Saturday, 29 December 2007

RAT RACE







We jokingly refer to ourselves as "Desert Rats", and by the time we reached Wadi Halfa we certainly looked (and probably smelt) the part. The "road" North from Dongola along the Nile consisted mainly of corrugated and sandy tracks, and the Northerly breeze blew stronger than ever. At Argo we crossed to the Eastern bank of the river by means of a small ferry after waiting for the skipper to finish his prayers. Most days we cycled untill sunset as we were keen to board the weekly ferry accross the border on the 26th (Wadi Halfa is not the place to be spending a whole week waiting for the next ferry). Another concern was that our Sudanese visa's had already expired - attempts in Khartoum for an extention were fruitless. As it turned out we reached Wadi Halfa on Xmas day, and our Xmas present was that we could cycle on the newly-built tarred road for about half of the distance which we did on that day. Out in the desert the nights (and particularly early am) were rather chilly, but once on the bike one soon warmed up again. We splashed out a bit and booked a cabin on the ferry to Aswan, which turned out to be a rather pleasant overnight trip along Lake Nasser. Despite all the "red tape" surrounding Sudanese customs and immigration, our expired visa's went completely unnoticed (we breathed a sigh of relief). Arriving in Egypt it feels as if we're suddenly in a different world. Here in Aswan there are bus loads of tourists (a rare sight in Sudan), and the dozens of luxury hotel ships are moored 3-deep along the banks of the Nile. The locals are friendly enough, but the price of any item purchased involves a lot of aggressive haggling (and even then one has to ensure that you get what you paid for, and that the change is correct). We now plan to spend a couple of days in Aswan before proceeding towards Cairo (probably via the Red Sea). Wishing everyone a belated Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. Daily distances cycled since Dongola were:- Kerma 54; Khali 53; Abujara 52; Abri 72; Akasha 74; Desert Station 59; Wadi Halfa 72; and Ferry Port to Aswan 18 km.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

THE DESERT BREEZE




Out of Khartoum and through neighbouring Omdurman, Leana and I suddenly found ourselves cycling through the barren desert. The prevailing head-wind was more than a breeze, and although we were on a good tarred road it required some serious pedalling for the next 6 days to reach Dongola. Fortunately we had GPS co-ordinates for the isolated water stations, so we could plan where to fill up before camping for the night (thanks to Charles and Rensche who we met in Khartoum on their way from England to SA by motorcycle). The local people have been very friendly, and turning off the road to the village of Sali in search of water, we were also given accommodation and a meal by Fathi and his family (photo). These people don't have much, but they're keen to share the little that they have. We rested in a run-down hotel in Dongola (stocking up on supplies, doing laundry, and checking the bikes). We are expecting a hard ride to the border where we'll hopefully make the weekly ferry from Wadi Halfa to Aswan on 26 December. Distances cycled since Khartoum have been:- Hilti 106; Goomour 86; Umal Hasan 81; Debba 111; Sali 92; and Dongola 71.

Monday, 10 December 2007

ROAD TO KHARTOUM




As soon as we crossed into Eastern Sudan we noticed a number of changes from Ethiopia. The farming methods are mostly modern (tractors and implements), and the people we met along the road have been very welcoming and friendly. There are many tribes, but the predominant language and food is Arabic. The dress code is very Islamic, particularly that of women (who we've seldom seen in public). According to local custom the women don't drive cars, travel on their own, or do any sport (particularly not cycling). One can imagine then, that Leana attracts a lot of open-mouthed attention as she cycles along in what is probably considered to be underwear. The landscape is flat, and since joining the main road at Gedaref the road has been very busy (many extra-long trucks running the route between Khartoum and Port Sudan). We've battled into a head wind most of the way to Khartoum, and we're a little apprehensive at the thought of that wind on our desert route to the North. Currently we're resting on the banks of the Nile in Khartoum, organising visa extentions, alien registration, and waiting for Leana's new passport to arrive from SA. Distances since entering Sudan have been: Doka 88 k; Gedaref 90 k; Migreh 97 k; Hufeira 110 k; Wad Medani 41 k; Kamlil 81 k; El Masid 71 k; and Khartoum 50 k.

THE BIG DIPPER




As the tourist brochure said, the Blue Nile Gorge is an impressive sight indeed. However, it was a bit daunting knowing that one had to coax a heavy bicycle on a rough road down 20 k's and up another 20 on the opposite side. The rest of the road from Addis to Gondar is a fairly good tarred road, although hilly at times. The section of road from Gondar down to the Sudanese border was, however, dusty and sometimes rather rough. The Ethiopian Highlands is very scenic and the many villages revolve around agriculture (mostly primitive subsistence farming with crops and animals). Besides the usual requests (often demands) for money, bicycle, clothing, camera, etc., everyone along the way shouts "WHAAR-AH-E-GOO?" (Where are you going?). In reply we usually give the name of the next town, which seems satisfactory. We'd spent a week in Addis Ababa exploring the city and visiting places of interest (we even saw the fossilized "Lucy" in the National Museum). We also organised visa's for Sudan and Egypt, for which we'll need extentions once there (people don't realise that a bicycle takes a while longer than most of the popular modes of travel). We rested at Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana (source of the Blue Nile), and also spent a day in Gondar exploring the town and historic castles in the Fasilidades complex. Distances since Addis were: Muka 80 k; Fiche 38 k; Gohatsion 76 k; Dejen 43 k; Debre Markos 70 k; Finote Selam 85 k; Dangla 99 k; Bahir Dar 80 k; Addis Zemen 88 k; Gondar 93 k; Aykel 63 k; Shehedi 105 k; and Matema 37 k.