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Old 28 Nov 2010
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conditions in southern Sudan

Hi all co-travellers,

This is a note to all interested to travel to Southern Sudan. In early November 2010 I travelled from Uganda to Khartoum. As you will know, there are political tensions as a referendum will be held in January 2011 about Southern Sudans independence. Anyone interested going to Soutern Sudan should inquire the safety before going. This remark is intended to be more than just a general disclaimer!! Southern Sudan is highly unstable and unpredictable...

Requirements:
a regular Sudanese visum – easy to get in Kampala (waypoint for embassy: N0 19.339 E32 34.651, also on T4A) and Gulu (N2 46.926 E32 18.017, not on T4A)
and a Southern Sudanese travel permit – probably available in Kampala, but also at the border (ca 100 Sudanese pounds plus 170 for road licence). I tried to get these permits in Gulu, but failed.

I decided to enter Sudan on the road via Arua and Yei, since the main road Gulu-Nimule-Juba was blocked by many trucks that got stuck in the mud (November 2010). Rainy seasons can be long in northern Uganda, so inquire before setting off.
From Wau, I took the road Wau-Abiyé-Naam-Kadugli. Alternatively, you could chose to travel Wau-Aweil. Perhaps other travellers could comment on that route?? I consulted locals and concluded that both roads are roughly equal. Drawback of my route is that it leads through an oil field with much police checkpoints.

1) In Gulu, I was unable to find a SPLA office to issue a southern sudan permit for me. However two independent people explained me that I would get it at the border… and this was true! I passed via a small border post between Arua and Yei. Borderpost is called Kaya.
2) Until Arua, there is a good tarred road. From Kampala, take the exit at Karuma even though that is not indicated on e.g. the Michelin map. Road between Arua and Yei: first 20 km’s after Arua (after you leave the tarmac) were a bit bumpy, but after that it was relatively OK. I did touch 4th gear… Road to border & Yei passes by Arua’s airstrip/airport.
3) Border is at 70 km after Arua in Kaya. Leaving Uganda is easy, entering Sudan also. Customs do not automatically stamp your carnet, but when you insist they will. In my case immigration stamped my carnet. Change money before the border, eg. in Arua where the rate is reasonable at Forexes. If you need more money at the border, there are boys sitting under umbrellas just left of the “rope” that marks the exit for the border area. However they are more expensive than the boys sitting back down the river between the Uganda exit and the Sudan immigration. There is a small restaurant where this boy is sitting.
4) After crossing the border, the road is hilly and on those hills running water has left some tracks in the road, but it’s ok. After 20 kms in a 90 degree turn to the right, there is another police checkpoint. They claim foreign vehicles have to pay another 50 pounds, but I have been told that the 170 at the border covers for that. However, I ended up paying USD 5.
5) Nice catholic mission at Moboro (2 kms after that police checkpoint), where you can camp. Catholic mission is at your right-hand side. From Moboro, the drive to Yei is easy, ca 30 kms. The central roundabout is to the left as soon as you hit the mainroad. I changed more money at KBC as this was better than at EquityBank.
6) Mainroad leads to Juba. First 80 kms was a smooth dirtroad, you driving approx 60 km/h or faster :-). Then ca 40 km bad road with loads of potholes, only occasionally out of 2nd gear. Then 40 km of slightly corrugated dirtroad, but a massive improvement from before. I camped at Nile Beach Camp (at T4A) for free.
7) Diesel in Juba is available… I think that Hass filling stations are quite OK, price was 2.50 Sudan pounds when I filled up. Not as cheap as in northern sudan though.
8) From Juba the Rumbek road is the airport road, but go west rather than east. Checkpoint at exit Juba: car search, but not too thorough. First 50 kms: heavily potholed – hardly out of 2nd gear, then 200 km good dirt road up to Mvolo (nice place to spend night as well). Serious but kind checkpoint at entrance Mvolo. Exit Mvolo by turning left at roundabout. Road gets narrower, and more potholed after ca 10 kms. Then horrible potholes for another 150 km to Rumbek. Slept behind police station in Lol (is however called differently here). Throughout the route: T4A indicates villages well, but road is not drawn after Mvolo. There are no possible mistakes, since there is just one road. However, leaving Mvolo you first go south (counter intuitively), but then the road makes a bend back north. Scenery is stunning… I’d love to bushcamp, except for the landmines here.
9) In Rumbek, please go to immigration office, which might be at the airport – I did not do this and had problems underway, because I did not get the immigration receipt from Rumbek immigration. I was dismissed by another immigration office at the checkpoint entering Rumbek.
10) The road from Rumbek to Wau: bumpy all the way. On some points, it is better, but this doesn’t stay good for long. Around villages it is mostly ok.
11) In Seibit: directly on your left after the checkpoint – go and register, and ask for a receipt or stamp (N7 00.734 E29 15.107).
12) In Wau I registered at the main police station and in the CID office (N7 41.801 E28 00.080). They were all very helpful! I even got a special letter explaining my transit and demanded all other checkpoints to release me.
13) You could camp at Wau River Lodge, just left after you enter the bridge. Many foreigners come here.
14) From Wau to Abiye – road is way better than before, but don’t believe everyone saying that it is a racing track… There are some seriously bad tracks, but yes… it is also possible to drive faster. And it is much better than Rumbek-Wau. Beginning of the Abiye-road is not easy to find, get to tarmac to airport road and go right before the airport fence. From there, go north for a while and turn right at a wide open area… after a kilometre you will find the Abiye road. Last bit on the Abiye road was very bad, and I assume that there is a newer road. However, I did not find it. In Abiye, register at main police station – all very friendly people.
15) From Abiye, the border is said to be not very far… however, I did not find any borderpost at all. The only thing I noticed is that suddenly the language got much more Arabic, and the uniforms changed into green. Instead of just looking at my GOSS travel permit, officials started to write in Arabic on the back of it. After many checkpoints, I found myself in Naam/Na’ama (?).
16) From Naam, the road got much better, so that you could speed a little, but don’t forget the not-so-good parts. You will pass the Heglig town, where you will turn left to Kadugli. However, Heglig is an oil-area with much checkpoints & control in town – so report to the police. Also, there are many police/army checkpoints on the way getting there and on your way to Kadugli. I got a letter/permit from the police that got me through much easier, although both army commander and police chief told me that the area is “very dangerous for foreigners, and there are many foreign spies!”. Draw your own conclusions…
17) Road to Kadugli is ca 200 km dirt road, some good parts, some bad. Even tough your GPS might say it is only 115 km as the crow flies. You hit the tarmac 50 kms north of Kadugli. From there it is less than 200 kms to El Obeid. From Heglig you will have a nice road up to a town called Karasana. Here, there is a “shortcut”, but it is very bumpy and narrow road. However, arriving back at the main road, you will find that it is bad as well. I don’t know whether the shortcut is worthwhile or not. The next town is Keilak – and from here, the road is gravelled rather than sandy. Although the potholes are still there, there are at least many diversions through the fields. Some are good, some are not. The last 20 kms to the tarmac are smooth though. And finally, you will hit the tarmac road at a T-junction, 50 kms north of Kadugli. Celebrate!!
18) And then… you will be in Khartoum – well done. There is a well-known but expensive campsite at the Blue Nile Sailing Club. It is nicely located in downtown Khartoum. Alternatively, you can try the Sudan National Camp Resort, ca 10 km southeast, on the road to Ehtiopia. Both are on T4A.

If/When Southern Sudan stabilises, I suppose that road conditions will improve drastically and more travellers could benefit from the endless hospitality and friendliness of the southerners…
Enjoy your trip.
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