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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Category: Sudan

Soaking up The Sudan

We left for The Sudan after a restless night , I was worried about the time it would take to firstly get to the border , secondly how long the crossing would take and lastly would I make it up to Gedaref before sunset . Had breakfast and rode out of town trying to find fuel . When we arrived yesterday seven of the stations had no fuel but apparently the tankers would arrive in the night . No luck so I used the reserve and we took the road to Metama .

 

Leaving Ethiopia .

Leaving Ethiopia .

The road was full of life as per usual so between the time wasted looking for fuel , the rain that no longer was just a threat now a reality we left Goder , 200 kilometres to the border .

 

Last of the mountains .

Last of the mountains .

We arrived at the border just before twelve , the Ethiopian side was extremely efficient , customs cleared Vic and then off to passport control , the crossing took no time at all and then it was the Sudanese side . The border was much quieter than I expected  I was the only person crossing into Sudan , the process does take a lot longer and there is much more paperwork to complete , only the beginning I would come to realise when I got to Khartoum . The border officials were extremely friendly , offering me tea and water while I waited , offered me a seat under the cool shade of a large tree and about an hour or so I was on my way after clearing immigration , customs and registration with security.

 

My green welcome to The Sudan

My green welcome to The Sudan

The first thing you notice once you have entered Sudan  is how few people and animals are on the road , it felt really peaceful and the vast space much emptier .  The road was fantastic in parts , but the tar very rough for the most with a lot of rain damage to the road surface . Sudan is very wet and green down here . The next thing I noticed was how orderly the villages set up was , far more structured and the thatch homes much closer to each other and in most cases surrounded by a perimeter wall . My ride up to Gedaref was fairly easy and luckily there was fuel on the Sudanese side I was unable to find any on the way up through Ethiopia and was almost running Vic on a fume or two .

I followed the GPS to a hotel that I had heard about , found a room and was looking forward to a hot shower and then relaxing catching up on some emails as I had not had a connection in days . I had made a point of asking the hotel manager on check in about both , he assured me that this was the best hotel in Gedaref , hot water was no problem , nor internet . Unpacked , I went down to reception to get a towel , they had none so I was given a bed  sheet , the hot water tap could not even turn but the shower was still very rewarding after a long day on the bike . Down to reception computer in hand ready for cold water and a connection I ran .

 

Villages along the road.

Villages along the road.

The hotel .

The hotel .

Long story short after almost two hours of up and down to the reception desk trying to sort out  or even find a connection , one of the staff told me the hotel does not have an internet connection at all . By the time I got this information the shift had changed and the new manager was on duty.

I was about to receive my initiation into Sudanese hospitality ,  one of the hotel  staff called a friend , he arrived in his Bajaj , took me into town to another friend , who took me to another  friend of his , and within the shake of a tail feather all was done , I could download my mail .

The only response I got when offering to pay , was welcome to Sudan . The Sudanese are extremely helpful , kind , hospitable and welcoming , a trend that was going to follow me all the way to Khartoum .

The ride up to Khartoum started in the rain at first light , a journey of around 400 kilometres . As I was riding out of Gedaref  a fellow motorcycle rider , welcomed me to Sudan and took it upon himself to escort me to the main road to Khartoum before waving me off , just the nicest people you meet in Sudan.

 

Sunrise on the road.

Sunrise on the road.

On the ride up , the countryside was absolutely waterlogged , water everywhere like a flood plain with water running alongside the road , very thick and soft mud on the impassable side roads , water , water everywhere.

 

Roadside rivers .

Roadside rivers .

We rode in the rain for a short while , came across some children pulling a huge cat fish from the mud and enjoyed the scenery . The people are very warm waving me along , thumbs up  and the odd welcome scream.

 

The land starting to change about 200 kilometres from Khartoum.

The land starting to change about 200 kilometres from Khartoum.

 

As I got closer to the city the wind picked up dramatically as did the temperature and the riding was very tiring , the air dries your throat and eyes out , the heat glues the  clothing to your body , the wind noise makes you think you are in a twister and the sand starts making an appearance everywhere  .

 

Roadside village

Roadside village

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The homes along the road started changing from thatch to low built mud homes , I assume to combat the effects of the heat and wind , the dark mud homes start lining the road .

 

Changing styles .

Changing styles .

