Day 1,442: The Battle of Lake Nasser

Wed 12.12.12: It was an early start as Mazar left to go help fix what – if it works – could herald a new era for trans-Saharan travel. Today he would be attempting to get a backpacker truck from Wadi Halfa to Aswan USING THE ROAD. The fact that the only legal way to cross the 1,275km-long imaginary line in the sand that constitutes the border between Egypt and Sudan is over this damn lake is one that is as ridiculous as it is typical of this part of the world. Why should this be the case? Well, because the guy who owns the ferry boat pays off the Sudanese government to not open the road, the road that was built TWENTY YEARS AGO linking the two countries. So instead of, you know, simply hopping a bus to Aswan (a journey that would take 2 hours),…

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Day 1,441: Halfa Way Home

Tue: 11.12.12: My phone alarm was set for 2am, as Mr. Mohammed told me that the bus left for Wadi Halfa at 3. Thus began a very long day in the life of The Odyssey Expedition. Mr. Mohammed and I arrived at some dusty corner of Khartoum where the bus was due to stop and waited. And waited. A bus came at 3.30am, but I was told it was the wrong one. Just after 4am another bus came and this was, apparently, the right one. I thanked Mr. Mohammed profusely for his spectacular hospitality and patience with my short but rather eventful couple of nights here at the confluence of the Niles. Staying with Mr. Mohammed and his family marked a high point in what was otherwise a remarkably expensive and frustrating trip through this barren and unforgiving land. I clambered on the bus and took…

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Day 1,440: Tomb Raider

Mon 10.12.12: The Meroe Pyramids mark the southern extreme of Egyptian influence as you follow the course of the Nile river south towards its source. After the glories of the New Kingdom had faded, the great Egyptian empire fell into an era of in-fighting which culminated in the Balkanisation of the realm into smaller (usually warring) entities – one of which was the great Meroitic dynasty that ruled this area of the Nubian Desert from 592 BC to 350 AD. Although the pyramid tombs they left behind are nowhere near the gargantuan majesty of the Great Pyramids of Saqqara, Dahshur and Giza (Cheops’ Pyramid is 146.5 metres tall, the Meroe Pyramids barely make double figures), they are still definitely worth a day trip, situated four hours north of Khartoum. However, this being Sudan, getting there is only half the problem. To travel anywhere or take photos…

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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…

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Day 378: A Change of Plan

13.01.10: I've got to say that getting back on the boat was a lot easier than getting off it, although you really have to admire the jaw-dropping amount of bureaucracy that these guys think is acceptable. What could have been achieved very quickly with a team of three officials, took over fifty officials an hour. Oh Africa, I shall miss you... Back on the boat, I met a bloke named Marc, who was from Barcelona (one of my favourite cities in the world), who had been living up in Alexandria for a couple of years. Chatting to him made me resolve two things – one was that I would attempt to get a visa on the border for Syria (something I've been told you can no longer do) and the other was that I would head out to Siwa Oasis in Egypt, near the border with…

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Day 377: The Second Cataract

12.01.10: Another fit of African bureaucracy before we could disembark saw us waiting for over an hour after we arrived, before we could get off the damn ship, but eventually, in drips and drabs, we all made it off the good ship and into the little town of Wadi Halfa. The only thing I know about Wadi Halfa is that it's where Michael Palin took the train to Khartoum – and, well, apart from that not much to report I'm afraid.. The ship would be going back tomorrow so I thought it only fair that I stay the night. I joined a gang of Aussie lads in the local guesthouse, a simple affair of single room buildings clustered around a central courtyard. Sudan isn't big on tourism. An intractable civil war between north and south (the Darfur crisis being a completely separate atrocity) has been rumbling…

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