26 – 900 kilometres across Sudan
Wed 23rd Dec, South Kodorfan Hotel, Kadogli
Here I am traveling alone again. Kang took a flight to Addis, maybe our paths will cross again in Ethiopia. Ben went off to Wad Medani, somewhere just southeast of Khartoum. Hany still back at the hotel. Oh yes, Hany… Every night, Hany the cheerful Egyptian from next door, who speaks good English will come over to our room and and the four of us (them mostly!) will talk stuff, from travel, our countries, politics.
I was up at 5am, took no chances and decided to flag a cab to Mina Bary (Khartoum’s Land Transport Terminal, 10 SDP). It was less chaotic in the morning, but nevertheless just as confusing. Fortunately I came here yesterday so I got my bearings easily.
The bus for El-Obeid (I took Al-Manakhil Express) finally left the terminal at 9am. I had really little leg room; the ‘helpful’ guy from the ticket counter chucked my bag in front of my seat, whether for security or because there were so much other big luggage. Two movies later, “bus service” which was just a packet of cake and a soft drink this time and 7 hours later, I reached El-Obeid. Oh, about the travel permit, I was not checked even once during the journey. There were a few police checkpoints, but the bus went through without a hitch. For town-to-town travel on public transport, as per previous buses / minibuses, my name was written down on a roster, presumably to be given at the police checkpoint. I think it could be because the fellow at the ticketing counter wrote my name down in arabic, so it “blends in” with the other names on the bus. =)
In El-Obeid, I inquired about onward travel to Kadogli on the same day, and a helpful local from back on the bus sent me packing in a cab to another bus station with buses bound for Kadogli (15 SDP). I don’t really understand Sudanese cabs, I think they overcharge the foreigners, but even when I ask hotel staff cab prices (to get a more accurate fare), the fares they quote are similar to what I have been paying. Unsual, because a 5km cab ride is 10-15 SDP, and a 300km bus ride is just double that.
On reaching the bus terminal, I asked for Kadogli buses and was ushered into a car. Yes, a car (30 SDP). It was only 15 minutes later that I found out there was some illegal vehicle sharing activity going on. This was when the driver kept driving around in circles. He tells me this is to avoid the police. At one point he even sped away to the highway before uturning back when a couple of cops were nearby. And there were a few cars hanging around the terminal with this “service”. A few posts back, I remarked on how expensive Sudan coach fares were. And now, out here, far from Khartoum, I now see how this can be exploited. When the car filled up (4 people, so thats 120 SDP), we departed. It was not even the driver who in the end made the journey. Another designated driver took the wheels. I didn’t get a chance to find out the cost of the bus, or even if there was a bus at 5pm to Kadolgi for that matter. But based on the distance, 30 SDP sounds about right. Anyway, it was much more comfortable traveling by car in the front passenger seat. Plus, going at 120 km/h, we reached Kadogli in 3+ hours instead of the 5 hours stipulated in LP.
By then it was around 9pm and I was hungry enough I could eat a cow. Sitting in a vehicle all day can be exahusting, but I was glad to make Kadogli in one day. Found the South Kodorfan Lokanda (10 SDP for dorm), and the owner kindly put me in an empty room with 4 beds to myself. The other occupants in the lokanda were all Sudanese, and it feels i’m the only tourist far out here off-the beaten path.
Put my things down, went out nearby and had some fuul and berde. That’s stewed beans (you know, the foule medames off NTUC shelves, and scrambled eggs.) By 10 o’clock, my things still unpacked, I was asleep.