The passenger ferry from Wadi Halfa to Aswan left at 16:50, 10 minutes early, on Tuesday afternoon. Have you ever?
Everything that has been said and written about Wadi is true. There is no planning, everything is disorganised and chaotic. About an hour before our ferry sailed Jannie drove the Prado onto the cargo ferry after a major search for a ramp. We had been waiting since 8:30 that morning, while loading and offloading and customs inspections kept the Sudanese officials busy. In the suffocating heat, amidst Wadi’s shocking pollution.
The cargo ferry has place for exactly one vehicle, and we leapt at the chance. We were so incredibly lucky that this vessel was in port, otherwise we would really have been stuck. It looks like the customary barge is not running at the moment, with so few visitors to Egypt. We saw it in port with one tractor on it and hardly any cargo. The implications don’t bear thinking.
Our fixer, Mazar Mahir, was an absolute star. He intervened with the captain on our behalf, and we were granted exclusive use of the foredeck for an acceptible tip. Of course we headed into the wind, which was strong during the night, but pleasant during the daytime. The traverse took 18 hours and all things considered, we enjoyed it thoroughly. Four hours after leaving the port we passed Abu Simbel, strikingly illuminated against the darkness of night. Sunrise over the Nile was equally memorable.
Disembarking in Aswan was not a joke. All 570 passengers (probably more) shoved and pushed to get off at the same time. Being caught up in the melee, the only thing to do was to shout and scold and jostle and behave like a local. We were like pack-donkeys too, with provisions and clothes for a few days, all our electronics, sleeping bags, plus the contents of Jannie’s freezer. It looks like he’s hardly touched his lamb chops, game sausage and rump and fillet steaks.
Kamal is Mazar’s counterpart in Aswan and he was there to smooth things over for us. What bliss to jump queues and have someone intervene in Arabic on our behalf. The bad news is that the Prado did not depart yesterday. If it left today, it will be in Aswan in Friday, when everything is closed. So we are holding thumbs that we will get it cleared on Saturday. We’ve become VERY friendly with the head of vehicle customs in Aswan.
Meanwhile we are installed in a 4-star hotel on the Corniche overlooking the Nile, a thoroughly deserved treat. Management couldn’t be nicer and have agreed to put Jannie’s meat in their deep-freeze. So all’s well, but our thoughts are with the Prado.