Chat in Khartoum

Kletsen in Khartoum 19After we have admired the pyramids, we drive to the centre of Karima where we find the hotel that was recommended to us by Volker and Mülle. We can park our motorbikes in the courtyard of the hotel. After two days of bush camping it is great to have a shower (even if it is a cold shower) and sit on a normal toilet. The remainder of the afternoon we do some work on the blog, filter some water and wash clothes. Only when the sun is set we venture out to the main square of Karima to eat in one of the local restaurants.

It is very busy in the central square of Karima. Vans drive off and on and park in the square next to the donkey carts. Around the square there are ’Chai-mamas’ (ladies offering coffee and tea) everywhere. They sit on a stool behind a low table covered with glasses and jars with different spices and sugar. In front of the table are a few chairs and stools for guests. On a charcoal fire beside her are boiling two pots, one with water for tea and one with coffee. In addition, there is a pot of charcoal on which herbs are smoking to keep away mosquitoes.

Kletsen in Khartoum 12Around the square are about ten Chai-mamas. We choose one of the mini-terraces and order two tea (with sugar next to it, because if she puts in the sugar the tea is really very sweet). From under her bench she pulls a small round tray on which she puts tea glasses and a jar of sugar. She is holding a sif over the glass containing tea in which she pours the boiling water. The tea tastes very spicy and is delicious!

The next morning we drive further east to Atbara, from where we head towards Khartoum. South of Atbara we want to visit the pyramids of Meroë. Other travellers had told us that it would be a good place to bush camp. From Karima it is about 400km to the pyramids, a long distance we normally spread over two days. But since this road again runs through the hot desert, we decide to make it one long day. That way we sit in the (riding) wind on the bikes all day and we only have to pitch our tents when the sun sets.

Kletsen in Khartoum 21In Karima we buy extra water and fresh bread with falafel (the usual breakfast in Egypt and Sudan) before we leave. After our engines have been filled up with gasoline, we set off. The first part of the route winds along the Nile, but we soon turn left onto the long straight desert road. It immediately is very hot. In the distance we see the hot sky shiver above the sand. It really does seem like there is water in the distance!
The sun is so bright that I do not only wear my regular sunglasses, but also use the sunglasses of my helmet. With sunblock on my nose, the hose of my camelback close by and the buff over my face, I can just manage to drive with an open visor. We only stop to fill our camelbacks and eat the falafel sandwiches. The rest of the day, we keep the gas on.

At the end of the day we see the pyramids of Meroë from the road. As in Karima, the pyramids are smaller and pointier than in Giza (Egypt). They are built in a group between the sand dunes. We take the road towards the pyramids and look for a camping spot. The sand on the road to the pyramids is quite deep. We wobble through the sand and at some point Peter gets stuck in a small sand dune. We both let down the tires of the bikes and that does wonders! On our soft (knobby) tires, standing on the motor and hanging from the handlebars so that the front wheel is lighter, we suddenly fly through the sand. This is a lot better! We find a spot for the tent and pitch it while the sun is setting.

Kletsen in Khartoum 15The next morning we wake up while the sun rises over the sand dunes. When I walk up the sand dune to seek a ‘toilet’ I come across all sorts of tracks in the sand (lizards, snakes, beetles) and I see strange creatures everywhere. We were not alone this night. During breakfast we are surprised when suddenly a camel stands next to us with on his back a gentleman who offers us a ride to the pyramids. The legs of a camel make almost no noise as he shuffles through the sand, so we did not hear them arrive. We kindly decline the offer, pack our bikes and continue our journey to Khartoum.

From Atabara we drive on the main road to Khartoum. In addition to the buses (the ’idiots’), there are also a lot of trucks that ride from Port Sudan to Khartoum. The road has suffered from heavy traffic, which pulls deep tracks in the soft asphalt. The roadside is littered with broken tires and we regularly pass stranded cars with a boiling engines. We only stop at one of the “restaurants” along the way to drink tea at one of the Chai-mamas, but keep going most of the time.

