Our route over the last days.
The Sudanese make you jump through a lot of hoops before you’re good to go for an overland travel. After the registration with the police we had to get a travel and photo permission, which was not possible since Friday and Saturday are weekend days here. Luckily, our fixer Midhat could help us out with that as well. Perfect! So on Saturday morning we headed off with Grant to Midhats place to get the permit, since Grant also needed one we could do it all in one go.
We also had not paid Midhat so far and did it while we were there. I have to say this guy is amazing. He moved mountains to get our bikes and paperwork in order. If you ever find you self in need of what ever in Sudan, call Midhat Mahir (www.tour-sudan.com). Great guy!
Back when we were in Turkey I was chatting with Simon, a friend from Frankfurt and he asked me what will happen to our transport crates once we are in Sudan. Jokingly, I said they probably warm some once home or become some once home. Turns out that wasn’t all that wrong. Midhat bought our transport crates to build a partition in his flat.
After this pleasant morning we hit the road, but first stopping at the merging of the white and blue Nil in Khartoum and taking the obligatory picture.
We rode up along the Nil towards the Meroe pyramids, some 250 km out of Khartoum. It was a pretty easy ride apart from the unmarked speed bumps on the road which really wake you up. Also, while riding in the dessert you often face strong winds. You have to lean into the wind and drive always in an angle which results in the funny effect that you sometimes have to lean to the right in a left corner.
What is really annoying here are the frequent checkpoints along the road. Usually the guys are just bored out and see some bikes coming and want to have a chat, so you always get pulled over. In most cases they want a copy of the travel permit and or passport. God knows what they are doing with them. But they collect them like little kids collect stickers (or whatever kids collect these days).
There is no road from the highway to the pyramids in the dessert, which meant some off road action with the loaded bikes through some deep sand. I dropped my bike when I hit some deep sand that disguised itself as a solid surface. No problem, just the lifting of the bike in the dessert heat is a toughy. Grant had a brilliant definition for this kind of endeavor and we have his permission to steal it. He calls this “type II fun”. Type I fun are things that are fun planning, fun doing and fun remembering. Type II fun are things that are fun planning, no fun at all doing and fun remembering. Spot on! Type III fun would be something that is no fun planning, no fun doing and no fun remembering, commonly known as “no fun”.
After some more type II fun we reached the pyramids. They are in the middle of nowhere, no tourists nothing. But still, there is a small building with two souvenir sellers and one official to whom you give 50 Sudanese pounds each, get a recede and then can walk around the pyramids. As the name might give it away, they are from the Meroe kingdom which reigned from 800 BC to 350 AD in this region. They look different than the once in Egypt, especially due to their steeper angle.
It was fairly late once we finished our tour around the pyramids and we still had to find a place to camp/sleep before sunset. Problem was the very strong wind and the lack of wind protection, which rendered sleeping in the dessert close to impossible unless we wanted to be sand blasted.
We found a “truck stop” nearby and they let us pitch our tents inside some walls. Due to the heat we only set up the inner tent. We were quite relieved to have found a place to sleep without much searching. Yet, after a lot of trying with their satellite dish they unfortunately got a signal. The truckers and sheep herders from the dessert all gathered around the old TV and we watched with them the probably trashiest TV show ever made. It was a Bollywood adaptation of Aladin poorly dubbed to Arabic. We know some people back home love trash movies. They will have a blast if they can ever get hold of this Aladin production.
We were pretty tiered and called it an early day. Problem was that our tents were rather close to the TV which was still roaring on sound level “deaf granny”. On top of this was the lack of air movement behind the walls (yeah I know we wanted wind protection). What followed was the worst night of our lives, we all agreed on that. It was crazy hot and with the TV no sleep was possible. We have never sweated this much in our lives. Whoever claimed its getting freezing cold at night in the dessert has clearly never tried to sleep in the Sudanese dessert.
On the upside, we left the truck stop the next day fairly early and did a lot of riding before the midday heat kicked in. We drove 250 something km along the dessert highway to Karima in northern Sudan. Just a great ride. No civilization or traffic, just dessert, mountains, camels and strong wind. Luckily we started with full gasoline tanks. We even had some rain in the dessert, which is fairly rare around here. The Wadis, the dried river beds in the dessert, were bursting with water. Amazing view.
During a photo stop two Land Cruisers pulled over and a bunch of people came pouring out all wanting to take a photo with us, including some ladies. I mention this because we read a lot about the situation in Sudan where you won’t find women in public life and if you see some they are completely covered. We don’t know what you would have to do to see no women around here. but we see women everywhere on the street, bus or wherever and many just wear a loose scarf around the back of the head (some also without scarf), many man by the way cover their heads as well, which is a smart idea with the burning sun.
In Karima we visited some more pyramids, this time for free. We could even drive the bikes directly up to the pyramids, which included some more type II fun in the sand. We found a cheap hotel to stay and shared one room with air conditioning, which was highly appreciated. The owner proudly told us that the water in the shower is directly coming from the Nil. The very brown and muddy liquid though is to our opinion not the best selling point for a hotel room.
The next morning Grant parted very early. He had to do a long run up to Wadi Halfa in order to catch the ferry to take him to Egypt. We had a brilliant time with that guy! We rode back to Khartoum. On the way in the middle of the dessert we got into a speed control! Apparently we were speeding with 108 km/h (which was definitely not the case) on a road where only 80 km/h was allowed, not that there was any sign… They had top modern equipment, color photos from front and back of the bikes wireless transmitted to their laptop. Just like home… It would have been a 100 pounds penalty each but they let us of the hook and we cruised down to Khartoum (now at 80 km/h.). We were running pretty low on sudanse pounds and needed the cash we had to gas up. So they let us go. Interesting experience, I guess they were just very friendly people!
We reached Khartoum in the midday heat and had to cross the big central marked. That was definitely type III fun. The outside air was around 55°C, the bikes got so steaming hot we could burn our legs on the tank. It was crazy. We both where pretty close to a heat stroke. At some point Daniels bike ran out of gas and I went to the next gas station to get some fuel, all easy since we are in the city.
We reached the youth hostel and had to lay down a few minutes next to the bikes before we could do anything. This heat cannot be described by words. Sudan is great but we are now at the point where we long for a colder place and thus look very much forward to the Ethiopian highlands (they also have beer!)