TUE, 13 FEB 2001
Quite cold night. Even wind comes up. The deck is totally blocked with the goods imported by the traders. The place on a wooden box, next to the captain's bridge becomes target of wind. Have to leave the place unless I want to get frozen. Leave the deck and find a seat next to a chair next to first class dining room. Morning has broken. The boat stops at a remote place. Just a few baracks. Military area. Later we pass Abu Simbel. Cruiser, trees, probably tourist facilities. The statues in the rocks look great. Later on the boat stops outside a small harbor. Two rather big buildings in the distance. Boat stops for an hour or two. Small boat comes along and drives back. Don't know what that's for. Still think that we are not at Wadi Halfa, but it is Wadi Halfa. Really surprised. Then the boat moves towards the mole. Officials around. Passengers getting their luggage and goods together. Have to collect my passport. Difficult to walk through all the piles of goods. Have to fill out three forms. Finally receive my passport. The boat already anchors. Nobody can go out. Bloody officials block the entrance, exchanging documents and looking at photos, one of them brought with him. Finally we try to get out. At the small door an official is checking a page of the immigration form. Totally clever.
Two trucks equipped with seats are waiting. The customs halls are a few hundred meters away. Walk there. Modern, spacious halls, announcements as in a modern train station. Lautsprecherdurchsagen wie auf einem modernen Bahnhof. Have to fill out a money declaration. Labels are stuck on the bags. No check on the content. Get out the hall. Land Rover taxis are waiting. Paddy, Patricia, traveller from Belgium, and Graham are negotiating the price of the fare. We are confused by the different ways od adressing the currency: pound and dinar. The notes are in dinar, but called pounds, and 10 dinars are called 100 pounds. A Sudanese is informing us that this is Sudan not Egypt, and the taxi fare is fixed: 300,00 Dinar. A man on a modern mountain bike, Midhat Mahir, arrives and gives us money for the taxi. We may give it back to him tomorrow. Takes some time until the taxi is full. The owner piles up luggage on the roof and even steps on the roof that I fear it may break as I am already perched under the self-made construction. Finally the car leaves and after a short ride we arrive at Hotel Wadi El Neil. Choose a room. Rooms are with three and more beds. Sand floor. Walls made of corrugated iron. A traveller from Japan takes the third bed. Eat at a restaurant next to the hotel. Visit the market together with Brano. Walk along the lake shore. Ruins of former hotels. Meet a man, Kamil, he invites us to his house. Shows us photos of old Wadi Halfa, now on the bottom of the lake. Stay there until darkness.





WED, 14 FEB 2001
10:00. Everybody is busy around. The hotel is full. People about to leave to different destinations. The boat for Aswan leaves in the late afternoon, as does the train to Atbara and the bus to Dongola. Breakfast at the restaurant next to our hotel Wadi El Neil. Leave for the bank not far from there. Won't get change there, because of unknown reasons. Have to walk to the train station. Loading and unloading activities. Piles of luggage in front of the station. Heavily loaded pickups arriving. Also activities at the freight wagons. Change money and visit the nearby restaurant. Only bread and hard boiled eggs to get. Walk back to the market. Eat at a fish restaurant. Brano meets a group of students. Geological faculty. One of the young men assists us in searching for postcards. We have a look at several shops and even visit another small market somewhere down to the lake. That market is for plastic goods, fabrics, perfumes, paper, etc. No postcards, only birthday cards including sound. Meet Lukas and he shows me the registration office. Very bureaucratic and obviously for making money. Have to fill out three A4 pages. Watch the departure of the bus to Dongola in the afternoon.









