An adventure in itself

Een avontuur op zich 16After a fun week in Aswan we leave for Sudan on Sunday. We will follow our bikes to Sudan where they have arrived on Friday (hopefully). We look forward to seeing our red and white mopeds against in Wadi Halfa!. But it will still take some time, because we first have to take a trip with the ferry from Egypt to Sudan of about 17 hours!

We say goodbye to Sammy at Adam Home and get into Mo’s car with all our stuff. Again we first take the ferry across the Nile to the city. Kamal is waiting for us at the other side. There is a lot you can say about the man, but he always was where he said he would be. Upon seeing all our luggage he opens his trunk. Despite the fact that we had already sent part of our gear on the barge with our bikes, it still is quite a lot and quite heavy. It only just fits. Especially the bag with the helmets, the boots and suits, is very heavy. And to think that we could have just left those with the bikes, because if the bikes are stolen, the gear it not much use any more either ;).

Een avontuur op zich 1We buy some falafel sandwiches for lunch and then head towards the port with Kamal. At the entrance to the harbor it is already quite busy. A big difference with the days before, when we were there to put the bikes on the barge. Everywhere are people waiting between huge piles of suitcases and boxes until they are allowed to enter the port area. We do not only see suitcases with clothes, but also boxes with televisions, computers, kitchen appliances and even refrigerators. It is reminiscent of the fully loaded cars that we saw in the harbor in Italy heading for Tunisia. We understand that especially electric appliances are currently not for sale in Sudan. The Sudanese now buy their stuff in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. This is why the boat is not only full of people, but also with an extreme amount of luggage. Each passenger drags along at least five heavy bags or boxes.

Carriers in blue smocks offer to bring the luggage to the boat for a small fee. The young men carry things on their backs, the slightly older men with worn backs pull a loaded cart behind them. Between those passengers and all their luggage are street vendors who offer to sell drinks, nuts, books and blankets. Others walk around with a pile of banknotes offering to change Egyptian Pounds to Sudan Pounds.

Kamal parks his car and presses us to stay in the car with the windows closed until he is back. We see him walking to the entrance of the port and chatting with the guards. Then he comes back. He helps us unload, parks his car further away and leads us to the entrance. With the help of additional straps that Peter has attached to the luggage, we carry all our stuff passed the waiting passengers. Kamal apologizes for not being able to help us carry the luggage. He can only do so after our bags are checked in customs. At the entrance Kamal leads us along a long row of passengers.

Een avontuur op zich 2After a brief look between the guards and Kamal we are allowed inside the port area. There we first have let the customs check our luggage. There is only one scanning device in the port. A few days earlier when we had our bags checked, it was very quiet and we had a good chat with one of the employees there. Now, it is not quiet at all!

When we arrive the door to the scanner is still closed and a long row of passengers is waiting outside. When the door suddenly opens, the row of waiting passengers splashed and everyone runs forward to put his bag in the scanner first. All luggage is thrown on the belt and forms a high stack within seconds blocking the scanner. The guards explode. They throw all the luggage off the belt again, scream with a red head that everyone should step back and then close the door of the building again. Then they come out to do some more screaming.

Among them is they guy we had a chat with a few days earlier. A friendly smile appears on his angry red face when he sees us. Not long after the doors open again and we are guided by Kamal with our luggage to the beginning of the row. The babbler takes our luggage and puts it in the scanner, while snapping at the Egyptian and Sudanese passengers that they have to get out of the way. We are glad our stuff is now been checked quickly, but we also feel awkward to be treated with priority.

Kamal takes one of our bags and walks in front of us to the harbour office for the final formalities. One of the things that needs to be sorted out is, crazy enough, our visa for Egypt. We thought we had already obtained one when we entered Egypt from Libya, but unfortunately that was not the case. We then paid, but received no sticker in our passports. We already thought that to be a little strange, but since we did receive a receipt, we thought it was OK (see “From pillar to post”). Later it became clear that we were cheated anyway and the receipt was worth nothing. In our passports it was written in Arabic that we would pay for the visa upon leaving Egypt. That is in Aswan. After we have paid 200 Egyptian Pounds per visa we get our passports back with stamped visa stickers.

Een avontuur op zich 3The port office is also a lot busier than it was in the previous days. We do not seem be the only one that had a priority treatment, for almost all foreign tourists are already in the hall. We meet Luca, an Italian backpacker traveling to South Africa by public transport. In the hall are also three bikes from a French family with three children traveling through Africa by pushbike. The eldest son of seven cycles himself and the youngest two boys (aged five and two) sit together in a bike trailer behind the bike of their father. Very special!

