Tag Archives: Borders

From Krüger NP to the South African south coast – back in “real Africa”, a great school in Swaziland and relaxed time at the Indian Ocean

 

Krüger National Park ... was just wonderful!

 

After having left Krüger National Park, suddenly we find ourselves back in "real" Africa. Before we enter Swaziland, we drive through an Africa we know from Kenya or Tanzania: small villages, tiny shops and supermarkets not really well-stocked on anything ... and considerably more poor people!

The border crossing from South Africa to Swaziland is by far the easiest ever, we show our passports, have them stamped, pay roadtax and have long long chats about our trip and about our experiences in Africa. Really nice people! The last border crossings on our Transafrican trip are easy - actually, looking back, we didn't have "real" border-problems anywhere on this whole trip!

The "Kingdom of Swaziland" then is even more African. To our European eyes it is a bit "strange" to come to a country which is one of the last absolute monarchies on this planet. The king Mswati III. (title "Ngwenyama" meaning "Lion") reigns together with his mother Queen Ntombi Tfwala (title "Ndlovukati" meaning "She-Elephant"), and has to marry different wives from different clans to ensure the country's unity! Even though the king is extremely rich and can make expensive presents for his countless wives, the Swazi people we meet on the street or in restaurants seem to really love their king because he and his predecessors ensure a peaceful life in the country. Or are they just too scared to state a different opinion in the open!?

But, we are mainly here to visit "Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa", a school belonging to an educational organisation, which concept we think is one of the best school concepts existing worldwide (see the INFOBOX below for more information). "Waterford College" was founded in 1963 by a group of dedicated teachers led by the British teacher Michael Stern as a multi-racial school in opposition to South Africa's apartheid policies.

 

INFOBOX KURT HAHN and UNITED WORLD COLLEGES

The "United World Colleges" is an educational organisation which currently has 15 schools in 14 countries. The idea of the UWCs was introduced by the German Jew Kurt Hahn (who also founded "Schloss Salem" in Germany, "Gordonstoun" in Scotland and the first UWC college, the "United World College of the Atlantic" in Wales) on the background of the two terrible world wars.
Hahn's idea was to make schooling international to create a "United World". Thus, all schools and colleges are multi-national having students from between 50 and 90 countries to ensure an international and intercultural understanding.
Through scholarships the UWCs can choose from the students who apply for them instead of being open for only a limited circle of children from an "upper class" or "rich" family background. It is the student's motivation that counts in the first place!
As indicators for the need of a new education, Hahn discovered "six declines of modern youth", namely
the decline of fitness due to modern methods of locomotion,
the decline of initiative and enterprise due to the widespread disease of "spectatoritis",
the decline of memory and imagination due to the confused restlessness of modern life,
the decline of skill and care due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship,
the decline of self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of stimulants and tranquilizers,
and the decline of compassion due to the unseemly haste which modern life is conducted. Even though this was "discovered" in the 1950s, all these aspects seem to be very "modern" and up-to-date to us!
Hahn's concept had four "solutions" to overcome these six declines: fitness training (training the discipline and determination of the mind through the body), expeditions (engaging in long and challenging endurance tasks), projects (interdisciplinal learning in context involving crafts and manual skills) and rescue service (e.g. sea rescue or fire fighting). ... Overlanding definitely involves many of these "solutions".

(source: Wikipedia ... and our brains)

 

Unfortunately, Anouk is feverish again, so we spend most of our first day in Swaziland in a private clinic in Mbabane, the country's capital. Luckily, it is not Malaria!

In Mbabane we stay at "Mvubu Falls Lodge", a very good recommendation if you want to stay near the capital of Swaziland.

 

Our house at "Mabuda Farm B&B" ... another very nice place to stay!

 

From Mbabane we continue to the East to a farm recommended to us by our Dutch friends Bas and Esther. We stay at "Mabuda Farm B&B" for two wonderful days and there bump into a German family of five who planned to travel southern Africa in their old converted Magirus truck (here is a link to their blog).

What a great truck!

We exchange guidebooks, ideas, travel experiences and plans ... and place the Transafrican travel bug deep into them ...

Kitchen-party

... and as usual we go to bed far too late!

 

New friends again!

 

Will they change their plans and travel home to Germany from southern Africa? We are impressed by the fact that they managed to be allowed to officially homeschool their three kids even though the German rules and regulations officially do not legally accept that! Mmh ... so it works somehow! New perspectives!

 
 
 

Another "Good Bye" to new friends!

 

Again, we make great new friends on our way! Wonderfull!

 

Misty family photo ... early in the morning - very early! ... After the kitchen party!

 

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After Swaziland we plan some beach days at the Indian Ocean. Friends recommended "Mabibi Camp" to us.

 

Getting to "Mabibi" is not easy ... but sooo beautiful!

 
 

Indian Ocean beaches are just great!

 

Kids just love beaches! It is important to ensure some beach time every now and then when on an extended overland travel.

136 steps down to the beach

The campsites are extremely wonderful and the beach is just gorgeous. Because of the weather conditions (rain and wind), we decide to "upgrade" our accomodation and not camp but stay in one of the safari tents with ensuite bathroom instead. As the days are warm, we spend wonderful two beach days there until we continue to C(h)intsa near East London, where we are planning to stay with our friends Stan and Anne Weakley (here is a link to their wonderful and most informative blog).

Our "new home" ...

... Thank You, Stan and Anne!

Stan is on - yet another - overland trip, this time to Angola, but we spend some wonderfully relaxed days together with his wonderful wife Anne (our kids just love her!), Stan and Anne's daughter Sarah, and their son Pete with his partner Christel ... and the two cool dogs "Bella" and "Jackson".

