Towards Port Sudan and Suakin...leaving Africa behind
Towards Port Sudan
We started the next morning at the Toyota dealer for another service round. We had already called ahead some days ago to ensure we could be serviced and knew what the cost would be so we could change enough dollars. Interestingly, it turned out to be 500 pound (~€30) more the day we arrived...after discussing a lot of options (e.g. using our own spare genuine Toyota oil filter; which they did not allow!?), they finally found a solution in cooperation with the head office that had given us the wrong price) and managed to match the money we had with us. At least we could now drive the 650km to Port Sudan and get on the ferry at Suakin…
To get us there however, we had to change more euros/dollars to get diesel (and something to eat). As the guesthouse where we stayed was out of Sudanese pounds, we had to find a solution ourselves… and after an hour and a half, we were happily on our way to the North. We camped about 2 hours north of Khartoum at a nice location just off the highway behind a large rock formation.
The next day, we reached Port Sudan just before sunset after a very long drive through the dessert. A little unexpectedly, we also had to cross a (beautiful) mountainous area about 45km before we reached the coast.
As none of the hotels allowed us to camp on their parking (not even for a small compensation), we asked the tourist police we found next to the most luxurious hotel of the town if we could park next to them on the parking… they were honoured and gladly accepted the cigarettes and coffee we offered.
Unfortunately, Port Sudan is not too interesting and after breakfast we continued our way towards Suakin where we will board the ferry to Saudi-Arabia the next day. We parked our car on the (old?) fish market; a nice spot next to an open water with a view over the ruins of the old city. We meet the person that arranged our tickets and would help us in the port with the formalities. He tells us that we would meet him the next day at 12:00. The rest of the day, we relax and read in the shade of the car,
Leaving Africa behind
At around ten, ‘our guy’ let’s us know that his ‘employee’ will help us in the port and that he will arrive at 13:00 (not 12:00). At 13:07 (in stead of 13:00 sharp), the guy finally showed up and immediately asked if we mind if he would go to the mosque to pray…YES, we mind! We wanted to leave at 12:00 as mentioned the day before. When we arrived in the port, it turned out the customs office is not open… everyone is in the mosque L. As a result ‘our new guy’ told us that we needed wait. He walked off (leaving his car next to ours) making us think he was going to arrange something. After 30 minutes, we decided to call his boss… five minutes later ‘our guy’ was back and we asked him where he was (indeed, he went to the mosque for pray…). With him back, we went to immigration first. After getting the first two stamps out of four, we ended up in a long queue to wait…this time he told us: please stand here and after you get the step go to the next line and then I meet you at the customs office…already getting the picture, Wilfred asked him where he was going…you guessed it; the mosque. Close too furious, Wilfred told him friendly yet very clearly that he is not going anywhere till we are on the ferry with the car (as we paid a good $40 for his services) !
Once all formalities were completed (it took in total 6 hours! Especially the process at customs turned out to be very inefficient), we reached the quay of the ferry. It all went smoothly from there. A quick word with the captain ensured us that we could drive our car onto the ferry ourselves and we could even lock it for the night. Once in Saudi, we had to explain to the driver how the alarm worked as there was no way that we could drive it ourselves…
Before driving the car onto the ferry, we were asked to board the ferry and check into our cabin. To our surprise, the cabin is not bad at all (we had read several horror stories that we will not repeat…). The cabin, that we paid $11 p.p. for, was clean, had a toilet and a shower with hot water and the bunk beds were ‘OK’. As we came fully prepared with instant noodles soup and a flask of hot water, we had dinner and watched a movie in our cabin. Somewhere around ten thirty, we notice that we are moving…only two and half hours late. During the night the ship rocks heavily (we think) and Judith almost fell out of her bed twice. When we met the captain the next morning and asked him if it was heavy weather, he told us it was a relatively easy crossing…in other words; be glad you did not cross it last week…
Extending our trip
The life on the road has been agreeing with us rather well and we had been discussing that it would be a shame if we had to skip Georgia and rush through Eastern Europe as a result of enjoying Africa 8-9 weeks longer than planned. As a result, we came up with the idea to request an extension of our leave for 2 months in case our visa for Saudi Arabia would get approved. And so we did… After a couple of days, we get the fantastic news that the extension is approved and we can stick to our intended route.