Egypt pt. 3: The border crossing that seemed never to end

When writing this we have already spent about ten days in Sudan, crossing the desert to get to Khartoum. In terms of water and food supply we have been just fine, but as you might understand, wifi hotspots are quite rare around here. Therefore I’m going to start where I left you last time, when we where still in Egypt, struggling to get out of the country and enter Sudan – which showed to be a bigger mission than we first thought. 

Wednesday the 22th of October Sam and I left Aswan and set off towards the desert. We were fully loaded with loads of food and about 20 liters of water. To being able to start just after the sunrise the following morning, we cycled out of town in the late afternoon and camped in the desert. The plan was to try cycling to the sudanese border, by taking the 300 km long desert road to a village called Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel is located just by Lake Nasser (in Sudan it’s named Lake Nubia), a big artificial lake that you have to cross to get to the sudanese border. Tom, who was not particularly keen on cycling with the police escort that we most probably were going to get, had decided to get bus to the border instead. So he stayed in Aswan for a couple of days and was about to meet us up at the border crossing.

It felt incredibly good to be on the bike again after the break in Aswan. Finally some peaceful and quiet cycling without being followed by a police car! But the lovely sensation of freedom was not to last for long. After about one hour we passed a police check point and got stopped. We tried hard to convince the policemen that we would be perfectly fine cycling to through the desert by ourselves. But it was completely pointless. All we got was bread and tea, and about 20 selfie shots with me and each one of the policemen. Then they gave us and our bikes a free lift to Abu Simbel with a police convoy. The planned three day tour took us therefore about three hours. We were a bit disappointed to not being able to cycle, but what was even more disappointing was to realize that we had to wait two more days in Abu Simbel for the next boat to take us over the lake so that we could get to the border. But there are things to see in the village. Like the ancient tempel with the four huge statues of Ramses the second and his friends. And accidentally we managed to arrive just in time for the bi-annual sun festival that takes place every six months, when the sun is in the right position to enlighten the forth of statues inside the tempel. This is celebrated with a big parade, and dancers and musicians come from the whole country to perform during the festival. So after all we had a great time there, checking out the temple and listening to the nubian music the whole night.  

Two days later we took the boat over the lake Nasser in the early morning. Empowered by some coffee and cold Coka-Cola from a smiling sudanese truck driver we cycled to the border station. We arrived just in time for the mid-day heat. The border station was a pretty messy and crowded place. There were people everywhere. Some were standing in unorganized lines in front of the main building, waving with their passports and shouting to get their stamps. Others were sitting on the ground next to big piles of oversized luggage. People seemed to try bringing almost anything over the border: washing machines, bags of potatoes, kettles… We started wondering how we would manage to find Tom in the crowd. But fortunately his 200 centimeters helped us out. 

At this point we definitely thought it was time to cross the border and enter Sudan. But we would have to wait a little bit more. Actually two more days since we were sent back to Aswan to apply for the visa one more time. Remember I wrote in the last blog post that getting the visa was quick and easy? Well, the reason was that we didn’t really get the actual visa at that moment. We all feel slightly embarrassed to admit this, but we left the consulate without any sticker in our passports, but with a ticket proving that we had paid and done the application. We asked the staff at the consulate if that was the visa and they confirmed that ”yes, finished, finished”. Since we had read from other tourists who have done the application that they usually keep the passports at the consulate until the visa is issued. As the staff also gave a helpful and polite impression we sort of convinced ourselves that everything was fine. And why would they otherwise give us the passports back? It seems quite naive and stupid, but right there I was thinking that it would be sorted out at the border. That we would show our tickets and get the visa sticker there. I mean, we could not have done this whole process to be sent back to the consulate in Aswan? Well, apparently yes. 

So we simply left the bikes at the police check point at the border and jumped on a bus back to Aswan. Two days and plenty of spent egyptian pounds later we were back again, more excited than ever to cross that border. And this time we were more sucessful!