Saturday, November 17, 2012

North Sudan - October 2012

Tuesday, October 9 2012:  Fly LAX to Frankfurt via Newark
I was off again on my third trip this year with some of the same members of the Advantage Travel & Tours group.  This time the travel was to visit the Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean island nations.  Given the option by Cathy Prada of flying either via Paris on Air France or Frankfurt on United/Lufthansa, I regretfully selected the Star Alliance flights over the Sky Miles flights.

The initial flight in my four flight odyssey to my first visit was a 06:59 departure on United from LAX.  I was picked-up by a GoSedan car service at 0400.  Therefore I had only limited sleep for the dual “Red-Eye” flights I was scheduled to take.

The drive to the airport was my first time to travel south on the 405 since the “Carmageddon” week-end and the removal of the old bridge.  Unfortunately, the construction was still ongoing and we found that the ramp from the 101 to the 405 was closed until 06:00.  My driver took the Haskell exit into Encino and hoped that the Ventura Boulevard ramp to the southbound 405 would be open.  He was not very familiar with the area in Encino and drove past the onramp which was on the other side of the Boulevard.  When I pointed out his mistake he was going to do a U-turn under the 405 bridge but saw a police car parked down the block so he took a left turn on Sepulveda and out of sight of the Police car executed a U-turn.  When we drove passed the Police car I noticed that it was empty.  It was probably parked there in the dark to scare people from not doing a U-turn if they missed the onramp.  At 0430 in the morning the trip to the airport was fast even with the ramp closure.
I checked my bag to Cairo because Lufthansa did not have an interline agreement with Kenya Airways which I was flying on from Cairo.  That caused a little hitch at the check-in since I didn’t have an Egyptian visa.  I had to tell the agent the long story on how I was supposed to fly to Eritrea but the visa approval was not sent to the Eritrea Embassy in Washington DC until Monday morning and since Monday was Columbus Day the Embassy was closed so at the last minute Cathy Prada had to schedule me on to Khartoum, North Sudan, the original second stop on 14 stop tour.  I had paperwork for the North Sudan visa which had the wrong date but between that paperwork and the email from Cathy I was able to convince the United Agent to print my boarding passes and tag my bag to Cairo.

The first flight left on time.  I was seated next to a young lady flying to Ireland on vacation with a female United Airlines pilot.  They were boarded at the last minute (most likely on the pilot’s pass) and had to sit in middle seats several rows apart.  (Just hours before departure I had checked the seating map and it showed the seat next to me as vacant)  The plane was one of the Continental B-737-800 which had pay for TV at each seat.  I hate this arrangement because they don’t offer a music or air traffic control channel that I like to listen to when I am reading.
The flight ended in Newark where I had to switch terminals to get the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.  Fortunately there is a bus service in Newark that connects terminals without having to exit take the Air Train and pass through Security again.  In the three hours (1500 to 1800) between flights I attempted to talk to Robin but couldn’t reach her.  I spent the time in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge based on my Star Alliance Gold status.  The flight loaded on time and I was seated near the back in the middle section with two empty seats next to me.  After dinner around 23:00 EDT I attempted to sleep.  I had no trouble falling asleep but after two hours my left leg started to ache and it woke me up.  I had to walk the aisle and stretch it before the pain stopped and I was able to sleep another hour. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012:  Fly Frankfurt to Khartoum, North Sudan via Cairo, Egypt
It was a 7.5 hour flight to Frankfurt arriving at 06:45 where I had a five hour layover before my flight to Cairo.  I spent the time in the Senator Lounge catching up on email and attempting to nap. 

