Email update 28 Jan, 2012
23.01.2012 - 28.01.2012
Thankyou to everyone who has sent emails with encouragement and stories from home. I will try and reply to each of you somewhere along the line, but time restrictions will dictate that. Also please excuse my spelling etc, as I don't have time to reread.
How goes my Miss Puss? No doubt she has settled into her job routine and has forgotten who I am.....give her a neck scratch for me.....
Marni, hope you are enjoying having your own space and time to do what you want?
Thanks Gary for moving my cleats...everything is works perfectly. Haven't had any knee, feet or hand problems. Even my new seat has been bliss!!!! Most people are suffering with sore knees and bums.....
I am not like the majority of the group who have brought their own computers, ipods, imacs, iphones, I, I, I, I.......they have trouble charging so am happy to go with what I can find. No phone connection here in Sudan, unless you buy sim cards, but even then, others have found them not to work. As most of you know I am "technically challenged" so less is best.
Am sitting in an internet den or some sort, for locals....and free!!!! I am in Dongala, Sudan. The building is in near darkness and full of young boys playing games, facebooking and maybe doing homework? It is Saturday here and I will get to the market later on today for fruit and youghurt!!!! Yeh, when I can get that yoghurt. Oh, changing of the guard....all the boys have vacated and the girls are now in, with the door closed!!! I think I am in the middle of a class session as the teacher (male) has just arrived. I feel very privileged to be allowed to stay in the room. The girls introduced themselves to me, they are so beautiful.
Dinner yesterday at local chicken cafe. Half a chicken stuffed with rice and pita bread and chilli type sauce = $10 Sudanese which equates to US$3.50, a feast. Went out back and watched them making falafel.....they soak the chickpeas, then grind them into a paste and then use a tool like an icecream scoop to pick up the paste, press down on a lever and into the hot oil for cooking....the man was doing it so quickly....RSI.......for sure. Falafel so delicious when fresh and hot. Purchase of hot milk is from a huge container and ladelled into plastic bags....! Saves on plastic bottles, which by the way are all biodegradable. Drinking lots of water - no alcohol in Sudan.....if caught, 40 lashes!!!!
Back to diary.....So, we have left Egypt and the stone throwing kids behind. Vicious little critters at times, with sticks of sugar cane thrust into your spokes and even tossed off the back of passing trucks....managed to be missed by all.
Entered Sudan via ferry across Lake Nasser. What a circus it was getting ourselves, luggage and bikes onto the ferry. All I could wonder was how I would swim to shore if the vessel sank. How many people can fit onto those rust buckets???? More than what it is deemed to carry I'm sure. We had to fight and push our way on and off several times. And I thought carrying my bike up and down an escalator in France was difficult and challenging......try the steps up and down on a boat!!!! We had to load all the bikes on the top deck. We were lucky enough to all have cabins on first deck, although mine was an inside cabin, no window....but, believe it or not, AC.....Quite a number of people opted to sleep up on deck as the "claustrophobic" below. Wow, what didn't get loaded onto that ferry....Mattresses, boxes and boxes of saucepans, TV's, computers, electrical stuff, clothing etc. No "FedX" here!!!. So much yelling and pushing and SMOKING....Men, men, men...... Our first glimpse of Sudanese women....Yeh for colourful sari-type clothing. I awoke during the night to a commotion outside the cabin door and it was a women telling off this man who was smoking....."get outside" seemed to be the gist of the conversation!!!! People slept everywhere, on the stairs, in the lifeboats, wherever they could squeeze their body. We were told to expect the worst, especially with toilet facilities. I mean, 4 toilets, two for each sex, and ALL THOSE PEOPLE......The smell was overwhelming, and the rust, OMG..... We arrived at the ferry at noon but it did not sail until sunset. All of us sat up on deck....sort of like being in a zoo, us being the animals. Obviously not the normal cargo! The men were trying to befriend the younger girls, in the end it became harassment, but nothing could be done except ignore it all. Food was great..Always thinking of my stomach!!! Bean stew, omelette, rice, pita bread (always) and chicken. All eaten with fingers. Yeh, how much dirt and grime lies under my fingernails!!!
