No matter how sad I feel, I have to admit that the horrible bureaucracy succeeded to chase me away from Sudan. In general, it is impossible to travel in all interesting regions outside Khartoum (Darfur or South Sudan, for example, is a complete mystery). So, except for the road from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum and from Khartoum to Ethiopia, the rest is either impossible to get a permission for, or you have to pay for such. However, I decided, though it was really risky, to visit the Meroe pyramids and eventually, I was almost caught. I pretended I didn’t know any Arabic, so they let me go. Because of this, I could go outside Khartoum for a day and I had a wonderful time in the desert, I enjoyed the pyramids, after which I did a long tour across the desert till I ran out of water. Unfortunately, you cannot go further than 15-20 km into the desert if you have to bring your water, and I was carrying 7 liters of water with me and the whole rucksack on the top of it. This quantity of water is enough only for a few hours. As I was going back to Khartoum, I was planning to hitchhike directly to Ethiopia, but since it got dark I decided to sleep over at the airport, which turned out to be a great place for sleeping. On the next day, my hitchhiking to Ethiopia met me with wonderful people! Sudanese people are very kind, nice and polite with great manners and they are very proud of their culture and country. Their attitude and behavior are levels beyond many other nations, including Bulgarians. Even though, in the country regions, many people do live in clay houses, a lot of them speak English and they pay great respect both to foreigners and between each other. I didn’t see people to fight to each other or to argue, since this was a normal sight in every single town in Egypt. Another problem of Sudan - it was forbidden to take photos! Only if you decide to take out your camera, a policeman would come and take it. A lot of people got through that, so I took photos only of the desert. You need to take a special permission for shooting photos and you have to pay for it, as well. This was the first county, where people had to pay for everything. I got the feeling that even the air wasn’t for free. There was another monstrous problem as well – the banks refused to change currency and if they’d agree to do so, it would be at a horrible rate, so the client would lose a lot of money! Unfortunately, I realized that I had to change some money into their currency, so that I could pay to the police officers for the registration. I tried into 30 banks at least, but they all refused to change my money into their currency. Finally, I was in dead end, when a complete stranger at the street accepted to change my money but at the same rate as the banks, so eventually I really lost a lot of money. The other complete ridiculous problem was that you couldn’t change your money back to dollars or other currency except for the Ethiopian border, where the rate was not only a real absurd, but it was full of impostors as well. All these money transfers were made at the black market in Sudan and the situation was not good at all. I will think of Sudan with its great people, magic desert and the huge waste of money I encountered after all these visas, fees, registrations and so on.
I couldn’t get to Ethiopia the next day, because the lorry driver, I was travelling with, stopped when it got dark. It is totally reckless to travel when it’s dark! You must be suicidal to do it – there are animals on the road, a lot of cars without lights – even that the roads were in better condition than these in Bulgaria, people did not travel when it was dark. We stopped at a small parking lot and I pitched my tent close to the lorry. For the driver was really amazing to see how I pulled out a house from my rucksack – obviously, he had never imagined such a thing! We crossed the border the next morning. I was walking around from office to office when a local youngster decided that I needed help and offered to show them to me, since all custom service offices were almost invisible – no signs, or barriers, so you could go back to Ethiopia without even know it. The local guy wanted a commission, of course, for his services, so he was totally amazed when I refused. I found all the offices with a lot of efforts – it was not Sudan anymore and everybody tried to screw you. Ethiopians had nothing in common with Sudanese! Since in Sudan, everyone tries to be in favor to the others, in Ethiopia everyone wanted to take something from the others at any cost. They had checked my luggage at the border which surprised me a lot, after all, this was not a common practice. After I started walking, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to hitchhike There wasn’t even a soul around and my only hope was the lorry driver, who was supposed to pass by later and give me a lift. The road from the border to Gondar was totally cut off and not a car passed by and of course we shouldn’t forget the fact that almost nobody owned a car in Ethiopia. And still – what a beautiful nature there was in this country!!! I could see more beautiful and green sights than these in Bulgaria or New Zealand. Vegetation and mountains as far as you can see, unreal landscapes like a 3D cartoon) I lot of colourful birds as if painted with bright colours. I had been walking a lot through these fantastic mountains, numerous people with flocks of cows and goats. I could do as many photos as I wished, so my photographic passion was completely unleashed as I was stunned by this beauty. After a few kilometers, militaries with a pick-up passed by and took me with them. We were travelling 6 people in the boot, all of us dressed in camouflage pants, but just me without AK in their hands. They left me in the village a little bit further down the road. While I was passing by the village, every single person of this village got out from their houses and started shouting behind me “faranj, faranj ( a foreigner)”. I recalled the book of the French people, who trespassed through Africa many years ago – they described how all children shouted ‘faranj’ and were throwing stones at them. Fortunately for me, I didn’t receive any stones this time. Children in Ethiopia resembled much more the Egyptian children than the Sudanese ones. They were really rude and tried to steal any purse they saw. All of them were begging at the streets. Begging had monstrous levels, it is true people were poor, but in many poor countries people were not envious and greedy as here. Many people looked at me as I was a golden duck. On the top of all this, Ethiopians were Christians, which actually turned the whole situation into a real nightmare – alcohol, drugs, prostitution and AIDS (in horrific scales). Misery could be seen everywhere and education level, obviously, was under the minimum level. It was really sad, because according to me, the country had it all but people were absolutely degraded. Sudan as a country is almost only desert and people were poor, but extremely happy and intelligent, and in Ethiopia everyone just wanted to cheat and steal (all they wanted was to achieve things in the easiest possible way). They had such plenty of clean water, such greenery everywhere, agriculture in the lower parts of the country and stock-farming in the mountains. If people were a little bit better, this would be the Paradise on Earth!
Besides all that, nobody owned a car, so hitchhiking was impossible. I totally switched myself to a walking mode in Africa After the lorry driver took me again; he gave me a lift to a small town not too far from Gondar, where I pitched my tent next to the lorry for a second time. So, this morning I started walking towards Gondar. It took me several hours to walk over the hill, so now I am resting in Gondar. Later today, I am going to the Simien Mountains and it would be a miracle if I succeed to reach it today. There isn’t any phone range and the internet cafes are an extreme luxury in this area. Locals are completely unaware what coach surfing is, but I found a host – an American lady who lives in Korem – a small town, which I hope I will reach soon.
So, temporarily, I am swapping hitchhiking with walking and from now on I start enjoying the unreal beauty of this country.
Translated by: Ivelina F