The flight to Cairo departed from a gate at the very end of one of the terminals at Frankfurt.  There were a lot of people traveling with kids; wheel chair passengers and passengers needing extra time to board.  As they were processing that group there was a couple that looked a little young for needing extra time to board but the wife was complaining of back pain and they sort of bullied their way to board early.  When I boarded just after the Business Class group there was a commotion on the Air Bridge and the Purser running back and forth between the cockpit and the gate agent.  The woman was loudly complaining to her husband when she boarded the aircraft that she was ill.  The crew decided that they didn't want to take the risk and have to make an emergency landing on the way to Cairo so they asked her to get off the plane.  She started screaming that she wanted to go home and would not leave so Security had to be called to remove her.  It delayed our flight by forty five minutes.  The flight was smooth and I had an empty seat next to me and dozed off a little.
My flight arrived at 15:20 in Terminal 3 at the Cairo Airport.  My next flight was scheduled on Kenya Airways at 23:25 out of Terminal 1 which is several miles from Terminal 3.  I proceeded to the Transit Desk to find out how I could retrieve my checked bag and proceed to Terminal 1 without having to acquire an Egyptian visa and passing through Passport Control to Baggage Claim.

It proved to be a hassle since the agent at the Transit Desk thought I should have checked my bag to Khartoum until I told him that Lufthansa didn’t have an Interline Agreement with Kenya Airways.  The agent told me to wait and after a while a more senior looking agent in a black suit arrived and checked my papers, then wrote down my baggage tag numbers and told me he would retrieve my bag.
After a while a porter arrived with my bag and asked for a tip.  I was so tired and fumbled for money and found only a $20 and a $1 dollar bill in my wallet.  I gave him the $1 and he didn’t look happy but realized that I wasn’t going to give him a $20.  I opened my bag and changed shoes to my walking shoes (On long flights I wear sandals to compensate for my feet swelling at altitude).

I waited for further instructions when a group of Saudis arrived with a female Egyptain Airways Guest Relations Agent.  She checked my paperwork and told me to follow the group to a bus stop that would take us to Terminal 1, over 1.5 miles away.
Once we arrived at Terminal 1 which was an older, smaller terminal we were directed to the Transit Lounge where we had to pass through a security screening.  My checked bag showed I had a pocket knife and that upset the screener but when I told him it would be checked he let it pass.  Next a Security Agent asked for my ticket and passport.  I gave him the e-ticket and North Sudan visa request.  He was confused that I didn’t have a visa in my passport so he told me that he needed to talk to the Kenya Airways Agent at 1900.  I was free to exit the Transit Lounge which had a TV blaring a speech by the Egyptian President on.  I left my checked bag behind the agent’s desk and proceeded to find a place with free Wi-Fi.  I was directed to the third floor and there was an English Pub where I could plug in my laptop and cell phone with free Wi-Fi.  I ordered a beer and a sandwich which cost $12, and connected to the internet.  One of my emails was from Kenya Airways forwarded from Cathy granting the Cairo Agent the authority to board Edna and I without a North Sudan visa.

At 1900 hours I returned to the Transit Lounge and discovered that Edna Erspamer had arrived.  She had flown in from Paris with Lynn Bishop (my roommate on many trips), Linda Marshall and Terry Wharton from our Antarctica South Georgia and North Korea trips.  Also with them was Neal Pollock who I have traveled with to Iraq and last year’s trip to Africa.  They all had their Eritrea visas approved and were fly on to Asmara, Eritrea out of Terminal 3.  When I checked with the Security Agent about checking my bag he told me to wait until 2100 hours, so I told Edna about the English Pub on the third floor and she moved her bag next to mine and we went back to the pub where she had a sandwich.
She told me about her flight from LAX which I now wish I had taken because:

1.       The flight didn’t leave LAX until 15:50, allowing for a good night sleep before the flight
      2.       The flight was on an A-380 which I have not had the experience riding in.
      3.       It would have allowed me to vote that morning at the LA County Voter Registration Office.

At 21:00 we returned to the transit lounge and were told wait 5 minutes several times and eventually a Kenya Airways Agent arrived and took our bags and returned with the baggage tags.  We then were directed to Gate 3 and waited until 22:30 to pass through security again and board a bus to the aircraft.  I was able to doze off for an hour on the flight until they turned the lights on to serve a dinner.  I took only the roll and dessert which was a small cheesecake.  The flight was only two and one half hours.
Thursday, October 11, 2012:  Arrive Khartoum, North Sudan