THU, 15 FEB 2001
9:30. Rather cold night. No blanket, just three layers of bed sheets. Not very effective. Meet Steven and join him for Hotel Wadi Halfa. Spiced coffee there. Talk to a man from Lebanon. Take a walk down to the lake. Two iron made boats on the shore. Walk around a hill. Quite big boat on the shore, actually on the sand. Obviously there for a long time. Two fishermen with a small boat just coming ashore. They show about 6-8 fish weighing 2-3 kilos each. Steven chooses three and I pay for them. Back to the market. Look for candles, matches, postcards, blankets. The man from Lebanon takes the fish to a restaurant for to be prepared. Meanwhile I search for a blanket. Find Asian synthetics and Indian horse-blankets. Don't know why I decide to buy a huge tablecloths instead. Made in a Middle Eastern country. Back to the restaurant where the fish is ready.
Walk up the hill close to the hotels. Looks quite huge, but isn't. We are up in a minute. Wonderful view. Then we walk towards a hill in the distance. Cross all the flat section and walk up the hill west of the high antennas and parabolic reflectors of the military. Continue down to the waterworks. Built three years ago. Two elderly men in charge. They show us the different basins and the hall with the pumps. Continue toward the river where the water is taken out. Electricity pylons just lead far out into the water. Looks like the waters of the lake have risen. Reach a beautiful garden. Irrigation. Small house. Several men around. In the garden grow tomatoes, aubergines, grass for donkeys. The owner offers tea and we have a short rest. Further on we reach a village. Many gardens there. People working in the gardens. Abdul Hadji, who joined the walk, has disappeared. Steven receives tomatoes and onions from a farmer. We walk up a hill behind the village and head for the town. Getting dark already. Have an excellent supper at Hotel Boheira. A woman, mother of three small children, prepares the fish for us.












FRI, 16 FEB 2001
8:00 Rather cold night, despite the blanket-like-fabrics I bought. Visit the market. Buy some kind of doughnuts, baked in oil on charcoal fire. Together with carkadee. Hibiscus tea. Walk around, buy bananas. Brano takes them to the hotel. Buy a plastic bag, to use it as dust protection for my luggage and some kind of safety belt-like material. Have a look at Hotel Boheira. Only Aziz, the slim tall manager of the hotel, is there, carrying the youngest of the woman's children. Back to Wadi Halfa Hotel. Meet Steven and Brano there. We take tea and leave again for Hotel Boheira to meet Aziz, who invited us to his home. Cross the whole city on our walk. Even get a short lift from a truck. Shake a lot of hands on the way. Aziz's house is unexpectedly huge. Big terrace, chairs remaining from the former hotel, which was destroyed by floods. Six, seven people show up during our visit. Aziz serves tomato salad, boiled eggs, feta cheese, sardines and bread. Later, tea is offered. Hassan, a teacher, passes by. Informs us about school fees, which are surprisingly high.
No internet in Halfa, due to telephone structure, even though Sudatel comp. recently installed new telephone lines. Before, connecting had to be done by hand and needed a lot of dialing. We leave, walk towards the end of town. See the checkpoint on the road to Dongola. A lorry is rushing towards the town, creating a huge cloud of dust. It's the transporter for fish. Head towards the lake. The shore is totally flat. Structures of former gardens and fields. On the way we get invited into a house. Beautiful and clean. Totally empty yard. Two elderly women resting in a very dark room. Tea is offered. Some younger women are around. A cassette is played. Steven, Brano and the owner talk about Sudanese music. Finally we leave and walk along the lake shore. Guavas are torturing my guts. Shore is totally flat. We pass the remains of destroyed buildings near Kamil's house, who we got to know yesterday, and reach our hotels a little later. Have a rest, it is already getting dark. A hotel guest invites me for tea at hotel Wadi Halfa. Steven comes along with two children in his arms and invites us for supper at Hotel Boheira. We walk there. The mother of the three children has prepared fool and other beans. Abdil, the man with a long scar on his cheek, warns us about the danger of beans. There is a strong wind blowing through the hotel foyer. The hotel, in fact, is a corrugated-iron hut. The lady receives a phone call from Cairo. Her husband's sister. Everybody is excited. Leave for home. Nobody out later than 21:00. Go to sleep also. Strong wind. Again a cold night.








