I left the next day for Abri. A small village a couple of hours away. I crammed onto a minibus, which like all of them in Sudan has a canny ability to find seats where it seems impossible to fit someone. Leaving behind the dust filled town we entered entered the desert. It was a beautiful route and a type of scenery, which have never seen before. After a while, we stopped at a petrol station in the middle of the desert and I was beckoned off. The driver pointed down the road to a group of houses in the distance. “Abri,” I asked? He nodded. No better way could I have been shown how I wasn’t just off the beaten track, but I had left it a long way away in Egypt and wouldn’t find it again until I was in Ethiopia. Bag on, I began the lonely walk towards the village.
Abri was indeed small with not a lot to do. There was one guesthouse in town though, which fortunately had a very good English speaker running it, who took me for lunch and in the evening I joined him for coffee in a tiny shack. The remaining time I spent walking down the banks of the Nile. It was a refreshing change from Egypt where in Luxor and Aswan it is near on impossible to walk next to it as everything is either accommodation or a restaurant. In Abri, however, it was just me, people washing and a couple of goat farmers. Everyone was, as anywhere in Sudan, unbelievably friendly.
I had intended to leave Abri for Kerma, but there wasn’t a minibus that day. Instead I went to Dongola, which is a larger town with tarmac roads! I liked Dongola a lot. First the food was great. Fresh fish and excellent full, as well as superb coffee and tea shops. It’s the sort of place that you take a seat and then don’t move for a few hours as people come and go wanting to practice their English. The town is fairly busy by Sudanese standards, full of rickshaws and people on donkeys. Surrounded by agriculture, the donkey is a major form of transportation.
I stayed there for two days. On the second day I walked out of town with a list of instructions from my hotel on how to find the ruins of the Temple of Kawa. I didn’t find it, but the walk was gorgeous. Although it was mainly along the main road, there was barely any traffic and walking by the fields, past snakes and camels and people going about their everyday lives was lovely.
In the evening I bumped into Benny, who I was supposed to cross the border with, but he had been delayed by two days due to visa complications. We then happened to meet a German lady and a South African man. It was rather strange going out for food and speaking English without having to slow down my pronunciations. We shared tips and lists of accommodations as with the guide books, for the most part, being utterly useless, recommendations and instructions are like gold dust. The South African guy was hoping to bike back to his home within four weeks, which seemed a tad ambitious to me. Whilst the German lady was enjoying her retirement by visiting her 113th country. She was a little eccentric.
Leaving Dongola was not an instant affair. I arrived at the road where the buses depart at 6am and watched as the sun rose. Transport in Sudan very much relies on having enough people to run, so it was a case of sitting and drinking coffee and eating sweet fried dough, whilst I hoped more people would arrive. Around four hours later this had been achieved, however, by this point I felt quick ill and I needed the toilet. Sudanese people do not understand the English for I am too full and cannot possibly accept your kind offer to feed me anymore.
Karima was nice. Upon arrival, I hid inside from the heat, before venturing out in the late afternoon. I walked to Jebel Barkal, which is in the words on two medical students on my minibus to Karima, ‘a very big mountain.’ Possibly by Sudanese standards, but in reality it is just a rock in the desert. It used to be sacred to the Egyptians and contains a couple of temples, but I missed them because I was distracted.
Firstly, I scrambled to the top and enjoyed the views over Karima, the Nile and desert. There is no better place to appreciate how important the Nile is to Africa. Desert as far as you can see, except for the strip of green and with that pockets of towns and villages. Then there were the pyramids. nowhere near as big as in Egypt, but I thought they were pretty special. Mainly, because other than the odd local it was just me and the sunset was easily one of the best I have ever seen.
Trying to get back with the last light of the day was fun and I quickly lost my way. There I came across four older gentlemen who invited me for tea and wanted to ask me lots of questions. I left them in complete darkness with a few wavy hand gestures of direction. It worked.
The next day, I took a shared taxi to Meroe and then a minibus to Nuri to see more pyramids. I spent around thirty minutes moving and four hours waiting. On the way back, I completed the entire journey in an hour. It is total luck of the draw with transport here. Anyway the pyramids are the biggest in Sudan and again it was special walking in the sand with no entrance fees and no one else. With the amazing sunset from the previous day, I guess they could not compete with the ones in Karima, however, it was nice to visit.
I leave this blog post with an image taken whilst waiting for my bus to Khartoum. Women in Sudan are hidden for the most part, so when I saw this from afar I thought it would make a nice photo. On closer inspection, however, the woman was not exactly what I expected.