 

Cool! Jackson and Bella!

 

Cooking, braaiing, exchanging travel experiences, strand outings, collecting seashells ... Another "holiday from traveling".

Pete and Christel ... going fishing

Rock pools

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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As for the completion of our Transafrican adventure we definitely "have to" go to Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope, after a couple of days, we continue on our way westwards. Also, we want to meet up with a couple of people there, old friends from home and new friends "from the road".

Our first stop on our way is Jeffreys Bay. We like the surfer style atmosphere there, but the place also is quite touristy and most people seem to be there because of the cheap factory outlets from Billabong, Rip Curl et cetera.

 

Landy children!

 

On our second day, we are informed that our booked shipping has been cancelled. After some more research, it seems that the South African government has forbid all RoRo-shipping companies to ship private vehicles from South Africa for June and July, completely! Really strange and disappointing! We had booked our flights home just two days earlier and had planned our last few weeks here in Africa ... and now, everythig is open again. What makes everything even more difficult is the fact that our Carnet de Passages expires on the 5th August, meaning that our Landy has to be shipped back to Europe before that date.

At the time of writing this blog entry, it seems as if the only chance to ship our Land Rover back home to Germany will be a container shipping from Cape Town to either Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Safer but also considerably more expensive! Also, with the help of the German ADAC and the South African automobile club AASA, we manage to get an extension for our Carnet de Passages (within one day!). We will share all our experiences, contact details et cetera on a separate blog entry soon.

To sort things out properly, we stay another night in Jeffreys Bay before we continue to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent.

Illegal in South Africa!

Listening to and reading other people's experiences, we actually feared entering South Africa a bit. From what we heard, people have been rejected because their passports didn't look "proper" anymore, some people did not have international birth certificates for their children (which we have), some had to show a flight ticket back home (which we didn't have) ...

In our case everything went extremely well. ... But before telling the story, you must know that when we arrived at the planned accomodation on the Botswanean side, we discovered that Anouk had quite a high fever (again!) and we were quite worried that it might be Malaria and decided to rather move on to South Africa because of the availability of a better medical service just in case than staying in Botswana.

So, in a way, we were quite stressed because of Anouk's state of health. The border though was the easiest border experience we had in Africa in months. Everybody was relaxed, nobody wanted to see our car and everybody wanted to talk about us having traveled through Africa ... in a Land Rover ... with two children. The passports were stamped, we got our border passes and off we went!

...

When we reached the newly planned accommodation though, Mischa checked the stamps in the passports - something he normally does right at the border, but this time was just too relaxed! ... He did not succeed in finding a South African stamp in Juliane's passport ... simply because there was NONE! JULIANE WAS AN ILLEGAL PERSON! We didn't know that human trafficking was SO EASY!

Again, bearing in mind the many stories of other overlanders who got into severe problems at the South African border, we quite nervously went back the roundabout 45 km to the border post.

But, by now, everybody there had heard of our story of having traveled from our home in Germany to South Africa in a Land Rover ... and ... it was just a matter of two minutes and the passport stamp was in Juliane's passport and we could - now completely legal - move on to find a decent place to stay for the night and take care of Anouk's fever.

...

What a day!

Border Crossing: Namibia – Botswana at Dobe (M74)

On the way to Okaukuejo in the Etosha NP, somehow it suddenly came to my mind that my passport might not be valid long enough to enter Botswana ... It was only a matter of minutes to find out that I was completely right and that

a) a passport has to be valid for another 6 months and

b) that my passport was only valid for another 5 months and two weeks!

Big Problem! Especially so as we have heard that bureaucracy in Botswana is supposed to be even worse than in Germany ...

Unexpectedly, a visit at the immigration office in Grootfontein made me relax again as the officer there told me that I could use my second passport (which we took for all of us just in case - with the kids this actually already had helped us a lot in Zambia) and that he would advise the border officials at Dobe to stamp out both the old and the new passport so that I could enter Botswana with the new passport which is valid for another four years. He wrote all that on a Post-It paper, stamped it ... and off we went to the border. Very nice and helpful, indeed!

...

In northern Namibia there are actually two possibilities to cross into Botswana (if you're not in the Caprivi already), Dobe or Mahembo/Shakawe. We chose Dobe, because it is off the tarmac. Dobe is about 315 km away to the east from Grootfontein (the first 50km are on tarmac on the B8 and the rest is on the C44/M74).

The border post at Dobe really is an isolated place ... they have about five cars (!) crossing the border there daily ... sometimes even less! So, all that customs and police wanted to do on both sides in our case was to chat with us for a while because their job there simply is extremely boring. Very easy! No problems! Passports stamped, carnet stamped ... and off we went. It seemed to be the easiest border crossing in Africa!

The only minimal downside was that the officials on the Botswanean side are allowed to give foreigners a 14 days visitors permit only (instead of the 90 days most tourists can get). If you want to extend, you'll have to go to the immigration office in any of the bigger cities just like Maun, they told us. As we planned to go to Maun anyway, we did not worry and went on.

The road on the Botswanean side which is marked a simple 4x4 track in many maps, actually is quite a good dirt road with some sandy stretches (no really deep sand though!) - in parts under construction, but no problem at all.

...

Extending the 14 days visitor permit and doing the customs clearance of the Land Rover in Maun turned out to be quite a difficult thing! First of all, it is not easy to find out where exactly in Maun the places you have to go to are. Immigration is at "Maun Administrative Services" (GPS: 19°59'08.78'' S 23°25'34,23'' E) and if you want to extend the 14 days, you have got to write a letter to the office explaining why you want to stay longer (which is obvious as the country is beautiful, so I listed all the places we wanted to visit). Then, they might give you up to 90 days alltogether (we got 30!).

