Own journey

My journey through the Sudan
Though I had a first class ticket the train was simply awful I wouldn’t travel on it again. There is no difference between first, second and third class.
In At Barra the train stopped for three hours so passengers could pray and eat. Most passengers seemed a bit exhausted, most of them were just resting, lying on the platform, eating, talking or sleeping. At 8 o’clock the train continued it’s journey. The real problem is that the train goes so slowly at about 40km per hour and it stops so many times and nobody knows why. The 900km seem endless.

In my compartment there were seven persons three of them were children, two of them sleeping on the floor, that meant nobody could stretch their legs or move elsewhere without stepping over the sleeping bodies. Anyway, going outside the compartment was no good either because there the floor was also packed with sleeping men. Once I had managed to reach the toilet I did not want to go back to my seat.I was lucky that between two sleeping heads I found enough space to crouch on my legs and look out of the window.

At first I didn’t believe my eyes it was just wonderful. About just five to ten metres from the train there was the river Nile flowing slowly in the moon light (perhaps it flows faster than the train). The silver light on the river and the palm trees on the shore made it the most wonderful sight. For about 2 hours I was crouching between the sleeping men watching the river when a women from inside the compartment saw me. She was shocked seeing me between the sleeping men. I had to go into the compartment at once and sit between the sleeping children again. A thing she very much disapproved of me. In the early hours at about 5 o’clock the train reached Abu Hamad . The children, mother and uncle had reached their destination. The rest of the journey was still terribly long, we reached Wadi Halfa not until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, but as they had gone, I could lie down.

Jebel Barkal
Wadi Halfa is another story. The train ends in the sand, no platform nothing, only a station building in the sand, and there were no taxis, only small open trucks, if you were lucky they did throw your luggage onto the back of the truck for you. I asked them about a hotel that was near the harbour but they only laughed at me. There are 3 so-called hotels. I decided to stay in the funduq ( hotel ) AL BUHAIRA, which means” The Lake”.

The garage hotel which I stayed in in Karima is a five star hotel compared to the rooms there, made out of wooden boards, metal and cardboard, a bare sandy ground, no water only a small plastic tub.

I asked why Wadi Halfa was such a rotten place. I was told that a big effort was being made to restore it after the floods. Which flood I asked. Well, the ones 40 years ago, when they flooded Lake Nasser, that destroyed Wadi Halfa. But in the nearby restaurant I ate the best fish I can ever remember, after that everything was OK. I thought the worst part of the journey was over but no. Only some of all the travellers who wanted to go to Aswan like me, knew that it was not so. Most people do this trip only once. Most of the ones I talked to said that next time they would fly to Egypt. The following morning everybody had to go back to the station which was a 2km walk in the sand for a special stamp. There are no roads in Wadi Halfa. After that everybody had to go back past the hotel, to the village Wadi Halfa, to the Djauwazat, the office to get the permit to leave the country. There is nothing else to do so everybody is on their way to the station and Djauwazat. The boat leaves between 2 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I went with two nice and helpful men to get the permit. It seemed at the time that I was very lucky as I as a foreigner needed no papers and not even pay. Lucky me I thought. I went back to the hotel and to the fish restaurant and I thought Wadi Halfa is probably not the most rotten place in the world after all.

At about 2pm two men threw my bags on the back of a truck and off we went to the harbour which is about 4 or 5 km past the village. Reality caught up with me when the officer at the gate said I could not go onto the boat my papers were not complete, something was missing I had to go back to KHARTOUM!!!!!!!!! Well, I told him that I would NOT go back and that I would stay here on this very spot and not move. Then another officer came, he told me perhaps if I went back to the Djauwazat they might be able to sort it out for me but I should hurry as the office was about to close.

Pyramids in Meroe
At that time I was in a bit of a panic as I didn’t know how a Sudanese Officer would deal with a European woman who refuses to do as she was told. Again a helpful man organised a truck for me ( my suitcases I left with the people at the customs) so I arrived at the Djauwazat for a second time but of course the office had already closed. The truck driver found an official person for me and at last I got the missing papers. It was only a single sheet of paper where I had to fill in my name, destination, and passport number. It’s just unbelievable. Back at the customs everybody was now very friendly and helpful, I could go straight on board and didn’t have to wait like all the others.

For me the trip by boat was wonderful. I had a cabin which I shared with only one nice lady, crossing the big lake was beautiful. It was nearly full moon, passing Abu Simbel was just marvellous. Of course the ship was crowded and I felt pity for most of the passengers who again had to sleep on floor and the crowded deck. At midday next day we reached Aswan and this time would you believe it, it was the Egyptian border control who played a very bad game with the passengers. They came on board and at about 1pm started to control the papers of all the passengers slowly, very slowly and nobody was allowed to leave the boat until they had checked all the passports to the very last one. There were several hundred passengers on this boat. This time I was really lucky. On the boat I met a woman from Holland and she told the officials she had a flight to Aswan. It wasn’t true but they let her off the boat and I just walked behind her and escaped.
Later in Cairo I met a man who had been travelling with us on the boat and he told me that people were finally let of the boat at about 5pm. Everybody was fed up by the end of that trip. Looking back on it, it was an interesting experience but I would not do it again.

Desert impression

Ferry over the Nile


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