Heading south, we left the Nile and pulled a runner right across the desert to Khartoum. Following the river would have gotten us up to a new hydro-electric dam (goodbye more ancient desert) and into the middle of a bunch of nervous military types. So, while I hesitate to call a non-stop 350km ride in the Sundanese desert ‘the easy road’, from our point of view it certainly was.
Khartoum is just like San Francisco- it isn’t like the rest of the country. Women wear jeans! Young couples can be seen holding hands! Western goods are advertised on billboards! You can buy beer! Well, no you can’t- but when you first ride into town anything seems possible… It was funny how fast Sudan had become normal- I’d didn’t think twice about suggesting we hit the tea lady for a quick one before heading off to the market to see if we could score some fresh goat. 10 minutes into Khartoum, into an outwardly modern and progressive city, and all that was all gone- I wanted my MTV!
The whipsaw, however, wasn’t done yet. Khartoum is the capital city of a state ruled by a wanted war criminal who is happy to use Sharia law as an excuse to crush any opposition. So, despite the outward signs of freedom, our first stop was The Internal Security Office where we were told we had to register (as in every town we had been). Afer this, our ride through town was interrupted by security forces who informed us that bikes, trucks, and pedestrians were not allowed on the roads close to the presidential palace (yes, cars were fine!?). Finally we got ‘home’ to The Blue Nile Sailing Club.
Don’t worry, I’m not getting all fancy on you. Other than being the resting place of H.H. Kitchener’s Nile gun boat, it’s basically a glorified dock. So, we pitched our tents in the playground and I set off to see about an Ethiopian visa.
A couple of answers before they’re asked:
-No, I have no idea how the boat got there. It’s on quite an angle (making it’s use as the club’s office quite entertaining) and simply appears to be a forgotten, if rather large, child’s toy.
-Yes, that’s our riding gear hanging up and Czechi was wearing full off-road armour. Considering I could wring the sweat out of my gear, I can only imagine how hot he was!
-No, I have no idea why they have some many gas cylinders beside the boat. All the ones I checked were full and looked to have been there for ages.
-Yes, the tree was lovely, but no, the flowers didn’t have any scent I could detect.