SAT, 17 02 2001
8:00 Freezing at night. Wind. Hear the muezzin in the early morning. Can't breath because of totally blocked nose. Visit the market and buy tomatoes, bananas, 2 grapefruits, potatoes, tahin, aubergines, lemons and halva. Bring it to the Hotel Boheira. Tahin, doughnuts and halva for breakfast. Walk to the railway station. Change at the bank next to it. Walk back along the lake shore and visit the market. Meet Medhat on his mountain bike. We have a rest in a tea shop. Brano and Steven come along. We stay a long time in a tea shop. Brano buys local tobacco. The man who invited us into his house yesterday is managing the deal. We visit the ticket office and cancel the departure for village Abri, Medhat had arranged for us this afternoon. Don't feel like going. At the office is the owner of the refrigerator lorry. He suggests taking us to Abri tomorrow. Visit a restaurant. It's on the corner to the fabric market. Order fool, tomato salad, fried eggs. Short rest at the hotel. Together with Steven towards the railway station. He knocks on one of the doors of a railway barack as he knows a lady there. She is from the south. Catholic. Her husband works for the railways and has gone to Atbara. A young soldier lodges in a room in the house. He is from the south, too. But now he is a Muslim. Talking about religion. We leave. Pass the rails. Walk towards a part of town that is rather poor. No electricity, no water, no trees, poorly built houses. Friendly people everywhere. Shake hands. Boys hanging around, playing a game related to Bocchia, using batteries instead of balls. Men playing a kind of board game but using stones of different colours in the sand. 2 players, 6 men audience. Cross this part of the town and get to the lake shore. Young girls filling Nile water into plastic containers. A donkey cart transporting a barrel is parked in the shallow waters. We accidentally pass a house where a refrigerator lorry is parked. Unfortunately the driver can't take us. Cross the suburb village again. Girls coming from a school step out of a Land Rover. Sunset. Very warm light on the clay walls. Long shadows. Have a tea at a small gathering corner. Meet a teacher from Nigeria and a young man from Juba. Abdil Hadji from Hotel Boheira joins us since a while. On our walk back we cross the plain section where the hotels were located before they got destroyed by floods. The clay walls dissolved, just some concrete parts still remain.










SUN, 18 02 2001
8:00 Cold night. Wind. All these days wind. Tea at Wadi Halfa hotel. A truck parks there, driver wears a black coat. Leaves for Dongola. Shall we go with him or stay? Meet Steven at Hotel Boheira. The children are in good mood. Their mother suggests moving to somebody her husband in Cairo has told her about by phone. Likely to the part of the town we have been yesterday. No electricity, no water, no trees. Visit the office of the ferryboat. Steven wants to take his ticket. Bukrah, inshallah. Tomorrow, as God will. Visit a fax office. Looks quite modern. Starts working after 12:00. No electricity now. Visit the registration office. The chief is from the south but converted to Islam due to job conditions. Steven is talking with him. The office receives two calls when we are there. First is the brother of the chief, second, the chief is calling in his car. Visit the post office. Due to the schedule of train, boat and plane there is no work at all there. On the way to the market we pass a group of elderly man in an office. Azin's father is amongst them They invite us to stay, but we continue to the market. Have a tea somewhere. Look for this and that. Lunch at a restaurant we haven't been to before. Lentil soup, fried eggs, tomato salad, bread. Have a rest at a tea shop run by a lady we already know. She has got a golden earring. Or was the ring pierced in her nose? Look for tahin and shoe polish and a brush. Back to the hotel. Change to hotel Wadi Halfa as it got walls built of clay not like Hotel Wadi el Neil, which is built of corrugated iron. We suggest it might be not so cold at night. Have a rest outside Wadi el Neil Hotel. Back to the market. Visit a workshop. Indian single cylinder engine powers a generator for welding. Any work done in the sand. The glasses of the welder are worn out sunglasses. We walk up the rocks next to the market. Great view to Wadi Halfa, the township south of the railways and the desert hills to the east. Small farm just beneath the cliff. We see about three or four cows inside labyrinthine buildings. Stay at the cliff for some time. The rock is falling apart due to wind and heat. Back to the hotel. Three 4WD cars parking in front of Wadi el Neil Hotel. Older men. Germans. Perfectly equipped. Tents on the roofs of the cars. Tools, clothes, everything in metal boxes. They cook by themselves. Try to get bed sheets at our new hotel. They don't have any. We pack and move back to hotel Wadi el Neil. Rest outside together with Medhat, Steven, Wolide and some others. Amongst them an older, grey-haired man from Khartoum heading for Cairo. Speaks good English. Wants to take the boat on Wednesday. He sleeps outside as he can't afford to pay for a hotel. Meet Steven at 20:30. He prepared the dried fish he got from the owner of the refrigerator lorry. It's quite good, but the fresh one, of course, is much better. Wolide prepares a salad. He works peanut butter into tomatoes and acts like a savage. Both of his hands are full of peanut butter and tomato liquid, but he doesn't hesitate to take the salt container, the knive and anything else. Wolide does a song performance later. He uses the chair for percussion. Leave at about 21:00. Polish my shoes. Brano has some minor stomach problems. Watch the stars for some time.




