3 Jan 2014 Dongola, Sudan

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Wadi Halfa to Abri 180km
Abri to Delgo 100km
Delgo to Dongola (including going off the main road to visit Kerma) 130km

410km

11,584km so far

Hi everyone, just a quick blog from Sudan. I will update this and add photos later. The last 4 days have been quite an experience. On 29th December we boarded the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, a crazy chaotic scrum that reminded me of playing rugby except with hundreds of people and trying to push a bicycle at the same time! When we eventually emerged I felt like Andy Dufreyne escaping from Shawshank prison.

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4 Brits and a Catalan on the ferry to Sudan (yes, the best spot was under the lifeboat and we slept there too)
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One of the friendly Sudanese people on the ferry… how do they keep their clothes so white?!

The first thing to say about Sudan is the people are friendly, kind, generous, and incredibly welcoming. You feel very safe, and welcome and sometimes like a bit of a celebrity (“Hello how are you?” “Welcome” or sometimes some arabic … “Hawaia! Agala! Tamam!” (Foreigner! Bicycle! Good!”). It is mostly men that we have met of course, as they are very muslim here, (some we have met speak great English) but also we have talked to some women some who were making tea or and some who were teaching (and asked us to take photos with the kids).

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Kids at a school near Kerma

We even met two Sudanese adventure cyclists who were touring the North of Sudan. Quite a surprise!

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Sudanese Cyclists who had come from Atbara. They gave me a Sudanese flag.

Northern Sudan is dusty and food and accommodation is very basic. But we have found shops to buy supplies, and there are water stations everywhere. Although so far, I haven’t used them. I have always been able to find bottled water and have not needed to use purifying tablets.

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Chilling out at a water station

Wadi Halfa and Abri (where we spent New Year) are very basic settlements with very basic lokandas (hostels). They would be given less then 0 stars but for 2 euros, you get a mattress, and access to a toilet hole and showers where there is a bucket to wash with. I haven’t fancied a cold bucket shower yet and I haven’t washed for 3 days. In the desert nobody knows you smell. There is no alcohol anywhere (it is a crime punishable with 40 lashes here!!!), no wifi (except in the big cities), and often no electricity. So when the sun goes down, people eat, pray and go to sleep. Life starts again when the sun is up. It is quite a boring way to spend New Year’s eve, or even to live on a day to day basis, but it feels kind of natural.

The road from Wadi Halfa was built just 4 years ago so the tarmac is great. The Nubian desert is flat, and there has been a southerly wind. So Alex managed 180km on the first day, quite an impressive achievement for a guy who has only been doing this for a month. On the second and third day we have been cycling less distance while spending time talking to people and seeing some of Sudan.

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Alex, my cycling buddy

So far we have seen Nubian houses, which are surrounded by outer walls, some painted in bright colours, some in their original mud-brick brown, many donkeys, camels, goats, men riding donkeys, or being pulled along on carts, Chinese trucks and 4x4s, and boys shouting and chasing us enthusistically, we have pushed the bikes through sand and dust, and seen millions of years of history at Kerma which pre-dates ancient Egypt, and has the remains of the oldest mud-brick temple in the world. We have sipped tea and coffee, and raced through desert and past palm trees and farms full of crops, irrigated by the Nile, where people are digging, or picking and almost every time greeting us with a smile.

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Mud-brick temple in Kerma

It will take a few days to complete the 500km to reach Khartoum by heading South on the western desert road. And then we will cycle towards Ethiopia via Wad Medani and Gedarref.

Happy new year!!!

Ed.