the border and beyond

Back in Khartoum a queue of trucks betrayed a tanker that had just delivered. Fed up with it all we drove directly to the pumps where two military jeeps stood. An officer then allowed us to fill up. We could even fill the jerry cans after he learnt the capacity of the main tank. Now we had enough to get to the border and beyond.


We would have stayed longer but the prospect of queuing overnight, or having to pay black market prices and just the whole bother of it all wasn’t worth it.


The next day we took a taxi to the Al-Mogran family park which has been closed for a few years and has fallen into decay. The taxi driver woke two soldiers sleeping in their sentry house and for 20 SDG each we were given a key. At the end of the park is a gate that fits the key and beyond that another 20 meters of bush to a plastic chair and the confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Both were brown that day and after a few photos we returned via taxi to the German Guesthouse.


That evening we ate an awful pizza in the AFRA Mall and were altogether glad to be leaving tomorrow. Khartoum is as exciting as watching a bowl of porridge get cold. We hadn’t even managed to find a postcard. There was such a depressive, grim, miserable feel to the place. Granted it was Ramadan and it was very very hot.


The next day up and away. The road to Al-Quadarif was fine, to Doka poor and after that terrible. The potholes thwarted any thought of getting to the Gallabat / Metemma border by nightfall. With just a few kilometres left we were in the hills, it was dark and it began to rain. The rain then became a veritable tempest and because the visibility was so poor we had to pull over.


We suppered and as an  hour later a car drove by and we had concerns about being so close to the road, we decided to carry on. The rain was relentless. At a checkpoint before the border someone ran out, opened the gate, and ran back inside again without uttering  a word. Soon thereafter a number of parked  lorries became discernible and we too pulled over for the night.


At the border we were assailed by two fixers who piloted us to “Security”. “Security” hadn’t finished their breakfast or were  still asleep. Certain is that they weren’t there and the fixers said we could “do customs and after security”. We were then directed to the customs compound. As soon as the flag had been raised, the staff registered, and the orders of the day read, everyone disappeared and half an hour later the gate opened.


We were then directed to drive in and park in a corner. We followed a busload of passengers into a building where upon a long large counter others passengers presented the contents of their luggage. We were sent round the back into an office where an immaculately dressed soldier with pleated trousers and shiny buttons was busy taking papers out of his desk drawers and arranging them in two neat little piles. We were bidden to take a seat.


At length we were given a fichet to complete which he inserted into our passports and formed a third pile together with the carnet. It soon became obvious that he was killing time. He then accompanied us to the van where we opened all the doors. However he didn’t want to see inside any cases or bags. Back in his office we were reseated and told that we were waiting for the man that did the T.I.P. He then rearranged his piles of paper.


Half an hour or so later he received a call, gathered up our documents, put on his beret, checked himself in the mirror and left the room. He soon returned and began to fill in the carnet which proved to be difficult and I had to help him.


Outside our fixer was waiting (his second had gone) and showed us to “Immigration”. Again a fichet was filled in and the passports stamped (without any problems). The fixer then accompanied us to the gate where we gave him 60 SDG with which he was happy. The whole process hadn’t costed us anything at all. Somebody had fortunately  forgotten about “security” or about us, which was fine. The second fixer, who turned out to be the money changer reappeared and we exchanged at a rate of 9 Birr für 10 Pound. At the border rope our passports were inspected a last time and we were let out of the Sudan, with enough diesel to get to Gondar.