 

 

Finally I rolled into Khartoum mid afternoon my neck and shoulders aching from the continuous wind wrestling , the heat dry , the dust forming a haze , but I was glad to arrive . I found a place to stop for some juice and water to rehydrate after the hours of riding , called Peter who I had been introduced to by Deanne in Kampala and he had kindly offered me his guest suite . I enjoyed an ice cold , thick mango juice and waited for Peter to come and collect me .

What a haven his home was to be , cool air conditioned rooms , fantastic food prepared by Amira , great conversation, beautiful views of Khartoum and a wonderful serene and calm space . What a gift , thank you Peter .  Below are a few pictures of the city from my balcony  .

 

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Peter has been incredibly generous with both his time and hospitality , we spent the first day together doing all my administration , I had to register with the authorities in Khartoum , organise my travel permit North to Wadi Halfa , as well as get the  authority to take photographs . Luckily I had been put in contact with Pavlos at the Acropole  hotel , who kindly organised all the paperwork for me . What an amazing hotel , they have been in Khartoum for 62 years and three generations later are still going strong . I was made to feel like family from the very first second and was lucky enough to meet the family . Thank you for your kindness , help and hospitality .

So my time has been in Khartoum meeting wonderful people with open generous hearts who welcome you into their lives and homes with a sincerity and kindness I have not before experienced . One hears how wonderful the Sudanese are , but what you experience once here is very touching .

My time has been filled with many highlights in Khartoum , meeting Peters friends , lunching out , fantastic breakfasts at O Zone and just really spectacular company ,  a washing machine for my clothes , Amira’s kindness , great home  cooking and help . Peter’s kindness has been overwhelming .

This journey so far holds all that is precious to me in the people I have had the privlidge and honour of meeting , be it briefly , by chance or over a  few days as a part of their lives . My memories made  richer  by those I have met .

Until we meet again .

 

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The Desert

Leaving Khartoum was very difficult , it was so nice being in Peters home and out of the daily routine of pack and travel . I spent 5 nights being treated like royalty , nothing was to much and between Peters generosity , great sense of humour , Amira’s warm heart and  hospitality , I left under a cloud of sadness like I had not experienced on the trip to date . Always saying goodbye does put in perspective the transient state of life while on the road . I will hold my time in Khartoum close to my heart , for my heart was touched by two wonderful people who’s memory I do not want to let fade . Thank you once again my friends Peter and Amira .

The ride out of Khartoum was very busy and it took a good hour and a half to clear the city limits and find the open road , and my word was it to become the open road . The road soon finds the desert in all its wonder , vast , so very vast with the variation in landscape  not being the  vegetation but just differing colours of the sand  as you ride .

 

Vic's first fuel stop , damn where is Vic?

Vic’s first fuel stop , damn where is Vic?

As you ride deeper and deeper into the desert so her heat robs you of your  strength , the powerful hot wind erodes your resolve , all the while the temperature rises . As the morning was lost to the fireball above I had to start wrapping up , I pulled my jacket zipper to the top , gloves pulled high ,  jacket sleeves pulled down and tied , buff pulled over my head and helmet sealed , this was cooler than allowing the hot air in . You ride in a sauna , sweat mists the visor , burns your eyes and the helmet sucks down on your head . I could not believe the heat , never mind the wind that comes howling at you , catching Vic and I off guard , just to frighten the living daylights out of us and forcing me to attention .

 

Fine and fresh the sand covers everything.

Fine and fresh the sand covers everything.

 

Nothing much to distract your eye.

Nothing much to distract your eye.

 

Dash of green .

Dash of green .

The ride was very tiring , I found myself stopping for fuel more often then usual as Victoria’s consumption had gone through the roof . The head wind was so powerful that  I was battling to get 150 km to a tank . It was so hot that when we stopped to re fuel I could not touch any part of the scooter without wearing gloves , the body work was ticking , every part exposed to the sun was cooked ,  hard to believe but the searing truth. The ride took the entire day to cover the 525 kilometres and was I glad to finally arrive in Dongola .

 

The ride up to Dongola .

The ride up to Dongola .

 

Some colour to break the bleak .

Some colour to break the bleak .

