Day 1,439: The Invasion of Khartoum

Sun 09.12.12:

Odyssey rules state that I’m not allowed to use private transport over large distances, and so far I haven’t. But there has to be exceptions made here. Of course, I’ve already successfully completed The Odyssey Expedition, so in a way the rules don’t apply, but I still want to keep to them as best I can so if I decide in a few years (when, say, Greenland or Bougainville achieves independence) to re-active The Odyssey and travel to those countries from the UK without flying. The rule is there to stop me (or any who come after) intentionally breaking the law by speeding.

But here’s the Catch-22: in this situation I can’t take public transport without breaking the law. I am mandated by the Sudanese authorities to be ‘escorted’ in a private vehicle to Khartoum. Never mind, this journey is about taking public transport where available, in this case (for me) it’s not available and I’m not missing yet another Christmas with my family for the sake of a technicality. Bear in mind this will not speed up the journey at all: I would get to Khartoum with a day to spare whether I took the chicken bus or drove a Ferrari. The ferry over Lake Nasser from Sudan to Egypt leaves once a week on Wednesdays and nothing can change that fact.

So it was a minibus ride to the border, of course we got a flat tyre and of course the spare was flat as well (I love the way the bus boys always act surprised at this painfully predictable chain of events), so we didn’t get to the border until 1pm, but that was no problem. Nazar, a colleague of Midhat, was waiting for me on the other side and once I was stamped in I was introduced to his driver, Asir, and we began the journey to Khatoum, which took about 6 hours, stopping on the way for a bite to eat in one of the collections of concrete hovels that constitute human habitation here in the desert.

You simply couldn’t have imagined the difference in terrain, landscape and temperature compared with this morning. I went from a pleasant spring morning up in the rolling green hills of northern Ethiopia to a hot, arid, dusty afternoon along a flat, straight road through the litter-strewn desert. I saw some men praying at the side of the road and wondered what they might be praying for. ‘To get out of here’ would be a reasonable response.

It was dark before we arrived in Khartoum. Once there, Nazar helped me get a local SIM card and we set off to find my CouchSurf hosts. Casey had sorted me with a place to stay with the family of Ahmed, a Khartoum CSer who is currently in Germany. I was met by Ahmed’s brothers Yahia and Hamed, and after saying my goodbyes to Nazar and Asir, we grabbed a shwarma on the way back to the family home. There I met Mr. Mohammed, the kindly patriarch of the household, and after explaining (over a nice hot cup of tea) that I wanted to go and see the Meroe Pyramids tomorrow – the southernmost reach of the great Egyptian Empire. We formulated a cunning plan…

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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