Things don’t get fantastically better for me. A long conversation at the travel permit office ends:
“You don’t need a permit to go to Wadi Halfa”.
‘So can I stop off along the way?” I ask. “I’d like to see the pyramids at Meroe, Atbara perhaps, the World Heritage Site at Kerima, maybe the ruins at Nuri if I have time, then Dongola. Ideally I’d like to visit Port Sudan and Suakin on the Red Sea coast too.”
“No. No stopping. Straight to Wadi Halfa.” Its almost as if they don’t want me here. Truth is, they probably don’t. An independent traveller is just a pain. They keep insisting on seeing things. No one seems to think I might like to visit the country I’m transitting through. And therein lies the problem. My only reason officially for being in Sudan is to get to Egypt, via Wadi Halfa on the border. Here I am not a tourist. And while the West is suspicious and critical of the Sudanese government, why shouldn’t the Sudanese government make life difficult for Westerners? The rules for the permits I require seem to vastly differ depending on the person I was talking to. I shall have to content myself with being beside some water at least, the Nile, until Egypt.
It feels like I’ve stopped travelling; that all I’m doing is leapfrogging from capital to capital: Nairobi, Addis, Khartoum, into Egypt. It feels less like I’m travelling than fulfilling a series of officious requirements.
I follow the Nile for a short stretch where somebody thoughtfully planted shade-giving trees 100 years ago. It can hardly be called a river here, where the Blue and White Niles merge, despite the force with which the Blue Nile tumbled over the rocks at its falls in Ethiopia. It moves so sluggishly I can barely see its direction of flow, and reeds grow in its middle.
I have a week in Khartoum before I can move on. The Wadi Halfa ferry to Aswan (Egypt) leaves once weekly.Being at the travel permit office for so long meant I missed the first I could have caught. There is no point in reaching Wadi Halfa early; I’m told the ferry is Wadi Halfa.