|From Out of Canuck...|
Nice Sudanese folks out on the desert stretching their legs after a sardine-like experience the night before...
|From Out of Canuck...|
More bleak... Didn't think they had telephone service on Mars, yet...
|From Out of Canuck...|
The hall way were I "slept" last night...
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This map marks the opulent Hotel Nile in Wadi Halfa...
Wadi Halfa is my Timbuktu.
Incredulous you say?
I've never been to the fabled Timbuktu in Mali. But, Wadi Halfa has to rank up there in terms of mystique. Well, in my book of checklists at least. I've always wanted to come here since I first thought up this pan-African adventure. I have a crush for off the beaten path, desolate, bleak places...
The scenery had been pretty bleak all day, just flat endless desert. When late afternoon came, the train entered a landscape of low mesas. At this point, the train slowed its pace while mesas to either side forming a reminiscent bowling lane. Could this be my Timbuktu? Slowly, slowly, a town revealed itself in the shimmering sand in the distance. Hell, I could have missed this place if I batted an eyelash. The train wheels squeeled once again. I looked outside the window and I read on a sandblasted sign: Station No. 1.
I had finally made it. Mixed emotions: elation, relief, and sadness. This was the end of the line.
Everyone just piled out. I got my bag and found Matt on the platform. We jumped in the back of pickup truck/taxi and headed off to town still a few kilometres away.
We booked into the Hotel Nile (not much to it other than a bunch of cots spread out under what looked like camouflage netting) then headed for a restaurant across the street. If I didn't know Lake Nasser was to the north (somewhere close by), it would have been very strange that I had grilled fish for dinner.
I did a bit of exploring after dinner. Walking around the moonlit streets, I thought this town may as well have been a mirage. It's a miracle, considering the desolation of the surrounding desert, that it actually exists.
The Nile Hotel was not as bad as Michael Palin described. I thought the outside setting was great. If it weren't for a thin veil of high clouds, the star-filled night sky would have been overwhelming (I did see the Milky Way though).
It was warm out. But, by 2 or 3 AM, the temperature was just freezing. I was sleeping in my silk liner and was chilled to the bone. I think I caught my fourth cold of the trip. Damn, I'm so susceptible to colds now.
Feeling a bit under the weather now, I thought I would relax and wait for the boat today. That was until the long arm of the Sudanese bureaucracy pulled me back into its grinding gears. I had to spend a couple of hours cued up for previously unheard of departure fees and another security check. Then I had to confirm my boat ticket (damn lucky I found out about that otherwise I'd would have been denied admission at the boat).
I stocked up on water and snacks at the local market. As I walked back to the Nile, a truck sounding its horn, stopped alongside. On board was my friend Ahamed!! He had loaded his worldly possessions in the back of the truck and was on his way home to Abri. I reached up to the window, shook his hand, and bid him farewell. Last night we talked about the possibility of him buying a hotel in Wadi. Because Wadi Halfa was at a crossroad, he thought it might be more exciting to move here. I might be back one day but just in case I wished him a good life. He reciprocated... Such a good man.
It was something like noon when we decided to make a break for the boat terminal. Damn taxi drivers. They just wanted to rip us off for the last time. So we defiantly started marching towards the ferry terminal. Damn terminal must have been at least 5 K away. The sun was just baking us. That was until a black pickup truck picked us up. Damn the taxi drivers!!! Ha!
First class cabins have square windows, cattle (second) class has the round tiny windows...
The loading process was chaotic. We were in the terminal building for the longest time. Just one more layer of bureaucracy to go I thought, the border control and luggage inspection... Fingers crossed.
Once the boat launched it was smooth sailing (not a cloud in the sky or whisper of wind). The second class sitting area was pleasant enough: air conditioned and padded benches. The A/C has helped defuse some of the tempers in the crowd. There must have been at least 200 passengers squeezed into 2nd class.
The family I'm sitting with are just amazingly friendly. They keep giving me food...
It's something like 6 PM... We just spotted Abu Simbel lit up on the western shore... pretty cool.
There's no where to lie down. I'm not going to sleep tonight...