January 23, 2010 GMT
Knock Knock

Now we are knocking on Sudan's door.

This morning we arrived at the ferry ticket office to find a couple of travellers already there who we had met previously in Cairo. A few minutes later two more couples appeared.
Mr Salah, the ticket manager, explained that the Tour D'Afrique has filled a ferry and vehicle barge, so there will now be two of each sailing for Sudan. He then dispatched us to the traffic court, followed by the police office.
"When all is done, return here. One ferry will depart tomorrow (Sunday), the other on Monday. When you come back I should know which ferry you will be on."
So our little band of three motorbikes and three overland trucks weave through the roads of Aswan to the traffic court, buried in the dirt-paved back-streets.

There, an impromptu courtroom had been set up on the pavement, two chairs and two high stools as tables. Obviously we were expected. We all handed over our passports and Egyptian driving licenses which were checked for dates, then photocopied at a kiosk across the road.

Itinerant travellers mill about outside the traffic court awaiting judgement.

Closer view of temporary court room, two officials examine the evidence

Then the court deliberated for an hour to determine if any of us had outstanding fines, which gave the local teahouse, bakery and supermarket plenty of time to sell us everything we needed for the wait, and for the ferry journey.
Two more overland trucks arrived to join us and we all received little certificates to say we hadn't misbehaved.

So then it was three motorbikes and five trucks that drove in convoy through more Aswan streets to the traffic police office, where our certificates, licenses and number plates were all exchanged for yet another piece of paper.

Lastly we all arrived back at Mr. Salah's office where we paid for our passenger tickets and he announced whose vehicles will be on the Sunday barge, and whose on Monday's.
And as far as I could work out, despite the unusually large number of foreign passengers, there is still only one passenger ferry, on Monday.
This was reinforced when he told Caroline, Beau and me (our bikes are on Sunday's barge) that a good way to reach the port on Monday is the 8:00am train from Aswan station direct to the dockside.
"The ferry doesn't depart until the afternoon, but if you leave it until noon to board you may find all the passenger space already occupied. Take the train and you'll be one of the first on board."

The total timescore for obtaining our tickets? A swift Egyptian four hours.

Now we are repacking, keeping with us everything we need for the next four days (the barges are regularly one or two days late arriving in Wadi Halfa, sometimes more), and stacking everything else on the bikes. The passenger ferry itself has a published 17-hour journey time, arriving late morning on Tuesday.
Tomorrow we have to be at the dockside at 10am for the purchase of vehicle tickets, customs clearance, passport clearance and loading.
Tentatively, Caroline asks how long that might take.
"Maybe one hour, maybe five hours. Customs is like a secret society, I never know how long they take!"

With luggage re-organied as much as we can for now, I venture into a barber shop next to our hotel (which, handily, is right outside the railway station). My last haircut was also with an Egyptian barber in Nuweiba, so I reckon I'm an expert with them now.
But no.
He has a TV on, showing Manchester United v Hull City. All double-dutch to me.
A friend of the barber comes in, who speaks pretty good English, and we go through the usual things about where you are from, where going, and so on.
So he asks which football team I support. My usual answer is just to say I live near Crystal Palace.
So he points to the TV screen and says "What do you think of @#*@*#?" (Name I didn't recognise).
I said as much and he looks surprised.
"Look!" he says again, finger pressing against the screen. "He's Egyptian! Plays for Hull! One of their best players!"
Oh dear....... I fail the International Football Test again - and this time in a barber shop!

The adventure continues.

Posted by Ken Thomas at January 23, 2010 07:04 PM GMT

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