Coffe Table Photography book out now!
999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
As always, I throughly enjoy the first few days in a new country. Crossing into Sudan the changes are much more noticeable than other parts of Africa, and I immediately feel extremely welcome and safe after the tense situation in Ethiopia.
Sudan is on the list of “bad countries” (there are five), and so they are cut-off from the global financial markets. For me this means my bank cards don’t work at all, and for locals it means getting hard currency from the wide world is extremely difficult. There is a black market on the Sudanese Pounds, and lots of people stop me in the street to ask if I’d like to change money, offering a rate almost double the official one.
Stopping to buy basics in towns is great, and I’m repeatedly waved in to share food with shopkeepers and anyone else that sees me. I’ve picked up a few words of Arabic, but even with a language barrier it’s clear the Sudanese people are serious about welcoming strangers.
Even though Sudan produces a lot of oil, the country itself has enormous shortages of gas and diesel. Thousands of vehicles line up at any station that has any, though everyone is patient, polite and friendly. I never see a single person yell or get angry. This is just how life is here, and the locals are used to it.
The first time I try to join a line a bunch of locals insist I go to the front, and even a policeman comes over to escort me to the front of the line. I feel bad for cutting in front of everyone, though everyone says it’s OK because I’m just a visitor, and they know they would be treated the same if they were to visit my country.
Gas here is shockingly cheap, with my black market rate I pay right on thirty-five US cents per gallon (ten cents a litre) – filling the main 20 gallon jeep tank costs all of $7USD. Wow, what a change from the $120 fillips in Kenya, or the $200 fillup in Djibouti not long ago!!
At night I simply find a quiet place to pull off the road, and attempt to escape the scorching heat, which still has not given in – even at 6pm it hovers around 90F (32c).
There are a few Police checkpoints on the road where I’m asked to show my passport, though they are always extremely friendly and quick, and everyone seems genuinely happy to see a foreigner.
The President of Sudan is a nasty Dictator who the locals have tolerated since 1989 – though that seems to be changing. They’re absolutely sick of him, and so are staging protests in all the large cities in the country. I’ve been warned to steer clear, though it seems protests in Sudan are a fairly calm affair.
I drive into the capital of Khartoum and am pleasantly surprised – even though it is cut of from global trade and money markets, Sudan has many recognizable international brands, and is very modern and developed. There are skyscrapers, and I even drive past the huge international airport which has dozens of huge airplanes abandoned near the hangers.
I find camping at The Blue Nile Sailing club right on the river, and set about trying some local food and fresh-squeezed juice, all for bargain basement prices.