Sudan: "land of the black" - Mysterious, friendly and fun

Sometimes I feel like we got it all wrong 
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I grew up in Denmark. There is much that you can complain about in Denmark. And people do. It's sort of a national sport to complain about stuff back home. When you lean back and see it all in a bigger perspective then I guess many of our complaints seem rather silly. And while others are legit it all becomes rather relative to the rest of the world. Denmark is a pretty good place to call home.
 
Sudan literally means "land of the black". It's a rather mysterious country with an extraordinary history and colorful culture. Until 2011 Sudan was the largest country in all of Africa. But South Sudan broke off and left Sudan to be the 3rd largest country in Africa and the 15th largest in the world. It's a huge country! You're unlikely to have heard about Sudan in connection to anything else than a region called Darfur. Darfur has been conflicted for a long while, but you can safely travel there if you take your precautions. I've been told that it's a beautiful part of the country. Anyway you should know that 75% of Sudan is not Darfur. You should also know that Sudan has 853 km (530 mi) of pristine coastline along the Red Sea. You know, that same Red Sea which tourists visit all the time to go snorkeling and diving. But in Sudan you get it pretty much unspoiled and all to yourself...because people don't know. You also have a small area of Sudan which contains more pyramids than what have been found throughout all of Egypt. But most people don't know that either... If you only take one thing away with you from what you read today then let it be this: the Sudanese are famed across the world for being amongst the most hospitable people on the planet - and I agee.
 
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I entered Sudan from Ethiopia which is known to be the highlands and most mountainous country in all of Africa. About here I'd like to remind you that Africa is that huge continent with 54 countries and that to go once around the continent would be equal to go once around the planet. Sudan is far less mountainous and I immediately felt the heat! But a minibus got me from the border and to Al Qadarif which is a very nice and very Arabic town about 2 hours from Ethiopia. That's where I spent my first night. 3 wheeled motorcycles (tuctucs) where a common sight and a tuctuc driver brought me to a pretty posh hotel. I thought he understood my simple Arabic instructions but obviously he didn't. So I asked around and quickly found a cheaper place which suited me fine. I then drank as much water as a thirsty camel.
 
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My first Sudanese dinner was great! But in reality you find a lot of Syrian and a Lebanese food too - which is also great!
 
In Sudan drinking water is available left and right. You can obviously buy it bottled but you can also simply help yourself to a cup of free water in most stores and on the streets. I really appreciated that as I walked about exploring Al Qadarif. I was feeling the heat as the sun set and prepared me for my first Sudanese night. And this wasn't even summer? What would the heat be like in the summertime? As the sun set people came out and the streets filled with life. The smell of the sizzling meat which was being prepared left and right filled the air. Sporadic fruit juice shops popped up as Al Qadarif came to life and I enjoyed a refreshing mixed juice while I took in the new culture. In some ways it felt like we were now coming full circle. We started in Morocco and now we were once again approaching Northern Africa. One of my heroes, Mohammad Ibn Battuta, is easily one of histories greatest travelers. He has such an interesting story which takes place when he was alive back in the 14th century. Ibn Battuta is recognized for traveling around 130,000 km (80,778 mi) on an incredible journey from Morocco to as far as Sri Lanka. I can hardly believe that I have now traveled much further than that without taking a single flight. In fact the distance we have covered throughout the Saga nears going halfway to the moon! No wonder I'm tired...
 
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Al Qadarif - charming at night. Less so under the sun ;)
 
You might recall I met Steve Felder of Maersk Line (www.maerskline.com) when I was in Nairobi, Kenya. He connected me to all his country managers throughout Eastern Africa and that has in fact been crucial to how far we have come. And it was through Maersk in Djibouti that I was introduced to David Hanse from BMMI (www.bmmigroup.com) who happens to manage a devision in Sudan called GSS. David happened to be in business in Sudan as I reached the capital city Khartoum. It might interest you that Khartoum is the very point where the Blue Nile runs into the White Nile and they both merge into the Nile, which runs all the way up to and through Egypt. Anyway, as soon as I reached Khartoum, David sent a driver to pick me from the bus and bring me to his office. I was quite exhausted which is something that had been building up for a while. So I was delighted to see David again and have lunch with him at the office. He then offered me to go to sleep for a few hours in an apartment on top of the office. I had a quick shower and then my lights went out. Later that evening David invited me to join him and some of the GSS (Global Sourcing and Supply) staff for dinner. We went out to a nice restaurant and had fresh fish from the Nile. Then we headed out to Davids expat apartment where I was given a room for the night.
 
