Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, November 03, 2013 21:39:05|
BLACK SEA, SUDANS, ETHIOPIA 2013: 7 Khartoum to Port Sudan, Sudan
Saturday, November 2, 2013
When I filled out the hotel report card while checking out there wasn't a thing I could rate below excellent. The staff sent us off like old friends when the Toyota 4 X 4 pulled away to head for Meroe. Hadi, the guide & driver, followed the Nile River north, but about 20 miles inland, so we were in desert with a variety of scrub trees and thorn bushes. Women wore a great variety of dazzling colourful outfits that covered them from head to toe. Local transport became the donkey along the surprisingly good two lane road.
Today is a school holiday, but we saw a group of girls in their school uniforms - grey scarf and a covering for the body in matching grey. Faces have generally not been covered, and when walking through the market yesterday there were a surprising number of women without their heads covered. Hadi made a stop to buy a large bag of fruit to go with the large cooler of soft drinks, juice and water that were in the vehicle.
We passed a big oil refinery - it would seem the country is refining its own crude oil. Along both sides of the road were tires every few meters, all with the sidewalls gone. Apparently the retreading industry doesn't have it quite right!
We turned onto a four wheel drive dirt track and headed across the desert through fine red sand to the ruins of first century BC palaces at Naqa. Along the way goat and sheep herders tended flocks foraging on sparse vegetation. Once we reached the Temple of Amun it was possible to walk around freely, no one else was there. Hadi drove a short distance to the Lion Temple, where an elderly man pointed out beautiful carvings of elephants, lions and gods on walls and pillars. He had a guest book that showed no other visitors for the day.
At a nearby camp people were using two donkeys to run with a long rope, pulling a water bucket from a very deep well. The process was repeated over and over until enough water for people and animals, including a number of camels, had been provided.
The next destination was Musawwahat es Sufra, in the same general area. Here are ruins of a huge temple complex from about 230 BC sprawled over a considerable area. There were a lot of columns from interior rooms, and some good carvings. Another temple nearby had been beautifully restored. Again, both were deserted.
Once back on the main road we stopped at a place for lunch, but it was too hot to be hungry so it was decided to carry on to Meroe, where we pulled into the Mozan Osis Hotel, a run down place with cracked walls, torn bedspreads and not much in the way of cleanliness. Two buses pulled in, and passengers streamed to the back of the hotel where there are public washrooms, however many chose to relieve themselves on the stony desert behind the hotel instead.
I was under the impression we were booked into a tent camp, so Hadi phoned Ahmed who said no, it was the hotel we were to be in. He had warned me it would be basic, but didn't warn me it would be dirty.
I asked Hadi to drive to the Italian Meroe Tent Camp, which is praised in travel books, but was deserted. The people on duty said to take a look. It has a number of tents, each with basic beds and sparse furnishing. It was stifling hot inside, with no air conditioning. There is a common washroom block, with a separate room containing sink, shower and toilet for each unit, however it is necessary to leave the tent and walk to it. It was cleaner than the Mozan, but the difference was not great enough to pay for another room.
The tent camp is very near the many decapitated pyramids that Meroe is famous for. In the 1800s an Italian treasure hunter knocked the top off one of the pyramids and found gold and jewels. He then proceeded to destroy the tops of all the rest, however he came up empty. A camel up to the pyramids and back, including waiting until explorations were done, cost only $8 so that seemed the best bet!
The Mozan had flat screen TV, fridge, air conditioning and a ceiling fan. Rooms were cleaned only after they were rented, as process talking a bit over 5 minutes. The sink, toilet and bathroom appear not to have been cleaned for a long time, and water ran at a trickle, making the open floor shower useless. The place could be OK if the got some water pressure and most of all, if it was clean. A mirror might also be nice, there were none. Dinner at the hotel was chicken sausage on fried rice with local bread and a soft drink - the portion was more than I could eat.
The bed was more comfortable than it looked, improved by Hadi getting a second sheet, and the room temperature was OK, so sleep was possible.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
After a light breakfast we went to the Royal City, not far from the hotel, on what was the bank of the Nile when the city was thriving. The Nile is now in another channel a short distance away. This 3rd century BC city was capital of the Empire of Kush and spread for some distance along the river. The ruins of what were a number of buildings were can be seen, including a big palace complex, but the only one in good shape is the king's bath, a 2.4 meter deep swimming pool in an ancient building with a newer roof to protect it.
It is 560 km to Port Sudan from Meroe, a very hot trip as the passenger side of the vehicle was in direct sunlight and air conditioning couldn't complete. The road passed through a number of dry, dusty desert towns, and in some areas passed extinct volcanoes that spewed volcanic rock at one time. One stretch of about 10 km was through completely black desert, all covered in what I suspect is volcanic gravel.
Truck traffic was very heavy all the way, as Port Sudan is the country's only container port. Once we turned off the Nile Highway and headed for the Red Sea we travelled parallel to a narrow gauge railway where over a few kilometres there were several rail cars laying beside the tracks, abandoned. The track didn't look in very good shape, so I guess once derailed they are left.
The area is very poor. According to Hadi anyone can construct a house on government land with no permit, and some of the tiny dwellings were incredibly humble, made from whatever material was at hand, such as straw, wood, corrugated iron, tires from the roadside, rocks, cardboard - anything people could lay their hands on. There are no services such as water, electricity, sewage, roads, etc.
We had to pass through a range of mountains before getting to the flat land along the coast. Just before entering the mountains the road forked through different valleys, each route one way, to facilitate passing trucks on the winding road. There were no up and down hills, the road twisted at the same level along dry creek beds.
We stopped at the ancient port of Suakin, as I wanted to explore the old section of the town. A new port has been built beside tthe old section. The buildings of the old part are in various stages of collapse, including a large mosque. In ancient times this was a main port for Muslim pilgrims making their way to Mecca to boat to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. There were a number of Dhows being built, and lots of small boats on the beach or at anchor.
The last stop was at the Palace Hotel in Port Sudan. The designated room had no windows, and a bathroom similar to last night except a bit cleaner. I would not accept it, so was given a "deluxe" room with a window, an enclosed shower, and upon my insistence, two sheets on the bed. This is a two night stop so got some laundry done in spite of muddy water from the tap. Dinner was pizza at a nearby restaurant - there are four within a block of the hotel. Water at the convenience store was 25 cents a bottle and soft drinks not much more.