If our tickets are checked, we can go to the ferry. We had not been able to obtain a place in a cabin so we will have to sleep on the deck of the boat. We had already understood that if you pay the captain 50 Egyptian Pounds each, he allows you to sleep next to the bridge on an enclosed piece of the deck. That is about EUR 10 and we think it is a good idea. Kamal leads us onto the boat and takes us to the captain, to whom we pay his pocket money. Then we say goodbye to Kamal. When he returns to the quay he calls Peter and he is waving to us with two arms all the way up to the office. A big difference with the cool encounters during the last couple of days. All in all, we spent some special days with Kamal in Aswan. We are pleased that we did not have to arrange everything ourselves, but we still feel that we paid too much. Mixed feelings so to say.

Een avontuur op zich 5It is 10:30 AM when we goodbye to Kamal. The boat will only leave at the end of the afternoon, probably around 05:00 PM. We look for a place in the shade, eat our sandwiches and take out our e-readers. While we are reading, the boat slowly fills with passengers. If I go to the lower deck to go to the (now still reasonably clean) toilet, it appears to be utter chaos there. I end up in a mass of pushing and shouting people who make their way to the banks on the lower deck with all their belongings. At the entrance of the “first class” is an employee of the ferry holding a large iron gate to stop people from going in. He keeps the gate in front of him as a shield while he tries to push back the crowd with his full weight. The whole thing is reminiscent of a noisy herd of cattle that is pushed back in the barn.

I walk on to the restaurant, through the crowded lounges on the lower back, towards the upper deck. I have a chat with the other tourists. Luca and the French family have found a shady spot under one of the lifeboats. Meanwhile, there are two Chinese cyclists and two Chinese backpackers who have joined them. In awe we watch how the deck around us is crammed with luggage. Passengers are trying to safe a spot to sleep by putting cardboard or a blanket on the floor. The French family has even set up their tent on the deck, but it is a real struggle to even keep the spot. There is more and more stuff coming up and the stacks on deck are getter higher, while the quay is still full of luggage and there are also still people -with additional bags- coming out of the port building. Here and there quarrels arise. At some point the lifeboats are even filled with luggage. That is when our French companion goes to speak to the captain. It is an unimaginable chaos.

If I go back to Peter, who stayed with our stuff, I notice that our sleeping area has also been filled with luggage. The deck in front of the bridge is full of televisions, computer monitors and crockery. Our ’sleeping spot’ had been crammed with boxes of cornstarch. Like the passengers on deck, we also begin to ’defend’ our spot, by putting our blown mats on the floor to safeguard our spot.

Een avontuur op zich 7In the course of the afternoon, it is clear that the boat will not leave anytime soon. The quay is still full of boxes when we see the sun go down and the passengers next to us turn toward Mecca to pray to Allah. On the deck the passengers have kept a space free for prayer, but there is not enough room for all passengers. If the first group has completed their prayer, they make room for others so that eventually everyone who wants to call on Allah has the opportunity to do so. It might be a good idea to call upon the help of a higher power because the boat is now so full that we could use all help in case of any shipwreck.

A lot of people stop for a chat with the captain in the bridge. It is not always clear what their role on the boat is: captain, first officer, manager, customs or just a passenger. Unlike in Europe we cannot recognize them by their uniform. One of them, a tall man with a big belly in a brown shirt with short sleeves approaches us and says -somewhat out of nowhere- that we should give him our passports. If we laugh and say that we will do no such thing, he is suddenly very upset and says that we will not get into Sudan then. He appears to be working for Sudanese customs. He is not wearing his uniform now, because he is still on Egyptian territory. After we have understood that all other tourists have given him their passports, we decide to ’obey his order’ and give ours as well.

Our tickets not only gives us the right to sleep (on deck), but also to a meal. We doubt on the hygiene in the kitchen, especially with the now very filthy toilets in mind, but decide to give it a try anyway. Peter goes downstairs to the kitchen with our dinner vouchers and returns with two plates of vegetables, boiled potatoes and chicken. It looks good and smells good too. It tastes surprisingly good.

