Sudan - one of Dominic's highlights of the Trans Africa Expedition

Sitting here in the shade of Truck into the third day of sweating out Wadi Halfa’s +40oC desert heat waiting for the ferry to Aswan, lets us reflect on Sudan. We’ll focus on the fact that despite having been on the road for 9 months and one day, we can still be victims of  newbie surprise. One, Sudan is a “Dry” country and two, it can rain in the desert. To explain lets go back to the 29th of July and the leaving of Ethiopia.

In cold, wet Gondar with three weeks of the same behind us in the mountains of Ethiopia, there was general excitement about losing altitude and gaining heat. The days before departure had included a mass cleaning out of alcohol from the truck as no-one fancied the idea of 40 lashes at the hands of the Sudanese booze police. Apparently “dry” really means DRY in Sudan. The drive to the border was a last reminder of our time in Ethiopia, all mountain terrain and stunning valleys. Clearing the border into Sudan was quite straight forward though there were some anxious moments once we’d been stamped into Sudan and were waiting in the Truck for Nev to clear customs when our first newbie surprise occurred. Note all, when cleaning out a Trans truck of all alcohol to prevent said lashing, make sure you check the drinks Esky(cooler/chilli bin)! Yep, numerous beers and a bottle of Vat 79 whiskey was discovered by Jo. At least part of the ensuing anxiety stemmed from trying to calculate the maximum number of lashes if each standard drink was considered a separate offence (the Vat 79 alone  would generate about 790 lashes). The booze was buried in the garbage bin, covered by crushed plastic bottles and we waited. Nev returned within the ½ hour and we cleared the border with no search and hence none of the ensuing arguments over who would “take one for the team”.

Our first day in Sudan continued with a bumpy, long drive as the landscape changed from scrubby forest to farmland and eventually to semi-desert with a concomitant increase in heat. Bush camp that night was in a cracking location tucked up behind a rock outcrop next to a dry creek bed which we’d crossed after turning off the road. This then was the site of our second newbie surprise, it does rain in the desert. In fact a once in a decade storm (according to the guys at the Blue Nile Sailing Club) swept through our camp around 2am flattening tents, driving most into the truck, drenching  all and blowing Shaun and Karen’s tent into the now non-dry creek bed. With rain continuing into the morning we broke camp, drained the tents and then preceded to get bogged. Pretty much for the next hour and a half we shovelled mud, sand matting and pushed the Truck across a muddy field and across the seriously non-dry creek bed. Arrival in Khartoum at the Blue Nile Sailing Club (home for the next three nights) was therefore a chance to dry out. Three nights at the sailing club, despite being talked up as worse than both Pointe Noire, Congo and Paradise City, Nigeria, was significantly better than feared. A nice grassy spot to pitch the tents and no soldiers guarding us with AK47’s took care of Pointe Noire, and a working shower without haranguing transvestite prostitutes did for Paradise City. The clincher was a fresh juice man and a convenience hole in the wall that stocked cold drinks, shisha tobacco and just about everything in between at rock bottom rates.  All in all Khartoum was a good stop, excellent National museum, massive souk with low key stall holders and some excellent meals, especially the pita falafels.

Leaving Khartoum heralded one of the most anticipated parts of the whole Trans for this blogger, the run through the Nubian Desert to Wadi Halfa. After a stop at the Pyramids of Meroe, a cluster of steep sided pyramids erected between 800BC and 300AD we pushed on over 3 nights, bush camping our way to Wadi Halfa. Two drive days were off road as we followed the train tracks into and across the Nubian Desert only occasionally seeing other vehicles picking their way through the sand, passing one night at an abandoned train station. It was during this time that a rare phenomena of group nostalgia spontaneously swept through the truck as we all wistfully tried to capture the soothing coolness of Ethiopia as temperatures rocketed into the high 40’s Celsius and the desert wind sucked all moisture from our desiccated corpses. OK, that’s a bit extreme but it was hot. The couple of days spent in Wadi Halfa have also been less dire than originally thought. Some upgraded to air conditioned rooms, the majority experienced sleeping under the desert stars in a couple of excellent bush camps. The town has an internet cafe, we have ice in the Eskies from the fish market, and even during Ramadan there is an awesome place to eat, run by a gregarious Sudanese woman. This is, probably a good place to finish up, making a special mention of how welcoming and friendly the Sudanese people are. It really has been a fantastic experience travelling through Sudan, one of the highlights of the Trans for me.The next, and last stop, Egypt.

So if you would like to experience your own adventure in Sudan or any other countries in Africa, check out or trips, we have something for everyone!