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The crew at GSS (BMMI) in Khartoum. That's David in the pink shirt.
 
For the first few days in Khartoum I stayed at Davids apartment while I kept myself busy with talks at various schools and businesses throughout the capital. As per usual I was invited to meet with the staff and do a presentation at Maersk, and I finally got to meet the country manager Nadeem Ahmed, whom had been a massive help to me regarding obtaining my Sudanese visa. When David left to return to Djibouti I moved in with Hatem who is the HSE manager at GSS. Hatem is Egyptian and has studied law. And his Sudanese friend Marwan is a lawyer and quickly became my friend too. Also Per, who's a world traveler from USA/Denmark, was in town and we naturally had to meet. I had in fact gotten to know Per a year earlier when I met him in the Republic of Congo. So it was fun to meet again on Africas eastern side. Furthermore a Danish traveler I know from the Danish travelers club (DBK) was in Khartoum and we had a chance to meet for the first time. His name is Claus and he has visited 174 countries which beats Per's 170 :) 
 
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Can you imagine the conversations around this table?
 
Then Hatem and Marwan began working on a deal with Zain (www.zain.com) which is a network provider from Kuwait, which might be interested in providing the Saga with network coverage throughout the remaking adventures. Possibly even internet. How great would it be to get that from a company in Sudan? It would be like "in your face world" if you know what I mean? Sudan has been heavily sanctioned by the United States of America and as a result millions of ordinary Sudanese are struggling to have a normal life. The Obama administration lifted the sanctions towards the end of his term through a trial period where Sudan has to live up to certain goals. The Trump administration appears to be taking things in a different direction. What does this mean for you? Well, if you come to Sudan then you better bring lots of dollars because they like them here. And you won't be able to use your credit cards. If you are a foreign company operating in Sudan then you are prohibited from using USA software of any kind which is most of what we are used to using where I come from: Microsoft, Windows, Skype, Dropbox etc. These are not blocked off in any way and you can use them with ease. But you're not supposed to.
 
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3rd floor at Zain Sudan in Khartoum :)
 
I also dropped in on the Red Crescent who are doing a great job here in Sudan. And as it happens there is a delegate office from the Danish Red Cross here which is operated by Louise, whom I met in Kenya. So that is great!
 
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And I got a hug from Louise which means more to me than you'll ever know.
 
Then there has been the Eritrea predicament, which is sort of a silly political thing. Eritrea is an absolutely amazing country which boasts culture and history alongside its coastline to the Red Sea. Yes, this is the same Red Sea which has the same colorful aquarium fish as the one alongside Egypt and Sudan. In fact many Sudanese cross the border in and out of Eritrea every day so we know that the predicament isn't physical or geographical. It's political. There are many people with travel lust who simply cannot obtain their visa for Eritrea. The country is rather famed for this amongst travelers. It all becomes a little more complicated when you are not willing to fly. This is often because airports possess far more security than land borders and therefore you are often welcome to fly but not enter by land. The same applies for visa on arrival for many countries. 
 
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The Ahfad University for Women was founded in 1966, but the groundwork was laid down as early as 1907 with a secular school for girls.
 
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I had no idea how well my talk had gone until it was time for pictures :)
 
I have been in close contact with Tekeste in Eritrea who is well known for being helpful. In fact Tekeste and I have been in touch for about 6 months! I have also spoken to Carla who is an Italian tour operator in Sudan/Eritrea. And I have met with George who is somewhat of a legend amongst travelers who reach Khartoum. And I have spoken to a whole lot of other people to and I have read articles and I have.... well, it all kind of caught up with me. I fell sick and I needed sleep. I have been on a collision course for a long time now and I knew it. In fact I have been promising myself that once I reached Khartoum I would find a nice place and rest up for a few days. But that never happened. I have appeared as a public speaker on far more than 10 occasions in the short time I have spent in Sudan. So my stomach broke which I think is psychological more than anything else. And then I went to sleep for a very long time :)
 
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After the talk at GSS :) 
 
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Hanging out with the Hash group after my official initiation :)
 
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My first visit of two to KICS :)
 
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My friends at Maersk Line Sudan after the talk :)
 
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I did several talks at WNS and these cuties were the youngest :)
 
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I'm aware of several cities with beaches - but a Khartoum is the only one I know that has one in the middle?
 
