Wednesday 12th August
Ok, so we spent endless hours at the Egyptian border trying to get out and hours at the Sudan border trying to get in! The Egyptian authorities wanted all the bags off and scanned and the Sudanese border wanted to do the same.
We filled out numerous forms and paid lots of money to get into Sudan but eventually we made it.
We drove a short way to Wadi Halfa and spent a few hours shopping in the markets, trying to source cold drinks and food.
We found some coldish bottles of drink and a local market selling fruit, veg and meat. Mikkel, Em and cook group came back with a huge chunk of meat in a wheelbarrow, a cool box full of ice and loads of veg.
We packed it all away and sat waiting in the truck for Mr Fixer to turn up with some perspex for a window that just shattered due to the heat. Its a mere 49 degree today!
After we sourced everything we drove south for a while until we found a rocky track disappearing off to into the desert. We pulled of the road and spent an hour bumping along this track in search of the bush camp area. We drove for ages and finally found the Nile and a beautiful camp spot, unfortunately there were Sudanese miners there with diggers, tents and heavy fracking machinery and they had blocked our road and campsite area. We had to turn around and drive 25 minutes back until we found a sandy area where we could set up camp.
Dinner that night was lamb and veg, after which we all headed to bed for the first of 3 desert camps in a row, it was near enough 50 degree in Wadi Halfa so as you can imagine the evening hadn’t cooled much neither had the tent or sand we camped on, it made for an uncomfortable night camping however the stars were glorious and the bonus to not being able to sleep was watching shooting stars rain down on us! Everything was drenched in sweat and after Nicole’s midnight meltdown we finally fell asleep and awoke so dehydrated our kidneys must have looked like prunes! We were praying the next nights camping would be slightly more breezy….
Thursday 13th August
Up early, had a quick baby wipe clean and dry shampoo spray! Packed up the tent and had 2 slices of watermelon for brekkie. About 7/7.30am we jumped on the truck for the long drive to Karima and the archeological site of Jebel Barkal. We drove all morning through dusty, sandy desert which eventually developed a green and verdant strip of foliage along the Nile edge, so you ended up with this strip of greenness cutting through barren desert.
Lunchtime we stopped at a small village and parked up next to a school and group of villagers, they had probably never seen a truck load of weary westerners! They offered us a plate of dates to chew on whilst we set up lunch. Lunch was pasta salad followed by watermelon, we all tucked in much to the amusement of the locals! We spent time with them, the kids wanting to be in photos with us the elders laughing at their obvious excitement.
After lunch we left them with some watermelon and pasta, they weren’t sold on the pasta salad but have probably never come across it before!
The afternoon was much the same apart from desert had given way to small villages with mud brick houses, some natural and some painted with pastel paints with features on the doors and windows. Loads of people zipping around on donkey carts and camels!
During the afternoon the sky turned dark with sand and a sandstorm kicked up. When we eventually arrived at Jebel Barkal we jumped out for a stroll around to take pics but ended up being sandblasted!
Camp was better that night, lovely breeze and slightly cooler which was a dream! However we had left the door of our tent open to cool it before bed and make the most of the breeze which turn out to be to our detriment as halfway through dinner a sandstorm kicked up and by the time we had tidied up camp, cleared away dinner and got to tent everything inside was coated in sand! Some of you will know I hate sand, cannot stand the stuff on my skin, so it was my turn to have a meltdown as we just had to pile in the tent and batten down the hatches so we ended up hot and sweaty in a sealed tent, covered in sand which was truly abrasive every time we moved. Again sleep was hard to come by, I was beyond help but finally managed to doze off for a couple of hours.
Friday 14th August
Morning came, I was sweaty, covered in sand and unable to shower and fed up of tents and camping, still humour won through and we packed up our stuff and got stuck in to another day driving and the last night of the Triple bush camp session! I jokingly said that we had extreme heat on the first night of bush camping, sandstorm on the second and the third would be a flash flood! Everyone clearly thought I was delusional and being melodramatic. Anyway off we headed to Meroe, a long days drive to the last bush camp. Today we also had to search for water on route as the truck tank was running on empty where us dehydrated folk had drained it over the last couple of days in the Sudanese desert. We stopped at a water place but the pressure on the pump and tap was too low to pump the water through the hose and up into the tank. So much to the amusement of the locals we commenced using every type of receptacle to get water from standpipe to truck. These included empty bottles, jerry cans, sleeping bag liners, teapots, saucepans and bowls. We clearly looked idiotic but it was great fun and a good way to sneak a cheeky bit of water on us to rub some of the past 2 days and nights dirt of!