Slept through the night, missed sunrise and then we docked at Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Picture one long piece of cement, long enough to take the ferry....and a small office. That was the port. All around was the lake and desert.....not a town in sight... Like hoping off into the middle of "nowhere". The disembarking was way easier. We waited till everyone was off. No photos allowed, although we managed to sneak a few. National security!!!! We have to get a camera/photo permit....Did plenty of paperwork onboard, apparently one form was for photo taking.....but it had not been approved or passed by customs at
that stage. Loaded luggage onto truck and it went off to customs to be searched. We followed along the sandy rocky road. Luggage off truck, into the sand, dirt and dust...waiting for customs...everyone else were checked out inside a huge building but we had to wait in the sun. Luckily they only opened a couple of bags. While waiting we marvelled at the "calmness" of it all compared to Egypt. A group of musicians/dancers came up and entertained us. Three men playing tambourine-type drums, all dressed in white robes and 4 women in vivid green and pink dresses with a black net overlay, fitted neatly on their bodies and matching coloured scarf. They performed a national dance and had people from our group dancing with them. A welcome introduction to Sudan. Then after many hours of reloading gear back onto truck, signed off of each bike we had a police escort into the camp ground. For "camp ground" read sand oval with no facilities. The usual "desert camp". En route with sirens clanging, the lack of "rubbish" was very obvious. Lots of burning of rubbish here, where in Egypt it just piles up and blows around. Tents up and into town for dinner... Tuk-Tuks so useful... Wadi Halfa town, homes built around a walled courtyard, no or few windows, some with timber/glass frames. Lots of little shops selling everything one needs....lots of cafes, eating places. It appears many men eat out.....very few women around. We took over the eating places and indulged ourselves in falafel, pita bread, bean stew, giros (though called something else, swarmah, I think)....just delicious....bought yoghurt....hoorah. Lots of people on mobile phones....amidst all the dust, dirt and remoteness, mobile phones live!!
Wadi Halfa is where the new trucks with our lockers arrived. Brand new trucks, all decked out with space for their food storage, tables, chairs, canopies etc. It was fun watching people trying to fit their gear into a space of 45 wide, 60 high and 80 length....people actually broke the doors off their hinges. The locals were lucky that day, lots of gear left behind. Thankfully I had been warned by a previous trip traveller, so organized myself accordingly. I actually had space
left.....I am aghast at what people actually bring with them on a trip like this.....To my BM friends, my compact travelling has paid off, but I do miss the coffee stops and "menu" choices.
Three days of desert camps....each day of 148kms.....sometimes gruelling headwinds and then the blissful tailwinds.....yeh, hooked onto the "fast" pelaton group and got dragged along at 45km/hr....but couldn't sustain that speed for more than 15kms.....dropped off the back and cruised into lunch. Those boys are "serious"....
The Nubian Desert such a contrast to Egypt.... Deserts ain't deserts..... Beautiful hills of dark rock, people actually gold panning, crudely organized but all privately owned plots. The peacefulness of it all, no cars honking!!!! Vehicles are very new, taxis brightly coloured as are the buses; orange, lime green, purple.....and wow, do they travel fast....give great tail wind. Weather definitely warmer although still wearing my leg warmers for most of the day. Prayer calling doesn't appear to be as "frenetic" as in Egypt. More subdued in calling people to the mosque. Great alarm clock even out in a desert campt. Went swimming in the Nile...yeh...well paddling and rinsing my body with a face cloth....freezing and the nats just about carried me away!!! but so exhilarating and good for the muscles. A bunch of kids from the village descended on us, walking in amongst the tents and asking questions. The richness of the fields along the Nile on one side of the road and then dust and desert on the other. The tar road drifts away from the river and into the hills.....everywhere is so vast! Entering small villages with painted/sculptured walls, very tidy. People making mud bricks and some being put into kiln.... Bigger town with huge market, but off in the distance..telegraph poles going for for miles and miles....so incongruous to the surroundings.
Fun event of "Team Time Trial" for 30kms.... Joined the "castoffs" team.....3 Australians, 1 NZ and 1 Dutch. We came in second last, well really last because the "family team" of the four fastest girls and 1 fast guy, played games and took lots of photos of themselves; lying on the side of the road with their bikes, forming a human pyramid etc. They had fun. Our team was not competitive, first to leave and last to finish, but we chatted all the way and helped the two slower riders. It was all about participating and meeting other people. The fast group are hard to meet up on a day to day basis....they leave first, arrive first, are set up and relaxing/socializing by the time the "plebs" arrive. By the time we set up tents it's time for "rider meeting" and then it's dinner.....how quickly the day goes.....
It is a very windy day today, thankfully no riding. Off to the market now....fruit and yes, yoghurt, yet again...grab it while I can.
Keep safe, smile lots and hug your love ones often. Miss your conversations and cheerful faces.