Finding out where customs is was more difficult as nobody, not even most of the officials we asked, knew where exactly we could find that place. After a lot of asking around, we finally found out that we'd have to go to the "Burs" office in town ("Botswana Unified Revenue Services", Rath Tower Maun; sorry, I could not find the GPS data for that one). Checking our Carnet they discovered that the Namibian police made a mistake in stamping us out of Namibia as Namibia, Botswana and South Africa are all members of one single tax and customs union. So, if ever Namibian officials tell you they have to stamp your Carnet OUT when proceeding to Botswana or South Africa, stop them doing so! Well, so I now had to persuade the lady at the office to stamp us in again into the customs union just to be on the safe side ... After roundabout 1,5 hours I had managed to do so, paid road tax and got a receipt ...

The easiest and nicest border crossing on this trip so far, but not easy from a bureaucratic point of view!

Of loving borders … and rain in Africa!

In one of the songs our children love, it says "In Africa it is so hot ...!". Is it!? Really?!

No, it is NOT! Since Ethiopia it has been raining almost all the time - at least that is how we feel! Why is it that whenever us nomads go to whatever place that people tell us that this week, month, year et cetera the rains and thunderstorms are somewhat different than "normally"! We had exactly that in the Pyrenees, in the Carpathians and now ... in Africa! ...

 

Traveling with Swiss friends we built this Land Rover Castle on our way to the Carpathian Mountains in Summer 2014.

 

Yes, we know that there is a thing called "rainy season", but this doesn't mean rain all day ... more or less for days on end! Well, that is the way it is, but we wanted to escape the rains ... "In the south, there is a draught!", somebody said!

 
 

Mischa wanted to go south fast, so he got his first speeding ticket in Tanzania on the way from Mbeya to the border ... No problem with the police though - all very nice, receit and everything, no bribe! IT WAS HIS FIRST SPEEDING TICKET EVER! Can you believe it!? ... When at that morning Nici at "Kisolanza" Farm, where we stayed two nights (a great place to stay, by the way!), had warned us that especially on this route, there would be myriads of policemen just waiting for issuing speeding tickets, Mischa had proudly stated that he never ever got a speeding ticket so far! Haha, he lost clean slate!

 

Our nicest border until we reached Namibia!

 

Borders! Everybody says that the borders are getting better the more to the south in Africa you come, and actually this is right ... generally! At the border between Tanzania and Zambia, the rains had just stopped (briefly!) and Mischa went out to follow his usual procedure: first immigration to get the exit stamps and then customs to get the carnet stamped out. No need to use the fixers which stick to you like flies do with sh**!

 

 
 

Oh, I forgot the Massai ladies in Tanzania ...

Kamal, our customs broker on the Egyptian side of the Egyptian/Sudanese border.

Magdi, our customs broker for the Sudanese side ... we had a wonderful time with him and his family!

Apart from Alexandria and the border between Egypt and Sudan, where we used the help of customs brokers who were respectable people and did a great job for us, at all other borders the fixers and the money changers really were extremely annoying even though we know that for them this is a way of earning money and they all are registered and have a permit for what they are doing. They follow you, you tell them that you don't need their services, still they follow you, do nothing for you because you don't let them and at the end they expect money for their "services"! Why use (and pay!) somebody you don't need!?

Anyway, in spite of the "flies" buzzing around us, at this special border everything seemed to go really smooth: passport stamps, then the carnet and off we went to the Zambian side.

For what comes now, I have to first explain that in Germany children's passports only have a very limited number of pages. So, we got new passports in advance in Germany to be used when the old ones are full. This is completely legal (even though your local city council might not know it and downright tell you that you are wrong ... don't let them win!)! As when we entered Tanzania, the border officials told us that our children's passports were full now. Now, in Zambia, we used the new ones AND also showed the old ones. As they are biometric there is no way of saying that they are fakes (so at least they could not suspect our kids of being spies for, say the Americans ... or the Absurdistanians!). Guess what came now! The Zambian immigration officers did not want to stamp an entry stamp into a new passport which doesn't have an exit stamp from the previously visited country. "Go back to Tanzania to have the exit stamp transferred to the new passports!", they said.

Seeing everything from a bird's perspective it would have been a wonderful picture: you could see Mischa running from the Zambian side to the Tanzanian ... only to be told that they would not do it ... then back to the Zambian ... who again said that they would not do it, so did their superior ... "Ah, no, our boss might do it, but today is a Sunday, so you will have to come back tomorrow!" ... "But we can't re-enter Tanzania, because we would need an exit stamp of Zambia!" ... so back to Tanzania, begging, asking for the superior ... "On a Sunday?" ... "No way!" ... so, back to Zambia, where the immigration officers suddenly didn't think the old kids passports were full and stamped their entry stamp on a page which legally was not reserved for visa. ... Problem NOT solved! Especially as we know that Namibia and South Africa are extremely strict with immigration, passports and children.

Different thoughts were going around and around in our heads: "Does this mean that our Transafrican adventure is over???" "What will "they" do with us if the country which we have just exited would not let us in again (because we do not have an exit stamp of the next country which we could not enter because of a full passport)?" "They"!?, Who will be responsible for us then, the officials of the country we have just left or the ones we intend to enter but can't?" "Us"?! No, only the kids! Does that mean that one of us will have to fly home with the kids and the other will have to continue to somwhere where we can meet again after having used the new passports for flying there?" "Shall we just cross the Zambian-Namibian border and wait and see what happens?" "Shall we go to the German Embassy in Lusaka and ask for assistance there?"

