Into the Sahara Desert
After the shock of being told that the Ehthiopian/Sundanese border was closed on our arrival there yesterday, we were more than relieved to get on our way into Sudan. After the green and mountainous surroundings of Ethiopia, the contrast was striking. Sudan is completely flat, and dry dusty desert stretches from South to North. Our road runs dead straight right through this featureless landscape.
We were travelling through Sudan in convoy with our fixer Midhat and his team in a Volkswagen Amarok. Our first leg of the journey was a 5 hour stretch in the dark to the capital Khartoum. With no bends, hills or any features, at least we had our full concentration for the terrible state of some Sudanese vehicles. We passed many cars, motorbikes and trucks in the dark on a fast two-lane road with absolutely no lights, which can really be a frightening experience particularly with the amount of overtaking we had to do. We also met a donkey, standing calmly in the middle of the road just staring at all the on coming traffic towards him at it at 120kph.
We have started to develop a routine for the driving between the three of us across each 24 hours. Marius, who's amazing photography accompany each of these blogs, has a bit of a skill for night driving so he typically takes the wheel from 01:00 through to 07:00 whilst Rainer and myself do our best to get some sleep. Rainer always takes the lead for driving during the day, as he is by far our most experienced driver in Africa. I tend to take a short stint in the morning and the afternoon to give Rainer a break, then my long drive tends to be 19:00 through to handover to Marius again at 01:00. It's become our tradition that whoever is sitting in our single back seat makes some breakfast for the team; it may only be a small fridge, but we can still take some pride in our catering skills.
We arrived in the capital city Khartoum around midnight. The city was still busy at that time, with food stalls and shops spilling out to the edge of the road. The dust was heavy in the air, making it feel like driving through fog at times. We crossed the Nile there, as it winds its way through the city. After a quick shop and refuel, Marius took the wheel to head out onto the empty straight highway across the Sahara Desert, due North up the Nile valley for the 6 hour push through to the Egyptian border. After leaving the city limits, we barely saw another vehicle for that whole time.
Around 06:30 this morning, with the hazy sun rising over the desert we arrived at the Western Nile border control into Egypt. There at the border waiting for us were our fixer team who will now accompany us right across Egypt just to ensure all goes smoothly. What a great welcome from Hatem and Turbo, and Volkswagen Egypt who have arrived with two stickered Volkswagen Tiguans to escort us across their country. Quite a convoy we have!
And so, as we're now over half way through the Challenge, its time to begin the next stage of our adventure with a country and region that I am excited to see more of. At the moment we are continuing our drive through the vast empty Sahara on the Egyptian side but as we travel North it is sure to change again.
Look forward to next updating you this evening.