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by SS at 3:42 pm on Friday 29th January

I'm on the ferry at the moment. We're currently anchored about a mile off the port of Wadi Halfa, our entry port into Sudan. The overnight ride has been an unforgettable experience.

We rode to the ferry port at Aswan in convoy, which I successfully managed entirely standing up. My legs weren't too tired by the end of it, so I figure the 150 kilometres tomorrow might just be plausible. Boarding the ferry was a complex logistical problem which the Tour D'Afrique staff handled calmly and in the end everything went smoothly. While there were no chickens carried on board (which they had repeatedly referenced last year), there is no shortage of blenders and televisions made in China being transported to Sudan.

There aren't normally enough cabins for the entire group, so it's usually the case that the younger riders are made to sleep out on the deck - indeed I was quite looking forward to it. However, the cabins aren't the cleanliest of places and many of the older riders switched camp. While initially I was looking forward to a night on the deck, as more and more passengers and boxes were loaded, a cabin looked like a more sensible option. Luckily we managed to grab one of the spare cabins left vacant. The deck soon became a curious shanty town of boxes, rugs, sleeping bags and tinny pop music blaring out of mobile phone speakers. Some of the passengers who had evidently done this trip several times, built a fort of their goods around themselves. We joked between ourselves that it would be fun to step inside their fort and observe the end outcome but the menacing looks of the portly Arabic gentleman were enough to stop that idea in its tracks.

The ship is rusty, grimy and to quote one of the German riders - 'Everywhere you look, the ship is moving'. Our included meal on the ferry, yesterday at lunch, was punctuated by the occasional sound of slapping as riders defended themselves from the many insects interrupting the sanctity of their mealtime. The room was no better, seeming initially to be relatively clean. Eric, one of the French riders soon showed us the secret of finding the roaches (lift up the mattress quickly and look in the corner of the bed) and we hatched various plans to try and avoid bodily contact with them. These ranged from finding an alternative place to sleep (as it was though, deck was hugely congested) to sleeping on the floor (it is pretty filthy) to lining the bed with a groundsheet (we had no groundsheet here).

The final solution which I used all night, and which Adrian, my roommate, attempted for a while before giving up, was to sleep inside our tents. I used the inner part of my tent minus the poles, wearing it like a sleeping bag. This worked well enough until abruptly in the middle of the night we were woken up by a tannoy call, 'Tour D'Afrique riders, please come to the dining room immediately'. Struggling to break free of the tent, I eventually found the zip and made my way down the hallway, thanking myself that the boat wasn't sinking in this case. Having gone to bed at 7pm, and having been woken up from the deepest possible sleep, it seemed natural that it would be some obscene hour of the night. However, glancing at someone's watch, it had only just passed 8:30pm! Much less antisocial.

The reason we were woken was that Sudanese immigration now takes place upon the ferry (and not when we arrive - which should hopefully speed the process up a bit when we eventually dock). This consisted of filling out yet more forms inaccurately (when the questions are vague, what hope do you have? E.g. 'Carrier') and duplicating more information. I'm half contemplating writing as illegibly as possible for the next few countries and seeing whether anyone notices. They also took our temperature with an ear canal thermometer. Presumably this was to prevent illness entering the country but if anything, not washing the thermometer inbetween uses probably spread any sickness that was there. After this we queueued for an hour or so to get our passports stamped, after which the official realised that he didn't really need to see us to stamp our passport and just collected them all instead.

Bedtime rolled around again but it was much harder to sleep now. The hunger pangs from our bodies' now-all-eating metabolisms were beginning to strike and it took a good hour to fall asleep. This morning we awoke to see Abu Simbel from afar, a huge temple by the side of Lake Nasser. Now we wait for customs to board our boat whom the ferry captain is repeatedly calling with three long bursts of the ship's horn, deafening those on deck each time.

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