So, before getting stuck in "no man's land" between Zambia and Namibia, maybe in the rain, we contacted the German Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. "No problem!", they said, "Just go to the headquarters of the immigration department in Lusaka and have the entry stamps officially transferred to the new passports!" Lusaka was on the way we wanted to take, but actually, we did not really want to into town! Especially not in that rain!

 

The most beautiful speeding ticket ... we will frame it! ... But just read what the police woman wrote on top!!! LAND CRUISER!!!!!

 

Mischa wanted to make haste ... and guess, what happened: he got his second speeding ticket, this time in Zambia (and what a beautiful one, too!) ... two speeding tickets within 48 hours!

Anyway, we did exactly what the embassy told us - in the rain - and, three hours later after writing a (typed!) explanation of our situation, we had the stamps transferred into the kids' new passports without a problem. Later, when crossing the Zambian-Namibian border, it was no problem at all for the officials in Namibia, the new passports were fine and we didn't even have to show the old ones!

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Here is the text of the letter we wrote, just in case you want (or have) to do the same ...

...

Names of parents                                                                Date

Residential address: ...

Email: ...

Currently traveling in ...

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

we hereby kindly request the entry stamps for Zambia (as stamped on the ... (date) at the Tanzanian/Zambian border post of Nakonde) in our two daughters' old passports

name daughter one, dob, pob (old passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

name daughter two, dob, pob (old passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

to be transferred to their new passports

name daughter one (new passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

and

name daughter two (new passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date).

The old passports (numbers as stated above) are full due to the fact that since the 10th July 2015 we as a family have been traveling overland by car (make of car, rego) through countries visited so far. In Germany children's passports do not have enough pages for the visa needed for a Transafrican journey, so the German passport authorities issued new passports for our two children to be used when the old ones are full. The old passports thus become invalid but will have to be forwarded at request to any customs ifficial to accompany the new passports and prove the route of the travel. Also, for the next following countries to bevisited (namely, countries to be visited on the onward journey) the passports need two blank pages each for the visa. to make sure that we are not stuck in "no mans' land" between the borders of Zambia and Namibia after having exited Zambia, we contacted the German Embassy in Lusaka who kindly informed us to request this transfer of the Zambian entry stamps in person at the Headquarters of the Department of Immigration of the Republic of Zambia which we hereby do.

We thank you for your help and support,

Yours sincerely,

(names, dob, pob, passport numbers)

Ethiopian roads – from Addis Abeba to Nairobi using the “worst road of Africa” from Moyale to Isiolo (incl. border procedures, places to stay the night and visa issues)

 

The Kenyan border post at Moyale ... so very friendly and welcoming!

 

We avoided Addis Abeba, as for European citizens it is possible to get on-arrival visa at the border, and stayed in Awash National Park at the Awash Falls Lodge (N8° 50.574' E40° 00.753') overlooking the famous Awash Falls where you can watch the Nile crocodiles while you are having breakfast. There is a national park campsite about 300m away from the lodge (N8° 50.871' E40° 00.273'), which is a really nice camp in the bush - just beware of cheaky baboons!

Awash Falls Lodge - a great place to stay!

From Addis Abeba there are actually two parallel ways to reach the Ethiopian/Kenyan border town of Moyale about 1,000 km to the south: #1 The direct route via Shashemene, Hawassa (Awasa), Dila, Mega and finally Moyale and #2 the route which from Shashemene goes parallel to route #1 through Sodo, Arba Minch until it joins route #1 in Yabelo. Actually, we had expected the road to turn bad on the Kenyan side as the Moyale - Marsabit - Isiolo route had the reputation of being the most dangerous road in Africa for many years, we did not really check which route to take on the Ethiopian side. So we took route #1, which apparently was a mistake, as the roundabout 230km from Hawassa (Awasa) down to Surupa are the worst road we have so far encountered in all Africa, actually in all our travels. It is impossible to ravel this road with a normal car and in a 4x4 or truck it is really challenging ... the roundabout 500km from Shashemene to Moyale take between eleven and fourteen (!) hours and are a hard test for man and material. When we asked drivers working for local tourist agencies, they told us that route #2 is the better one which is even manageable to drive in a normal car or even camper van.

Aregash Lodge

This is our "room" ... gorgeous when normally you live with four people on roundabout six square meters!

If you still decide on taking route #1, the "Aregash Lodge" (N6° 44.954' E38° 26.629') in Yirga Alem, owned by an Ethiopian/Greek/Italian family is a wonderful place to rest a while. The lodge is a peaceful haven for the weary traveler and the bamboo thatched Tukuls simply are pure luxury and the prices (also negotionable!) are quite reasonable if you bear in mind the nearly European standard not to be seen too often here in Ethiopia. The food the on site restaurant prepares (both buffet and á la carte) is splendid and a good fusion between international and traditional Ethiopian recipies.

After having experienced the road conditions on the Ethiopian side of the road between Addis and Nairobi, we did not really know what to expect on the Kenyan side.

In Moyale (Ethiopian side), the "best" place to stay for one night is the Koket Borena Hotel in Moyale (N3° 32.678' E39° 02.909') which has a walled courtyard where your car is safely parked. Rooms are cheap (around 500Birr, about 23€) but the standard is rather low and nobody speaks proper English.

The border procedures are easy (coming from the north: first go to immigration, then to customs on the Ethiopian side and check in with the police first, then go to immigration and then have your Carnet stamped at customs on the Kenyan side) and there is absolutely no hassle by any "agents" or "fixers" of the kind every traveller in Africa just "likes"! All officials we met both on the Ethiopian and Kenyan side are really friendly and helpful. On the Ethiopian side immigration opens at 7:00 in the morning and customs at 8:00 (counter three, if that one is not occupied you have got to ask at one of the other counters, if you don't ask, it might be that nobody serves you in a long time!).