We arrived in Khartoum at 03:05 and were bussed to the terminal.  As we entered the arrival hall we were met by a guide from the local Travel Agency.  The guide directed us to a special line where we had to pay US$150 to obtain a visa.  They took our picture right there for the visa.  I had to remove my glasses and with messed-up hair, a two day beard and bushy eyebrows my picture looks like Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes.  Despite the wait to obtain the visa we still finished before our bags arrived on the carousel.
The guide delivered us to a rundown Taxi that took us to the Acropole Hotel in the center of the city just a couple of miles away.  The Lonely Planet describes the hotel as follows: “This hotel, the first choice of journalists, reeks of history and intrigue, and although its youthful days are long gone, its old-fashioned charm means it’s still the most memorable place to stay.”  The hotel describes itself as having been “established in 1952 through the hard work and vision of the late Panaghis Pagoulatoes from the Greek Island of Kefalonia.  The hotel began with just ten rooms a rooftop garden where fine Greek, European and Local specialties were served for dinner.  The Annex was added in 1954 with another 40 rooms. ….

During its reign of five decades Acropole has passed through different stages of easy times and witnessed also some hard times, especially through the chronic drought, famine and floods.  But the hardest time of all was in 1988 when terrorist attack blew off the main building killing seven people and injuring several others.”  The attack was directed at the number of NGO’s and other foreigners that stayed at the hotel.  The building was never repaired and the hotel was reduced in size.
When I exited the cab and entered the building I was confronted by a long set of stairs two stories up to the lobby.  There we had to fill out several forms (one for the hotel registration and one to obtain a permit to visit the Begrawiya pyramids.  We were assigned rooms 35 and 36 on the top floor terrace.  We had to walk through part of the kitchen to get to our rooms.  The room was large with a huge two room bathroom.  In order to plug in my CPAP machine I had to string an extension cord across the room from a power strip on the desk which was plugged into a socket in the bathroom that also powered the small refrigerator.

It was almost 05:00 when I went to sleep.  I didn’t set an alarm and woke from a sound sleep at 10:30.  After a shower and shave I walked down to the lobby and checked my email on my cell phone and read several news lines on the cell phone.  Soon, a distinguished looking gentleman entered the room and introduced himself to me as Makis (Mike), one of the sons of the founder of the hotel and now along with his brothers George and Thanasis owns and manages the hotel and travel agency.  He explained the schedule for the next day then and asked if I had eaten breakfast.  It was now close to noon and I told him I slept through it.  He asked me if I drank tea or coffee.  In a few minutes a porter arrived with a tray with a dish of scrambled eggs, toast, tea and cheese.
I thanked Mike, ate the breakfast and returned to my room.  Edna knocked on the door and told me that she had eaten breakfast at 08:00.  She also gave me a newspaper that explained the current situation between the North and South Sudan.  In Addis Ababa last month they signed a document titled “The Nationals Agreement”.  It agrees to allow the citizens of each country “four freedoms” in the other nation: freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activities, and freedom to acquire and dispose of property.  The agreement does not firm up the border line but it does allow the south to ship its oil through the north again.  It is a very interesting turn of events.

At 14:00 Edna asked me to join her for lunch.  They had a nice buffet of Spaghetti Bolognese, roasted veal, mashed potatoes and peas.
After lunch I returned to my room – read, listened to a book on tape, napped and wrote in my journal.  Dinner was served at 19:00.  Before dinner Edna had a Scotch on the patio and we examined her camera that had stopped working.  It turned out that her batteries were dead.  She had recharged them but I guess they had reached the point of not holding a charge.  I put in a fresh set and her camera started working again.

Dinner was a nice broccoli soup, chicken with mustard sauce, potatoes with rosemary and mixed vegetables.
I wrote in my journal and retired about 21:30.

Friday, October 12, 2012:   Tour Khartoum, North Sudan
At 01:30 I was awakened by a phone call from Judy.  I had been in a deep sleep and fumble around to find the phone.  She was calling on her Skype card to my cell phone number rather than my laptop which I had left on in case she did call to it via Skype.  I was happy to hear her voice and to learn that her doctor had determined she was doing OK.

