Crossing the Nile
Stage 11: Abu Simbel to Wadi Halfa
Today was, as Tallis predicted, a day of ‘hurry up and wait.’ Left the camp/hotel in Abu Simbel in convoy, with our Egyptian police guys in constant patrol ... less than a kilometre to the ferry terminal where we wait. But it pitches up soon enough and our tribe roll on, followed by various large trucks, almost road-trains they’re so big, as well as a collection of Sudanese workers returning home on break.
The crossing of Lake Nasser is done in high spirits; the feeling is that this trip across the lake, while still putting us into Egyptian territory for a bit at least, is a sort of curtain falling on Egypt, and a whole new experience coming at us.
We also say goodbye to our two Egyptian TDA crew members, Osama and Mokhles who have been really helpful over the past month. We’ll all miss them.
Once across, we wait for all the trucks to offload, and then we’re off. Only one truck couldn’t make it off as his load far too high to clear the ferry’s superstructure. I could see the ferry pulling out with this lonely truck still on board, and reckoned, poor guy ... he’s being returned to Abu Simbel. But no, the pilot just turns his ferry about, lands again, and the too-high truck backs off. What a great and obvious solution with no shouting, no fuss: Africa!
We then have ~35 km of excellent tarmac (with virtually no traffic other than we cyclists) to the Egyptian-Sudanese border crossing at Eskreet. Day gets warmer as we commence the interminable process of paper work of filling out various and seemingly redundant forms, handing passports over to various clerks, waiting for the emphatic rubber stamps to come crashing down, and then move onto the next queue. Eventually, after only ~3-1/2 hours, we’re all through, spat out the other side into a warm Sudanese afternoon. Another quick ~35 km on again excellent tarmac, deserted roads, and we reach our camp in Wadi Halfa; a dusty pitch of ground which might have once been some sort of amusement park? There are trees and thatched roof -covered tables immediately nearby of course, in only slightly less disrepair, but we are directed to the dust bowl. There are showers and Eastern toilets (my knees creak in protestation) in an adjoining building, but no water. Oh well.
A crowd evolves around first the money changer (there being no ATMs in Sudan, forex is done wth two characters in a Hilux with simply wads of cash); they give us SDG:USD at a 90:1 ratio. And since the official rate is more like 45:1, I hear no complaints. A second crowd then builds around the local mobile phone guy, who’s selling us a Sudanese SIM card and 10 gbytes of data for SDG 350 or about USD 3.90; seems a bargain to me.
We’re introduced to our Sudanese local crew, Allam and Magbul, and a Mr. Ibrahim of the Sudan Police(?), as well as a new TDA regular crew or staff member from Turkey, Ozgur.
Riders meeting: reminders of dress code for both men and women (Sudan being especially conservative), need to watch that we carry sufficient water over the next couple of weeks with expected much warmer riding conditions, and the general heat and bugs of course. Can’t wait!
PS. ... having some difficulty in posting these blogs from Sudan due I think to very low bandwidth, let alone any accompanying images. Patience Grasshopper.