Day 086 Sudan : Wadi Halfa

We rose with a real sense of purpose, excitement and trepidation this morning.  Time to collect Sully and set off!  After a leisurely breakfast, Magdy collected us at 09:30, handed over our passports now fully registered for our trip into Sudan but as the barge hadn't yet arrived, we went off to his house to meet up with the overlanders on their way north.

Peter and Elza from Namibia are on their way to Germany (and then shipping back) a_DSCN0348 .  A really nice couple who we have made plans with to meet up with when we visit Namibia next year.

And who turned out to be 6 boys on bikes a_DSCN0350.  We spent the morning with them, Peter and Elza and Jason and Mark swapping information on the roads and things to do and see (as you do!).  Turns out that Peter and Elza had blown their back shocks on the Isiolo-Moyale road whilst the 6 bikes had blown 5 shocks (and much more!) between them.  Trevor and I decided that our plan to do the Omo Valley route was now a definite as long as we could find a couple of vehicles to go with us in convoy - we are still planning this.

At 11:30 Magdy took Jason, Mark and ourselves off to the barge as he had been told that it was time to unload the bikes.  We went along, according to Magdy, "just in case the captain said we could unload as well".  Turned out to be a l-o-n-g wait.  It was 4pm before we even saw the inside of Sully to start unloading.  As we weren't allowed to film, we don't have any evidence of the process but suffice it to say, Aswan had been a breeze. 

Here at Wadi Halfa, the barge was moored to a floating pontoon about 5m wide and 10m long and the pontoon was moored to the dock but with a gap of about 3.5m between the 2 and a height difference between the pontoon and the dock about another 2 metres.  This gap was bridged by 2 ancient tracks - one wooden and one sagging metal both being able to see the end of their lives.  The tracks fell short of the dock by about 40cm, so rocks were packed under the ends of the tracks to support them and on top of the ends of the tracks so that Sully could climb up these onto the dock. Dear god.

So, picture this is if you will, dear reader.  Trevor (of course, I was MUCH too scared to do this - it needed a cool head, a calm disposition and no fear of heights - I suffer from the lack of all 3 of these attributes!!) had to reverse Sully off the barge onto the bouncing pontoon.  Of course I would normally direct him and we had already planned which way to come off to get us lined up with the tracks (how were they going to support 3.5 tons???) but I was dismissed by the captain as a bloody interfering woman and they proceeded to direct Trevor off.  Now their first problem was they took him off the wrong way and this resulted in a 25 point turn manoeuvring back and forth between the pontoon and barge whose engine was now running to keep the gap between it and the pontoon closed whilst 3.5tons of our precious vehicle reversed on and off it!  Finally he was in position and slowly inched down the tracks.  We had decided that he would stay in high range so that there was plenty of power available at short notice if things started to go pear-shaped.  As Sully came down onto the tracks and they took up her full weight I could see that the wheels weren't going to stayed lined up because the sagging metal track had meant that she had imperceptibly slipped slightly to the left.  I knew that Trevor was going to have to gun the engine to get her to climb the rocks onto the dock.  Doing it in this position would have resulted in her back wheels coming off.  I stared at Trevor and with a hand signal to indicate "look at me", he stopped Sully, ignored everyone, and at the last minute turned the wheels so that he was back on the centre of the tracks.  Gunning her engine, Sully climbed the pile of rocks, kicking some of them out and landed safely on solid ground.  The relief was enormous as Trevor jumped out and we held onto each other in full view of everyone, me crying and shaking, whilst all around us there was clapping, whistling and shouting and guys were coming up to Trevor to slap him on the back.