The ferry

Where do you even begin? I think its best to start with the process of getting tickets. Mr Salah’s office is just off the Cornish Al Nile in Aswan, near the train station. Its best to email ahead or ring from a local call centre to say youre brining a vehicle and confirm your space. Salah is a particularly grumpy and unhelpful character, he his frustratingly short on detail or advice. When we contacted him he insisted we came and spoke to him on Saturday. When we did the first time, the Monday sailing was booked up with vehicles and thus we had to wait seven days in Aswan until next Monday. The next Saturday we went super early to ensure we got our vehicle on the barge. This is were the fun begins. You must go to the Traffic Court to prove that you have not committed any vehicular crimes while in Egypt. This is an apartment block on the edge of town, were you must go to a little corner shop with a photocopier and get your passport, driving licence and a form photocopied. This should cost you £3 LE and not £20 LE as the man will originally charge you. Then you go across and into the “courthouse”, this consists of several offices in an apartment block from which several men will look at your documents and then you receive a receipt which is valid for 15 days. This is free. Once you have got your receipt it is back to Mr Salah’s office. When we returned he had left for Lunch. It was 1030am, he returned at 1230pm, that was some Lunch. We assumed he just didn’t want to deal with the crowds of overlanders. We were then able to buy our tickets once we had proof of a Sudanese Visa. You can buy 1st class at £500LE which is for a two bed cabin, 2nd Class for a bench for £239LE and Deck Class for much less. If you don’t go for 1st Class just buy Deck Class as there aren’t enough seats for 2nd Class and no one checks anyway. This ends the passenger ordeal. For the vehicle the fun begins again on Sunday morning with a visit to the Traffic Police to hand in your license. This process was helped by the fixer Dave had purchased, you then proceed to the dock in convoy. When you arrive at the Port you need to pay £10LE per person Port Permit at the entrance. After this you go to the Nile Valley Transport Company to purchase you car ticket 5-6metres is £2000LE, 6-7metres at £3000LE and so on. After this you go customs and they stamp your carnet de passage and give you a receipt for your Arabic plates. Once this has been completed you can load the vehicle onto the barge. This is done with a huge amount of fuss by the Egyptian port workers who you don’t need to help you park but they will anyway for the opportunity to ask for backsheesh (tip). The barge carried 7 vehicles when we were there, 3 Landrovers, our landcruiser, a VW camper van, a ford fiesta and a converted Bedford truck. Loading completed without too much fan fare you either catch a train back to Aswan or take a taxi for £40LE. The next morning show up to the ferry as early as you can to bag a good spot. We stayed under the lifeboat on the starboard (right) side to avoid the sunrise the next morning and to see Abu Simbel as we float past. Bring lots of water, drinks and some food to eat. Bring a tarp or blanket to hang up for shade and bring a mat or something to lie on as the deck isn’t soft. The ferry was quite an experience, there was about 600 people on a boat that would normally accommodate 150. Space fills up fast between the boxes, sacks and other cargo so grab your spot early and protect it. We had banded together with David and Tish an English couple driving the Bedford and Vim and Pauline from Holland driving their VW camper van. Red and Jack had bagged some seats in second class under the noisiest Air Conditioner in the world and were joined by Tim and Matt doing a tandem cycle from Woking to Kenya. The ferry was quite an interesting experience due to the mix of people travelling, the cargo on board and where people slept. As soon as the sun went down people just snuggled up among the mass of cargo. It was a perfect full moon during the night and watching the call to prayer on the ferry at 4.30am was an eerie experience as figures rose in the moonlight after a plastic bottle was tapped on the deck. When morning arrived we enjoyed the respite from the heat of the previous afternoon and waited for it to develop as we sailed into Wadi Halfa. The unloading was worse than the loading. It took around 5 hours to load the ferry and 30 minutes to unload it. It was frantic. If you like personal space, then wait for everyone to get off. The pushing and shoving of people and cargo was crazy and uncontrollable. When we eventually got off and into immigration our bags were searched we filled out immigration forms and got our passports stamped. This was helped again by Davids fixer Mr Magdi, we had heard bad things about him and weren’t convinced when he started asking us for money but in fairness he did a decent job. We got down to Wadi Halfa and stayed at the Kilopatra Hotel, which was basic and seemed to absorb the heat. The days ordeal over. We were finally in Sudan!

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