On the Kenyan side (when traveling southbound), make sure that you get an East African Visa which is valid for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda alltogether for three months and costs US$100 per person (needed documents: passports, no passport photos needed!). This way you save a lot of money, as the Kenyan visa is US$50, the Ugandan (as we heard) is US$100 and we are not sure about how much the visa for Rwanda are.

 

This is supposed to be the worst road in Africa?!?!?!

 

The supposed "worst road in Africa" is good and new tarmac for more than 80%. The remaining 20% (not more than 100km alltogether in two stretches between entering Marsabit and leaving the Marsabit National Park and in the complete Losai National Reserve plus detours around bridges under construction and a short stretch directly in Moyale after entering Kenya) are relatively good gravel or dirt road. The worst part actually is the road through the city centre of Masabit, which is deep mud in the middle but if the weather is relatively dry, you can go around most parts easily. The road was also famous for the bandits that raided unsuspecting tourists and trucks ... this time seems to be over as well! We felt very safe and secure and the Kenyan Army is taking care of security (some checkpoints but everybody is extremely friendly and welcoming).

There is one good campsite in Marsabit, called Henry's Rest Camp (N 02° 20.739' E 037° 57.941') and another campsite in Isiolo, just in case it takes you longer due to rainy weather conditions. For the roundabout 800km from Moyale to Nairobi it took us about 12 hours. After Isiolo, it is no problem to drive at night as the road conditions are good. Only watch out for trucks (very slow on ascends!), minibusses and the local buses which do not follow any traffic rules.

In Nairobi, you can stay at "Jungle Junction" (S 01° 21.767' E 036° 44.438'), which is a safe, reasonable and very friendly overlander's camp with easy access to all conveniences of Nairobi shopping and sightseeing. Chris from Germany and Diane from Kenya are wonderful hosts, can help with almost anything and Chris is known to be a really good and thorough mechanic (especially so when it comes to motor cycles!). Their kids are simply lovely and great playmates for any travel children. Note that "JJs" have moved to "Karen" on the outskirts of Nairobi and many GPS navigation systems still seem to have the old address.

“Allah Karima” … “Insh’Allah” (Sudan #2)

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

 

The Hamad El Niel Mosque ... a really magical place!

 

The impressions from the "Zikir" at the Hamad El Niel-Mosque in Omdurman/Khartoum deeply stay in our minds. Again, it's the personal encounters with people on the road which are even more inspiring than all the places, buildings and sights which in themselves are impressive anyway! Not only our Sudanese friend Tyseer, who has planned a whole program for our week in Khartoum, has brought us here to this place and explains all the new aspects of this culture, but also locals standing crowded together next to us sense our interest and curiosity and explain without us asking for it and, what is even more important, they do not missionize! Drinking a multitude of glasses full of a sweet tea with peppermint, we discuss religion, especially Sufyia, but also world politics and football in a spontaneous round of interested and interesting people. Sòley and Anouk also easily find other children of the same age and relaxedly roam around with them without any common language basis, which is fascinating the adults around them who take picture after picture with their smartphones.

 
 

In the middle of this bubbling bustle Tyseer's friend Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak, one of the leaders of the local Sufiya movement, joins us. When he heard that Tyseer would soon expect a visit of friends from Germany, he helped her to find a flat for us. Now we had the unique chance to talk to an expert on Islam and Sufiya and ask all the questions which had been going around in our heads. But one evening in this crowd is not enough and we would meet again and again after that, just to discuss and learn from each other, while Tyseer permanently translated. Also, Mischa has brought a German Qur'an which includes a glossary and explanations to find out more when we are in the flat. How many people do know that the Qur'an does not tell women to veil themselves completely? That Jesus is not seen as the Son of God in Islam, but as an important prophet, sounds rather plausible (if the term "Son of God" is meant in a literal sense, we then are back with the term "prophet", because Mohammed also percieved himself as God's mouthpiece, mediated by the Archangel). Also, the concept of "God" which seems to be more connected with the universal power God has instead of depicting Him as the human-like figure of a "God-Father" is not far from how we try to explain this concept to our kids.
Especially exciting is the background to the Sufiya movement which seems to be older than Islam and rather connecting different religions instead of dividing them. This topic and the Derwish dances we want to learn more about!

Tyseer really impressed me at some other time by her really warm-hearted reaction on beggars, which for me still are very inconvenient situations. Most often deep compassion mixes with the knowledge that some money will not help in a sustainable way but sometimes may even be a factor in increasing the suffering. This precariousness in me certainly can be perceived by others. Tyseer masters situations like this by reacting with the common benediction "Allah Karima", meaning, "Allah will take care of you!". Maybe, these words give some hope. Or is it just an empty phrase? Does it help? ... Insh' Allah! As God wills it!

At the end of our week in Khartoum some more practical things, running errands and planning the onward route through the Sudan mix in. Mischa had to go to a garage to extract a bolt from one of the tyres and have it repaired. A barber for Mischa and a cosmetic studio, where I could delve in into the relaxed atmosphere among women behing doors and curtains also were on the agenda. Happily gossiping, many hours are spent here taking care of the body, mind and soul from head to heels. Unfortunately, I only have time for a "short program", otherwise I would have loved to have done the wonderfully beautiful henna tatoos married women in Sudan typically have on their feet.

 
 

My hands already have been decorated by Sheikh Mohammad's wife after having dinner at their home.

