It was 5am and I was up and showered, ready to begin my long journey back to the UK. Remarkably, in terms of physical distance, Durban to Khartoum in North Sudan is 3142 miles and Khartoum to Liverpool is 3244 miles, so I should be halfway there, but if only things were that easy. All things being equal I could jump in a car (or a boat if I was feeling fruity) and head on up the White Nile to Khartoum. From there it’s just 10 hours (if that) to Wadi Halfa on the border with Egypt. If there was a road crossing the border (clue: there isn’t) it would be a few more hours by bus to Aswan and an overnight train journey to Cairo. I could be ready to get the ferry across the Med in less than three days. I could be home in a week. Seriously.
But things are not that easy up here in North Africa. Not that easy at all. First up, the border between South and North Sudan is VERY closed, as is the border between South Sudan and Kenya. There isn’t even a road between South Sudan and Ethiopia, so you can forget about that too. The only way out of the country (without flying) is back to Uganda and the only way from there to North Sudan is to wheel around through Kenya and Ethiopia.
Kenya is no problem, you can get a visa on the border. Ethiopia, however. Urgh. Not only can you not get a visa on the border, you cannot even buy a visa anywhere in Africa (with the possible exception of Somaliland). You have to get it in London. Furthermore, a visa for North Sudan almost just as hard to get a hold of. The Sudanese embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is infamous for its mercurial nature. I can take very little on this portion of the journey for granted.
Nevertheless, I have set a date for my return to Liverpool. By hook or by crook I will be crossing the River Mersey on the ferry and arriving at The Pier Head (in front of the iconic Liver Buildings) at 2.45pm on Saturday 22nd December. Mark my words: BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, I SHALL BE THERE!!!
Everybody reading this is welcome to come along if you can make it. Please bring the flag of your favourite country (or your favourite flag)!! Afterwards we will be heading off to a secret location for booze, music and dancing. You can say you’re coming via Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/376044069148554/
I am racing to get to Kampala before 5.30pm today as my gorgeous friend Lindsey has been an angel/star/legend again this week and nabbed me one of ’em pesky Ethiopian visas for my second passport and posted it DHL to Uganda. It arrived a couple of days ago. If I can get there today before it closes, I can continue my journey onto Kenya tomorrow night, thereby saving me a day of travel. Nice!
However, the bus, rather predictably, broke down on the way to the border. Flat tyre. The bus boys spent an hour trying to take the wheel off, but that last nut just refused to budge. So they reattached all the other nuts and we piled back onboard and proceeded to Nimule at a more gentler pace. Thank God for double wheels.
At the border there was no time to mess around. I cunningly did the old tourist trick of ignoring the MASSIVE queue and walking straight into the immigration building and then looking a bit lost. It doesn’t always work, but today was my lucky day, not only did I get stamped out of South Sudan in record time, I also got stamped IN to Uganda in record time. I abandoned my wonky bus (I didn’t want to be trundling along at half-speed all the way to Kampala) and clambered onboard whichever bus looks like it was leaving next. We thundered south, arriving at the outskirts of Kampala around 5pm, I was willing us to get into the station straight away, but it wasn’t to be: we got caught in a traffic jam. Possibly karma for me jumping the queue this morning. It was 6pm by the time we got to the bus station. There was a bus leaving for Nairobi at 7pm, but I couldn’t leave without my passport.
Too late to arrange a CouchSurf, I checked into the Kampala Backpackers for the night, caught up on a stack of written interviews (damn my fingers ACHE! Why can’t they just ring meeeee?!) and then crashed out at an embarrassingly early time (for me) of 11pm.