After the call I dropped back to sleep and didn’t wake until 05:30 just as the VP Debate was ending.  I watched the critique on CNN, then showered and shaved and at 07:30 went to breakfast.  Edna soon joined me.  She had watched the debate and didn’t think there was a clear winner, just a definition of each side’s approach to government.
At 09:00 I took a thirty minute walk around the local area.  What a contrast between this city and North Korea.  The city has piles of trash along the gutter on every street.  Everything is covered with dust and the side streets that are not well traveled are covered with dirt.  I couldn’t tell in they are paved under the dirt.  Even the main streets parking lanes are covered with dirt.  Since it was Friday in a Muslim country there was very little traffic and very few open shops.  There were a number of women selling coffee and tea along the side of the streets.  About ten minutes from the hotel I encountered a new Mall that Thanasis told me would open at 10:00.

I was soaking wet when I returned to my room and wrote in my journal.  At 11:00 I ventured out again and visited the Mall.  It was new with I estimate less than 50% occupancy.  I walked up three floors on escalator stairs that were not in operation.  The top floor had a food court but there were almost nobody eating.  I then walked down to the basement where there was a large Super Market, again with very few customers.  I guess the locals really abide by the Friday Muslim traditions.  On this walk I was listening to a book on tape so the time seemed to go faster than my earlier walk.
At 13:00 I met Edna at lunch which was Mousaka, Veal casserole, salad and fruit cocktail for dessert.  I then return to my room and read some literature about Sudan.

The rest of our group arrived from the airport at 14:45 and after they checked in we piled on a tour bus with six other hotel guests for a city tour.
Sudan was once the largest country in Africa (now the third largest after Algeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo) and is one of the least visited countries in Africa.  Consumed by civil war for 50 years in various parts of the country, Khartoum and the northern part are finally sufficiently peaceful to receive western tourists.

The first stop on the tour was the National Museum.  It holds many treasures of Sudan’s ancient and medieval past including Pharaonic stone carvings, several large stone statues of Kings (Nublan – Sudanese pharaohs) that are similar to Egyptian museum statues.  It contained full sized reproductions of ancient temples, Egyptian influenced tombs, pottery and metalwork from old empires such as the Kushite and Meroitic periods.  On the second floor we viewed many fine Christian frescoes.
From the National Museum we rode to the Republican Place Museum which is housed in the former Anglican Church.  Inside was a chronological series of displays that traced the history of the formation of the country of Sudan from the revolts during the colonial period and English and Egyptian rule.  It was well presented and easy to follow the history up to Independence.  It did not cover the recent split off of South Sudan.

Outside the old church building were several buildings with glass walls displaying the automobiles the leaders of the nation and visiting dignitaries rode in starting with a 1924 Rolls Royce up to several newer Rolls Royce’s, a Lincoln and a Humber.
The next stop on the tour was the Sailing Club which is housed in the El Malik gunboat that is now land locked near the river.  The Al-Malik is one of Kitchener's gunboats that were used during the Battle of Omdurman.  After retiring from government service, she was handed over to the Blue Nile Sailing Club and used as its headquarters.

By the late 1980s, the El Malik was suffering from corrosion, and the possibility of sinking.  Ironically, a massive flood in 1987 washed ashore the gunship and it sits land locked about 20 yards from the river.  It is still an operational clubhouse where you can hire small boats to cruise or sail along the Blue Nile but it is in terrible shape.  I guess the club’s offices were on the second deck but the latter to the second deck was made of wood and several steps missing and others rotted to not convince men to explore the second deck.  The El Malik has historical significance but it is not a sight to enjoy seeing.
From the Sailing Club we crossed the bridge to Omdurman and had a good view of the merger of the Blue and White Nile Rivers.  We stopped at a fort along the river that was built of mud and straw during the Mahdia war.

In 1884 Mohammed Ahmed, an apprentice boat builder, declared himself to be the Mahdi or Savior of the people of Sudan and began a revolt against the Khedive of Egypt, the ruler of Sudan, and his Egyptian garrisons across the country. The revolt was a Jihad, or Muslim Holy War. The Khedive resolved to evacuate his garrisons from Sudan and leave it to the Mahdi.
Considering its age the fort with holes for riflemen was in remarkable good condition, not so was a rusty paddle wheel boat on display in the same area.  We rode past the remains of the old gates of Omdurman on to Mahdi’s Tomb.  We needed to take our shoes off to walk around inside but the building had many windows and I observed the tomb from many sides through the windows.