Tyseer also invites us to her family's home where Anouk and Sóley can meet her nieces who are roundabout the same age as our kids. Due to these visits, we get quite a good insight into the private life of the people of Khartoum. But this is not supposed to be "it" ... Sheikh Mohammad not only wants to help us with contact persons from his family on our further way towards Ethiopia, but out of hand decides to join us in person for the next days ... now without our trusted friend and mediator Tyseer, because her lectures at the University of Khartoum start again. After the conversion, our Land Rover only has four remaining seats. For a short passage, we had already given our "fixer" Magdi a lift from the Sudanese side of the border between Egypt and Sudan to his home in Wadi Halfa. I simply resembled Sóley's child seat and squeezed in with the kids in the Land Rover's rear bench. No, this is not really convenient and also doesn't fit any European standards on child safety in cars, but we simply can't say "No!" to this offer coming from the heart of a new friend. So, we alltogether shoulder the five hours on rough dirt tracks to the small hut-village of Mohammad's family (in addition to three hours driving on road). Later on, we would even find another sixth "seat" for a roofrack passenger, which for the locals is no security risk at all.

 
 

But before we leave Khartoum, with the help of Tyseer and Mohammad we have to pick a bone with Mustafa, the owner of "our" flat. In a very dedicated and appearingly corteous manner, he had offered us his help and support in any kind of way, which was not strange at all for us, as all Sudanese we had met until then were immensely welcoming and ready to help. But sadly, Mustafa was not able to keep the natural distance between him and me, which in Muslim countries is certainly larger between men and women than in Europe. He touched my face, made compliments and told me about the problems he has with his wife in situations when I met him alone and thus hassled me in a way which simply is bad manners, both here in this culture and in Europe. Mohammad moderated a heated crosstalk between Mustafa and Mischa, but for saying "Sorry!" Mustafa simply was too proud ... too weak!? For us, he seems to be one exemption which exist in all countries, all cultures, still I have to admit that in Sudan I always attract attention as a European woman and seem to be "an easy lay" from the point of view of some men in spite of husband and daughters next to me. Do I have to wear the headscarf more often? "No!", says Tyseer. I am supposed to stay as I am, also in Sudan. She states that I already adapt myself far enough! So, I plan to carry on walking the streets of Khartoum in a self-confident manner, maybe with some more pretended pride.

 
 

With a "local" such as Sheikh Mohammad in the Land Rover, we don't have to present any documents anymore at the police checkpoints. A short smalltalk in English by us and in Arabic by him is enough to be waved through. In between, Mohammad sings like a muezzin for Sóley (she simply loves mosques and when the muezzin sings, always a glorifying "My friend!" escapes Sóley's lips) and tries to learn English and German from Mischa while Mischa tries to learn some more Arabic.

We reach the place of Mohammad's uncle in Sennar just as the sun sets. Some children play in the courtyard with a plastic bottle hanging from a tree. Sóley and Anouk without any heasitation join in and laugh so very loud that it can be heard by the complete neighborhood.

 
 

Meanwhile an sumptuous traditional Sudanese dinner is served on a large metal tray and we eat together using our right hands. We get a room for ourselves in the house even though we could have slept in the car, while some family members sleep in the courtyard under the stars. Sleeping in our Land Rover would have been an insult. The next morning the children of the family are beautifully dressed and brought to schoon by Bajaj (TukTuk).
We set off for the drive to the village where Mohammad's father lives (at least this is the place where one of his two wives lives). At first, we visit the really badly equipped and ridiculously overcrowded village-school and try to find solutions how one could help here any maybe raise some money to help them (for tables and chairs they need roundabout 2500€) and improve the conditions the students learn under.

School building Dindir village school

Schoolyard

... not enough chairs!

 
 

We establish contacts to make sure that the materialy and money needed here will really end up in the right places and not in somebody else's pockets. We would be happy to hear about your ideas, dear readers!

In the village, we get our own room, which actually is a complete hut, this time with three beds. We are introduced to many villagers and again get so much to eat that we simply cannot finish it. Mischa joins the tea-round in the hut of Mohammad's father and I mingle with the women at the fireplace in another hut. Any kind of verbal communication here is nearly impossible, which is really sad, because there is a lot of interest in that from both sides. The womens' faces alone tell so many stories!

They seem to be a bit shy but very happy about me trying to start conversations.
They would have loved to decorate my feet wit henna, but Mohammad wants to drive with us some kilometres out of the village to meet some nomadic families. This certainly is an offer we cannot say no to. We give another "hitchhiker" a lift on the roofrack and on we go taking rough dirt tracks until we reach the simple tents of the nomads.

 
 

Impressively big in comparison to the tents are the camels. Proud, the nomads show us how multi-functional their homes are and invite us to stay for a tea. Within minutes the round gets bigger and bigger and when we want to leave the camp in the setting sun, all men stand up and pray together.

 
 

On our way back through the darkness, we tow a Toyota pick-up full of people, which already had been there when we came here.
It is no wonder that this kamikaze mission got stuck here: the fuel tank is a 1,5 litre Coke plastic bottle hanging from the left door mirror and the complete car seems to be kept in one piece by many metres of wire. Traveling in this car!? Insch'Allah!
Back in the village, we brace ourselves with fresh camel milk. We have to admit that at first drinking it took us some surmounting, but after having made sure that it had been boiled before, we are polite and take the offer ... just to be surprised to find out that the milk is really really tasty. This leads to the situation, that our cups are filled up again and again.
To be able to reach Ethiopia the next day, we get up early and give Mohammad a lift to the next tarmac road after another round of camel milk tea and a cordial "Goodbye!" from Mohammad's family.

