Stuck in the desert

1. A river has two banks
2. From Dongola to Wadi Halfa along the Nile is approximately 400 km
3. There’s a new road from Dongola to Wadi Halfa
4. After Dongola there’s no bridge to cross the Nile

So far so good.
The Bradt Guide says: Heading north, the journey is dramatically improved since the opening of the new road in 2009, though you need to cross the river first to Kerma before continuing north to Wadi Halfa (10 hours) (…)
There is a modern bridge from Kerma to Argo on the west bank of the Nile.

1. Is the “new” road on the west or the east bank of the river?
2. Why does it take 10 hours to cover 400 km on a new road?

I take the west bank north, driving on a dirt road through picturesque small villages and I’m enjoying the road, though the going is slow. Never mind, after all there are two possibilities:

1. The new road is on “my” side of the river and starts near Kerma (see Bradt)
2. The new road is on the other side and then I simply use the new bridge at Kerma, some 50 km further down the river.

I ask for directions at a small fuel station. They all want to help and advise, but have different solutions. “Go back to Dongola”, “follow this road”, “there is no new road”. They make some phone calls, and one of the village elders appears who speaks good English. “I will show you the way. The new road to Wadi Halfa is on this side, and starts after 15 minutes.” He drives in front of me and takes me to a smooth, new tarmac road.

A new road all for myself. Northern Sudan

A new road all for myself. Northern Sudan

I have this road all for myself, and 350 km later will find out why. Wadi Halfa lies where the Nile widens into Lake Nasser, on the east side. There’s no bridge, and the road continues another 20 km before ending at a very small border post in the middle of the desert. I can’t cross here, this border is closed for travellers, and I have to go back to Dongola, the commander of the Egyption post, Ahmed, explains to me. 800 km to get to Wadi Halfa, which is only 30 km away as the crow flies.

Major breakdown
I wish I could just turn around and head back to Dongola, but the car won’t move. There’s a loud rattle somewhere down under. I call Mazar, my fixer in Halfa, and he talks to “the men” of the border post. They can fix the car for 200 EP (22 euro). After an hour’s work – they have removed the front propshaft – I try to drive away in 1st gear: nothing. And the rattle is still there. They think it’s the transferbox. (Thank you very much “Dirty Harry”, the socalled mechanic from Windhoek. He has a businesscard saying: Harry, for all your Land Rover problems. – How appropriate!)

The "men" working on the car. Northern Sudan

The “men” working on the car. Northern Sudan

Two Egyptian truck drivers keeping me company.

Two Egyptian truck drivers keeping me company.

Ahmed, the commander of the Egyption border post.

Ahmed, the commander of the Egyptian border post.

Mazar suggests putting the car on the truck and taking it to Halfa where he has a good mechanic. In the meantime the “men” invite me for tea in their humble abode, offer me cold drinks (which they get from the Egyptian post), and food, and return the 200 EP! The truck arrives at 21.00 the next day, and with a makeshift ramp they manage to drive the Landy on the truck and we arrive in Dongola early in the morning (I urged the driver to take a few hours rest). We meet up with Mazar, a young and energetic man, with three mobile phones and an earpiece. He arranges for another truck to take us to Wadi Halfa where I stay at Mazar’s place. The mechanic concludes that the tranferbox is badly damaged, puts some oil in it, and it drives. I only hope it will last until Alexandria.

Unloading the car in Dongola, Sudan.

Unloading the car in Dongola…..

…. waiting for the other truck….

…. waiting for the other truck….

4 thoughts on “Stuck in the desert

  1. Tristan

    Oh Gee!! I can’t beleive all that has happened to you! You seem to have had as bad a time as we had a good time! So that road you took on the west side of the Nile, I think it’s the even newer one that goes all the way to Aswan without taking a ferry, right? You would’ve got to Aswan in just a few hours had they let you through! Anyway I’m glad you had Mazar’s contact, he’s a great guy and looked after us very well. And Kamal will too once you get on the other side… Hope Thimba is ok with the heat and that this misadventure hasn’t ruined Sudan for you, it’s such a great place.


    Tristan, from Nakuru

    1. Gee Post author

      Hi Tristan,
      The new road all the way would have been nice, but the ferry is ok, and took only 1 hour. I loved Sudan! And Mazar is great. Stayed at his place for three days, and enjoyed his company. I was lucky that he was also going to Aswan, so he travelled all the way into Egypt with me.
      Thimba is doing just great, but I think she will be glad when she’s back home!

      Cheers from Luxor,


  2. Rolien

    Hoi Gee!
    Sinds kort lees ik pas je stukjes, maar ik vind ze geweldig. Ik zag je dochter nog onlangs in Amsterdam en ze vertelde dat ze het geweldig vond om met je reizen. Ik had ook al het een en ander van Eljen gehoord.
    Knap toch dat er iedere keer wel een oplossing is voor je problemen


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