While conducting my morning ablutions, I am surprised to see another clearly foreign face. This is a Canadian guy, Wally, recently arrived in Wadi Halfa and hoping to catch the ferry north. He has an iTouch on which he has copies of the WLP for all countries in East Africa. I mentally compare the size, weight, and info of my Africa-wide WLP with his iTouch and its contents, and am consumed with jealousy.The others head out for breakfast, which I miss due to a combination of not realising the time here is 1 hour ahead of Egypt, as well as the age-old excuse of washing my hair. It seems I also miss an altercation near the breakfast cafe, where bystanders have to keep apart two men intent on going at each other with knives.

The WCs at the lokonda are squat toilets with a scent and fly content that leads you to them, the washing facilities simply a tap from which you can fill a jug. You then move to your preferred area of the courtyard to carry out your business. I have a premonition that these types of "shower" will feature fairly heavily in my near future.

Registration involves dealing with an excess of bureaucracy and being shuttled from one office to another, but it is still preferable to being locked in the town's prison - we see various mournful faces behind bars, many apparently from the ferry, in the slammer for some unknown offence. Jessie's Arabic helps smooth our passage, both due to its technical value and the respect the police have for his ability, and we then locate transport south to Abri.

Our vehicle will be a boksi, a Toyota pickup with a covered back holding two facing benches. We enter our names on the passenger list, whose numbering reveals the worrying potential for 14 passengers in total. We get away lightly with just 11, and it's still a squeeze. We depart just over an hour late, which I'm told qualifies as early by African standards.Facing me is a local woman with bags of attitude. In between screaming into her mobile phone and hailing everyone who we pass, she chews seeds constantly for the first hour, spraying the discarded husks in a normal distribution centred on me. She then switches to oranges and accompanying pip-spitting, before settling on plain gum.

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About this author

  • John McCabe

    From the UK, lived and worked in Japan and the US. Currently on a multi-year trip having a look at the rest of the world. Fir…

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