We arrived at the Sudan border post at 8.50am as we had been told that they opened at 9am and on arrival we were told to wait outside the gate. As well as us there were six blokes on motorbikes and 3 Italians who were working in South Africa but were doing an overland trip from Cape Town to Italy. It was already 38c by 9am and there was no shade at all but when a big bus pulled up he gave us a bit of shade and also opened his baggage compartment to sit on.
The fixer Mazar turned up half an hour late and collected our paper work and went inside while we waited outside in the heat for another half an hour. Eventually we were let inside the compound but again made to wait out in the heat for another 2 hours while they did the inspections and more paperwork. We were then ushered through into no-mans land and we were now feeling very happy and relieved to be out of Sudan and all the troubles that were happening there but little did we know!
We drove through to the Egypt side where they let people through in groups so as not to overload the system! So again we and the Italians were made to wait out in the sun for an hour while the guys on the motorbikes went through to start the process.
The Egypt fixer Kamal then came out and asked for all our paperwork but when he saw that we had an extension on our carnet he exclaimed “we have big problem” and I said why is that to which he replied that Egypt do not accept Carnets that had been extended. So the only way around it was to buy an Egyptian Carnet for the sum of $500 US and it would take at least two days and the car had to stay at Customs until it was ready. So Kamal gave Pauline and I a lift in his beaten up old Peugeot to the ferry but we were running late so with 7 of us in the car he held the accelerator flat to the boards as we tried to get to the ferry before it left. We managed to do this in one piece but when I got out of the car at the ferry the smell of a very hot engine was very strong and then I noticed that the front right wheel only had three nuts out of eight holding the wheel on and when I pointed this out to Kamal he proudly told me “that’s Ok all wheels are the same” and they were!
He then went to start the car to drive it onto the ferry but it wouldn’t go into gear so we all had to push it on where he then proceeded to fix it as we motored across the dam.
When we arrived in Abu Simbel we first sorted out getting some Egyptian pounds and getting phone sim cards so that we were able to let our children know that we were all right. However it was already 5pm and the phone shops were all closed but we were assured that they would be open again at 7pm. The shops around here all close between around 3pm and 7pm and then re-open until quite late at night. So then we went and checked into a hotel called the Tuyu and had a very much needed shower and rest before going back out to the shops to get our sim cards and have a bit of dinner. For dinner that night we were taking pot luck again due to the language barrier and ended up with some beautiful fish with rice bread. The next morning we were back down at the ferry at 7am to go back to the border so that we could get the Carnet organised. Kamal let us know that he had started the process and we ended up sitting around in the cafe most of the day. The cafe which was open from 7am until around 8pm each day was our saviour over the days that it took to get away from the border, it was run by five very hard working men who cooked excellent food and had a well stocked range of snacks and cold drinks. The air-conditioners were fantastic and kept us cool in the 45 degree heat outside.
At the end of the day Mohamed who was Kamal’s offsider came to us and told us that we would have the carnet tomorrow morning and so we again returned to Abu Simbel, had a shower and walked down to the temple to see if we could book for the light show that night but because it’s off season and they didn’t have the required minimum of 10 people it wasn’t going to run. So we returned to the hotel and the owner suggested we go to another hotel in town for dinner which we did. This hotel has a great view over the lake and and we were able to watch the sun go down as we had our first alcoholic drink in quite a few days! It was a very nice evening and we enjoyed the stroll back to the hotel even bumping into some young girls who wanted to talk to us and have photos with them.
We were then up at 4.30 the next morning and walked down to the Abu Simbel Temples arriving two minutes before they opened at 5am. We were the only ones there for the first hour and it was just stunning. These temples were originally lower down on the Nile River but when they dammed the river in the early sixties Unesco funded moving the temples up the hill to save them from going underwater and lost for ever. It was a massive task and an incredible engineering feat that only took four years. We spent two hours looking around at all the incredible rock carvings before heading back to the hotel for a shower and we hoped breakfast but no one was at reception or in the kitchen so we had to leave without breakfast and not having paid the bill.
Mohamed had called us and insisted we hurry or we would miss the ferry so Pauline and I walked as quickly as we could carrying our bags only to arrive to find that the buses and other vehicles had not even been loaded yet so we had an hours wait while this happened.
We jumped off the ferry and then caught a lift with one of the inter city buses once we left the ferry. The bus was full and it seems that the adults book a seat for themselves but not for their children who all sit on blankets in the aisles. The people on the bus were insisting we sit down even though the bus was full and wouldn’t take no for an answer and even insisted giving us a snack to eat.
Back at the border once again we hung out in the cafe reading and writing blog posts only to be told late in the day that the Carnet was all ready to go but that now the Egyptian Intelligence Service had this very day put a stop to any 4X4 vehicles from entering Egypt. The repercussions of this would mean us having to return through Sudan, something we didn’t feel safe doing so we decided firstly to press harder to get approval to drive through Egypt. This time though we decided that we would stay at the border and sleep in the car to keep in front of their faces and maybe gain a bit of sympathy.
We achieved this because all the staff who work at the border were very friendly and always asked how we were. One thing I have noticed is that probably 95% of men here smoke cigarettes and not just smoke but chain smoke. In the cafe at the border it is quite acceptable to smoke whether someone right beside you is eating or a child is right beside you. My lungs feel like I’m a smoker and my clothes stink so I am so glad that back in Australia we have such strict laws relating to where people can and can’t smoke. The fourth day dawned and again Mohamed came to us at around lunch time with the bad news that it would not happen today but did we have a vehicle tracking device fitted to our car which would help matters. Of course we do I said and showed him our Spot Tracker which technically is not a vehicle tracking device but more a personal tracking device. We took this to show the police who were suitably impressed but we would have to wait for the local Chief of police who was on the ferry coming to see us. So it looks like we go into a fourth night of the Land Cruiser being held at the border and us with it. I have at this stage sent off a request for help to the Australian Embassy in Cairo but phone signal down at the border is really bad so I haven’t been able to download emails that I know are there which is hugely annoying. Caught at the border with us were three men from Sudan and an Egyptian father and son who were also in four wheel drives and also patiently waiting for approval they however didn’t have a roof top tent so were sleeping on seats in the cafe.
The fifth day came and the story about the Police Chief being on the ferry was just that, a story and he didn’t appear. I managed to download the emails at 4.30am when everyone else was asleep thus giving me a better chance of success. There was an email from Amani at the Australian Embassy in Cairo but really there was not a lot they could do because this was an Egyptian Intelligence order and not something personal. For four days we lived and slept at the border while we waited for approval to take our vehicle into Egypt but it was looking very unlikely that we would be given the approval so we really had no choice other than to return to Sudan. This meant going up to Aswan in Egypt to get visas to return to Sudan as our original visas whilst still in date were just single entry.
To be continued😃.