After our rest day in Abu Simbel we crossed Lake Nasser in the early morning hours by ferry. Followed by 35 km easy riding we reached the Sudanese border and spent around 4 hours getting through the Egyptian and Sudanese control points. The fabulous TDA team had set up a lunch buffet with tuna salads and the rider’s favourite ‘Peanut butter-Nutella-Jam’ pita sandwiches to make sure we don’t fall over while waiting. By the way, travelling by bicycle is a fantastic way to get to know the culinary side of a country. The appetite is infinite and allows for a wide spectrum of meals at least every three hours without putting on a gram of weight.
After the border crossing, we rode for another 40 kilometres to Wadi Halfa. The change from Egypt to Sudan in landscape and culture was instantly visible. Most notable were the lack of police controls, AK47s and speed bumps. But also, the road had no longer shoulders for us riders to hide from the traffic, which would become very challenging later along the route to Khartoum as busses and cars pass at a high speed both ways, expecting us cyclist to jump off the road. Notably was also the change in colour of the desert from a white/yellow tone to a shade of red.
On our hunt for a Sudanese SIM card and data in Wadi Halfa, we found this lovely shop which sold peanuts by kilograms, sweets, and drinks for next to nothing. To my surprise, the shop owner gave me a bag of dates as a gift. What a generous gesture. Something I would encounter all the way to Khartoum was the fair pricing of all the products I bought. In Egypt one has to constantly bargain the price whereas in Sudan this is not as prevalent and makes it a much more relaxed and enjoyable shopping experience.
I didn’t have any expectations when we entered Sudan. Most media coverage is skewed reporting on the genocide in South Sudan and the ongoing political conflicts. The country has generally a very negative reputation in the western world. I tried not to be too influenced and get my personal impression of the country. After the divide of the country, Sudan lost 90% of its oil resources, and is relying now mainly on agriculture. The tourism body is working hard to create a more positive reputation of Sudan and hope to see more tourists visiting their country in future. Did you know that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt? Apparently, even older than its Egyptian counterparts. I don’t know much about the Sudanese history and generally about this country, but my experience with the Sudanese people has been only warm, friendly, kind and generous. I can only encourage you to come explore this part of the world. It’s worth it!
After Wadi Halfa, we were treated to a 2 x 4 day back2back riding section with a rest day in Dongola. The first stretch from Wadi Halfa to Dongola took us all the way along the Nile Valley for a total of 485 kilometres. We stayed at the Neverland Camping site, an old playpark in Dongola right next to the Nile. It was a bit of a creepy and dirty place but sufficient to sort out the laundry, clean the bikes and get some rest. Our tour mechanic Caitlin took the opportunity to check the wheel condition of all the bikes and discovered that on my wheel all the nipples that hold the spokes in place were totally cracked and corroded. A long day of wheel rebuilding awaited. Big thanks to Caitlin for sorting this out!
The next four days of riding led us right through the desert to Khartoum. I rode more on my own during this stretch and enjoyed the long hours of solitude and amazing beauty of the Sudanese desert. It was a bit like riding through the zoo with all the camels greeting us along the way. We also had a lovely sand storm during one of the afternoons which left nothing untouched. Food, clothes, drinks, bags anything and everything was covered with sand. I bedded myself on sand that night INSIDE my tent. And yes, one does get used to the constant level of dust that creeps into everything.
After the most amazing three weeks of desert life I do however look forward to the change of landscape to semi-desert, savannah with Ethiopian mountain ranges. After our rest day here in Khartoum we will be riding for 8 consecutive days across to Gonder in Ethiopia. The off-road section is about to start and so are the mountains and heat with expected 50 degrees. Let the fun begin!
But before we head out toward Ethiopia we are invited by the Canadian embassy for dinner tonight. Food is the best gift for us always hungry riders.
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Please don’t forgot to make a small contribution towards my fundraising efforts. My goal is to purchase 300 Buffalo Bicycles for children from poor communities in South Africa. Here the link for more info and to make the donation: https://katjasteenkamp.com/qhubeka-world-bicycle-relief/
Thanks for joining me on my adventure! See you soon.