At the beginning of the afternoon, Peter suddenly brakes. I hear him say over the intercom: “A motorcyclist with a helmet“. When I look up, I see a big motorbike with suitcases riding our way, and indeed there is a helmet on the head of the driver. In Africa this can only mean one thing: it must be a European. Until now we have not come across any Africans wearing helmet. We turn the bikes and see the BMW Kletsen in Khartoum 10doing the same. The big man on the bike takes off his helmet and says: “Hello! Are you ‘Amsterdam to Anywhere’?” We are stunned by this greeting and answer surprised that this is indeed our blog. Then the man starts tell how happy he is that he now actually met us. We are just as happy to see him because he is the first overlander we see in a long time. So there are people on the move in Africa, and the motorbikes too!

He introduces himself as Gernot from Germany. He wanted to skip Egypt and shipped his motorcycle to Khartoum, where he arrived just a few days earlier. Today he is on his way north to visit the pyramids of Meroe, but -just like us- he will travel to South Africa to go to his parents in law. His South African wife Anja is still in Germany, but will arrive in Addis a few weeks later to join him. She was the one who had followed our blog. We exchange contact details and agree that we will meet in Khartoum the next day.

With new energy after this unexpected meeting, we arrive in Khartoum. It is as if we enter a different world. After having driven through the desert along mud houses with donkey carts for a few days, the contrast to the city could not be bigger. We ride along high modern buildings, we are overtaken by the most luxurious cars and pass billboards that advertise the latest round LED TV of LG.

Because of the heavy traffic we drive straight through the town to the National Reserve Camping, just outside the center. We cannot really call it a campsite. It is a sports complex with training facilities. We can pitch our tent on the central square and use the showers and toilets in the residential barracks of the athletes. It is very hot and there is no wind, so the cold shower is wonderful to cool off and refresh. We do some shopping and search on the internet for information on Khartoum. In the coming days we will have to arrange our visa for Ethiopia here.
Kletsen in Khartoum 9Our green tent and our red-white motorbikes are a true attraction at the camping. The manager, the superintendent, the maintenance man and groups of athletes, they all come for a chat. Always only after we have actually invited them with a friendly “Salaam Aleikum“. They are all very friendly, helpful and far from intrusive. Great!

The next morning it is 6:00 am when the alarm goes off and 7:30 am when we are on our bikes and on our way to the Ethiopian embassy ​​to apply for a visa. On the internet we read all sorts of horror stories about long queues and chaotic situations at the entrance. We therefore decided to be there early just to be safe. With the coordinates that we had received from Gernot we quickly find the parking lot of the Ethiopian embassy. The poles along the edge are painted in cheerful green-yellow-red colours of the Rastafarian flag of Ethiopia. The two guards make clear they will watch our bikes when we are insides.

As we walk through the gate of the embassy, ​​we enter into a beautiful green garden with birds and a fountain in the middle. In the garden is a cover terrace where a handful of people is waiting on some chairs. In addition, there is a ticket window with a lady who hands out some papers. All in all a fairly peaceful environment, without long queues or chaos. When we have completed the paperwork we are searched and are allowed to enter the embassy. We enter a beautiful round building with lots of glass and large pictures of the President of Ethiopia on the wall. It looks spick and span, and they even have air conditioning, a working one!

Kletsen in Khartoum 8We hand over our papers and are told that if we wait half hour we can take our passports with visas. Half an hour? Great, getting visas was never faster. That saves us a ride into town and waiting in the air-conditioned space is not a punishment. Not even twenty minutes later it sounds: “Mr. Peter?“ After we have paid, the man hands over our passports with a beautiful Ethiopian visa of three months in it. Great, that’s settled!

Once back at the campsite we hear the humming BMW-motorbike of Gernot ride onto the camp site. He has visited the pyramids, camped there and is now back in Khartoum to drive further south from here. He had been in Khartoum some days earlier and knew a great pizza restaurant. We get on our bikes and ride to the city for a tasty pizza. We talk endlessly about our adventures so far and the plans for the rest of Africa. On the way back we drink tea at one of the dozens of Chai-mamma’s in town.

