Sunday, 12 July 2009

Top Gear Challange: Sudan

We have been in Sudan now for almost a week, and for the most part it has been an enjoyable place to travel.
Our journey started with the boat from Asawn to Wadi Halfa.  We were lucky to be able to buy an upgrade to "first class" as we were waiting in the queue to get on.   It had no real frills, but at least our box like cabin had AC, so we could sleep rather than push our way to a flat area on deck class.  It seemed that every man woman and child was issued with a fridge, a couple of juicers, several rugs, some grain sacks, a pair of smelly feet and an elderly woman before being able to enter the boat so it was rather crowded.  You could tell the experienced ones as they had travelled with their own chairs, and used their issued supplies to create marked off areas for themselves
Although we are travelling on foot / by public transport we met Trev & Jan (Landrover), and Jase & Mark (motorbikes) in Aswan and our paths have crossed a few times since. As they had to wait for their vehicles to clear customs we got a head start out of Wadi Halfa, heading to Wawa and the Temple of Soleb.  We were winning the Top Gear Challence until about 6.50am the next morning when the bikes passed the town.  The Landrover passed at 7.30.  We should have left town about 7am but we discovered the first ever early African bus, and it zoomed past as we were heading up to the road leaving us to wait a few hours until the next boxi.  Still we met the Landrover just after they said goodbye to the bikes in Dongala that evening, so we were still in the game.
It would seem we are well behind now though.  Over the past few days we have been zooming through the desert roads (all nice an flat now thanks to the Chinese), staying in small towns and enjoying the ruins and most of all the local hospitality.
No matter where we go people are keen to say hello, shake our hands and buy us tea.  Everyone seems very interested in our travels and why on earth we are in Sudan in the hot season!
In Karima we were lucky to meet local businessman Shelly who invited us back to his home for Friday lunch with his family.  His wife was a great cook and his five children were all lovely. His eldest daughter spoke very good english so we were able share lots about their family and what we were doing.   In a bizarre turn of events, on the TV in the background was an episode of Taste NZ all about asparagus, so we even got to show them a little of NZ!  I think that the best bit of all of the was having fresh mangos by the Nile after lunch as the kids went for a swim - just bliss.
Karima has some great temples and pyramids on the outskirts of town so we braved the heat two days in a row to check them out.  It is quite a spectacle to see them rise out of the sand and for there to be nobody else about.
We are now in Atbara.  The is the main junction town on the Sudan railway and has the feel of a place that lots of people move through.  The market sprawls from one end of town to the other and there are so many people selling all manner of water carriers, goats, and slippers made from what looks like hyena skins.  The other noticeable thing here is other foreigners, not tourists but people from nearby countries here for a better life - now I like Sudan, but it's no place of mike and honey so just how bad does life in Eritrea or Chad need to be for this to be a better option?
From here we are aiming for more ancient sites along the Nile before a few days in Khartoum. 
For now we have treated ourselves to some AC to blow the budget and also the dust from ourselves so it is off to the hotel for a couple of hours during the heat of the day...

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