It was then close to 18:00 and our last stop and the hilight of the tour – The Dervish Dances at the Al Nil Tomb.  Sheikh Hamed Al Nil was a 19th century Sufi leader of the Qadiriyah order (tariqa) and his tomb is the weekly focus for Omdurman’s most exciting sight: The famous dancing and chanting dervishes.
Each Friday afternoon before sunset adherents of the tariqa gather to dance and pray.  The ceremony starts with a march across the cemetery to the tomb of the Sheikh and the dervishes carry the green banner of the tariqa wearing robes of a patchwork of green and red topped off with leopard skin chunky beads and dreadlocks.  The patch clothing represents the Ansar’s denial of material wealth as did the Mahdi, who is reported to have only one outer garment at a time.

During the dancing Judy called over Skype but I couldn’t hear her over the chanting and drums.  When the sun set we returned to the hotel and had dinner at 19:00.  Dinner was Vegetable soup, veal and the Veal casserole from lunch.  Mike addressed the group and gave us the schedule for the next several days.  After Mike’s talk I returned to my room and finished the day’s journal.
Saturday, October 13, 2012:  Tour Khartoum, North Sudan

I had breakfast with Lynn, Edna, Linda and Terry.  Terry has a new DROID phone and asked for help in several areas.  Its operating system was more advanced than on my DROID 3 but I was able to figure out what he needed.  He also has an iPAD and was having trouble with it.  I helped him solve some of the problems but could not find his Hotmail Contact folder.
At 09:40 we started out on our tour for the morning.  The first stop was the Omdurman Camel Market about a forty five minute drive from the hotel across the White Nile River near Tuti Island where the White and the Blue Nile Rivers converge to form the Nile River, through the city of Omdurman, into the desert and then over sometimes dirt roads.  When we got off the bus to take pictures at the Camel Market, we were greeted first by a young man offering camel rides and then by older men wanting handouts or cigarettes.  Linda took up the offer for a ride.  She was wearing a bright yellow shirt and that coupled with her blond hair drew a large crowd of on lookers.  She looked startled when the camel stood up but the ride was slow, gentle and lasted less than five minutes.  We followed her and one man in particular kept begging for a handout.  He even tried to board our bus when we started to leave.

On our way back to Omdurman we stopped at the Cattle Market.  Terry and Linda were the only ones to get out of the bus to take pictures.  I have seen enough cows herded together from my days living in Nebraska that I didn’t think the heat and dust were worth taking pictures of this herd.  We rode back into the city of Omdurman and through the Omdurman Old Capital souk (market).  It was huge and is the largest souk in Sudan.  It was great to see the different stalls from the air conditioned bus.  The travel was slow as the bus pushed through the crowded streets.  On many occasions the driver had to get vendors to use a pole to lift lines strung across the road to clear the bus roof rack.  We rode down many alleys and enjoyed the sights and sounds.  After about twenty minutes we got off the bus and walked through a covered alley.  We stopped in several stores in the alley and came out near the bus which was parked a block from the opposite end of the alley.

