After descending from the highlands of Ethiopia the temperature increased and we traveled through 200km of undulating farmland until reaching the Sudanese border. I was happily once again to be off the tourist trail, if only for a week or so.
After a four hour border crossing we headed north into a flat green landscape of acacia savanna, reminiscent of further south in East Africa.
The roads were more reminiscent of Burkina Faso in West Africa, riddled with car sized potholes, which reduced our speed to not much more than a crawl.
With our slow progress we drove down a dirt road and camped under the stars on what was our first Sudanese Bush camp.
After a long drive day we arrived in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. The legendary ancient desert town has sat for thousands of years at the point where the Blue Nile and the White Nile join to form the one river that flows north to Egypt.
Photo above: where the two Niles merge. White Nile on right and Blue Nile on the left.
No longer a large town, Khartoum is a bustling city at the heart of a country struggling economically and politically.
In the forty plus degree heat I struggled across the road to the juice bar and ordered an ice cold mango juice ($1). There’s two things the Sudanese do exceptionally well and they are fresh ice cold juice and chicken shawarma.
We stayed at the Blue Nile Sailing Club on the shores of the Nile River where I found myself a comfy chair in the shade, kept the juice guy in business and watched the world go by up and down the river. If only it wasn’t a dry Islamic country and I could have ordered a beer and a G&T, I would have stayed longer.
Rather than wait till Cairo I decided to jump in a taxi and head across the city to the Algerian Embassy to get myself a visa. Despite saying to the driver several times, “No, not Nigerian, the ALgerian Embassy”, he took me straight to the Nigerian Embassy.
So we set off in the other direction and arrived at the Libyan Embassy! Close, but not close enough. After a brief stop at the Kuwait Embassy we finally found the spot, which turned out to be a vacant block with a big pile of rocks in the middle.
Despite giving Google a good workout and asking several locals, no-one knew where the Algerian Embassy had disappeared to. Three hours later, after criss crossing the city I paid my driver $10 and returned to the juice bar and the shady banks of the Nile.
The following day I caught a taxi to Tuti Island and hired a boat. The boat cost $25 and I had it to myself for two hours. We cruised down to where the White Nile and the Blue Nile come together and then continued around the island and up and down the river until he ran us onto a sandbank, invisible in the muddy water. We managed to free ourselves and soon after, managed to repeat the process.
The next morning we headed to the outskirts of town and visited the weekly Camel Market. Hundreds of camels stood around in the heat and dust and the auctioneer came over with his order book and asked how many we wanted to buy. The Sudanese continue to be friendly and welcoming and the camel traders all wanted their photos taken next to their livestock.
After three days we drove north out of Khartoum towards the Sahara. Khartoum is just like the other three Sahalian cities I’ve been to in the last two years, Bamako, Niamey and N’Djamena. All are on the banks of a huge river and are hot, dry, dusty and dirty but Khartoum is definitely the safest and the people are definitely the friendliest.
From Khartoum we drove 200km north to the Meroe Pyramids. We arrived as the setting sun bathed the pyramids in a golden light and turned the surrounding sand dunes apricot. The pyramids were built around 500BC by the Nubian Kings or Black Pharaoh’s, who ruled the Kingdom of Kush.
The World Heritage site which contains some pyramids over 30m high are one of the greatest sights in East Africa and well off the tourist trail. We wandered around the complex on our own and camped in the dunes next to the pyramids.
In the 1800’s an Italian treasure hunter arrived at the site and dynamited the top off the pyramids looking for treasure, which he found but in the process partly destroyed most of the pyramids.
We visited the pyramids again at dawn and then headed north to Atbura, where we bought supplies for the three day desert crossing.
We turned off the tar and did 100km of dirt road, which eventually ended with only tyre tracks in the sand ahead.
Our next two days were across the Sahara Desert where there are no roads and temperatures were in the mid forties.
We followed some vehicle tracks until they were sand blown away and then continued in roughly the same direction as the train line.
Most of the surface was fairly hard and we made good progress despite becoming bogged six times on the first day. A bit of shovel work and sand mats in front of each wheel soon had us on the way again each time.
We crossed countless sand dunes and travelled next to weathered mountain ranges for hours, eventually arriving at Train Station No. 6, a desolate and remote outpost in the middle of an ocean of white sand.
We once again camped under the stars with a nice breeze giving some overnight relief from the scorching heat.
On our final day we drove across a huge open plain of white sand which went on and on for five hours. We were briefly bogged another four times on sand drifts but after a long day we arrived in Wadi Halfa on the southern shores of Lake Nassa.
Lake Nasser was formed when the Egyptians built the Aswan Dam across the Nile River and the Sudanese border runs through the middle of the lake.
It only took 5.5hrs to cross through customs and from there we boarded the ferry and cruised north across Lake Nasser and began the journey through Egypt.
The next two weeks will be crossing Egypt, South to North, eventually finishing our 21,000km transverse of the continent in Alexandria.
Bye for now.