The guest house I had chosen , was no longer  so I rode around for a while then managed to find an hotel. Hotel Ola , I think that is what it is called , my Arabic really needs improving in every aspect . I booked in showered and took off to find dinner and the town. The Sudanese people are the most hospitable , I have ever met , they come and introduce themselves , I met families just while strolling the streets , I was offered food , tea on so many occasions I lost count , just incredible . It is so hard to comprehend , yet when here it seems so natural .

 

My room for the night .

My room for the night .

I found a great restaurant , with a menu that was in Arabic , so how I ended up with a really tasty chicken pizza is beyond me , then back to the hotel , for an early night  . I wanted to try and get to Wadi Halfa before the big heat hit us , so it was to be a first light ride.

 

Sunrise on the road.

Sunrise on the road.

The ride up to Wadi  Halfa was a visual feast , the road runs along the Nile for the better part of the ride and as it snakes so you ride next to the beautiful lush green of the Nile , then find yourself thrown into the harsh desert with nothing but black rock dusted with  light pink sand or a beautiful jade green field of stone to your side , then back to palm trees and green. Yet all the while your nostrils are filled with the smell of the desert sand.

 

On your left the lush , cool green.

On your left the lush , cool green.

 

On your right the harsh reality.

On your right the harsh reality.

The ride up to Wadi Halfa was only around 420 kilometres on a fantastic road , but the wind came back to haunt our ride , you try and make yourself as  small as possible ,  you would think a guy on a Vespa deep in the Sahara would be small , not us , she found us , followed us and beat us , with a little more aggression than the day before . Consumption was worse due to the wind , and I feared  my neck might develop a power lifter look and feel , that been said the desert is intoxicating .

 

Along the Nile.

Along the Nile.

 

When you see the water , you fantasize about wallowing in it.

When you see the water , you fantasize about wallowing in it.

 

Beauty that makes you feel alive .

Beauty that makes you feel alive .

 

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The road until about a 120 kilometres from Wadi does show signs of life as well as proof of life , then you find yourself deep in the Sahara with nothing but space , sand and sun , not a spot of shade , nothing , no movement  but the wind , no life except that of yours  which starts to feel very vulnerable  and you have to catch your mind from wondering to far , just 80 km to , just 60 km to go and so you count them down until you your wheels find a safe place for the night .

 

Victoria in the Sahara.

Victoria in the Sahara.

 

The black rock with pink frosting.

The black rock with pink frosting.

 

Road to Wadi  Halfa.

Road to Wadi Halfa.

 

My welcome party.

My welcome party.

 

I arrived in Wadi to be met by Mazaar who is assisting me with the paperwork in getting Vic and I out of Sudan , on to the ferry and in to Egypt . I was so dehydrated by the heat that I stopped at the first shop I saw and downed two Fanta’s in very quick succession . What really shocks  me is that I never  drink the  fizzy stuff but up here I would kill for them , I think  the last time I had a Fanta , before arriving in the North was  over 20 years ago  At that moment in time the ice cold one had a similar feeling to winning the lotto I would imagine . Putting  life in perspective .

I am all settled in my hotel and enjoying the sounds of Arabic tunes as they blast from the restaurant kitchen , while I sip on sweet tea and meet and greet all those who happen by . The tea has cooled me down and washed the desert from body and mind , but the last two days of riding will be with me for a long while , they exhausted me , put fear into me , let my mind run free,  both to the beauty  and the  bad , the heat literally took my breath away , the wind my sanity , I hated every second while mother nature beat me , yet in the photographs I find a beauty and peace that wash the bad away and replace it with something different , a sense of wonder at this vast , magical and harsh place they call the Sahara.

So fed , rested , I feel ready to take on the 18 hour ferry ride that will start some time tomorrow in the afternoon , we set sail for Aswan and our 10th country we shall enter on Wednesday as we make our way to Italy . 18 000 kilometres we have travelled together , today the fourth month on the road takes us into spring in SA , I ordinarily would have my first swim to mark the day , yet here I sit in wonderful sweltering Sudan reflecting on a country made beautiful by its people and harsh by nature .

 

Vic outside the hotel.

Vic outside the hotel.

 

Hotel dining area.

Hotel dining area.

I will miss this place and will probably regret not spending more time here , but I do know that the heat and wind will take the memories I do have and deform them , so I will have to one day return in the winter to ride the route I planned . Thank you Sudan your people touched me deeply , your kindness unparalled   , your beauty harsh and dramatic.

Until we meet again.

 

 

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