February 15, 2010 GMT
Playing Khartoum

Still in Khartoum. Very nice place. And the prophesy of Beau riding his drum kit across the Sahara has come true.

About five days ago, Hiula and Eva arrived on their bicycles. Hiula is from Mexico City, and his girlfriend, Eva, is from Germany.
We camped with them in the desert on our first night out from Wadi Halfa.
Well, it seems that the 'Hiula And Beau Duo' was formed that night, in the Sudanese Sahara.

Although some bad news first.
The route from Dongola to here includes a couple of long desert crossings, and to be able to carry enough water on his bicycle, Hiula had to sell one of his drums.
But never mind, he still has his best drums, as well as his didgeridoo, a flute, and, a secret kept till now, a cow bell complete with foot-pedal.

Now the Sailing Club here is a very active and busy social club for local people. Many of them workers from the government buildings that fill this part of Khartoum. Members arrive at about dusk and the place fills with locals partaking of Sudanese coffee and hubble bubble pipes, seated all around and amongst our tents. The few staff hurry from group to group with trays of coffee pots and baskets of glowing charcoal embers. The baskets are whirled on the ends of chain handles to get the embers sparkling and crackling, then deposited at each table with a pair of tongs for feeding the burning charcoal into the hubble bubble pipes.
Most of the evening the air is filled with the pungent aromas of the wide variety of charcoal scents available, strawberry and mint seeming to be the popular choices. Accompanying that, long bursts of racous laughter invade the darkness from the crowded tables.
I know nothing about the Sudanese sense of humour, nor Khartoum jokes, but when a table-full of locals gets laughing, it goes on and on and on. No alcohol required.
The men are almost universally dressed in the standard white robes, the women in fairly 'liberal' and very colourful head-to-toe Moslem robes and headscarves.

So a warm night at the Blue Nile Sailing Club found Hiula, Eva, Beau and Caroline in an impromptu acoustic session on the steps that lead down to the water's edge and the yachts. Beau playing his hand drum and finger cymbals acquired in Aswan.
Also within earshot was Amin, a member of the sailing club and a sort of road manager for a popular Khartoum band.

"Hey!" says Amin. "There's a wedding going on in the suburbs." (Moslem wedding celebrations take place over several days).
"My band's playing there, you could all come along and join in!"

And so we did.
First, we were invited into the home of one of the musicians.

Pre-party lunch. Two band-members, and Hiula, Eva, Beau, Caroline and photographer (me) tuck in to the spread.

Then, out onto the street where the band would play, and where seats were waiting for us.
But no!
All stand up again! We must go to the home of the mother of one of the band's guitarists, where more refreshments have been laid on.
Fed to bursting, we are escorted back to our seats, in amongst, it seems, all the children who all want their hands shaken. And the band plays.

And Beau and Hiula are invited/instructed to help the percussion section. (Amin had given strict instructions to bring their instruments along).

Hiula (seated), Beau, and Amin (lilac shirt) set the rhythm going.

And the children move in closer.

Beau switches to finger cymbals.

The kids on the Khartoum block.

It was a great evening, capped by the ride back to the sailing club (quite a long drive, we were way out in the north-eastern suburbs) in a 1960s Morris Minor for Beau and Hiula, driven by one of the band's guitarists.
(Caroline, Eva and I were in a taxi organised by Amin. The driver took us there, partook of the celebrations and then drove us back).

But there was more, Amin explained.
The Costa restaurant in central Khartoum (which I had already tried, as had Hiula and Eva) holds a talent show every Sunday - "And you're on the Bill!" he says.

The Costa restaurant, Khartoum. Another British traveller at the Sailing Club is up on stage first.

Hiula and Beau play Khartoum.

Their rhythm captures the audience.

And things warm up nicely.

The following act.
The Hiula And Beau Duo were in GOOD company!.

And who'd have thought it?? Come the time to announce the winners - and Amin is one of the judges!
The winner was a very popular smart rapper, who gave a performance full of emotion about his love for Sudan and a plea to sort out the troubles in the South. His acceptance speech revealed more of his passion to find a solution and I thought he would do well, maybe, to get into Sudanese politics as well as music.
But I don't know, because one thing is for sure, Sudan is a complicated country.

But another great day in Khartoum. Little wonder we are still here.

Yesterday afternoon before the talent show Amin whisked Beau off to the Khartoum College of Music and Drama where another band was studying and rehearsing. They were pleased to see him, took part in Beau's impromptu workshop, with the band's drummer finally asking Beau for a private lesson today!

All that was yesterday, and Beau is now waiting to hear from Amin if he has been successful in organising a jamming concert at the Sailing Club for tonight! It seems quite a few local musicians were keen on the idea.
So when we will leave, we do not know. But we have crossed the Sahara, and Beau has indeed ridden his drums!

And on to more boring news.
Caroline decided it's time to fix the carburetor on her bike before the mountains of Ethiopia. So commenced the removal of same.
I'd heard of a Yamaha dealer in Omdurman, the large city, larger than Khartoum, just across the Nile. I had the GPS position so went off and found it.
It was a large-ish smart car showroom, done out in Yamaha livery and logos, with two Toyota cars and three 100cc Yamaha bikes on the showroom floor.
And no parts department.
That was buried deep in the southern Khartoum suburbs. And probably not worth visiting I thought, with only one model of bike on sale.
But I took a different route back to the sailing club over one of Khartoum's other bridges. On the way I found myself in the motorbike-repair-shop area, 8 or 10 shops in a row and dozens of bikes outside being worked on.
Anyone who remembers Pride and Clarke will get the idea, but set in Africa, not Stockwell.

Back at the campsite I collected the main jet from Caroline's carb and returned to the repair shops. There I joined some of the shop owners in rummaging through their boxes of carburetor parts which contained quite a few jets of the same fitment. But nearly all too small, for much smaller bikes.
But we found a 97.5 (the jet in Caroline's carb is 115, I thought maybe 100 or 105 would be worth a try), and another with no size stamped on it (one of many), that on visual inspection looked a possible candidate.
Twenty five pence for the two.
Well, the unsized jet on a closer look is probably bigger than the 115, so Caroline's Serow now has the 97.5 fitted and seems to run pretty well around town. The test will be up in the mountains. So we wait for Ethiopia.

When we can extract ourselves from Khartoum, that is.

Posted by Ken Thomas at February 15, 2010 09:38 AM GMT

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