Somewhere throughout all off this I have also managed to fit in 5-6 interviews and I went out on "the Hash" with some new friends. Remember that I told you that the Blue Nile meets the White Nile in Khartoum and forms the Nile? Well there is a small island in the middle of all of that called Tuti Island. "The Hash" actually originates from The Hash House Harriers and has been around for decades. It's a walk/run which is ideal for expats and locals alike. I was invited by Jessica who's a teacher at Khartoum International Community School (KICS). Great Stuff. That's where I met Mandy from Texas who works at White Nile School (WNS), which I also paid a visit. 
 
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In reality Khartoum isn't very pleading for the eye. The overall logistics are however good and there are plenty of restaurants and clubs.
 
The social media of the Saga keeps growing and I'm just about my limit for what I can handle. There is truly a lot of activity, comments, questions and more. I grew up in a village with about 1,200 people and my school had about 325 students. So these numbers are quite impressive to me:
 
Facebook: 16,858
Instagram: 9,730
Twitter: 2,099
YouTube: 1,389
Blog: 699
 
Surely some of you follow more than 1 of the above and I would personally be following a combinations of the blog and Instagram if you were doing the Saga and I was comfortable back home. But I'm not back home and I haven't seen home since 2013. There is no way around it: I chose this upon myself. But I sincerely believe that in these times of fear and doubt the Saga is more vital than ever. We cannot go on believing the world is on fire and that our neighbors are our enemies. We must be aware that people are just people and that in Sudan people take selfies too.
 
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How cool is this!!
 
I'm only going to do this once...and as long as we circle the sun I promise that I will do it right the first time! ;)
 
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Thank goodness for VoIP calls :)
 
While I'm feeling more rested now and ready to "fight" again I can briefly mention that I have spotted a few angles to enter Eritrea legally so I feel like we are going to be fine. And something which might have you smiling is the very fact that my one of a kind fiancée has booked a flight to come and see me in Khartoum ;)
 
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Happy belated Valentine's Day from me and the kids at WNS :)

 

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - happy to be in Sudan
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Lost passport, friendship, volcanos and other planets! (Ethiopia to Sudan)

A stranger is a friend you've never met before
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That stranger attitude proved mighty efficient in what should have been described throughout last weeks blog. And by the way: Sorry for not posting a blog last week. Life on the Saga has been quite hectic for a while which you're soon about to see. And when you combine that with near hopeless internet connections and a lack of sleep...well...
 
So if you're not up to date on the Saga then we had reached 124 countries all without flying or returning home. No cheating here. It has been quite an adventure and last week I had just left Djibouti in Eastern Africa and entered Ethiopia once again. Ethiopia was country number 122 before we entered Somalia and Djibouti. Now Ethiopia was basically a transit country in order for us to reach Sudan. But something went wrong!
 
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Sharing fresh groundnuts with the guy next to me in the bus.
 
I reached Addis Ababa...well tired after a very long journey from Djibouti! I somehow summoned the strength to head over to the booking offices where I secured a ticket for onward travel to Mekele in the north of Ethiopia. After I paid for the ticket I checked my pocket and noticed that my passport was MISSING?!? I then immediately checked EVERYTHING! You know how you don't panic immediately, while you just hope that whatever you've lost for some odd reason is in another pocket or on the floor behind you? It wasn't with me!!! This was a first for the Saga!! Something which had never happened before! I have never ever lost my passport! Horrific!
 
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The idyllic sight of corn being harvested was visible for several hours. I hear that khat is replacing corn for more and more farmers.
 