It takes us three hours on really bad pistes full of potholes to get to the next asphalt road. Unfortunately, here we have to part with Sheikh Mohammad: he takes the bus back to Khartoum and we set sail for the border post between Sudan and Ethiopia near Gallabat. The road is relatively good and we even see our first monkeys which look like Pippi Longstocking's "Mr Nilson". The roundabout 80 km through the Dindir National Park before we reach the border the road turns out to be a whole population of potholes which could swallow complete Land Rovers. Also, the villages along the road look more and more desperate and poor. But the border double-village even tops this impression: it is a bustling, ugly gallimaufry full of dark characters, trying to lure us into something and beggars who aggressively bang their fists at the car windows. From a road on a dam, it is a steep descend down to the offices of immigration and customs, in front of which "helpers" of a really irksome sort try to obtrude their "services" even though nobody needs them. The border officials are really fast and thus we are able to leave this place and the rather improvised looking border after only 1,5 hours. Now it is already late afternoon, but we don't want to set up our camp here.

After some kilometres we suddenly have to break not to run into some Pierce of rope which blocks the road: another customs checkpoint! Men with weapons. Great! Now, we've got to unpack the complete Land Rover in the darkness! We show the men that we travel with children telling them that there still is a long way ahead of us until we reach the place where we plan to stay the night. This works and we can leave after some minutes. In spite of various obstacles, animals and people sleeping on the road but also nearly invisible potholes and wheel ruts, we push on for another four hours to be able to reach "Tim-and-Kim-Village" overlooking beautiful Lake Tana. Here we will try to relax for about four days without phone or internet connection. Insch'Allah!

by Juliane

Border Procedures Abu Simbel – Wadi Halfa

There are two possible ways to cross the border between Egypt and Sudan: one is the long ferry that still runs between Aswan and Wadi Halfa, the other is the "newly opened" road to Sudan which includes a short ferry.

We took the road and short ferry!

We decided to take a fixer for the border procedure although it is also possible to do that on your own (here are detailed descriptions on how to do that: by "Abseitsreisen" (in German) and Omar Mansour on the HUBB (English)).
Our fixer for the Egyptian side, Kamal Muawad, has a very good reputation with overlanders.

This are his contact details:
phone: 0100 5322669 and 01221393492
mail: kamalaswanegy@yahoo.com
Another fixer we met at the "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge" (see below) and who was recommended to us by other travelers was Mohamed Abouda (phone: 012/25111968 and 097/2301698 and 097/2306568). He seemed to be very professional and helped us with travel tips and contact persons.

In Aswan, it is important to go to the traffic court (together with the fixer) where it is checked whether there are any traffic tickets which still have to be paid for. If you don't have their stamp in your passport and you try to go through the border, you will be sent back to Aswan at the Egyptian border checkpoint.

The visa for Sudan are easy to get in Aswan at the Sudanese consulate general
Consulate General of the Republic of Sudan
El Sadat Rd. - El Khazzah Rd. (close to the Al Rudwan Mosque)
Aswan
phone: 0972307231
GPS coordinates N 24° 05.5176', E 032° 88.3164'
You don't need a fixer here, but he can speed up the process and maybe help extending the visa validity (costs US$50 for a family).
For the visa application process you will need:
- two passport photos
- a photocopy of your passport
- your passport
- the filled in visa application form (you will get it at the consulate); in the form they ask for other valid visa you have, so I figured out that it might help to have the visa for Ethiopia before applying for the Sudan visa (they are easy to get in Cairo at the Ethiopian Embassy, Consular Section, 21 Sheikh Mohamed El Ghazali Street, Dokki; takes one working day; US$60 for one month/single entry and US$70 for three months/double entry).
We also had an invitation letter to Sudan, which is not mandatory, but also may help speeding up the process.
Usually the Sudanese visa take about three working days (in our case it was just two), for Americans they can take up to two weeks as the details have to be sent to Khartoum and processed there.
The price for the Sudan visa in Aswan is US$50 each (instead of about US$110 in Cairo). Usually, you get one month, our visa are valid for two months (due to what we do not know).

If you need a "taxi" in Aswan, call Mohammed Sayed (tel.: 0122 4421767 and 0114 2748889), he will not be more expensive than a taxi, but more reliable, speaks good English and is well informed about what overlanders might need.

 
 

A good place to stay for overlanders is the Nubian house "Adam Home Overland Camp", where you can camp for around 70EL (about 8€) for a car and two adults.
Adam Home Overland Camp
tel.: 0122 442 1767,
mail: adamhome.camp@facebook.com,
GPS coordinates: N 24°10.135' E032°51.971'
Adam Home it is a great place at the west bank of the Nile (a bit run down at the moment, though, due to health issues of the owner and the impact of less tourism). They can also organise dinners at private Nubian homes and sailing and motor boat tours on the Nile.

 

We avoided the police convoy and went through the desert alone.

 

From Aswan to Abu Simbel there is a police-convoy going daily at 4 and 11 o'clock in the morning which starts at the obelisk in Aswan (if you want to use the convoy, be there one hour in advance) and will speed through the desert at roundabout 130km/h (from what we have heard) - accidents have occured. We did not want to use this convoy and simply went to the police/military checkpoint at 10:30 in the morning. Nobody spoke English, they checked the car registration and driver's ID and off we went all alone through the desert. It is a 290km drive and there are petrol stations on the way. I would fuel up in Aswan still, as not all petrol stations have electricity and fuel all the time!
We went to Abu Simbel one day in advance as we wanted to visit the temples and you cannot go to the Abu Simbel temples and cross the border on the same day as the border is only open between 9 o'clock and 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

 

The Ramses Temple at night.