From the souk we rode across the Nile to the city of Khartoum North where we stopped at St. George Church complex.  Inside a courtyard were two church buildings and a one story building in between.  St. George Church is an impressive building with twin steeples to our left and a silver dome to our right as we faced an entrance with St. George on a horse slaying a dragon.  The other church had two modern style steeples with a rounded top.  Both churches had a form of Coptic Cross (four equal lengths with flared ends) on top of the steeples.  We attempted to enter the Church to our right but the care taker on duty could not find a key to the massive wooden front doors which were decorated with the same cross.  I had seen someone walk up stairs to the side of the doors so as the care taker tried one key after another I climbed the stairs and found the door open to church hall with pews and an altar.  The others followed and a young man appeared and told us the building served two church sects: Coptic Orthodox and Copic and St. George Church building also had two levels serving different denominations.  I learned later that it is a Coptic compound with various sects conducting services in the four sanctuaries.  (There are large Greek Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Khartoum.)
From the churches we rode across the Blue Nile River back into Khartoum and stopped at the Sudan Ethnographic Museum.  A fascinating little Museum that explores the various cultures and traditions of Sudan's numerous ethnic groups.  Displays range from intricate handicrafts to models of traditional homes.  At the entrance of the museum was a map on the wall marking where all the different ethnic groups reside in Sudan.  The first gallery has a huge (8 foot) war drum carved from a single piece of wood and used by The Sultan of Yambio.  In the next gallery there was a full size model of a Nuba Kitchen with a woman on her knees rolling bread dough.  In the opposite corner was a full size Kambala Dancer with Buffalo horn headdress wide beaded necklace, and a beaded skirt and other assorted colorful adornments.

In the next gallery was a full size camel bearing a litter for women from the Beni Amer, Kassala Area.  In the same gallery was a tent of the Camel Nomads of the Western Sudan which was built from four camel hair carpets sewed together and cow hide sides.  In another corner was a tent of the Baggara (cattle people).  It was shape more like a yurk but constructed of palm straw mats.  Next to the tent was a full size model of a Pack-Bull of Baggara Arabs.  The bull was laden down with all the house hold goods to support living in the tent.  It was quite a sight and I hope (not for the bull’s sake) I can witness such a sight.  Outside the building were three tall (16 to 18 feet) and thin statues of native women along the side wall of the museum
After leaving the Ethnographic Museum we returned to the hotel for a lunch of small cheese burgers, French fries, balsamic rice with curry sauce and a chocolate sundae for dessert.

I spent the afternoon writing in my journal.
Sunday, October 14, 2012:  Travel by SUV from Khartoum to Meroe, North Sudan

I was up early to eat breakfast and then pack a small bag for the trip north along the Nile to Meroe on of the cities of the Meroitic Kingdom (750 BC to 360AD).  We departed the hotel around 09:30 in two 4x4 SUVs.  I was in the lead SUV with Terry and Linda with Omar as driver.  Our route on a paved highway followed about one mile east of the Nile.  Around noon we stopped at what looked like an abandoned roadside café only to find inside a large room with table and chairs and a few patrons watching a TV set.  The hotel had packed lunches for us and Omar and the other driver brought in a cooler from our SUV, set-up a table and passed out the lunches which consisted of a tuna salad sandwich and a tomato and cheese sandwich, plus some fruit.
When we finished lunch and were about to board our vehicles we heard a loud bang and saw that a double trailer truck had blown a tie.  Omar remarked that the trucks use a lot of retread ties which don’t hold up in the hot weather.  I had noticed that the both sides of the road all the way from North Khartoum were littered with tire treads and shredded pieces of tires.  They even outnumbered the plastic bags and bottles that littered the desert along the highway.  I have seen more litter and trash in other countries but the highway was not neat and clean.

After we started on our way again Omar crossed the highway and started driving across the desert in a northeast direction for almost an hour to the ruins at Naqa.  Naqa was an ancient city at the foot of a sandstone plateau.  Our first stop was at The Amun Temple.  It was not very well preserved but covered a large area surrounded by a wire fence.  We entered from the north side and walked up the remains of a ramp to the west.  The ramp turned into a walkway with six rams on each side and a Kiosk in the middle of the pathway between the third and fourth pair of rams.  The faces had been knocked off most of the rams.  There was a series of archways and pylons which formed the temple.  The pylons had bas-relief images of the King and Queen and various animals.
We then rode a short distance to, The Sun Temple, a square structure with high walls with a lot of figures inscribed on both the inside and outside.  Nearby was another smaller structure with large openings on each side.  We spent about an hour walking around the Naqa complex taking pictures of the ruins.