Where could I have lost it? I had no idea? Come on Thor! Think about it. Wake up. Rational thinking: My passport had to be in Ethiopia or else I wouldn't have been! I remembered taking it out of my pocket at a checkpoint between the Djibouti border and Dire Dawa in East Ethiopia. I also remember showing it to a guy in the bus. His name was Said. Said is from Djibouti and was traveling with his mother, planing to stay 2 weeks in Dire Dawa. When the bus reached Dire Dawa Said and I had already become friends and he showed me a hotel nearby the terminal. I was so tired that I could barely stand. I then said farewell to Said and checked in. That night I barely managed to get something to eat and brush my teeth before the alarm rang and it was 03:30am. Time to get up...I left the hotel after checking my room for forgotten items. That is a routine I have developed long ago. It was dark outside. A tuctuc (Bajaj) got me to the bus and 11 hours later I was in Addis Ababa...
 
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I don't like coffee. But in Ethiopia I do.
 
Was there any way my passport could have been at the hotel in Dire Dawa? What was the name of the hotel? I had no receipt? But really?!? I don't remember giving the hotel my passport? It was more likely that it would be in the bus!! Oh no? I hope not! If that was the case then I would never see it again. My brain was in pain and I'm sure smoke was rising from my head. I could find a way to manage without the passport. There's a Danish diplomatic mission in Ethiopia, which can issue a new passport for me. It would be difficult, but possible. However I could not do without the SUDANESE VISA in my passport! I felt like crying. Why this? Why now?!?
 
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Njera is the stable food of Ethiopians.
 
In Addis Ababa a guy named Mitiku was trying to help me at the booking office, where I had just bought my onward ticket for Mekele. Mituku thought I might have lost the passport in the bus from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa. I didn't believe that was plausible, but he worked on that for 45 minutes until he confirmed it wasn't the case. Then he helped me for about an hour as we tried to work out which hotel it could have stayed at? We googled photos of hotels. Mission impossible! Dire Dawa has tons of hotels. Meanwhile I was trying to contact Said! Said and I had exchanged contact details, but knowing he was from Djibouti he might not be reachable for the 2 weeks he was going to be in Ethiopia? I tried to add him on FB, I sent him a WhatsApp message and I called his Djibouti number several times. COME ON SAID!! I finally decided to return my ticket to Mekele and bought another one to return to Dire Dawa - 11 hours in the wrong direction! And with no real lead other than "hopefully I could find the hotel"? That was a heavy decision, but it also had to be the right one.
 
(There are 2 daily flights from Addis to and from Dire Dawa - just to add to the pain).
 
While in the metro, on my way to my host family in Addis Ababa, my phone suddenly rang. IT WAS SAID!! I told him what was going on and he gave me the name of the hotel (Garany). But furthermore he quickly made his way to the hotel and soon called me back: "I've got your passport!" YES!! Way to go Said! We then tried to decide what was better: 1) send it to Addis Ababa? or 2) I would return and collect it? Although far less elegant we decided I should return. After all, it's my passport and too valuable.
 
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I'm not fond of extra transportation. Backtracking falls into that category in a very real and uninteresting way. At this point of the Saga we have covered more than 160,000km (100,000mi) which at times feels like enough. But here I was adding another 11 hour bus ride to the fun. When I reached Dire Dawa I was told that all the busses back to Addis Ababa were booked out for the following day. "Sorry, do you want a ticket for Tuesday?" No I did not want a ticket for Tuesday thank you very much. I wanted to get my passport, go to sleep and leave the next day. So this nice guy behind the counter told me to come by the terminal around 04:30am the next morning and we would try to sort something out... I have friends with children. These friends are severely sleep deprived. I wonder if there is any comparison?
 
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Hoping to get a seat in the bus.
 
I got up at 04:00am and it all worked out. I think I got the stewards seat? It went for the same rate as a normal ticket and 12 hours later the bus rolled into Addis Ababa again. As tired as I could be I still headed over to secure an onward ticket to Mekele. But I had arrived too late - the offices were all closed. I then met up with Michele whom I had first met in Djibouti. Michele is quite the adventurous Italian who takes great photos and had an encounter with a bear (yes!) in his small hometown village. This is how he found himself in the Swiss newspaper "20min", which just so happened to be the same issue as the Saga was featured in. Small world? Anyway, we had a good time in Djibouti and since we were both in Addis Ababa now, we met up again and enjoyed some well deserved Ethiopian beer!
 