 

In Abu Simbel, you can camp near the temples on the main car park near the Tourist Police building or ask at one of the hotels.

 

The "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge"

 

We took a room at "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge", a Nubian style ecohotel with extremely helpful people, a wonderful atmosphere, great food, beer and wine. "Eskaleh" is locally owned and very professionally run, the rooms are very clean and the complete house is beautifully decorated. Some of their food is based on homegrown products from their own farm.
Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge
phone: 0122 3680521 and 097 3401 288,
mail: info@eskaleh.net;
GPS coordinates: N 22° 20'47'', E 031°37'7'';
rooms 70€ - 80€ incl. breakfast (children under 6 are free of charge), they also do lunch and dinner.
For overlanders who would like to sleep in their cars, it is also possible here (at what rate we do not know, but this rate will surely not be over the top!).

 

Squeezed in between trucks, cars and people.

 

The car ferry leaves directly from Abu Simbel (the meeting point usually is at the Bank Cairo) and it takes about 1 hour.

 
 

From the port on the other side of Lake Nasser to the border post between Egypt and Sudan it is a drive of about 35km.

The Egyptian fixer will go with you on the ferry, to the border and will do all the bureaucratic processes together with you on the Egyptian side.
The border opens at 9:00 o'clock in the morning and they open and close the gate for each car separately.
After entering, we had to drive to the customs, who wanted to scan every bag (!) and also check the car. At borders, we always try to take control of the procedures instead of letting others search our Land Rover. The kids stay inside the car and are allowed to watch a video on the i-Pad and Juliane brings the bags to the scanner while I show the officials every box and locker ("Do you want to see this?" ... "May I show you that?"). During the process, we are always friendly, but also very slow because generally, there is only one scanner and there are other people waiting, too - sometimes the officials will give up and let us go. They also wanted to see the boxes on the roof rack, and as they are "heavy" (which they are not!), the officer had to come up with me while I showed him what was inside the boxes. Funnily, the other customs officers made fun of him shaking the car while he was on top.
After that I insisted on being allowed to park the Land Rover in the shadow because of the kids.
After customs, also the offices of the traffic police and the immigration had to be provided with bureaucratic work and finally, we were allowed to leave Egypt.
Our "fixer", Kamal Muawad, did a good job and we could certainly recommend him. The only thing we had to do was a lot of waiting (we had some tea with truck drivers, lunch and several conversations with passers by while he did his job).
For our first days in Sudan, Kamal also supported us with 2150 Sudanese Pounds, as there is no Bank in Wadi Halfa (the exchange rate was 9,18 to the € instead of the black-market-rate of 11,30 in Khartoum but certainly better than the official exchange rate which is around 7 pounds per €).

After you have passed the gate on the Egyptian side, the Sudanese gate is reached after about 100m.

For the Sudanese side, you might need another fixer. We chose to take Magdi Boshara,
contact details:
Magdi Boshara
phone: 0121730885 and 0122262060
mailNUBATIA51@YAHOO.COM,
because he simply offered us a cheaper price of US$420 (instead of US$500 from Mazar Mahir, who also has a good reputation on the HUBB; contact details: Mazar Mahir, phone:, +249122380740 and +249911075226)
mail: mazarhalfa@gmail.com).
On the Sudanese side you go to the "arrivals hall" where you have to fill in three forms with your personal details (the entry card, the document for the "Alien Registration Department" (So, you are officially registered ALIENS now!) and one document for the security police). For the "Alien Registration Department", you need one passport photocopy and a passport photo.
We were also centrally registered to Khartoum, so would not have to register somewhere else on our way through Sudan unless we would stay longer than one month. Cameras don't seem to have to be registered any more (do not take photos of checkpoints, all police and army buildings, post offices, bridges, powerlines et cetera!)!
After endless three hours of waiting in the arrivals hall, the car was inspected (5 minutes, just looking into it, asking some questions whether we had beer) and we were free to leave.

The complete procedure at the border took us 5 hours and 20 minutes (not including ferry and driving to the border post) and it was extremely friendly on both sides, but especially so on the Sudanese side.

After leaving the Sudanese side of the border, we gave Magdi a lift to his home, where we would stay for one night with his family. We also went to Wadi Halfa with him to get Sudanese sim cards (Zain company, price: SDG25 for the sim card, SDG10 for phoning and SDG10 for one week of a data flat rate). At Magdi's house we had dinner together and breakfast the next morning as well.
It was great to start our time in Sudan like that because it gave us the chance to ask many questions concerning our route, dos and no-dos at cetera. Also, it was simply nice to stay with a Sudanese family. Magdi is very warm and welcoming, really seems to like his job and wanted to make everything as easy and relaxed for us as possible. We would always highly recommend him!

The big question on the net concerning this border seems to be "A fixer or no fixer!?". For us, having one was on the one hand very convenient - who knows how long it would have taken us without a fixer if with one it already took over 5 hours. On the other hand, we think that - especially in times of nearly no tourism and nearly no overlanders passing this border - paying for the services of a fixer also helps supporting families. Being a fixer is nothing smirky, negative or illegal, but it is a proper job people need a license for and are educated for by the customs. From what we heard from other overlanders, this border crossing seems to be the only one a fixer might be needed.

Sudanese Visa
visa costs US$50 each
fixer US$50 paid for two adults and two kids, i.e.US$12,50 per person
total costs US$250 / 220,00€

Border Egypt - Sudan
total cost Egyptian side (incl. fixer) 1640EL (i.e. 192,13€) includes all costs and ferry
total cost Sudanese side (incl. fixer) US$420 includes all costs (and in our case one night at Magdi's home, dinner and lunch and help with the sim cards)
total costs US$640 / 557,00€