Crossing the border – Km 28,330

Only two days were enough to get my visa in Ethiopia, after an easy procedure, to enter in Sudan. I came in through Gallabat, a small village but a main route for people travelling through Africa. Almost everybody who travels from Nairobi to Cairo, or vice versa, takes this way, I mean, from Ethiopia to Sudan; avoiding the conflicts in the south of the country; or the other route towards Eritrea, the one I have taken in vain before.

I had only just crossed the border, they told me that the visa was not the only requirement to get into the country, I had to register and, in fact, to pay an important amount of money. Sudan’s visa equals twice the value of another African country. But it seems that it isn’t enough for them!

Cycling in Sudan is not easy at all. From Ethiopian mountains I was descending up to a flat surface which extends up to the border with Egypt. It was extremely hot, and not mention the fact that what it is not a desert, it is a semi-desert area!

People inland is respectful and indifferent. When I arrived at the village, nobody came towards me and besides this, it was really difficult to communicate; to put in another way, if I needed any kind of information, some water or food, I had to go towards a group. In this way, possibilities of being understood were bigger.

Beans are the typical food inland, that according to their customs, they grind using a bottle, then, they add a little cheese, a boiled egg, some salt and oil. It can also be served with a piece of meat. Other people sell milk, which is contained in big sauce pans.

Khartoum, the capital city

When I arrived at Khartoum, I had problem to find where to stay. As I did not have a guide of the country, as a consequence, I didn’t have any data about the city and I did not know hotels, too. I went downtown and I was there for over two hours. I visited, at least, ten hotels, but there were no vacancies in all of them. It seemed to be a kind of discrimination; and afterwards, I could confirm it.

Finally, I knew Midhat, a different guy whose hobby was cycling, and he started to work with groups of tourist, organizing excursions or receiving them from Europe. Midhat lend me his tent and told me about a camping site, which was on the shore of the Nile River, due to the fact that I had some problems with my tent and that I couldn´t get a hotel available.

Khartoum has a population of over than 3 million of inhabitants, and almost all of them are Muslim. It is a fact that a population must not be judged as a result of particular events, sometimes they are accustomed to set a standard as how it is.

I stayed there a few days, and I remember a lot of different moments when I felt upset. One morning I was taking a photograph in one of the main streets. Suddenly, someone hit me hard in my arm, shouting that I could not take photos; I didn´t react, indeed. But a lot of people immediately came and some of them intercede with him on my behalf.

It was a terrible discussion. A few of them told that man to leave me alone. Meanwhile I was advised to run away, as if I were a criminal. And in spite of not feeling guilty at all, I did not have any doubt to do that, so I vanished without trace.

Another unhappy day was the one I had to go on doing some procedures for the immigration department, it did not matter, I had all my papers update, but I had to register again in other to have my stay in the capital city documented, and to be allowed to leave the country later.

Tourism in Sudan it nearly doesn’t exist. Too much bureaucracy and little information. I could test it when I knew an English man, who was working for a publishing company, trying to get some information and write the first tour guide of the country.

Several times I felt alone and lost. People are strange. When I needed to ask something many people answered impolitely “ I don’t speak English”. But I nearly always found someone who helped me, his question before saying “hello” was what nationality I was. And sometimes I was lucky of being Argentinian, when he smiled and told me “Maradona”!!

It was half way through the length of stay in Khartoum, when I started to understand its idiosyncrasy. Midhat told me that it is better to have permission to sightsee freely in the town, taking photographs or filming and that for tourism this kind of things are a nuisance, but not having any permission can be worst.

To get some info:

Midhat Mahir (GlobTours) – Organización de Turismo Sudanés
Elsayed Abdul Rahman St. 17/4 H West Ground Floor – Khartoum
00 249 11 798 111 / Mobile 012253484
E-Mail: globtours_sudan@yahoo.com

If you wish to know more about my trip, get the documentary: The World by Bike