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Then I got on the metro again. An hour later I had returned to my "Ethiopian family" just outside Addis. I was well received like the many times before, I was well fed like every other time and I slept like a baby...until 03:45am when the alarm rang. A taxi brought me to Meskel Square where the busses leave from - I secured a last minute ticket to Mekele and then an 18 hour bus ride began.
 
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I cannot describe how amazing these 2 are. It is extraordinary!!
 
The bus broke down twice which surprised me. In Western Africa every vehicle broke down at least once during transport. But I honestly can't remember the last time a bus broke down? Africa is a vast continent and I cannot stress enough how much diversity it contains. There is very little resemblance from one area to the next. And development would surprise most people I think. But we did break down...twice.
 
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I had this fellow staring at me for a good time.
 
Mekele looks like a very fine town and I would have loved to explore it further. But I arrived late and had book a 4 day tour through http://www.ethiotravelandtours.com (E.T.T). It's highly recommendable! Prices for the 4 days start at $600 but can be negotiated. It's way out of my $20/day budget, but I had to see this! Erta Ale is a highly active volcano which you can walk straight up to and see the bubbling lava lake. Then there were the salt flats, the Afar tribes, the Danakil Depression and the other worldly sulphuric lakes. This isn't your average stuff! My visa for Ethiopia was running on its last few days before it would expire - but I had time for this (however not the money). Ethiopia holds so many mysterious and wonderful sights. I didn't get to go to Axum, to Lalibella or to a number of other places. But I did get this 4 day tour. As I mentioned it was late when I reached Mekele. I found a cheap bed, some street food and went to bed.
 
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Team 6!
 
The next morning I met up with E.T.T. and they teamed me up with Mike and Sara from Ireland. They both quit their jobs to go and travel the world and I might actually run into them later on in Asia? We were also teamed up with Tim from the Netherlands, a scientist who specializes in nutrition. Our driver was Bela from Ethiopia who used to work for the UN and together the 5 of us formed team 6. This was the best team out of 10 vehicles. It's true! The best. Really amazing and with a YUUUGE impact. But no walls what so ever.
 
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I see why so many people fall in love with Ethiopia. It truly is an extraordinary country which has an abundance to offer all its visitors. And I believe I'll return some day with my future family - because they need to know. Team 6 and the other 9 vehicles were a bit unlucky with Erta Ale. Now, Ethiopia isn't the only place in the world where you can stare into an active volcano. Hawaii, Nicaragua and DR Congo are in the same category. But that wasn't where we were. Erta Ale was erupting which made it more dangerous. Not really dangerous though. But we couldn't go to the edge, because the sides had collapsed and fallen into the fierce volcano. Interestingly enough a completely new lava lake had formed not far away. So new that it is yet to be given a name.
 
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Not really my style. But if you're first out of the vehicle you can get a photo without people in it.
 
We drove on a superb road from Mekele towards the Danakil. Then we turned off onto some less favorable roads and finally ended up walking for several hours in the dark across lava stone.
 
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The brittle fresh lava stone was sharp as a razor blade.
 
Eventually we reached only 6 day old lava stone which is rather brittle and "crunches" when you walk on it. It very much feels like you could break through at any time. And sometimes we would. But we never dropped more than knee deep. At one point we were completely engulfed in toxic fumes which had us all coughing, our eyes running and our throats sore. That went in for ours. Tim reminded me of a story he had heard, where entire groups died from volcanic fumes. Thank you Tim ;) We had police and military escort along with the group. They advised us to stop about 500m (1,500ft) from the lava lake.
 
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It was a little more clear with the naked eye.
 
So we did get to see it, but from quite a distance. 40 minutes later we were walking again and went to sleep on the volcano around 2am. Fortunately with less fumes and with a lot of harsh wind. A few hours later we woke up to make our way back down again. It was quite the adventure - but debatable worthwhile the hassle.
 
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Michele felt sorry for me so he edited me in on his own photo from weeks before :) 
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The days went on and we saw "it all". It's a rather good tour and E.T.T. do a great job out of coordinating it. The volcano part of the trip will fall into place again once Erta Ale settles down a bit.
 
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An Afar village. Nomadic people.
 
