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Offline Kartoem

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Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« on: April 07, 2020, 09:30:34 am »
After lurking in the far reaches of this forum for many years, but finding great inspiration from the many fantastic Ride Reports over the years, it is time to make a contribution. I am not much of a writer, but hope that this first report may also inspire other wannabee adventure travelers to go and seek adventure on this amazing continent once this Virus has passed. Just do it! It will leave you with a lifetime of memories.Here goes:

WADI HALFA
It was early April 08 when I arrived on the weekly ferry from Aswan. Wadi Halfa was a dusty, desperate, wind torn, frontier town, trying to live up to it more prosperous past. However, after all the anxious moments in obtaining a Sudanese visa in time for my departure from South Africa weeks earlier, it was great to know that I was now in Sudan!

As the barge transporting my motorcycle would only be arriving the following day, a “hotel” stay over in Wadi Halfa was a given. The Deffintoad Hotel, like all the other hotels in Wadi Halfa, provided dormitory style accommodation consisting of nothing more than four mud walls, a floor and a basic zinc roof atop. I did not mind, as I was not expecting anything more and after Egypt, this was where my adventure would start.

All foreigners entering Sudan are required to register with the Alien Registration office before proceeding with their journey. A fair part of the afternoon was spent on chasing the required paper work and the all very important signatures; which was eventually only issued the next morning. No rush!

Desperately hungry after the ferry ride, it was now time to try some of the local Sudanese fare. A couple of open air “restaurants” under the blazing sun were given a miss in lieu of an “up market” establishment with a roof and a couple of paddle fans. A meal with a choice between chicken, goat meat, fish and cabbage with a couple of ubiquitous flies worked into a sauce, were soon enough hungrily gulped down.

Image 1 - All Aboard! Arriving in Wadi Halfa
Image 2 - Wind swept Wadi Halfa
Image 3 - Deffintoad Hotel
Image 4 - First sand - The Nubian Desert
Obstacles is what you see when you take your eye of the goal
 
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Offline lpj

Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2020, 09:34:02 am »
 :happy1:
 

Offline Noneking

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2020, 09:58:26 am »
Sub!
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Offline Wolzak

Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2020, 10:22:26 am »
Subscribed.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2020, 10:24:31 am »
Looking forward to reading this.
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Offline subie

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2020, 10:24:54 am »
Sien uit na die res van die RR
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Offline ClemS

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2020, 10:31:56 am »
Sub

@Kartoem , I see you mentioned 4 images but only 1 shows? Looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2020, 10:39:34 am »
Ok, so I have now learnt how to reduce the image size. We try again:

1. Image 1 - All Aboard - The Wadi Halfa Ferry
2. Image 2 - Deffintoad Hotel
3. Image 3 - Windswept Wadi Halfa
4. Image 4 - Departure from Wadi Half
Obstacles is what you see when you take your eye of the goal
 
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2020, 11:14:32 am »
THE NUBIAN DESERT
Earlier in Luxor, Egypt, I met two intrepid English brothers in their old Range Rovers. Being lonely travelers on dusty roads heading south, we instantly bonded after a couple of beers and decided to tackle the journey from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum together.

Driving to Khartoum from Wadi Halfa presented one with essentially two options;
1.   the “main” route that hugs the Nile via Dongola or the;
2.   Lesser traveled desert route, following General Kitchener’s railway and telegraph line through the Nubian Desert to Abu Hamed.

Still adventure hungry, the decision was instantly made to follow the railway line for 348km through the sandy Nubian Desert to Abu Hamed.

Departure morning broke with a warm ferocity.  All dressed up and ready to go I made my way back to the barge mooring jetty.  A late arrival of the barge, difficulty with the offloading of the vehicles and clearance procedures, set our departure from Wadi Halfa back to 15h00 that afternoon. However, it was great to have my trusted BMW 1200 GS back and idling softly after being dropped into the barge cargo hold earlier during its journey south.

Leaving Wadi Halfa on the only tar road leaves one with a short lived and false sense of “oh this is going to be easy”. Without warning, the road abruptly spills into the soft desert sand.  It was touch and go or I nearly dropped my bike on the very first, thickiss patch of desert sand!  Wow! I was now 100% alert  as Wadi Halfa vanished in my rear view mirror.

Navigational aids consisted of a GPS with T4A software loaded and a railway line with old telegraph poles that lined the horizon. It was hard to imagine that the railway line, that was conceived by General Kitchener in 1896, as the means to ferry his troops and ammunition south to beat the hell out of the rebellious Khalifa in Khartoum, reached Abu Hamed, after 5 months in October 1897 and 350km of un-surveyed and waterless desert later.

