|Sunday 1st July - Sudan - Khartoum (Day 2)
A day of frustrating searches!
Searching for anything in Khartoum is a difficult business. The traffic here is very congested and very slow but we have seen that at other times, in other cities. The difference here is the sheer number of pedestrians and the fact that they wander all over the road.
At times being in a queue of traffic resembled the Generation Game conveyor belt. Sitting in your car, people walk past you displaying a mind-boggling array of goods gilt wall mirrors, 6 glass tumblers, gas lighters, carpets, mosquito nets.. We were all just waiting for the cuddly toy. It makes you wonder what strange coincidence would have to occur for a person to be sitting in a car longing for a burgundy carpet when hey! Theres a man walking down the road trying to sell one! Unfortunately, none of the things that we were searching for in Khartoum appeared by coincidence alongside our traffic-jammed car.
It being a Sunday we thought wed try to find a church. We got details of a church, but without an address and we couldnt find the address from anywhere. We thought we might be able to get more information from the Bible Society so we searched for them and found them after driving round in circles for ages but they were closed.
Probably the most urgent thing that we required today was money. Up until Sudan it has been very easy to get money weve been able to use Maestro and there have been plenty of ATMs. What hadnt dawned on us was that, because of the American Trade Embargo, nobody here accepts credit cards and we cant use any ATMs. We tried a couple of banks and then tried Western Union but with no luck.
Since weve been on the move for a few days we also needed to find a laundry. The Acropole Hotel is very good, but laundry is expensive here, so we thought wed find somewhere else. Getting laundry done has never been a problem so far on our travels, weve always been able to get it done quickly and for a reasonable price. However there are complications in Sudan. One laundry wouldnt do ladies underwear, another laundry wouldnt do any underwear at all, another laundry wouldnt do childrens clothes and another laundry would only do dry-cleaning.
See some historical sights. We drove to the Mahdis tomb and the neighbouring Khalifas house. The tomb is only open to Muslims but the Khalifas house is like a museum and is open to everyone, only it was closed when we visited. Were not sure why it was closed or when it is meant to be open, but there you go.
A playpark. Khartoum is our first city for a while so we needed to find a playpark.
We did find a small, poorly equipped playpark which turned out to be next to the zoo. As the kids were on the swings we noticed a male lion in a small cage on the back of a pickup, just beside the playpark. On the same pickup there was a cage with two worried-looking, hugging chimpanzees and another cage with a couple of porcupines. It was sad to see the animals in such small cages especially the poor, big lion in a cage that was barely larger than the animal itself.
We went past the pickup into the zoo and it was all in a sorry state. Big eagles in cages that were too small for them to fly in. Dainty little antelopes, obviously designed to run and leap, lying down in tiny little enclosures. Lots of monkeys packed in cages reminiscent of slave ship holds.
Then they started to transfer a lioness from the lions enclosure in a small cage. There were about a dozen people involved in this transfer - dragging the cage around while the lion roared. Lots of other people stood around watching no safety cordon in sight. We watched for a while, but we stood a bit back from the action, preferring to ensure that there was always a good meals worth of people between us and the lion.
By this time it was mid-afternoon and wed had a thoroughly unsuccessful day, so we decided to retire to The Blue Nile Sailing Club. This club is supposedly a good place to have a drink overlooking the Nile and to meet with other overlanders. We made our way there and found that it had a playpark! Then in conversation with the staff we discovered that they would do laundry at a good price without any strange foibles regarding underwear, childrens clothes etc. We had a drink with a couple of other travellers and they told us about the Byblos Bank which can apparently issue money to tourists because it is based in Lebanon. Well try the Byblos bank tomorrow but by my reckoning thats about 2.5 quests down!