It is Tuesday morning and Brendan returns to Addis arriving at the hotel at 1:30am, we both realise that we need to be up at 6:00am and on the road if we are going to catch the team. The task in front of us is to take what was originally a 6 day trip from Addis to Khartoum and complete this in 3 days.
Dave and I had agreed to communicate on Sat phone at 6:00pm each night. Fully armed with Dave’s info on the road ahead, Addis to Bahar Dar. We set off into the full morning rush traffic of Addis. Soon we were winding our way up and out of Addis into the hilly countryside and the country roadside challenges. (see Gareth’s blog)
The task of completing 550 kms does not seem that hard by NZ standards. I can ensure you that this is completely different when the road is used as human and animal pedestrian superhighway. For this leg we have the additional challenge of 40 km of step gravel where the road north meets the blue Nile river and dives its way down to the valley floor and up the other side.
10 hours on the bike and we finally reach Bahir Dar pulling into Lake Tane and the Gahion Hotel. With gear unloaded, its time for a Castel and the 6:00pm Sat call to the team ahead.
The next leg, Bahir Dar (Ethiopia) to Gedaref (Sudan) has the two complications, the off road section from Azezo to the Sudan border and the logistics of a border crossing. Who knows how we will go clearing Ethiopian immigration with no Visa in our passports. Even worse according to the team ahead is the delays associated with prayers and Ramadan in Sudan.
We set off early with the agenda of hitting specific towns by certain times. We agree that any night riding is too unsafe given the stock issues. We pull into Azezo for our scheduled fuel stop ahead of time. Then it’s on to the off road run to the border. The off road section goes well and we are ahead of time, we concur that we should push on to cross the border.
Clearing customs at Sheheti has its issues as we are there during lunch time and the stamp man has gone away and will not return for 2 ½ hours. Some smart talking takes place and we exchange some kiwi green stone. A new solution is found and we are told that we can receive our stamp on the border at Metema. We conclude immigration and customs clearance in Ethiopia and cross the bridge into Sudan.
We complete immigration entry requirements pay our fee and then wait for the Sudanese customs man to return from prayers, he slowly completes the required paper work. Two hours later we are clear of the border logistics. It is 4:00pm and we make a mad dash to Gedaref for our night’s accommodation. We have been on the road for 11 hours but we are now only 400km behind the main group in Khartoum.
Once again Dave and I contact each other to find out what tomorrow may bring for us. Hot temperatures and lots of truck traffic. Brendan and I decide to start at first light and cut as much of the 400km in the cooler part of the day. We leave at 06:30am and final pull into the Hotel car park in Khartoum at 12:30 with a temperature reading of 45 degrees showing.
Great stuff, mission completed we have caught up with the main group in 2 1/2 days. Later in the day a team briefing confirms the need to push on ASAP to try and build some contingency for the Wadi Halfa ferry crossing. So again tomorrow will see a 6:00am start.