Old, windblown vehicle tracks crisscrossed the desert plains and I quickly learnt to avoid them and cut my own virgin track in the sand. My sand riding confidence grew rapidly and riding at speed in the sand became a pleasure, once I mastered to “plane” my bike.

As the sun started to inch down over the horizon, finding a suitable camping spot for the night became necessary. We found it behind a solitary koppie, shielding us from the brisk evening desert breeze.

Once our engines had been switched off, the quiet desolation of sand and rock engulfed us. The great charm of a desert sunset !
A quick meal and a short reflection on the days’ action provided the medicine for a peaceful sleep under the stars.

Image 1 - The Route
Image 2 - the very sandy Nubian Desert
Image 3 - Chasing the hoizon
Image 4 - Desert camp site
Image 5 - Desert Camping
Image 6 - View on campsite from the hilltop
Image 7 - Nubian sunset

Obstacles is what you see when you take your eye of the goal
 

Offline RobC

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2020, 11:19:37 am »
This will help with the tedium of lock down! Keep it coming! :thumleft:
 

Offline DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2020, 11:27:02 am »
Perfect timing for a RR like this, proceed sir!! :thumleft: :drif:
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2020, 02:05:48 pm »
Here's now a RR to look forward to.   :biggrin:
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Offline Knucklhead

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2020, 02:14:41 pm »
Kom bru  :sip:
 

Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2020, 02:16:12 pm »
THE SUN and SAND MONSTER                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
We got up before sunrise and were ready to go as the sun was rising on the horison.  Riding in the cool early morning on the firmer desert sand was an absolute pleasure. Opening the throttle a tad on the flat desert plains is a memory to behold forever.

Deeper into the desert, we stopped at a couple of the “stations” ( there are 10 in total with halfway stops in between) which consisted of no more than a few derelict buildings and outhouses. Life as a station master a 100 or so years ago out here in desert must have been tough and no wonder they are mostly no longer inhabited!
There was little sign of anything living or dead but for the odd camel carcass. No grass or any dried-up bushes. The scene was tinged brown – dark brown rocks, light brown sand, bleach brown telegraph poles and blue brown sky (from the dust in the air). The rocky hills that we saw occasionally on the horizon floated above a shimmering mirage of mercuric silver. It was hot – and the wind was an absolute scorcher adding another hot dimension to biking through the desert.

South of Station 4 the sand became thicker, drier, softer and unkind to a sweating motorcyclist. After a forward body roll in the sand, digging the bike out of the soft sand and straining against its dead weight to pick it up  in my warm riding gear, was energy sapping hard work. Revving the engine and smelling the burning clutch on release was “disturbing”. No tow –in service out here in the desert I thought for a moment ! Finding firmer ground next to the train tracks helped for a while.
 
However, danger lurked everywhere. Broken train track bolts with sharp serrated edges and donga like wash-a-ways became increasingly more treacherous than the “safer” sandy dunes. By noon we reached Station 6 which had a deep water well, a thorn shade tree and a couple of inhabitants. It was a good enough place for a lunch break, to fuel up from our jerry cans and a short nap during the heat of day.

Too soon it was time to go again and as we pushed on into the heat of the afternoon desert sun, the landscape remained starkly beautiful with never ending mirages dancing on the horizon.By late afternoon, short of Station 8, we decided to set-up camp for the night on the open desert plains. There was no rocky outcrops this time around to provide any meaningful shelter. Once again the sun set on the desert horizon remains an image to behold.

In the cool of the next morning, we were mobile again, heading south east towards the town Abu Hamed . After reaching station 9 the landscape also started to change quickly. More rocky outcrops, the odd thorn tree and camel grass here and there to colour in the picture. The road south of Station 10 (GPS 19°41'48”N 33°08'46”E), marked the start of formal civilization again.  There were large scale road building and housing projects taking place. Ostensibly to support a Nile irrigation project in the area. All of a sudden there were trucks, taxi’s and construction vehicles on the fairly new dusty, gravel road which eventually wound into Abu Hamed (GPS 19°32'11”N 33°20'19”E).

I put no captions to the pictures, they tell the story as it was.
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2020, 02:25:05 pm »
More images of the day in the desert. Freedom!
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2020, 03:00:54 pm »
THE MEROE PYRAMIDS
We stopped to refuel and found, not-so-hot, soft drinks which were a welcome relief to our dusty throats. Thanks to Tracks4A we easily found our way though the small town where all the buildings and streets had the same muddy and dusty look. We experienced no hassles at the police check point on the outskirts of the town and soon we were on our way to Atbara- on a tar road nogal.

