Before getting on the bus in Kerma, Sudan, I try to hydrate myself as much as possible.
Water is a challenge in Sudan.
It is expensive in stores and not always available. So I have gotten used to drinking local water out of large clay jars that can be found everywhere. It is rather an ingenious system. As the water slowly seeps out the bottom of the jar, evaporation keeps the water cool and refreshing.
Only thing is, it is a bit brown in color, and I can never get anyone to tell me where the water comes from. Maybe I don’t really want to know.
For 17 hours my bus follows the Nile, following the edge where water stops and desert begins. The contrast between green and brown is astounding. It is easy to understand why early civilizations thought the Nile as a God. Rising waters flooding over the banks in the middle of the desert are a powerful thing to witness.
The sun bakes my yellow and blue bus in the 115-degree heat of the afternoon. Of course the only air-conditioning is the breeze that comes through the glassless windows.
During one of our stops to drop off passengers, I jump out and climb to the roof of the bus. Sitting on top of brown burlap bags stuffed with dates heading to market, I hang on to the small rail that trims the roof. For three hours I sit perched on top of the bus as it bounces down the sandy road. With the Nile always on my left, I know we were heading in the right direction.
At sunset the bus stops in the middle of nowhere. Men unroll green plastic woven mats across the tan desert floor. Overhead the first stars are just appearing in the cloudless sky. Consistent with everywhere I have been in Sudan, they invite me to sit down and eat with them at the break of the Muslim fast.
After a meal of beans, bread, dates and tea, off we go again into the night.
Monday at 3 a.m. we arrive in Wadi Halfa.
Stepping off the bus, I say out loud to myself in the darkness of early morning, “This can’t be Wadi Halfa. Where are all the buildings or lights?”
A couple of passengers who overhear my conversation with myself, come up to reassure me that it was Wadi Halfa. Through the darkness I am led to a hotel and find a basic rope bed in an open courtyard.
For two days I wander the frontier town of Wadi Halfa, drinking tea to pass the time, daydreaming about something more than a bucket shower and reflecting on all the kind people I had met in Sudan.
Checking out through immigration, the officer asks me, “How was your stay in Sudan?
“Very good,” I answer.
“Wonderful, please tell your government we are not all terrorists,” he says with a smile as he stamps my passport out and hands it back.
On Wednesday afternoon the ferry leaves the dock, and I watch Sudan fade away on the horizon like a mirage in the desert.