Bush camp was slightly more fun, only slightly mind. Still not sold on the bush camping….we got to camp early and in daylight for once so we had spare time to chill in the tents. Yay!
Nicole and I positioned our tent strategically to capitalise on the breeze that was picking up.
We had a simple but good meal and were entertained by locals on camels and young boys selling mock Meroe pyramids!
Anyway bed time comes and we all head off to our respective tents, it was cooler and breezy and we crashed out and slept like babies until about 2/2.30am when out of nowhere a storm began…primarily lightning with a dash of thunder! A few people who were sleeping outside rushed around getting undercover or on the truck but the rest of us stayed put wondering if our tent frame would make for a good lightning conductor! Nicole ran out and battened down the windows as the rain came, then the wind! Neither of us being regular campers, were unsure of the correct storm in tent protocol….get out of the tent, stay in the tent, stay away from metal frame, don some rubber shoes and put feet on floor, pray?! Having decided our fate rested in the hands of the gods we fell promptly fell asleep!
See…I said flashflood…all those people who mocked me!
Saturday 15th August
Up early, the breeze was cool as the rain and storm had cooled the temperature down. We had breakfast then jumped on the truck to drive 25 yards to the Meroe pyramids. Amazing pyramids standing atop a sand dune, devoid of any visitors other than us so we had a good hour to wander amongst the fascinating buildings alone. Although the temperature was very pleasant the wind gad picked up and this was subsequently picking up sand and basically throwing it in our face! So yet again we spent an hour having microdermal abrasion, which people pay a lot of money for at home! So the sand was leaving our skin lovely and soft but had basically ruined our tan as all the outer layer of skin (the tanned bits) had been abrased! I am not too sure it was as good for our teeth, we spent ages chomping down and feeling gritty sand in between our teeth so pretty sure I have not only removed a layer of skin but also most of my tooth enamel!
After Meroe we drive through a similar backdrop as previous days to Khartoum. I had high hopes for Khartoum….I had read in the on truck guide about 5 star hotels with amazing restaurants, spas, shopping centres and hypermarkets. I had my day and 2 nights planned….showers,nice food, spa, pool, shop session and restock in hypermarket. I was swiftly bought back down to earth when it was pointed out I was reading the 2009 guide and there was a newer one in which none of the above featured! Arse!
Anyway we Arrived in Khartoum late afternoon, drove through a typical african city…..dusty roads, sewage, goats, dogs, men sitting around, corrugated tin roofed shacks, fruit stalls and the normal hubbub and din. We found our camp spot for the next 2 nights….The Blue Nile Sailing Club…sounds very grandiose but is basically an area with some grass to camp right along the Nile,next to a busy bridge and loud mosque. The members appeared to be loud African men who don’t appear to have ever owned or even sailed a ship. They just sit around eating, drinking and chatting. Anyway we pitched the tent then everyone queued for a shower and sink for washing. Once we had all cleansed ourselves and our clothes, we hung everything up to dry from tent to tent on lines, on chairs, over railings. The Blue Nile Sailing Club suddenly looked like a western shanty town!
In the evening we headed for a popular hotel run by 3 greek brothers called The Acropole, it is in the ‘downtown’ area of Khartoum! We all rocked up demanding cold drinks and taking over the wifi but the owner welcomed us in with a free bowl of sweets! After a couple of hours furious wifi-ing we headed up to the restaurant for dinner which was Pea soup, fried fish, dauphinoise potatoes, grilled veggies and greek salad followed by baklava and grapes. Lovely food and a snip at £8 for the lot including free water and bread!
After dinner we resumed our wifi-ing indulging in free ice cream the owner bought us before leaving for the Blue Nile Shanty Town.
Sunday 16th August
We had a nice lie in this morning as the cooler weather and Nile breeze was more conducive to better sleeping!
A few of us (Jan, Alison, Jacqueline, Nicole, Wilma and I) decided to hail a minibus gypsy taxi type thing and head to the confluence of the blue and white Nile. We got dropped off over the far side of the military bridge and then walked back across taking in the point where the 2 Niles merge and flow into each other, pretty cool. Then we walked back towards the museum with Wilma, Nicole and I stopping off at the Coral hotel for a cold drink and slice of dry cake! It was a welcome break from the humid heat. We then hailed a taxi to the museum and met back up with Jan, Alison and Jacqueline. We had a wander around the national museum which is compact but interesting. After spending an hour or so walking around Alison, Jan, Nicole and Jacqueline headed off to a 5 star hotel for lunch, Wilma and I searched out the toilets at the museum only to find extra hidden gems outside in the for, of 3 temples by Hatshepsut that were beautifully decorated and preserved. We had the place to ourselves so took the time to wander amongst the ruins.
