Getting into Sudan proved to be more of a challenge than what we expected. We were greeted by a short, dark soldier with a very firm and final “no” and that seemed to be the end of it. To add injury to his insulting snub we had already been stamped out of Ethiopia and were therefore stuck on the unsightly bridge that makes up the No-Man’s-Land between the two countries.
Until now we have not had any real problems with border crossings because of our lack of Carnet, but it seems that in this part of the world you abide by the rules or you stay home (or in our case, you sit on a bridge in the sun). As the day progressed however Guillaume systematically smooth-talked his way up the ladder of military bureaucracy till finally he managed to get hold of someone with the power and willingness to help. As most who have met him knows, Guillaume has super-human powers when it comes to charming people, so who started out as tough, stern soldiers in the morning where by early afternoon extremely friendly and welcoming men, laughing and joking with him and even buying us coffee.
Eight hours after we were stopped at the gateway to Sudan we were given an official letter, unofficially replacing a Carnet (for free) and send on our merry way.
We were thoroughly impressed by the country initially: the difference between Sudan and Ethiopia (and also the rest of Southern – and Easter Africa) is immense and the landscape changes rapidly from the border onwards. Sadly, despite all the great stories we have heard from other travelers, Sudan does leave a bit of an eerie feeling with me. Possibly it’s all the rotting carcasses of cattle that is decorating the sights from the highway, or the long stretches of desiccated landscape, spoiled by plastic bottles and other human trash or maybe the Muslim influence and the fact that I am the only woman around not covered from head to toe and that I am asked really inappropriate questions by fat bearded men in broken English. That said Guillaume is being treated like a king and loving every moment of it!
Nonetheless, we are exhilarated to be here and supposedly the Nubian desert, the next obstacle we face, will provide more scenic pleasures so we decided that we’d rather get a move on instead of hanging around for too long and possibly running into trouble – we have no idea what is actually written on our unofficial but now official Carnet-substitute.
* السودان is Sudan.