Een avontuur op zich 34Our place next to the bridge is relatively quiet compared to the rest of the ship. Yet there are people who come to chat with us now and then. We meet four young (very beautiful) Egyptian girls. They are dressed in Western fashion and we initially ask in English where they are from. We are surprised to hear that they come from Cairo. With two other women, they are on their way to Sudan to Meroe to visit the pyramids. They want to take a bus from the port in Wadi Halfa to go to the pyramids and take the same boat back to Egypt 24 hours later to catch their return flight to Cairo. A quick visit to Sudan, but they should make it.
All four went to a French-language high school. They do not only speak very good English, but also speak French fluently. They all just started studies at university and are about to go abroad for their studies. It is very interesting to hear about their lives in Cairo. Each of them comes across as a very strong young women that is doing a very good job in a culture that mainly dominated by men.

The sun has set and it is quite dark now. Luggage is still taken up from the quay and loaded on the ship. It does not look like we will be leaving any time soon. The girls do not have another option than to leave the ship, otherwise they will not make it back in time for their flight home. As we say goodbye to the ladies, it is almost 09:30 PM.

The door to the bridge opens again and out come three beautiful Sudanese women. They make themselves comfortable on the floor and are given blankets by the captain. The captain again closes the door to the bridge and turns off the lights. It looks like we will share our spot with them this night. It is a clear night and it starts to get a little chilly. We are both a bit tired and decide to try to get some sleep. Without shoes, but with all our clothes on, we crawl into our sleeping bags. It does not take long before I fall asleep under the stars.

Een avontuur op zich 15When I wake up after a while, I see the stars move above me. We have left! I stand up in my sleeping bag and stand on my mat to like over the railing of the boat. It is pitch dark and there are a lot of stars in the sky, a beautiful sight. There is a chilly wind. Happy we have left the port, I get back on my mat again and crawl deep into my sleeping bag for another few hours of sleep. If I opens my eyes again a few hours later, the sun is already low in the sky. We smell fresh coffee coming from the bridge. On the roof of the bridge our French fellow travelers look out over the water. When the boys see us lying in our sleeping bags they come to the edge of the roof to have a chat. It is still early, but they are already full of energy.

The pile of blankets at the foot end of our bed starts to wake up. One by one the ladies show up from under the blankets. Out of their bag comes a water boiler, which they give to the captain. While the water is boiling, they take out cups, tea and sugar. A little while later, Peter and I are enjoying a cup of sweet mint tea while the ladies smoke one cigarette after another. They do not speak much English, but with hand gestures we can surely talk a bit to each other.

Now we are awake, I have to go to the toilet. The toilet was very dirty already the night before and the situation will not have improved. Armed with toilet paper, a towel and a large block of soap, I dare to go to the lower deck. When I enter the washroom, I am glad that I am wearing my shoes. There is about three inches of water (at least I hope it is water) on the ground and it smells pretty special. Water leaks from the pipes everywhere, but the toilet does not flush. Like I am preparing for open-heart surgery I thoroughly scrub my hands and try to freshen up. I only hope I will not have to go to the toilet again. I go back to Peter. And now I am back at our stuff, he can now go to the toilet. When I see that he is still wearing his flip-flops, I can only just stop him to hand over his shoes.

Een avontuur op zich 28While we have been on the move all night, it will still take until the end of the afternoon before we arrive in Sudan. We take away our mats and sleeping bags and find a spot on top of the boxes with cornstarch. At the end of the morning the ferry will pass along the temple complex Abu Simbel. The temple was formerly on the Nile. When the dam in Aswan was built, Abu Simbel was about to disappear under water. The temple was then broken down and rebuilt on higher ground to safe it from the rising water. The temple is now on Lake Nasser and can be seen from the ferry. The captain specifically comes out of the bridge to tell us that we are almost at Abu Simbel. We take our cameras and find a nice spot for a picture. We are not the only ones! When I look to the right, I see that all passengers on deck a looking over to watch Abu Simbel. Great to see!

The remainder of the day we hang around on the ferry. We talk to the Sudanese women and eventually share a lunch with them we received from the captain. We take turns to walk around the ship to chat with other passengers or to buy a drink. At the beginning of the afternoon, we are allowed to pick up our passports. The customs guy has now put in his uniform and possibly looks even stricter than the day before.

It is warm in the sun and the time passes very slowly. Especially once I finish my book (Murder on the Nile, what other book could I read). We are pleased when we are told by the captain that we will arrive in about an hour. Around us the first people start to move their luggage to the lower deck.

After a while, we see a quay looming in the distance. We only see a few low buildings, not what you would expect from a city with a port. On one of the quays we see a cargo ship like to one we put the bikes on. The cargo ship is still too far away to see it clearly, but on a picture we see some ‘red -and-white’ spots. Would that be the bikes? If we take another picture later when we are closer to the quay, we can clearly identify our two bikes! Great, as least they made it to Sudan, we now only have to see in what state.