Kletsen in Khartoum 7When we arrive at the campsite afterwards there is a sturdy Toyota Landcruiser with roof tent and a Dutch license parked next to our little green tent. We are introduced to Maurits and Marloes from The Hague (blog). On Peter’s question whether she is ‘Mouse83’ on the forum of Horizons Unlimited Marlous looks as surprised as we must have looked at our first meeting with Gernot. Through their messages on the forum, Peter knew that there was a Dutch couple in a car on its way up from South Africa. It is a coincidence that we actually meet.
During that evening we talk about our adventures and exchange tips until we are all five yawning and decide that we should crawl into our tents.

Like us, Maurits and Marloes do not really like the campsite. We decide to move to the Blue Nile Sailing Club, a camp site in the center of Khartoum on the Nile. Despite the negative stories on internet (you apparently require waders to go to the toilet) we want to take a look there. We pack our stuff and say goodbye to Gernot. He leaves for Ethiopia where he will pick up his wife in a few days. We agree to keep in touch and meet in South Africa for cold drinks and a good piece of meat.

On the way to the second camp site, we will first look for an insurance office where we can buy insurance for the motorbikes. As of Tunisia our European green card is no longer valid, so we have to buy insurance at each border. In Africa they have the ‘yellow card’ called Comesa, which is valid in many countries. We would like to buy that yellow card, so we do not have to go through the administrative mill at each border for an insurance. Moreover, it saves some money.

Kletsen in Khartoum 2On the internet we found an insurance company that offers the COMESA insurance in Sudan. With the fully packed bikes we drive into the busy city. It is hot and because we cannot find the building immediately we are almost floating in our suits when we finally find the building. Peter stays with the bikes, while I go inside with all our papers. The guard looks a bit strange when I enter. I can not blame him. A red sweaty face, a gray T-shirt which is now dark grey with stains of sweat, a dirty motorcycle pants that was once white and clunky motorcycle boots.

When I get to the ticket window and ask: ”Comesa?” , the man behind the glass confirms that I can get it there. There is only one problem, the man who knows everything about Comesa is on holiday. I am send through to the manager of the holiday man, who also sends me to his manager. In the posh office of the Manager (where I am sitting in my dirty, smelly suit) it again appears that only the holiday-man is familiar with Comesa. They try to call him, but cannot reach him. My details are taken and I get them the name and telephone number of the holiday-man. They insure me that I can call him during his holiday. If I mention the namen of the manager, it should be fine. While everyone was very helpful, I leave the office half an hour without insurance. It is so hot, that we decide not too look for any other office, but just go to the campsite.

As we drive onto the campsite we see the car of Maurits and Marlous parked in the shade. On the lawn are more tents, in addition to some bicycles we also see… two Honda Africa Twins! We park our bikes next to the Twins and meet Argentines Julian and Lorena. They own a beautiful purple Africa Twin, which is plastered with stickers from virtually all corners of the world. They have travelled for over twelve Kletsen in Khartoum 3years around the world, of which the last ten years with their dog, Trico! They have really been everywhere (blog). Julian is working on a blue-green Africa Twin owned by a Sudanese friend who rode that bike from Khartoum to Cape Town.

If you are on holiday and meet other travelers that is always special, but if those travellers are motorcyclists it is usually more special in a crazy way. Often you will hear: “Hey, you have a motorcycle? I also ride a motorbike!” You’ll never hear someone say, “Hey, do you have a car? I also have a car.” Somehow there is an immediate inexplicable click with other motorcycle riders. And if that motorbike than also is a Honda Africa Twin, that is often the start of a new friendship. Once Peter and Julian start talking, there is no stopping them. The men squat next to the bike, discuss technical details and exchange the latest news around the fuel pump. If I mention that the Africa Twin might very well be Peters first love, Julian proudly shows the tattoo of his Africa Twin. It is not very different in Argentina, the love for the Honda Africa Twin is universal!