We made good progress with the only hold up being the omni present police check points. Atbara was a revelation in that we found the entire market place deserted at noon.  Almost everyone was attending prayers at the nearby mosque and not a thing was locked up. No culture of stealing here!  Here we also met more friendly Sudanese locals, sharing their meager fresh fruit with us, wanting nothing in return. No begging/extortionist culture here!

By mid afternoon we reached the Meroe Pyramids(GPS 16°56'12”N 33°44'50”E) just of the main road between Atbara and Khartoum. From a distance it was already impressive sighting. Steering my bike down the sandy gravel road towards the pyramids, I mentally pinched myself, still not believing that I have managed to drive so far South on my bike and thus far unscathed!

 We paid our entry fees at the gate and were soon “politely” surrounded by a few souls offering us camel rides to the pyramids or some local curios. However, we decided to set up camp first before exploring the pyramids and followed the very sandy track around some dunes to set up camp in a secluded spot behind the pyramids. There were no other tourists or visitors at either the dune campsite or the pyramids and we could explore the grandeur of theses construction master pieces alone and at leisure.

These Pyramids from the Northern Cemetery at Meroë dates back from the 3rd c. B.C. to 4th c. A.D. By the 4th c. B.C., the Kushite kings had moved south to the Sudanese savannah and built a capitol at Meroë. Here southern cultural traditions slowly prevailed over the cultural heritage of Egypt.  The pyramid clusters are split into two sections about 1km apart and the northern section is the most impressive with about 60 pyramids in this group although only about 20 are easily seen or relatively intact. Some of these have been restored by the Sudanese antiquities department back in the late 1970's early 1980's.

I felt privileged to be able to camp in the dunes adjacent these wonderful timeless structures and having them all to myself for one day.
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2020, 03:03:10 pm »
More pics from Meroe
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Offline Kartoem

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2020, 03:22:19 pm »
THE TEMPLES  OF MUSAWWARAT ES SUFRA & NAQA
The next morning, it was a short distance down the main Atbara-Karthoum road to El Amaren where, thanks to my GPS we found the unmarked turnoff  to Musawwarat es Sufra. The road  could perhaps be described as a very bad farm road, delivering everything an adventure motorcyclist likes about them, i.e. sand, stones, sandy river crossings, up and downs etc. After about 40 kilometers into the “wilderness” one starts doubting whether this could be the temple route but then the ruins of Musawwarat’s Great Enclousure appears in front of you. After paying the local “ghaffir” the necessary entrance fees we could explore the “Great Enclosure” at leisure

In 1822, when the first European expedition visited the site of  Musawwarat es-Sufra, except for a few contours of the outer north wall and some columns remaining visible, the temple was found in ruins. In 1960, the Sudan government granted Humboldt University-Berlin permission to begin excavations; the Lion Temple was the first to be investigated. Over 800 collapsed blocks from the outer walls, depicting well-preserved contours were uncovered from the sand. When restoration work commenced in the early seventies, hieroglyphic inscriptions revealed Arnekhamani (c.235-c.218 BC) as the King who had commissioned the building of the Lion Temple, which he dedicated to the lion-headed Meroitic god, Apedemak - responsible both for creation and war.

It was already extremely hot, and after short stop at the Lion Temple of Musawwarat, a kilometer down the road, we headed for the temples at Naqa down some unmarked dirt roads. A dry and sandy river bed crossing of about 500m through tick soft sand added to my adventure biking thrill.  I was really glad to emerge unscathed on the opposite river bank. It was also here that T4A tracks failed me for the first time.  There was a major discrepancy between the actual track and the GPS indicated one.

Nonetheless we found the very remote Naqa an hour or 2 later. It was well worth the drive. The temple of Amun, the “Roman” Kiosk and adjoining Lion Temple were a simply stunning finds out here in the Sudanese wilderness.

In close proximity of these temples were a large group of nomadic camel herders watering their camels, goats and sheep by employing a camel to pull a large goatskin sack of water from the water- well.

It was getting late and time to head for Khartoum which was still several kilometers away....
Obstacles is what you see when you take your eye of the goal
 

Offline Lem

Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2020, 03:30:32 pm »
 :thumleft:

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Offline I&horse

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Re: Sandy Shortcuts through Sudan
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2020, 03:40:48 pm »
Interesting choice!!!!
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