After leaving the Naqa site we continued to drive across the desert to Mussawwarat-Es-Sofa where we stopped at The Great Enclosure, an even larger area than The Amun Temple.  Mussawwarat in Arabic means “covered in pictures” and the walls and columns in The Great Enclosure were certainly covered in pictures.  One of the attractions was a statue of an elephant.
Near The Great Enclosure was The Lion Temple which had a guide that unlocked a large wooden door and showed us around and pointed out the pictures and give some explanation of their meanings.  He had a log book he asked me to sign and I tipped him for his service.

It took us forty five minutes to ride back to the paved highway and continue northeast for another hour and across the desert again to the Royal Cemeteries of Meroe.  The main attraction of our trip were the famous pyramids that were erected above the royal tombs whose chambers were dug out of rock.  Unfortunately a treasure hunting adventurer named Ferlini demolished the tops of the pyramids in the 19th century in search for the treasures of the kings and queens of Meroe.
When we arrived at the entrance to the site we were greeted by young boys selling souvenirs and a group selling camel rides.  We entered a gate to the site and were confronted by high ridges and dunes of sand. .  The sand surface could hold our weight so it was not too difficult to climb up to the pyramids and explore.  There were about a dozen large pyramids along the ridge and another dozen or so smaller pyramids down the slope.  As we climbed around taking pictures I came across a tour guide and he helped explain the pictures on walls inside buildings that were called chapels that were at the base of many of the pyramids.  We spent about thirty minutes exploring and taking pictures before returning to the parking area and the souvenir vendors.

From the pyramids it was a short ride across the desert to the Meroe Tented Camp where we spent the night.  The tents were square structures facing west toward the pyramids with large mesh windows on the north and south side and a zipper flap entrance.  There were two beds, a dresser with mirror, a bench and a small table between the beds.  On the table was a lamp and on the wall behind the table an electrical outlet that I was able to plug my power strip into for my CPAP machine and chargers.
Behind the row of tents was a row of outhouses with flush toilets and showers in each outhouse.  A large two story thatched roof building was about 20 yards away from the row of tents.  It had a porch facing west with an excellent view of the pyramids.  We had a welcome drink awaiting us on the porch and we sat up there to watch the sun set and have our dinner.

The camp had one other guest who turned out to be Frank Reimer, an American from Livermore, CA that had been on my visit to Midway Island two years ago.  Since my wife’s parents had lived in Livermore and my wife and girls lived there when I was in Vietnam I had a lot of stories to swap with him.  Frank had just come from a “touch and go” stop in Mogadishu, Somalia and was going on to Juba, South Sudan next to complete visiting all the countries in Africa and fall one place shy of all the destinations on the TCC list.  The remaining destination was the British Indian Ocean Territory which main island is Diego Garcia which is a military airbase off limits to visitors.  He showed us pictures of his trip to the South Pole.  A very traveled man!
After dinner we returned to our tents.  It was still very warm and we kept our flaps open to catch a little breeze.  I slept like a log since it was similar to the warm nights in California.  The power was cut off at 23:00 but my CPAP battery served me well through the night

Monday, October 15, 2012:  Travel by SUV from Meroe, North Sudan to Khartoum, North Sudan
I was up at 06:00 and it was still very dark.  I was able to shower, shave and dress in the outhouse using the light from my flashlight.  As it got light out everyone came out of their tents to to a picture of the sunrise.  It was 06:43 before the sun rose over the hills to the east of the camp.  After the sun rose we ate breakfast and left the camp at 08:00.  About twenty minutes away we stopped The Royal City, a large area on the banks of the Nile.  It is surrounded by a fence and we walked around for about fifteen minutes and saw just piles of ruins but nothing very distinguishable.

We returned to the highway and rode for over an hour to the 6th Cataract of the Nile where we took a short boat ride on the Nile through the Cataracts and then south for a thirty minute ride.  After the ride they served us tea in a grass cover hut near the boat landing.
From the Cataracts it was a two hour ride back to the hotel in Khartoum and a nice late lunch.  I spent the afternoon writing my journal.  At 19:15 I went to dinner.  The other members of our group were already in the dining room and Mike had dropped off the Sudan Departure Forms for us to have filled out before we left the country.  Dinner was baked chicken breast with potatoes and mixed vegetables.

After dinner I packed and went to bed.

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