HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London, across the length of Africa.
It’s Kirsty writing today.
A question that had taken residency in my mind for weeks, if not years, was: How will we exit Sudan? There were no roads open between Sudan and Egypt to travellers. So, our most viable route was to take a boat up Lake Nasser and The Nile into Egypt. We heard we might be able to catch a passenger ferry and send Troopy on his own barge.
In the Western world the idea might appear simple. Drive onboard a ferry, and a few hours drive off? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. Instead our passage crossing from Sudan to Egypt was one of our biggest logistical adventures yet.
Before arriving in Sudan I contacted a guy in Wadi Halfa, our exit port, to hear our options. His name was Mazar and we had heard of him from other travellers as a fixer who assists in shipping people and cargo. We contacted him while waiting in Uganda for our Ethiopian visas from Australia. “People on Tuesdays and the car after that” he said. From the comfort of our view over the source of the Nile this all sounded fine. The ferry was operating. “I just hope it works out as easily as all that”, I said to Gareth as I reclined on a lounger and he sipped back a Nile beer while taking a rest from his time in the pool.
A couple of months later that relaxed guy and girl were sweating it out in the capital of Sudan.
I had my ear pressed up to the phone trying to understand Mazar on the other end through his thick accent. “Bad news”, he said. “You must come straight away. Arrive tomorrow. The car barge hasn’t worked for weeks. But one is coming and you better get your car on it”, “We spoke to you two days ago and all was fine”, “Come now. You can make it! If you don’t come the next boat might be in two weeks!”
Breathing through the humidity and squinting at the setting sun in the 47’degree heat after a bloody long day driving into the capital, I struggled to make sense of it.
I translated it >> through my brain that was running at 20% capacity >>> to Gareth. As someone who spends every waking hour, and every sleeping hour, with me… he already knew the message was “NOT GOOD”. However the good news was two brains running at 20% equaled 40%. We decided we needed to ask our fixer when 2-weeks started from. From today, or from when we left in a week on the passenger ferry?
We knew we faced a delay, but didn’t know if we should try to work it so we would be delayed in Sudan or Egypt. Or have the Troopy go before us or after us. Either way we were going to have to leave the Troopy and the keys for longer than 10-days with a stranger. And possibly wait a week at the Sudan port or two weeks in the Egyptian port.
After consulting a few mates and google we decided to not rush off the next day. We had travelled so far to come to Sudan we didn’t want to rush it. It’s not exactly the type of country you can easily drop by anytime with your own set of wheels. We figured we would go on the passenger ferry and we would leave the Troopy in the more honest hands of the Sudanese, even if it meant we would wait weeks in Aswan. Also, we heard that Aswan had aircon and beer and sailing boats and riches
Decision made we took our time through Sudan. Wild camping every night and dusting ourselves off with a cocktail of heat, sand and ridiculous amounts of water each day. We had one litre bottles on high rotation in and out of the freezer into our bodies. Our 25 year old Troopy struggles to keep his cool in intense heat so running his air-con was out of the question.
:: Wild camping in the North East of Sudan
One morning we hiked up Jebel Barkal, a sacred mountain where humans have made pilgrimage to for thousands of years. Our atrophied legs proved they still had something left as they got us up the sand dune on one side of the mountain. We reached the top pumped, puffed and welcomed by a view over the desert and the green framing the Nile. As is tradition, many pilgrims make a prayer at the summit to the god Amun. I took pause and gave the mountain gods a silent wish “Please give us a safe passage across the rest of Africa. Please. Please. Please.” My emotion was palpable – was it the heat? the exercise or the mountain? Who knows.
We bounded down the sand dunes flying across the soft sand filled with laughter and joy. No tourists in sight. Just us and a view across the pyramids.
And then. Our Sudanese sim card rang! This seemed hilarious at first. I immediately thought… It must be the telecom company, or some random misplaced phone number. I braced myself to hear a ramble of Arabic words I didn’t understand and to reply ‘Sorry, wrong number’. But I heard “Hello Kirsty! How are you! This is Mazar”, it was Our Guy at the port calling. We bounded ‘how are you? good’ back and forth until I asked. “Mazar, what is your news!?”
“You are the luckiest people in Sudan” he proclaimed. As it turned out, our Troopy barge was on it’s way. In fact it would leave a day or so after our passenger ferry.
The mountain had answered the prayer swiftly. Again Gareth studied my face to hear what was happening on the other end of the iPhone. When I hung up I started dancing. We both did. We dropped everything and danced like idiots in the desert. We were back on track. Good karma had slammed back into alignment. It didn’t matter that it was 50 degrees and we were melting and had sucked back 4 litres of water in the past hour, we were SO HAPPY!
:: On top of the sacred mountain
:: Flying down the side of Jebel Barkal
:: Looks hot doesn’t it
:: Taking the phone call at the base of Jebel Barkal
:: Pyramids of Jebel Barkal
:: We were the only travellers there and were able to drive right up to the pyramids