It takes about half an hour to exit Khartoum. Then its pretty much desert. There are shrubs, and buildings fairly frequently, though nothing you would consider a town. The earth was very much made up of sand. I don’t know which route we followed north. All I can say is that we cross a considerably wider Nile, following its course for a while. There is a thin strip of date palms fringing it, everywhere else just sand and rubble.
Just as I think ‘that could well be Wadi Halfa – but of course its not – its only 3.30’ we pass the sign welcoming me to Wadi Halfa, the last town in Sudan. The ferry from Wadi Halfa to Aswan is the only way across the border unless you’re a trucker.
Wadi Halfa is a low built sort of a place. Only a few buildings rise above one storey. The search to find a room is simple: keep walking north until you reach a hotel that doesn’t turn you away. Places fill quickly when the ferry is in dock. I share a rough construction in smurf blue lined with bedframes. I am given special, i.e. clean, bedding unlike everyone else. Then there’s not really a lot to do other than wait for the ferry the next day.
I complete Sudanese exit procedures in an hour and ten minutes. Actually one of the longest spells despite what you hear about Africa. I can’t say much about the process – I didn’t see much of a process. I played the ‘only white guy completely lost’ routine, since I was the only white guy and had no idea where to start.
The office is mostly composed of harassed looking bodies: staff and passengers. There are a row of counters, some used, some not; some with larger crowds than others. In an corner a nurse gives yellow fever innoculations to those who need while people push past into an office beyond.
But procedures are not over yet. At the ferry terminal 2km from town I’m given a token. The token has a number on it (in Arabic). When my number is called (in Arabic) I go for a stamp in my passport, and collect another piece of paper. I now have enough to keep an office junior busy for a couple of days.
The ferry has a surprising turn of speed. Wadi Halfa is very soon a memory. I would love to say I’m sorry to see the back of Sudan, but I’m not.
Then suddenly, it feels like the trips final push.
The engine stalls. Initial attempts to start it up fail. We are several minutes at a standstill on Lake Nasser. I start to see signs of crisis everywhere. Sirens wail for short periods in the engine room below. The cabin empties out, people taking their day bags. I open my eyes from sleep to a man shoving life-jackets in the hollow beneath my wooden bench. I decide to risk making my mindset worse by taking a look outside, at the back of the boat. There are definite bow waves. At some point during my slumber we have moved on. I sleep more restfully from then on.