Another fit of African bureaucracy before we could disembark saw us waiting for over an hour after we arrived, before we could get off the damn ship, but eventually, in drips and drabs, we all made it off the good ship and into the little town of Wadi Halfa.
The only thing I know about Wadi Halfa is that it’s where Michael Palin took the train to Khartoum – and, well, apart from that not much to report I’m afraid.. The ship would be going back tomorrow so I thought it only fair that I stay the night. I joined a gang of Aussie lads in the local guesthouse, a simple affair of single room buildings clustered around a central courtyard.
Sudan isn’t big on tourism. An intractable civil war between north and south (the Darfur crisis being a completely separate atrocity) has been rumbling on for about 20 years now, and the only hope for a lasting peace is a referendum in 2011 to split into two separate entities. Does that mean that I should have visited South Sudan while I was here? Well, only if I don’t get finished before this completely new nation is created. If it does and I’m pottering around the South Pacific, I’ll have a bloody long backtrack to make. But without a clearly defined border between the two new countries and oil fields to scrap over, the good people of the Sudan may be in for another 20 years of scrapping.
And what are they scrapping over? Have a guess, go on, have a guess. Yeah, as always – which colour hat God wears on a Thursday evening when the moon is in the eighth house of ware. It’s been the same since forever. And you wonder why I hate it so much.
When tourists do arrive, they have to register with the police within three days (at a cost of another fistful of fivers), but the group of tourists fresh off the ferry weren’t allowed to register today, so everybody had to stay the night in Wadi Halfa. Also, many of them had cars or motorbikes that they were hilariously going to drive down through Africa (good luck with that, matey!) – they came on a separate ferry that would arrive on Thursday, so they too were trapped in Wadi Halfa – which was good for me, as I had good stack of nutters to spend a rather pleasant evening with (you don’t have to be mad to visit Sudan, but it helps).
There was Mick the Aussie and his mates, a British girl named Bun who was with her boyfriend, a guy from Iceland whose name was completely unpronounceable and a bunch of other wonderful randoms all stuck in this one-horse town. We spent the night chatting, drinking tea and smoking sheesha (I just stuck with the tea), it was great and made me appreciate how much I’ve missed the company of my fellow travellers during my sojourn in Africa (most of the westerners I would meet would be aid workers). Ah well, no time to monkey about – the boat goes back to Egypt tomorrow.