After another uneventful stay in Aswan, I prepared myself for the adventure ahead. First up was getting to the ferry port. After much asking around, I discovered that a train left at 8am from platform two. Of course it would not be so smooth and I soon found myself racing to platform four, but I was on my way and that was all that mattered. And so were many other people carrying all number of oddly sized
I arrived at the ferry port and was told I wouldn’t be able to access it until 1pm. That meant around four hours sat around in the sun. Fortunately it was a language issue rather than a stupid decision and what he had actually meant was ten. Only an hour or so. That gave ample opportunity to observe the trucks coming and going, dropping off fridges and freezers, armchairs and settees, and many other oversized boxes. They then loaded them up and a man had the job of walking them to the gate.
At ten, I paid my ferry tax and made my way through various different stations. Whether it was searching my bags, weighing them, just wanting to say hello etc, it was a painless process. Eventually, I made it to immigration, where a bemused policeman had a problem with my form.
“You’ve used a black pen,” he said.
“Yes is that a problem?” I replied.
“Well yes, I use black pen.”
“And you’re not a policeman. You should have used blue pen. They’re going to think you’re me,” he said utterly confused.
A solution was found, which involved me writing over the black pen in blue and then he said he would see me on the other side as he would be doing the immigration work in Sudan as well. Weirdly, he was happy with black pen over there.
In its hay day the ferry was an overcrowded mess and quite the adventure. These days, with the road now open, it is a more sedate affair. I enjoyed watching them loading up the ferry, as men carried trolleys from the car park, down a steep slope and struggled for control. But, with the sun getting ever stronger, I retired to the seats downstairs, where I managed to hold a block of five for the duration of the trip, hence giving me an excellent bed for the night. The boat didn’t leave until 4pm. A long wait.
When underway it was very pleasant. At night, the deck was completely dark and the stary sky was one of the best I have ever seen. In the morning we passed Abu Simbel from a distance, which was also nice. But generally, it was fun being on the boat, talking to various people from Sudan and Egypt and watching the world pass by very slowly.
The highlight in many ways of the ferry was after two hours of setting sail. I was asked to go upstairs for Sudan immigration. Upon getting upstairs, I was a tad confused as to where to go, but was soon ushered into a tiny bedroom, with three men each sat on a different bed. One had a big book, full of all of the details of every passenger. One had a stamp and the other, bless him, was head to toe in immigration forms. His whole bed was covered and it didn’t look like he had any form of a system to sort it out. Anyway, it made me smile and soon I had an entrance stamp.
I wasn’t the only tourist on the boat. There was also a couple from England/Slovakia who were cycling from England to South Africa. It was nice to have some company especially in the morning when the journey began to drag. But mostly during the immigration process when we actually docked. You see, the entrance stamp was just one of a billion stamps I needed to get before I was allowed to leave the ferry. I must have filled out around five different forms for five different people and at one point I was told I was done, to then be turned back at the exit, because I was missing a stamp. It was highly amusing and a little bit bewildering. Anyway, finally we disembarked, passed through customs and exited into the desert of Sudan. There’s not a lot to be written about Wadi Halfa, other than the people are very friendly and welcoming. In fact on my very first venture out, I had the phone number of a lawyer and had drank tea with a group of locals who refused to let me pay.
My room for the night (alneel hotel) resembled more of a hospital from a horror film than a welcoming place to rest, but it did have a very generous currency exchanger, who gave me a whopping 120 Sudanese pounds for every 100 Egyptian. That’s a huge mark up and pretty much equal to dollar rates, which of course put in to perspective my issues over the previous week in Egypt.
As the sun went down, I climbed one of the rocky structures in the town. From there I could see across the Nile and to the desert beyond. Watching the sun descend, it struck me how little pollution there was. The sun was perfectly round and disappeared over the horizon without losing its form. A rarity.