MON, 19 FEB 2001
7:45 Sunrise over the desert hills. Walk to the market. Stay at the lady preparing the doughnuts. Take some tea also. Watch the market life. Ask for transport at the ticket office. There is probably one to Kerma. I shall ask again at 14:00. Meet Steven and head for the market again. Rest at one of the fish restaurants. Steven looks for Wolide but can't find him. Order some fish. Back to the hotel. Pay the bill. Pack. Head for the bank near the railway station. Closed. Back to the market. Ask about the transport to Kerma. Now I get the usual answer. 'Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow'. Bukhra inshallah. Back to the hotel. Have a rest there. Eat a grape, some bananas and a guave. Flies are around. Brano is resting too. Sleep for some minutes. The door in the next room is banging to and fro. Load my camera accus at the hotel foyer. Flies. Clouds. Eagles in the sky. Very warm light close to sunset. Buses arriving, likely from Dongola and Atbara. Unloading goats. Passengers boarding at the hotels around. Outside Hotel Wadi Halfa two young men fry fish and run a restaurant with a few tables. Go there together with Brano. Later on we have a rest next to our hotel entrance at the small chai shop of a lady. Medhat is around, a man from Sudantel and the grey-haired man, who sleeps outside. Steven comes back from the part of town the lady with the three children has moved. Wolide comes and goes or comes from sleeping.




WED, 21 FEB 2001
7:45 Head for the ticket office. Should be there at 8:00. Still closed. Most of the market too. Ticket office opens rather soon. Have to write our names onto a list. The bus company can't issue tickets. Bus supposed to leave at 16:00. Head for the bank. Somehow crowded. Brano and Toni, a Swiss traveller who arrived with an Austrian Pinzgauer car, are there too. Try to find something to eat near the railway station. Rather poor. Loading and unloading activities. Back to the hotel. Hang around in the tea shops in front of the hotel. A tea shop usually is run by a woman. She has a small, low table with several glass containers for coffee, tea, ginger, carkadee, etc and a big container for sugar. Her chair is also very low. Further on a water container, a small bench. Toni and an older man from Holland talk about traveling in North Africa. Both have driven several times towards Senegal. A frequent topic is crossing southern Morocco and Mauritania. Meet Steven and give two postcards to him or was it yesterday? We pack and carry our luggage to the market. The bus is loading. Still many goods piled in the sand near the bus. Boys do the loading. Don't understand the system how they are doing it. It's rather slow. We hang around in a nearby tea shop. Near the bus too much wind and dust. After one or two hours, the plastic chairs are loaded. Then we pass our rucksacks and the boys place them between the chairs. Rather safe. Huge bundles of plastic carpets are then loaded. Finally we take off between 18:00-19:00. But not far. Bus stops already near the hotels. Another stop at the checkpoint at the end of town. Men get out and pray in the sand. Already gets dark. Cold wind. Very rough road. Goes up and down. Surface corrugated. Desert dust around. Driver leaves the main track frequently and takes side tracks to avoid the corrugated sections. Not too much sure that it has a positive effect. Pass heavy road construction equipment. Why is it not used to grade the terrible road? After an hour a stop. Two boys and the chief engineer settle beneath the truck, disconnect the cardan drive. The suspension shaft is broken. It is screwed off, the part is put together with a string, a belt is wrapped around it, and another holder around that, the whole thing is screwed together again and additionally tied together with a string. Ingenious assembly.