Eventually we were back on the road and scorching hot road at that. It was 42°C in Wadi Halfa and would hit highs of 47°C as we travelled south towards Dongola. In true Cycle2Kenya style we didn’t prepare for this very well. We stocked up on water in Wadi Halfa expecting a 60km stretch before the next town. This actually turned out to be a 100km stretch and we found ourselves woefully short on water. Thankfully after about 80km, absolutely gagging, we managed to get some water from a couple of locals camped out in the desert. We still couldn’t drink this for 30mins as we waited for the sterilising tablets to work their magic, But we could finally throw caution to the wind and gulp down the remains of our rationed supplies.
This first stretch of desert is not as sandy as you would imagine and has lots of rocky outcrops that the road winds through. Although you rarely ever see it, the roads tracks fairly close to the Nile river. At night, with a slight breeze and clear skies, it is fantastic to simply throw down a tarp and lie under the stars. On the other hand, the days are pretty brutal. From 11-3 we simply had to stop riding and get out of the sun as the heat was just too much. You crave the cold drinks at rest stops and start to look at empties by the side of the road and wonder if they might have a dribble of sweet cold soda left inside.
By the time we got to our lunch stop on day three Mat was really beginning to struggle. Dehydration and heat exhaustion left him unable to ride any further that day and he was again in need of a lift (cheating again!). Luckily Wim and Pauline, two Dutch overlanders who we had met on the ferry, caught us up at just the right time. They had already given us their spare speedo to replace the one stolen in Egypt and now they kindly gave Mat a lift to the next town to recover in a hotel. After plenty of rehydration sachets, a good feed, and lots of sleep Mat was ready to get back on the bike the following day, back to the joy of the open road?!?
We headed south towards Khartoum and eventually reached a 300km stretch of road that leaves the Nile and heads straight through the desert. There is almost nothing on this road apart from very basic truck stops roughly every 50km, and lots of dead camels. Ordinarily we would look to cover 50km in a little over two hours of cycling, so given that there is water and food (I use the word ‘food’ begrudgingly) at each of these stops we thought it would pretty straight forward to roll from rest stop to rest stop. Alas, we were mistaken. We had been informed by numerous different sources that the winds usually blow from North to South, which would have helped speed us on towards each rest stop. Unfortunately, when we set out on the desert road the winds decided to blow the other way and we struggled along into a head wind for the entire 300km. At times the wind was so strong that we could barely make any forward progress and on a few occasions it whipped up vicious sandstorms that brought the visibility down to a few feet. One morning we set off into a sandstorm and covered a pitiful 3km in almost half an hour of riding. At that speed it would have taken all day to reach the next rest stop so we had to turn back and wait out the storm at the previous nights accommodation.
After three slow, tough days we made it to Khartoum where we found a fantastic welcome. Large cities are a real pain to navigate through and have really slowed us down, sometimes taking several hours to cross. So we stopped to ask directions once we got into Khartoum and received an amazing response. First of all we were asked to join Ibrahim and his friend for a soda. We gladly accepted and also received some sandwiches and extra drinks for the road, before Ibrahim invited us to come and see his garage. He refurbishes old motorbikes and cars, mostly dating from the 1920s-1940s, and does a splendid job of it. After viewing his collection we bid him farewell and asked the best way to get out of Khartoum, he answered with action. He hopped onto one of his motorbikes and escorted us through the hectic roads of the capital, which still took a good 30 minutes despite taking shortcuts. It would have taken us all afternoon to figure it out with trial and error. On route he even stopped to buy us a sim card so we could ring him if we needed any further help, top lad!
After being safely delivered to the south of Khartoum, the road to the border began to get a little easier. We still suffered from more head winds, though not as bad as on the desert road, and as we began to slowly gain height we even managed to find ourselves a lovely thunder-storm to cool us down a little. At this point, still pretty frazzled from the desert sun, we didn’t realise quite how familiar we would become with torrential rain!