Een avontuur op zich 26As the boat pulls up, we are told that we allowed to go below deck. We drag our stuff through the narrow corridors of the ship and make our way down. We are first stopped the canteen. We sit down next to all other foreign tourists and fill out some forms for the Sudanese customs. Then we are allowed to leave with a copy of the forms we have just filled out.

The door is already open and in the aisles are incredibly many people pushing their way out with their heavy bags. Leaving the ferry in Tunis is a joke compared to this. I try to be a proper and kind Dutchman by waiting my turn. However, when everybody keeps passing me, even old gray ladies, I decide to put aside my good manners and just as brutal as the Sudanese and push my way out. Step by step we get closer to the exit. Just when we get our heavy stuff up the stairs, we are stopped by two men: “Where is your form?“. They want the form that we had just neatly tucked away and they want it NOW. While I can nearly stand up straight, I grab my backpack and get out the forms. I see Peter do the same. We can finally go off the boat. It is still one small step and then we are outside, in Sudan!

Distance to Wadi Halfa : 7981km, of which 298km by ferry. (4,959 miles of which 185 miles by ferry)

Click here to see the photos in this post.

| Leonie | AFRICA, Egypt, Sudan

10 Reacties (Comments) - An adventure in itself

  1. Jan Nauta

    Hallo Leonie en Peter,
    Ik heb jullie verhalen gelezen en vind het prachtig.
    Wij hebben een huis 50 km onder Mombasa aan zee.
    Hiervan uit organiseren we Motortochten in Kenia en Tanzania en straks ook Uganda en verder.
    We nodigen jullie van harte uit hier een paar dagen te logeren om verhalen uit te wisselen.
    als je intersse hebt mail ons of bel met +254714851129
    Echter we zijn er tot 6 april……

  2. Loes

    Heel mooi om jullie reisverslag te lezen. Bijzonder van de Franse familie om de reis met zulke jonge kinderen op de fiets te maken. Goede reis verder!

  3. Mieke

    Wat een belevenis weer en wat een mooi ongeregeld zootje op die boot! Met al die foto’s geeft het een prachtig beeld van wat jullie allemaal meemaken. Liefs van ons

  4. Niny Koiter

    Hoi (bekende) lieve Leonie en (onbekende) Peter.
    Van jou vader Leonie hoorde ik dat jullie aan het reizen zijn en nu dus in Sudan vertoeven.
    Prachtige verhalen, geniet lekker!!!!

    Groet uit Barneveld, waar het momenteel lente aan het worden is.

  5. Gerard

    Ik reis, heerlijk comfortabel, met jullie mee, dankzij google maps. Bijzonder knap hoe jullie je staande houden en prachtig om te lezen hoe snel jullie je aanpassen aan het, schijnbaar, benodigde gedrag van de rest van de ‘ kudde’ . Nu maar hopen dat de motoren ongeschonden de reis hebben ‘overleefd’.

  6. Mip

    Wat leuk om die foto’s van die ferry te zien! Brengt leuke herinneringen boven. Wij sliepen op hetzelfde plekje als jullie volgens mij :-). Deze oversteek hadden jullie toch zeker niet willen missen? xxx

  7. Jan en Mariët

    Waar gaan al die mensen heen????
    Heerlijk verhaal weer, dikke knuffels xx

  8. Jan en Anna

    Wat weer een bijzonder avontuur. En wat een andere wereld!! Mooi om dat weer zo mee te beleven maar ook ik ben deze keer niet jaloers. Wij zijn net terug van een heerlijke wintersport vakantie, maar in vergelijking met jullie reis, was dat eenvoudig saaie vakantie. :-). Toch hoop ik dat jullie ondanks al die spannende avonturen nog steeds genieten. Liefs xxx

  9. Catelijne

    Wat maak je toch mooie foto’s! Ik kan het niet goed omschrijven, maar de kleuren, de gezichtsuitdrukkingen, het licht….je blijft kijken. Prachtig! Xxx

  10. Frederike

    Poe hé! Waar ik voorheen toch wel een klein beetje jaloers was op al dat moois en avontuurlijks, heb ik dat nu totaal niet, hahaha! Wat een geluk dat ik gewoon saai aan het werk was en niet op een ramvolle veerboot :). Wel weer een geweldig verhaal. xxx