The Blue Nile Sailing Club turns out to be a really nice place, in the middle of the city and overlooking the Nile. There is a constant breeze which make it nice despite the heat. The rest of the day we hang out on the patio and we exchange stories with Maurits and Marloes, the Argentines and a group of German cyclists who are also staying at the campsite.

By the end of the afternoon, the owner of the blue-green Africa Twin, Obay, also come take a look. This time on a brand new BMW GS. Not much later, three other motor-friends of Obay arrive, one of them on a brand new KTM. In the parking lot are now also some very expensive cars. The Blue Nile Sailing Club is the clubhouse of one of the business clubs in Khartoum. The businessmen meet in the evening to talk or play cards. We talk with them about our trip, their businesses in Sudan and Ethiopia, and the state of the toilet in the clubhouse (although we did not need waders, it was pretty dirty and not ‘business-club-worthy’).
Kletsen in Khartoum 6The contrast between our meetings in the business club in the lively Khartoum and our encounters with the simple Sudanese living outside Khartoum is enormous. The difference is even confirmed when we ask Obay if he can recommend a restaurant and he replies: “Let me call my driver, he will take you.” Not much later we sit in his new Toyota and we enjoy a great meal with Maurits and Marloes among affluent Sudanese, while the driver is waiting for us in the corner of the restaurant. Remarkable!

The next morning we say goodbye to Maurits and Marloes. They have folded in their roof tent and will drive further north today. Julian and Lorena also leave. Once they have packed all their belongings and put on their suit, their dog Trico is wagging his tail on the ground. He knows that they are going to drive and is clearly excited! As Julian and Lorena have taken their seat, Trico jumps on the saddle and lies down between them. What a great sight! And what lovely people, we hope that during our wanderings around the world we will again meet them (and their Africa Twin)!

We stay one more night at the campsite on the Nile and then move on. Time to go to Ethiopia!

Distance travelled to Khartoum: 9,269 km / 5,760 miles

Click here to see the photos in this post.

| Leonie | AFRICA, Sudan

9 Reacties (Comments) - Chat in Khartoum

  1. Klarinda

    Wat een fantastische ontmoetingen weer! Jullie zijn gewoon beroemd. Goede reis verder gewenst.

  2. Dienie

    Na 3 maanden Afrika wordt het steeds moeilijker om Peter te vinden tussen de inwoners van Sudan!
    Goede reis verder!

  3. Jan en Mariët

    We zijn trots op jullie, zo beroemd!!!
    Dikke knuffel xx

  4. Mip

    Wat een fantastisch verhaal weer zeg; echt een genot om te lezen en zo mee te beleven! En goed te lezen dat jullie vol zelfvertrouwen door het zand crossen; blijkbaar bevallen de brommers goed (en ze zijn ook zooo mooi!).
    En wat je beschrijft over het ontmoeten van andere overlanders is helemaal waar; bizar hoe die klik er bijna altijd is he, zeker als ze ook op de motor zijn. En over die kerel met die AT tatoeage; hahaha, zo intens kan de AT liefde blijkbaar zijn :-D.
    Vond het heel gaaf dat we gister ff hebben geskypt!
    Vooral blijven genieten! Kus!

  5. Patrick en Willemien

    Geweldig! Wat een mooie verhalen allemaal! We vinden het erg leuk om ze te lezen! Geniet ervan!

    Liefs van ons

  6. Sofie De Lille

    Wat een gezelligheid daar op de camping! Allemaal gelijkgezinden. Ik kan me goed voorstellen dat er honderduit is gekletst.

  7. Celine en Leon

    Zijn jullie Amsterdam to anywhere? Haha, superleuk! Je bouwt het mooi op zo, naar Ethiopie….xxx

  8. Daan

    Peter toch – je kijkt wel heel erg verliefd naar die Africa Twin hoor!

  9. Herman Schutte

    Hoi Peter en Leonie,

    Ik heb genoten van de laatste twee blog’s, wens jullie verder gezonde en fijne reis, blij dat alles goed gaat.