Sudan

The Khartoum gauntlet

It is hard to imagine that anything could adequately prepare you for a bicycle approach into the city of Khartoum – as an experience, it fell  exactly between exhilarating and traumatic. We found ourselves racing to beat the setting sun as we approached the outskirts of the chaos, which ultimately turned out to be a race in which we were comprehensively beaten. Negotiating the traffic, potholes, herds of cattle and hordes of people without the aid of a single road sign was not the ideal way to close off a 130km day. As night fell, a chirpy tuktuk driver pulled alongside to have a good chuckle at our situation, before advising us to be ‘very careful’; which, without wanting to seem ungrateful for the inside information, did seem to be pointing out the glaringly obvious.

After overcoming the above, the city itself provided a much-needed and relatively comfortable rest stop. In some positive news, we secured our Ethiopian visa in record time, although this has been offset by the sad news that our i-pod has broken. It’s been a roller-coaster week.

Downtown Khartoum

 

No bicycle required

As Sudan is entering winter at the moment, the temperature has plummeted to a frosty 39 degrees centigrade, which – if nothing else – has settled the question of whether this exercise would provide any level of enjoyment during the height of summer. As we made our way across some desolate terrain, and despite being reminded by the locals that these were indeed the cooler months, it certainly felt as though we were toughing it out in Africa. That is, until we met Masahito Yoshida.

We had met this remarkable Japanese round-the-world walker earlier in the week, and he had since leapfrogged us while we took a detour to Karima; home to the slightly underwhelming Sudan pyramids, given our recent trip to Giza.

Sudan’s pyramid efforts.

Masahito has spent the last 5 years walking around the planet (from Shanghai to Portugal, across the States, through Australia, then back to Shanghai), and now plans to tread a slow path to Cape Town. As we struggled through the heat and wind of the Sudanese desert, we soon stopped feeling too sorry for ourselves after contemplating this journey without a bike or a companion. The resilience and dedication required for what Masahito has achieved is astonishing. Bravo Masahito and good luck.

55km into his 60km day.

Some further info here:

http://alkinist.blog111.fc2.com

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-29108771

Northern Sudan

Our preparations for entry into Sudan were neither straightforward nor particularly cheap, and so we were relieved to have finally made it over the land border from Egypt. Once safely in however, more admin followed with the mandatory foreigner registration process at the local police station. There was some confusion during this final phase, between the word ‘tourist’ and the word ‘terrorist’, which is a distinction we were eager to clarify. With some rather crude charade skills we managed to iron out the language problems, assuring the police Captain that we represented the former, and wished to stay very much clear of the latter.

Pleased to have made the first kilometre of Sudan.

The desert roads of Sudan have turned the heat on us once again, and as we pedal through a region which would appear to experience rainfall once every Haley’s comet, our bikes are regularly creaking under the additional weight of carrying the necessary water supplies. Of more noteworthy mention however, are the towns and villages en route, which have provided not only great hospitality but also much entertainment.

Hot, dry and isolated riding.

Meal times are interesting, as we make our way into some smoke-filled cooking area/shack where something will be bubbling away in a quite outrageously large pan. Once we have established that it is ‘food’ bubbling away, we request ‘two foods’ and then take the least broken chair we can find to enjoy whatever is bought over to us.

Our method of transport is certainly turning heads, and in fact sometimes it would be hard to imagine a much greater reaction had we arrived into town in a space shuttle. In a memorable moment entering the village of Abri, we were met at a crossroads by a jubilant crowd of school children celebrating their latest football victory; both parties equally confused by the other, before each going our separate ways (though we still remain unsure as to who they had beaten to warrant such a celebration, given that no other settlement existed for around 100km).

Every stop prompts a bit of a crowd.

The successful – and noisy – football team.

Overall, and despite the apparent attempts of every bus driver to break the land speed record, our ride through northern Sudan has been a joy.

Sudan has also provided some winning camp spots.