Wilma and I then headed to the Corinthia to meet the other for lunch, only to get there and find they weren’t there! We proceeded to have lunch in a surreal TGI Friday decorated restaurant with English Premier League footie on the big screen and chart pop music playing through the speakers. It was quite surreal from the heat of Sudan outside!
Had a semi decent salad and cold drink there then Wilma dragged me to the spa to see if we could get a pedicure! They were booked up for a while and said come back tonight so we decided to leave it as we had other plans for later on.
We then went to the very posh reception of the Corinthia and Wilma changed some money and I asked about shopping centres and hypermarkets!
We got the name of a big centre written in arabic and then off we went to find a taxi or minibus to take us there. As it happened the shopping centre was about 5 minutes away by car!
I was literally speechless for the first 5 minutes…a new shopping centre with fancy clothes shops, electronic shops, the new iPad and Samsung tablets, jewellery, shoes, coffee shops…all in a shopping centre in Sudan! Bizarre…..
We strolled around the shops for 30 mins or so and then hit the hypermarket for rations. We bought water, toilet roll, crisps, biscuits, fruit, baby wipes and I found some lovely arabic perfume for a fiver, called Joory! Need something to put on when bush camping to make me smell nice!
Once finished at the shops we headed out to hail a minibus gypsy taxi back to find no one knew where the Blue Nile Sailing Club was, after 3 attempts we headed back inside to grab a mint lemonade and use the wifi to get up a map of the area with road names in arabic so we could get back.
Once we had done this we sorted a lift quite easily and were on our way back to camp.
Once in camp we caught up with the rest and then Wilma, Andrew F, Mikkel and I decided to go to the souks for the evening. We were on the street flagging down a minibus when Mikkel asks us which souk we are going to, we say the clothes souk. At which point he says ‘oh I thought you were going to the fruit and vegetable souk!’ Why he thought we would travel across town to look at vegetables is beyond me! He wasn’t too enamoured with having to shop for clothes with women but we persuaded him to come! So we jumped in a minibus and headed off to the busy souk in Omdurman.
The streets were lines with stalls and shops, sewagey puddles, animals and people and they were full of cars, minibuses, taxis, tuktuks, donkey carts and people milling about. We jumped out and wandered around for about an hour and a half nosing at awful dresses trying to find something ironically awful for our cook group to wear in bush camp!
We found suitably awful attire, found Andrew F a new t-shirt then headed for a fruit juice stall whilst Mikkel got extra truck keys cut by hand by a man on the street corner
Once shopped out we headed out of the souk to find a minibus taxi back to the campsite. Like before no one knew the blue Nile sailing club even though Mikkel had it written in arabic! We got the map on the iPad out again and showed arabic street names to try locate us.
There was a right old hash with 2 minibuses, everyone speaking arabic at us and ua clueless as to what we were doing….some guy who looked stoned was trying to get us on the minibus but he had no involvement in the discussion, turn out he was a pickpocket and we caught him numerous times trying to pick pocket us in full view of us and others! Wilma slapped his hand away from her bag, mine was well and truly zipped up and on my front, Mikkel shouted at him and threatened to punch him if he did it again, I was more astounded by the normally placid and quiet Mikkel having a violent outburst!
Still we eventually sourced a minibus and left without being pick pocketed, heading back to the campsite. Mikkel jumped out and went back and Andrew F, Wilma and I headed back to the Acropole for dinner and wifi. Dinner was pumpkin soup, chicken in peppers and tomatoes with chips, veg and salad followed by baklava and mango. We got free ice cream again which was nice.
Got back to camp about 10.30pm and crashed out.
Monday 17th August
Up early due to call to prayer, starting to feel like a surrogate muslim now! Left Khartoum on route to bush camp near Ethiopian border. Drove all day, way past the point we were supposed to camp and kept going for as long as we had daylight towards a bush camp. The scenery had started changing from desert to verdant and lush, green everywhere!
Eventually we found a scrap of land off of a road which had goats and sheep grazing it, we rocked up and put up tents and set about normal camp set up and dinner. I was up on cook group that night with Wilma, Malcolm and Killian. We prepared dinner and just before serving we cracked out our special cook group outfits which consist of nighties in pink, purple and orange with strawberries on the bottom and loads of stars. Hideous but hilarious.
The bush camp teemed with insects from centipedes to praying mantis to crickets!
Went to bed hoping no insects found their way into the tent and we didn’t get trampled by a flock of sheep and goats!