from the one country to the other is that you have to take a boat, which by the way takes ages. The whole process to get out of Egypt into Sudan is an adventure on its own.
So on Monday the 14th we got up at 6am (which is way before our usual time) to make our trip through the eastern dessert from the coast to the Nile valley. The road through the dessert is superb, no litter, no people, no noise, no nothing besides rock, sand and some taught trees which fight the hard environment of the dessert. As we come close to the Nile valley I can smell the earth, trees and the surrounding again, I didn’t realize that the dessert has no smell at all until I left it.
The Nile valley is very busy, one village after the other is settled along the “coast” of the Nile, to use every access to the life giving water in this very hard place on earth. Our speed drops down rapidly. Sometimes I think there are more speed bumps than normal road. Every second driver or pedestrian wants to tell us that our lights are turned on, so the whole way we drive in flashlight. Egyptians don’t use their lights quiet often, not even in the night. Must be to save petrol because of their enormous caring about the environment ☺ (see huge pile of litter everywhere). I count down the kilometers to Aswan, but somehow it seems endless. Finally we reach the Sudanese consulate in town, that is the reason we hurried up so much, to be there before 1.30pm. The friendly guy of the consulate tells us that our Visa will be ready in 7 days, Inshallah! We just read a thread where someone got it recently within 3 hours. So we try everything, asking friendly, offering more money, telling we have good connections, all without success! Inshallah, 5 to 7 days! If we get the visa in 7 days we might miss our boot, which just runs weekly, cause of some hours.
Not very happy we make our way to the Nile navigation office to book the tickets for us and our bikes. Mr Sahal does not make us feel better, with telling us that there might not be space for our bikes on the barge. If this is the case we have to stay at least 2 weeks in Aswan (not one) and I can truly say Aswan is a shithole. The city is (besides the main road) quite dirty and the constant honking orchestra does the rest. Most restaurants charge double the price for tourists, the phrases shop assistance use to get you to buy something get more and more stupid. If you walk along the Nile it is impossible to have a normal conversations, even to finish one sentence, you will be interrupted by hundreds of boat owners who try to sell an overpriced boat trip. There are no No goes they wouldn’t use. Public ferry doesn’t work, they tell you all sorts of lies and that is so tiring! No, Shokran (=no, thank you) is our natural reaction sentence if somebody even starts looking at us. If that doesn’t work, which usually is the case, we ignore them. Next step is to tell them, we would really like to be on our own and the real hard cases, don’t even give up after: Leave us alone, now!
Within all this craziness we still find lovely people. An old man walking through the whole city to bring us to a shop which might sell the rope we asked him about. Girls from our hotel reception give me loads of cake. Other people invite us to their wedding.
My overall impression of Egypt is: Crazy, sand, exhausting, streetfood, hassle, red sea, pimped cars, skinny horses, dirt, Shisha, men, donkeys, flashlights and some really nice people which are sometimes hard to see, cause of all the other impressions. But this is exactly what we thought before we entered Egypt.
One day we go to Abu Simbel. The amazing temple we see there was moved stone by stone. This temple would have been floated when they built the dam of the biggest artificial Lake on earth Lake Nasser.
Finally on the ferry to Sudan
On Saturday we get green light for our bikes and on Sunday we finally get our visa for Sudan. Inshallah! All other overlanders with cars have less luck, there is no space on the barge so they have to stay another week. Would have been great to drive together for a bit, but we are sure we meet them again. Because the big barge doesn’t run that week, there are less people on the boat, so we even get to book a cabin. Usually we wouldn’t bother, but as I had a bad cold the last days, I don’t want to stay on the cold deck. Mr. Salah shows us a picture, so the 20Euro extra are payed more easy.
On the boat we find out that the cabin does look a bit different to the photo. But we are tired and we can’t change it anyways. I wake up around midnight. People turn on some music and start clapping and singing. But what is different, this music is really nice and it finally sounds really African. I move my toughs to the rhythm and I am happy. I fall asleep again. At 2.44 I feel something on my body, like something slipped of, I turn on my torch, but there is nothing lying on the floor. The high frequency chewing noise in the background brings me back to the first thought I had when I felt this thing on my body. Rats!
We arrive in Wadi Halfa with a little delay, caused by a fishing net which stopped our engine. The cueing system at customs is not highly developed but the Sudanese are friendly. Even the black market money exchange back in a car transaction with enormous good exchange rate is fun and laid back. We get 5 Sudanese pounds to the euro, official rate would be 3.6. Don’t know how that works, but it does.
Sudan is great! We love it from the first moment!