Friday 29th - Today was a day that we once again learned that in Africa, do not try and plan to far ahead.
We packed up our equipment this morning, planning on heading out into the desert to visit the Meroe Pyramids (About 350 km’s from here) then doing a loop back around, camping in the desert and basically getting away from the crowds of Khartoum for a bit. We planned on getting back on Saturday evening. Then on Sunday we have a date with Madi the local customs agent that is going to help us with the crating of the bikes.
Off we head at 7:30 in the morning into a strong wind. Damn, once again we ride in a sand storm. Thank goodness we out rode this one about 140km’s out of town. We then set a good pace looking at the desert unfolding for miles and miles around us. At one of our stops along the way to stretch our legs I mentioned to Howard about the barrenness of the desert. We both agreed that we did not want to be stranded out there; I think one would dehydrate and die within no time at all if you were caught out there with no water for anything longer than a few hours.
With about 60km’s to go before we reached the Pyramids we were stopped at a road block (Yes! yet another one). We produced our papers and the official was almost about to wave us through when there was a shout from a mud hut at the side of the road and we are waved off the road and told to report to El Comandante! This guy had an attitude of note. He escorts Jaco and I into this mud hut and demands to know why we do not have the correct travel documents to be in this part of Sudan.
We patiently explain to him that the document that is stuck in our passports and for which we paid good money when crossing into Sudan, entitles us to travel anywhere we wish in Sudan. This pompous little “ASS” then tell us that he is in charge of this region and we need a travel form from Khartoum 300 km’s back down the road. We sat and pleaded with him to no avail. He informs us that UN, US, British and French are not welcome in Sudan. (Now these are all the nations that are sending aid to these guys) I think some one high up in Khartoum needs to get out there and explain to this guy that one does not normally bite the hand that feeds you.
When we heard this we were quick to tell him we were not from any of the above country’s and in fact came from SA. The land of Nelson Mandela and Bafana Bafana … He then says “welcome SA good!”. He then scratches in a drawer and pulls out a scrap piece of paper asks to borrow my pen and then writes down our details from our passports.
He gives the passports back and leads us back to our bikes. I think, Hooray! we are on our way to the Pyramids. When we get to our bikes (This by the way is about an hour later in a heat of 48 degrees) He shakes our hands and grandly says “You go back to Khartoum and get travel document” I think if our mouths were not so dry from lack of moisture our lips would have dropped right down to the ground.
We looked at him in amazement and asked what happened to the SA are good guys bit. He says yes we are. With document we go through. The above nations won’t even get the document.
So with no other alternative we turned our bikes around and headed back to Khartoum, Not before taking a bit of a detour into the Desert to play a bit on our bikes. That was fun, racing around on the sand with our big GS’es.
Back at Khartoum we settled in once again into our “home from home “car park at the Blue Nile Yacht Club. We all turned in a bit early last night, and we are all looking forward to getting out of here on Tuesday and setting of around Italy and Europe.
Saturday, May 30 - This morning we set off to the customs office to try and get Jaco’s by now well traveled shock out and fit it to his bike. We arrived at the office at 8:30 to be told they only open at 9:00, so we sit and wait. At 9:00 Jaco goes to meet the guy that took his money on Thursday, for which he got nothing in return. Anyway this guy tells him he must now pay 2000 Sudan Pounds (About R 4000.00) to get the shock. After Jaco had calmed down a bit having heard this he was told that he can go down to the main office to see if they could help.
Howard and I then left him to go sort this out and we head of with a guy by the name of Hadi. He is going to help us get the bikes crated and booked onto the plane. We hope!
Off we head to the local market to find a carpenter and negotiate a price to build three crates strong enough for our bikes, 1500 Sudan Pounds (R 4500) later we have a deal and the carpenter is left to get on with the job, but not before we tell him I am coming back this evening to inspect his work.
What was interesting to see was the fixer guy with us insisted that I give him the money to hand over to the carpenter. I can swear that when I watched him hand over the money, only half of what I had given him was handed over. Well I suppose he has to make his cut somewhere. For sure Madi won’t be getting a tip from us when the job is completed.
While we were riding around town sorting this out, we were stopped by a policeman and he demands to see our papers, I show him my passport, He hardly glances at this and demands papers for the bike, I hand over one of our Carnets to him not realizing I have given him Jaco’s Carnet. Before I can say anything I notice he has the document upside down. After giving the Carnet a through “once over” he hands it back to me and grandly says we can proceed. One can only smile in Africa!
When we get back to Jaco he tells us that the guy in the main office has agreed to release his shock. Off he went back to the fellow at the customs and excise shed to collect. The guy there opens the box with the shock and after looking at it for awhile tells Jaco he can have it, for a fee of 2000 Sudan Pounds. So much for the guy in charge saying he does not have to pay anything; it seems everyone here works to there own agenda. The next problem is that because today is Saturday all the banks are closed… So we now have to wait for tomorrow to draw money to pay for this shock. You watch we will get it out just in time to crate the bikes and the shock will once again be flying off to another destination. This time hopefully attached to Jaco’s bike.
We are now comfortably sitting killing time in a coffee shop waiting to watch the Super 14 final…