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Mining for salt. You won't believe the heat!!
 
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On our 4th day team 6 and everyone else returned to Mekele. We had a good nights rest and the next morning Tim and I were on our way again. Sara and Mike stayed behind in Mekele for a few more days. Tim and I had secured a ride with one of E.T.T.'s vehicles, which was on its way to Lalibella presumably to pick up some guests. That would bring me almost halfway to Gondar from where I could reach the Sudanese border. When we reached the turnoff to Lalibella Tim and I parted. But I think we'll meet again someday in the Netherlands.
 
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I continued in another 4WD until I got in a minibus which lead me to another minibus and 15 hours later I was in Gondar. Gondar is famously known for several sights including its castle. But I was out of time. I had a sandwich from the street, found a place to sleep and the next morning I was with another minibus heading to the Sudanese border.
 
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One of these cuties is the daughter of the immigration officer.
 
It had been a bit of a hassle to obtain the Sudanese visa, but now that I had it crossing the border was easy. Farewell Ethiopia and hello Sudan. Out of Eastern Africa and back into Northern Africa. We haven't been in Northern Africa since April 2015 and now we are coming full circle.
 
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I couldn't believe the heat in Sudan!! The cool breeze of Ethiopian mountain air stood in contrast to the Sudanese lowlands. And it's winter in Sudan right now!! Once in Sudan I immediately continued towards Al Qadarif to spend the night there. I minibus brought me and if you are ever to copy that then make sure you bring plenty of water. I was dehydrating rapidly. Looking through the window I could see the landscape passing by. It was mostly farmland with endless fields of dry looking crops. It looked like corn. Truly endless on both sides of the road. This must surely be able to feed a lot of people? Once in a while I would spot a green John Deere harvester. I wish I had a photo of the modern harvester I saw parked next to a group of traditional round huts. The world is truly contrasted...
 
That was a rather long blog. I hope you enjoyed it. We are now facing some serious challenges regarding our next country, which is Eritrea. It's a rather secluded country which is notorious for keeping its visas close to the body. But frequently travelers obtain their visas and fly in. Going overland adds to the difficulty so this will be interesting.
 
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I'll leave you with this: No matter where I have gone or whom I have met, I have gathered no evidence which contradicts that; people are just people. And here we are inside country number 125. Welcome to Sudan.
 

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - feeling the progress
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga
 
 
 
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Farewell Djibouti - hello again Ethiopia

Progress at last!

Out of country no 124, back to no 122 on the way to no 125.
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I finally managed to get my visa for Sudan. So that was great. But before that I met Michele from Italy.
 
Michele and I were in the same issue of the Swiss newspaper 20 minuten: 
 
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Now Michele was in Djibouti and reached out with an invitation to break bread at a table of fine cuisine. As it turned out Michele wasn't traveling alone. His Ukrainian friend (living in Sweden) was there too, Mykhaylo. They were both Couchsurfing at Kajsa's place. Kajsa is from Sweden and is working for the EU in Djibouti. Kajsa incidentally lives with Amira from Egypt who works for UNHCR. So there we were...all 5 of us, with as much nationalities between us as possible :)
 
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That is Michele on the left and Mykhaylo in the center.
 
We had a nice dinner and towards the end Kajsa was organizing a boat trip for the following day, where those who wanted could hope to go swimming with whale sharks! It was towards the end of the season for the massive but friendly fish, so it was pretty much last call! I had been trying to go for 2 weeks, but couldn't get on a tour so this was perfect! Kajsa and Amira had to go to work the next day and couldn't join. But a Greek traveler named Petros joined in and added another nationality. So we were now 4.
 
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The 4 of us met up the next morning at the port. A guy coordinated which captain would take us in his little speedboat and off we went. We didn't see any whale sharks and we were struggling a bit with the language barrier between us and the captain. At one point we thought the captain might have been trying to rip us off. But in the end I think it was just a misunderstanding. We cruised around for a while in the area where they are commonly seen but nothing. 

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This photo does no justice to reality. It was beautiful!!

Then we proceeded to go snorkeling on a magnificent reef which completely blew me away. My initial disappointment about not seeing whale sharks was soon forgotten as I laid there in the surface starring down into this alien world full of life and color. I've done a bit of diving on the past, but I often enjoy snorkeling on a good reef over gearing up and heading further down.
 
