Stickers and Squiggles

Day 12 – 3km

Start: Middle of Make Nasser on Ferry

Finish: Wadi Halfa, Sudan – Camp in Football Field

I got up about 6:30 and went out on deck. It was still dark. As the sun rose we could see Abu Simble off in the distance. Saved from the bottom of lake Nasser after the dam was built and stuck in the middle of nowhere, with a great honking hotel next to it. Luxury cruise ships sail down to have a look. (In fact, as we were leaving Aswan the day before, a big 5 or 6 deck luxury liner was berthed next to us. As we stuffed ourselves into our small packet boat we were watched by tourists on the top deck, chilled white wine in hand.) As one person said: “if I’d come down just for that I’d be pissed off”. But then we didn’t stop.

The Sudanese seem to like red tape. Before we got onto the ferry we willed in some forms and handed over our passports, a photo and $100 to the TdA staff (we had already paid $100 for our Sudan visas). After we docked in Wadi Halfa at noon we had to line up and start filling in three more forms. We then had to sit down with an immigration official and go through the forms. He then stamped a few things and gave us our passports and one form back. We stapled the photo t this form and were free to start getting off the boat. It was now after 3pm. We then loaded everything onto a truck and travelled about 400 metres to the customs post. Everything was offloaded. The forms with pictures were handed in. And then we had to take each bag individually to a customs official who opened it, felt around for a while, told us we could close it and then put an official orange Sudan Customs sticker on the bag. (We had to have a sticker on the bike as well. I think I will leave mine on for the duration. It’s kind of like a campaign medal.) We then had to take each bag or bike over to another official who checked that it had a sticker on it and then put a black squiggle on the sticker with a big felt pen. Only then were we allowed to put the bags back onto the truck. Nobody had anything confiscated or even questioned. But honour had been satisfied. We had followed procedure. It was now almost 5pm and time for another police escorted convoy, this time only 3 km to our camp in Wadi Halfa.

After we set up our tents we headed into the town to look for food and SIM cards. Both were easily available. The SIM card cost me the equivalent of 50 pence and I put the equivalent of £1 pound in credit on it. A week later I have still not used up the £1 pound credit.

The landscape at Wadi Halfa is fantastic. It is stark desert with out croppings like those you see in old John Wayne movies. In fact the town itself reminds you of the wild west: dusty streets, covered boardwalks, single-storey, false-fronted shops. But you see camels and donkeys rather than horses and cattle. Very laid back, very friendly, very frontier. Unlike the Egyptians, the Sudanese do not hassle you at all. They welcome you and like to chat but respect your space. The Sudan has not grown to depend on tourism the way Egypt has. The difference is stark.

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