Jun 05, 2005
Sudan: It's a hardcore Muslim country, with an oppressive regime, that is supporting a genocide in Darfur, and I'm literally walking right into it.
At this crossing, there is basically no border. No gates, no signs, you're in Metema, Ethiopia and 12 seconds later you're in Galabat, Sudan.
I found the immigration building and waited for the one lonely immigration officer. It didn't surprise me that he opened up my bag and searched it thoroughly. When he opened up my camera case, he tapped his finger on the fake (but real enough looking) press pass that I bought for $2 in Thailand. My heart skipped a beat, and for a fraction of a second I thought I was going to be turned back or far worse sent to jail after only having been in the country for 20 minutes, but he didn't say a word and just kept searching the bag. After going through everything, he motioned for me to repack it and close it. Then he stamped my passport and gave it back to me. I had been tempted to try to smuggle in some booze, but I'm glad that I didn't try that.
Friends told me that there is at least one truck a day from Galabat to Gederef, and when I finished with immigration I found one waiting. The small pickup truck was already overloaded with people and luggage, so I threw my bag in and grabbed a spot in the back corner. To my shock and dismay four more men managed to somehow crush in with us. (see photo). To say the least, it was uncomfortable, but it wasn't anything that I hadn't been through before in Kenya or Uganda.
The first half of the trip was down a dirt road. Several hours later we hit the major highway. None of it was particularly memorable, but here are the notes I scribbled down along the way:
- Man atop camels overlooking flock of sheep
- Pretty white birds standing around in a shallow pool
- hot + dusty unpaved but mostly flat road
[Note to other travelers - I got up early and took a truck during the day. A friend of mine decided against staying in Metema, and got a truck at night. The truck was robbed along the way. Through a combination of begging and flattery she did manage to get most of her money returned before the bandits took off. But, I'd recommend traveling this road during the day.]
I only spent about an hour in Gederf before moving on. Rosa, a woman from my truck told me that Gederef is a "bad place", and that all of the hotels were expensive. There were no scheduled buses, but a group of us, all Sudanese, no tourists, arrange to hire our own bus to a town outside of Khartoum. Rosa invites me to stay with her family.
But even in that one hour in Gederef, I had some interesting experiences. I made a decision not to lie about my nationality, to tell people that I'm an American, and see what happens. The first local that I met, informed me fairly correctly that the "American government does bad things to Muslims." My first impression is that Sudan is great - unlike the 50% of stupid Americans - everyone here hates Bush.
But then this man went on to tell me that the Muslims can kill Bush any day, but they haven't decided to, and then he invited me to his home. It didn't actually sound like a threat, but I decided to follow Rosa anyway.
I don't even know where we ended up exactly, but Rosa introduced me to her family who fed me a nice dinner, and made me a bed in an extra room. My first night in Sudan and I'm sleeping in some family's home somewhere.
The next morning they take me over to the bus station and get me on a bus to Khartoum.
I'm in Sudan.
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
pretty awesome--what an adventure! but to be honest, i'm so glad to be reading it, and not living it--that truck ride would've killed me. :P
Keep reading. The truck rides will only get worse. :-)
Misha - May 28, 2007
Sudan! Really?!! Damn Adam. So is this the most dangerous place you've been yet or would you say there's been worse?
I've been recycling the same quote for years...
"_______ dangerous? I grew up in Oakland, California. After that nothing scares me."
Largely it's true. But I found Sudan, at least the region of NE Sudan that I was crossing, to be unbelievably safe. I wasn't coming any closer than 700 miles to any of the dangerous spots.
The most dangerous place that I think I've been was Belize City, Belize. Even after Oakland, that ghetto scared the hell out of me. My hotel was covered in razor wire. Two other tourists and I went across the street, literally 20 feet, for a beer. Even before we finished that first beer it was getting too sketchy so we fled back to the hotel.