Apologies for the lack of blog posts! We have been having the most amazing time and a combination of no internet and too much excitement has meant our blogging efforts have somewhat deteriorated! I do hope however this instalment will give you a glimpse of what we encountered in Sudan and northern Ethiopia. We have successfully grown from two to four, and are currently in Rwanda!
Our journey through Sudan was a swift one, travelling over 1500 kms in only three and a half days.
Entering Sudan meant getting a 2 hour ferry between Abu Simbel and Wadi Halfa down Lake Nasser before tackling the Egypt – Sudan border, notorious for its bureaucracy. On the advice of Robert and Clary Van Den Hoven (Double Dutch World Safari) I tackled the Egyptian border without the help of a fixer and despite visiting the photocopier at least 20 times, I cleared the Egyptian border in about three hours. On the Sudanese side, I accepted the help of Mazur – a chap who seems to run proceedings at border without, from what I could tell, actually working their!
We were on the road within 2 hours and set off for Abri, to stay at Mazzouk’s Nubian Guest house. Since we arrived in the dark – Mazzouk persuaded us to take two rooms in his guest house rather than camping for 3 dollars more. Once we had settled in, Mazzouk told us of a local place we could get some food in the village, “A short drive away”. We hoped in his 1950’s Morris Minor and drove no more than 40m down the road before pulling over! For dinner we had a ‘meat’ broth/stew with bread – which tasted remarkably better than it looked – especially as I had half a hip in my bowl!
The following day we set off at first light to plough on to Khartoum, covering more than 500 kms. The drive was nothing to write home about apart from the 45 degree heat and endless desert. We arrived in Khartoum just after dark staying at the German Guest House – a place we would highly recommend. Upon arriving we saw a blue Hardtop Defender 110 parked outside with British plates, that belonged to Ashley and Sally who we have been hoping to catch up given they left Alexandria 3 weeks before us, yet have a full year for their trip! After comparing notes from our adventure so far we set off the following day in convoy towards the Ethiopian border – deciding to wild camp in Doka, roughly 1hr from the border at Metema.
Between Khartoum and Gorgora at the top of Lake Tana we actually had a hitch hiker with us – an elderly Scottish lady called Caroline who has been travelling on and off since before we were born! She was a welcome addition and added a new dynamic to the car which was refreshing after the continuous desert in northern Sudan.
The following day we crossed the border into Ethiopia with no problems and soon began ascending into the green luscious mountains. The transformation between Sudan’s flat barren desert and Ethiopia’s dense mountains of vegetation was like flicking a switch. While progress was slow as our 300tdi and 200tdi Defenders crawled up the hills it offered an opportunity for us to soak in the stunning landscape.
As we were approaching the place called Tim and Kim’s, located on the northern shores of Lake Tana, we were to be staying that night, Tracks4Africa showed what seemed to be a short cut when compared to Ashely’s Google Maps. While it may have been a short cut distance wise, we soon realised while Google maps had forgone the road – given it was 70km of off road through mud, gravel and streams. However, we did get a glimpse of the often unseen villages that create Ethiopia and didn’t stop waving to kids and adults alike for the entirety of the ‘short cut’. Through northern Africa Ashley and Sally had been pondering whether they could have taken a VW Golf by the quality of the roads, however we both agreed over a cold lager (alcohol is banned in Sudan), that our Defenders had been well and truly christened in Africa by that road!
Tim and Kim’s was lovely and it was a shame waking to see the lovely views of Lake Tana the following morning as we packed up the tent, knowing we not only had to leave the camp, but also would be leaving Ashley and Sally who rightly so wanted to spend a couple of days exploring the shoreline.
The following day we continued south, wild camping the night on the edge of a forest having crawled along a track between two villages with no lights on to avoid being spotted before passing through Addis Ababa the following day. We continued through Addis rather quickly, only stopping to pick up some groceries, as only days earlier an American women died after her vehicle was stoned during protests. Leaving Addis we decided to aim for the Karkaro Lodge of Lake Langano, one of four lakes in the Rift Valley. The road was remarkably clear and I convoyed with a Matatu (a small mini bus that drives up and down doing a taxi service for locals). Arriving at the camp site, Tracks4Africa once again came up trumps and directed us down the worst road we have encountered yet in Africa with gullies over a meter deep, instead of the normal road 200m away. Despite a local farmer telling us the road was impassable we continued on with the campsite on 300m away and after engaging the diff-lock and working out a route we safely made it to the camp entrance.
More on Ethiopia and beyond coming soon!
Ben and James