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A lot of the in and out of water photos are credited to Michele and his GoPro.
 
As we later on blasted our way against the wind, back to Djibouti City, Mykhaylo rightfully observed that it had been a great day in great company with lots of beautiful views to behold. And that it had been.
 
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It was only now that I could finally turn my head in all directions without feeling any pain. The bus ride which caused the pain had really had a prolonged grip on me. But finally I was released. And my health had likewise returned. All I needed was the visa for Sudan so I could move forward - but it was getting complicated. Fortunately I have some good friends within Maersk (www.maerskline.com) and Mohammed, the country manager of Djibouti is a well connected man. Through his connection to the Dean of Ambassadors in Djibouti aka the Ambassador of Palestine aka H.E. Kamel Qazzaz set up a quick meeting with me. He's a really great guy! Unfortunately we hit another weekend - but after the weekend the Ambassador arranged for a meeting for me and the Consular of Sudan. That quickly untangled the "visa predicament" and I was promised my visa by the end of the week.
 
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I'd recommend the budget traveler to check out Kadar at Hotel Horseed. It's pretty much as good as it gets if you're not a millionaire. Single room at $35 and double for $40. Great service and location.
 
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Before Mykhaylo left he gave me lunch for two days which he bought in Sweden :)
 
Amira and Kajsa now invited me in to stay at their place which I happily accepted. They are two great women and I quickly felt at home in their apartment at the sea.
 
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To my regret I didn't get a photo with Amira and Kajsa. Next time :)
 
Somewhere along the line Mohammed (Maersk) introduced me to David Hanse who's the Managing Director of BMMI in Djibouti (www.bmmigroup.com). BMMI is a multinational cooperation which handles logistics and storage of food and beverages - among other things. The office in Djiboiti is especially tied up with relief and there's even a frozen warehouse which keeps temperatures of -18c to -22c. That's a real contrast to the Djibouti weather! I showed up as a public speaker and made a lot of new friends :)
 
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The days went on and we finally reached the end of the week when the Sudanese embassy called and told me I could collect my passport. Leaving Djibouti without flying is easier said than done. But naturally it's doable. There simply isn't much info on how to do it. A taxi will get you to Balbala from where you'll find busses leaving at night towards the Ethiopian border. My bus reached the border around midnight. In fact it stopped 5km (3mi) before the border as it turned out we would be sleeping there? Just go with the flow...I rented a floor mat for 100 Djibouti franc ($0.50). I brought out my sleeping bag and slept for about 5 hours under the stars. Or well, I guess I didn't really get that much sleep as the mosquitos found me and made the night miserable.
 
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In spite of 2 inaugurations the train still wasn't ready for passengers when I left.
 
At around 06:00am the bus left to bring us the remaining 5km to the border. A man (from immigration I presume) came to our bus to collect all our passports. Collective passport control? I've never tried that before? After about 30 minutes the immigration had to see me...I guess as I was the only foreigner. He asked a few basic questions and stamped my passport. Then the bus continued to the Ethiopian side where the trip ended. In Ethiopia we each signed in at immigration individually. A bus from there brought us to Dire Dawa where we arrived towards the evening. 
 
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It's a beautiful country of extremes which makes you check reality ;)
 
Meanwhile I had made friends with Said from Djibouti who was traveling with his mother. Said is a clever fellow who studies at the university of Djibouti. He speaks English, French, Somali, Amharic and probably something other than that as well. Our friendship would turn out to be much more valuable than I realized. But that's a blog for next week.
 
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The Sudanese visa cost 10,000 Djibouti franc ($56)
 
Before Said and I parted he refered me to a nearby hotel just around the corner from where the bus stopped. I was basically a zombie and needed sleep. I managed dinner and brushed my teeth. A few hours later the alarm rang: it was 03:30am - time to get up. I secured the very last available seat for the bus heading to Addis Ababa. And 11 hours later a really tired traveler stepped out of the bus...
 
That's all for this blog. Thank you for your support and please leave a comment if you're in the mood ;)

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - needs more sleep!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Once Upon a Saga
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