So, 11,000km, 9 countries, 87 days, countless new friends and we are having the most fantastic time.
Sudan is truly an amazing country, although to be honest I’m not sure exactly why. I keep reminding myself that I’m in Sudan, and when I do a huge smile spreads across my face. The Sudanese people are wonderful and their legendary hospitability can be quite humbling at times. The landscape is nothing but desert bisected only by a kilometre wide strip of date palms that surround the Nile which makes for a remarkable sight. But what makes Sudan really special is the remoteness of it, the ability to get away from everyone else and feel like we are the only people in Africa. We have been able to find some spectacular wild camping spots and have spent the evenings watching the sunset drinking tea (or whisky), star gazing and feeling like we are the luckiest people alive.
The best way to demonstrate Sudan is with a story of the people who we have met along the way. The story starts at the end of a very long day driving while we were looking for somewhere to camp. After endless miles we finally saw a grove of date palms where we thought we might be able to hide ourselves for the night. We drove to the village to ask permission, and after some classic miming and drawing in the sand they understood what we wanted, but insisted instead that we camp in the village chiefs private date palm orchard. He actually first invited us to stay with him and his family although we felt this would be too much of an imposition. Having parked Brenda up and set up the roof tent, the kitchen and the hammock we looked over to see our neighbour standing at the fence shaking with excitement. He was barely able to control himself and kept crawling under the fence to meet us. After a while we decided to offer him some food, at which point his enthusiasm got the better of him he proclaimed he would move in and sleep with us next to the car. Oddly we didn’t actually see him again after that so maybe the village chief told him to leave us alone, either way it was a wonderful example of Sudanese hospitability. The orchard was full of hundreds of birds, some of which were a beautiful green and gold colour, and the dawn chorus the next morning was really something special. We ended up giving the village chief one of our ‘Camden Town to Cape Town’ t-shirts as a gift for his generosity.
We have seen many fantastic sights in Northern Sudan, including lots of pyramids and temples as old as those in Egypt and the Middle East, and while they may not be as grand, the settings and the lack of tourists and tourism infrastructure make them lots more fun to visit than anything to date.
We arrived in Khartoum yesterday with a mission of picking up a camera which Si had DHL’d from England to replace mine (big thanks to Si for that one). I won’t go into the long story of the trouble we have had, but can sum it up by saying that the level of bureaucracy in Sudan can rival anything Egypt has to offer. It has taken 2 days, countless taxi’s and lots of arguing until we finally managed to get towards the end of the process. The final thing left to do was to pay a SU£23 holding fee, however by this point we had run out of cash (We had already argued the import customs duty down from SU£2200 to SU£170, and had engaged in a big argument with the fixer about his cut) so believing this ‘holding fee’ to be another scam we dug in our heels and refused to pay, instead opting to wait around for something else to happen (it was a staggering 47 degrees in Khartoum today so this show of protest took a lot of determination). A standoff ensued between us and the fixer until eventually we went to the policeman to ask if we could have our parcel (futile as this was). More machine gun Arabic, more arguing, more being told to leave until we were ushered away with nothing gained. Standing there wondering if indeed we should pay up, we were interrupted by a Sudanese guy who walked over and paid our holding fee for us, dismissing our profuse thanks with ‘this is Sudan and you are most welcome’.
As I said, Sudan really is a remarkable place.