Monday, June 1, 2009

31st May to 1st June

Sunday 31st - Today is actually a normal working day in Sudan, taking our Saturdays as Sunday, don’t ask why, this is Sudan!

Today we have planned to spend the day crating the bikes and getting them booked onto an airplane, should be a simple task. YEA RIGHT!

Before getting to the crating, I arrange with Jaco and Howard that I am going to find a hairdresser for a haircut and will meet them at the local internet café for breakfast at 10:00.

Of I go in search of a hairdresser in this city. Now a GPS does not have hairdressers as one of its “Go To” functions, so it’s a matter of riding around these very confusing streets until I see what looks like a place that can cut hair.

I eventually find a hairdresser (Male One) I confidently try and explain that all I want is a cut, using a clipper with a number one attachment. This to a guy wielding a cut throat razor in his hand and not speaking a word of English.

Anyway after a bit of explaining and hand gestures I get my message across, out comes the clipper and with in no time at all my hair and beard are trimmed back into a respectable length. Just as I think he is finished he once again hauls out said cut throat and proceeds to shave my neck with this very sharp looking instrument. I was a bit nervous at that stage with this blade scratching around in my neck region in the hands of a non English speaking Arab; I hoped and prayed that Bin Laden’s influence had not reached Khartoum yet. I am still here today to tell the tale so everything went well. When he was finished this part, before I could get up out of the chair he whips out a long length of dental floss. I think to myself, No Way Am I letting anyone go at my teeth with a piece of dental floss. I need not have worried though, he takes the floss wrapped it around his fingers, puts one end in his mouth and with some sort of jerking movement with his head he proceeds to trip all my facial hair and the fine hairs around my ears. This is a first for me. Well an hour later and 10 Sudan pounds poorer (This included a bottle of drinking water) I am out of there and heading off to meet up with Jaco and Howard to sort out our bikes.

First problem we encounter, Sudan does not recognize any visa or visa related cards, this because of the US Imposed sanctions against the country. We need to pay cash, dollars. Oh yes they accept Dollars of course! We have all our money in a visa travel card and this is absolutely useless to us here. We ride around Khartoum in non air-conditioned taxis in a heat of 48 degrees, trying to find a bank that can help us. To no avail. We are now arranging to have money transferred into a local airline Captains account from SA to sort out the payment.

We in the meantime headed back to the airport and then off to the market with our fixer guy “Mardi” to see how the crates are getting on, when we arrive there we are pleased to see two crates completed and the third one almost. We then need to negotiate the use of a truck to get these crates from the market to the airport export shed. After a bit of haggling from our fixer, a price is agreed on and the crates are duly loaded and on there way to the airport.

By now it is 17h00 in the afternoon and still very hot, we then have to drain all oils and fuel from the bikes and get them into the crates and strapped down. This we eventually do, by this time we are dying of thirst and tempers are getting a bit short.

Madi our fixer has one last trick up his sleeve. Just before we are about to head back to our camp site. It is now 20h00 in the evening and we have had a long day. Madi comes up to me and says he needs 100 Sudan pounds, R 500.00 to pay the 4 guys that helped push the bikes into the crate. These guys are employed by the customs to do just that! Anyway we are too tired to argue about this so we reluctantly part with yet more money.

We head back to the car park (Our camp site) to meet up with our new found friends, Quinton and Juliet. They had just got in from Wadi Halfa, and had invited us for a braai. No beer, but the steak and roast lamb was delicious.

Monday 1st - Today we are once again sorting out payment for our now crated and custom cleared bikes so that we can get them flown out of Sudan…

May 29th to Sat 30th May

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…