Last Day in Sudan
Jul 06, 2005
I have an entire day to kill here in Wadi Halfa, with nothing to do.
It's 115 degrees (46C), so I just sleep away most of the day. From past travels, I've learned that taking a shower is the best way to cool off on a hot day. But in Wadi Halfa, the water from my shower is so hot that it scalds me. I end up putting the water in a bucket, letting it cool in the shade for an hour, and then throwing the bucket over my head.
On the top of one hill is a square block of rock that looks as if human sacrifices used to be done upon it 3000 years ago. I ask around, and learn that it wasn't carved; the wind just cut it away that way, and there were never human sacrifices on it. Around sunset I climb up the hill and check out the view.
With nothing else to do I talked with the Sudanese, and took notes regarding desert animals. Camels make noises like Chewbacca from Star Wars. Donkey's hee-haw, but they do it loudly enough to shake my hotel. And finally, an important note for anyone traveling this way: big black scorpions are no problem, but be careful of the small yellow ones. (I had seen one of these yellow scorpions in Abri a few days ago. I killed it with my water bottle.)
The next day was my last day in Sudan. I left hours early to walk over to the boat, which would take me on to Aswan Egypt. It's a very good thing that I left early. When I got to the boat, they send me zig-zagging back and forth all over town from immigration, to the moneychanger to pay exit fees, then back to immigration, then to the ferry terminal oddly off by itself in the middle of the desert, and then finally back the boat. It was three crazy hours of rushing all over town in police cars, by foot, and on the back bumper of trucks, before I get back to the boat and get onboard.
In the middle of all of this adventure, in the middle of town, someone asks me where I'm from. He stamped his foot, and then makes a motion as if he's grinding America to dust. He tells me "Osama is a great man", and then his friends laugh. It is my last day in Sudan, and that was the first bad experience that I've had.
The boat departs and heads up Lake Nasser, with only a mediocre view of brown cliffs along a distant shore. I would later learn that we passed right by the amazing Temple of Abu Simbel. No one told me to look.
I bought the cheapest ticket possible - deck class. But in the ferry terminal, I met a professional Italian photographer. She has a first class cabin to herself, and invited me to take the other bunk. First class was actually filthy, but a bed sounded 100 times more comfortable than sleeping on the deck.
At 2 in the morning, I'm shivering uncontrollably in the air-conditioned cabin. I've grown accustomed to 115 degree (46C) days, and now cannot handle the cold at all. I head back upstairs, and find a place to sleep on the metal deck. Surprisingly, it's a bit pliable and not terribly uncomfortable. But still it's cold.
At 4:45am, I'm woken up for the first prayer call. A while ago, I read "Gulag Archipelago" by Solzhenitsyn. It's the horror stories about his experiences in Russian Gulags (prisons). One of the things that he talks about is how sleep deprivation was used in the prisons to make people malleable. I can't help but wonder if Islam's morning prayer call is intentionally designed to deprive people of sleep, and make them more open to religious suggestion.
At 6:30am, there is a lovely sunrise, then I head back to the first class cabin. When I get there, I find a switch to turn off the blasting air-conditioner. Had I only found that hours earlier (sigh). I pass out for a couple more hours of additional sleep.
Even as we pull into Aswan, I start feeling a bit of culture shock. When we arrive in Aswan, all of the men on the ship change from traditional Djellabas into western clothing.
Sudan was almost void of tourists. Here in Aswan, tourist cruise ships line the shores of the river. What am I in for in Aswan?
That's it for Sudan. Welcome to Egypt.
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