As I make my way through the final 250km into Aswan, Egypt to catch the ferry boat into Sudan, my smile is sizzling with intrepid anticipation and 40degree temperatures. I have not seen smiles like this since Thailand, which is coined the land of smiles.
People reach out oranges from donkeys, camels and horses, while motorists give thumbs up and trucks give way for me to pedal down the shoulder. Perhaps it is the Sudanese influx of inhabitants for someone has definitely hit the on switch for friendliness. Girls giggle and ask me to stop for a chat. Women drive in open back taxis to and from the market, as sunshine cascades from the grinning residents. Even the people touting their goods have a sense of humor, as I smile back and say no thank you to horse drawn taxi rides and overpriced hotels.
The Sudan visa office in Aswan is all welcomes and smiles as I walk in and out in 2 hours with a 30 day tourist visa. One hour later, I purchase a ferry ticket and connect on FB with the ticket agent who must be collecting FB contacts with foreigners. He also drew me a map of the shortcut route to the port, which avoids tourist bridge fees and about 30 extra KM of pedaling.
Many guide books claim the Sudan visa is a huge bureaucratic lengthy affair but somehow I am processed without a letter of invitation, 2 old photos of me in a headscarf from Iran and my proof of yellow fever vaccination. I also got a huge smile for travelling alone by bicycle, a good omen from any visa office anywhere in the world, in my biased opinion.
Tomorrow morning, I depart to cross Lake Nasser, the only open border into Sudan to continue pedaling south across the Sahara plains. I will not kid you, it is insanely hot for pedaling. My eyes hurt and my head is throbbing because my new orange sunglasses have been overpowered by the sunshine. I also wonder, how on earth, the locals are wearing so many clothes. My hands are a red hot peeling mess, the idea of strong enough sunscreen, a good joke, but that aside, the warm Sudanese hospitality I can’t wait to get closer to.
Special Note: To family and friends, the next internet facility is about 1000km from where the boat docks on Lake Nasser in Northern Sudan (6-10 days away). I will be following the Nile route to Khartoum. The Internet infrastructure in Sudan is limited. I will be back online as soon as I can. Check back often, the most recent updates with be available on the right side bar under the twitter updates.