Yesterday we have arrived in Khartoum, Sudan.

After we had received our visa for Sudan we decided to leave Addis as soon as possible. We had dinner at the Old Milkhouse for the last time and celebrated with many beers and gin-tonics. The following morning we filled up with diesel, water and money and left heading north. We started the historical route of Ethiopia with our first stop Lalibela with a one-night stopover in Kembolcha. The road was good until Kembolcha where we spend the night in our tent next to a chicken house, after that is was an OK dirt road. Problem is you keep on ping-ponging between 2.000m and 3.000m which is just not good for our average speed. At one time we were at about 3.500m driving through the clouds and it was very, very cold (10 deg. or so). Lalibela is famous for its churches hewn out of rock. It’s very impressive and the guide told us the interesting history. Though it is very special, the churches are eleven (!) in total and seem to look like each other after a while.

We had seen all the interesting parts and left the following morning for Mekele. Along the way we met two other Overlanders, Dan and Charlie, from the UK ( They are driving from the UK to Cape Town. We exchanged information on garages and sleeping places and had a chat about experiences so far. OK guys and too bad we’re not driving in the same direction. We continued and arrived in Mekele in the evening, exhausted. Nice thing is that we did see some groups of hyena's along the way. We pulled up at the first hotel we saw. Actually we couldn’t have been luckier. They had a clean room with 2 beds and, yes, a sat-tv. They also had no problems bringing our dinner and beers to the room, and that for 100 Birr (10usd)! So we watched ‘Proof of Life’ and another movie and fell asleep…

From Mekele we went to Aksum via the monastery of Debra Damo which is located on a huge rock. This is one crazy experience as you can see from the pictures. The only way to get up the rock is via a leather rope. One is attached to you waist and the other you have to use to climb, for 15 meters! It’s really scary. By the way, everything female and alive has been banned from the rock. On top of the rock is a little village of about 150 people, half of them is monk. Interesting to see how they live up there, but all the time you keep on thinking that you have to get down the same way as you got up! Happily nothing happened to us and we continued to Aksum.

In Aksum we stayed at the Africa Hotel. Not very special but just okay. We met two nice Aussies, brother Chris and sister Cory. We had dinner and some beers together. She had been in Ethiopia for 2 months working at a hospital in Bahir Dar and he visited her to do the historical route together. They are heading for Egypt as well, but are cheating because they go by plane (and they had a driver as well!)... Maybe we’ll meet up again in Aswan. The following day we drove on to the Simien Mountains at a city called Debark. According to Cory it was about a 3 hours drive… we did it in 7h. But it was a very, very nice route and maybe the most beautiful scenery we have had so far. It’s like driving through the Grand Canyon continuously. Too bad Pietje didn’t see the dog coming out of nowhere in time; the sound was not very nice to hear. Debark is small and only exists because it’s close to the Simien mountains. Cory and Chris went hiking there so we had dinner and a beer once more and then said goodbye.

We drove through Gondar and on to Shehedi, just in front of the border with Sudan. We stamped our Carnet and head into the village. It was not clean and there was absolutely nothing and people couldn’t speak English (and we don’t speak Arabic). So we had four fried things (in Dutch ‘oliebol’) as dinner (for 0.30usd) and finished our money by buying some last beers. (Remember alcohol is not allowed in Sudan, this has obliged us to bring in a bottle of whiskey which is in the car right now, yeah!)

It seems like a long time ago since we've updated you with news. What we did... trying to get our visa for Sudan.

Monday last week we were at the embassy for the first time. The embassy of Sudan here is the worst in the whole of Africa. They say they open at 8h30, though sometimes the gate opens at 10h. Then, between 13h and 15h they have lunch and you have to get out, but again sometimes they don't open the gate untill 16h. Then there is this guard who randomnly refuses you to enter, although he doesn't have a clue what or who you are there for. Furthermore the 'important' people like the consul and ambassador are in another building, difficult to get to (because of that stupid guard) and once there you will only meet with their secretaries. It's not possible to make an appointment and everybody is always in a meeting and that meeting could take all day. This means one day of Sudanese embassy is effectively just a few hours of getting things done.

Getting things done.. forget it. There are a couple of windows and some offices. The first thing they do is send you from one window to the other, then to the offices and back to the window again. It's impressing how each one of them can make up a new procedure of how to apply for a visa when you see them for the second, third and fourth time. Finally, we got mr. Whalid to send our application form to Khartoum which can take up to 4 weeks. So last week we sorted out our options. The first option was to do nothing and wait in Addis. The second was to fly to Cairo, get the visa there and fly back. The third was to send our passports to The Netherlands, get the visa there and send them back to somewhere just before the border of Sudan. The fourth was to begin our historic tour in Ethiopia, drive back to Addis and pick up our visa (from about the border of Sudan to Addis and back is a detour of 1.500 km!). The last was to do the historic route, fly back to Addis from just before the border of Sudan to pick up the visa and fly back again.

By the end of the week we concluded that starting the historic tour was the only thing to do. Whether we would fly back or drive back we would see later on. On Friday we went to ask mr. Whalid if one of us could pick up the visa later on instead of both of us, this could save us the price of one ticket. He gave us remarkable news: "Is your name Roossink? Roossink has come to me, but just Roossink." Within 3 hours Leen had his visa. This is because of a back-up plan from which we didn't know what to expect. All we can say is many, many, many thanks to sinterklaas Peter from Berlin. One down and one to go. The reason for only one visa was a matter of misinterpretation of the message, so we thaught let's ask sinterklaas to repeat what he has done but clearly meant for Pietje. It was getting late and they were about to close, but we were confident that the next Monday all would be well.

This means we had the weekend to spend in Addis. We went to some bars, restaurants and discotheque. This last one can easily be compared with a bar + a lot of 'pleasure girls', very interesting to see. Furthermore we lunched, had dinner, drank beers and played soccer (in a mall they have a game-room!). We also visited the National Museum, quite nice and they have very old fossils found in Ethiopia. Then again we had lunch, dinner, beer... We also visited the Addis Ababa Museum, though this wasn't very spectacular.

Monday would be our day and we got to the embassy early, full of expectations. Mr. Whalid didn't receive anything. Damn! We had to notifie sinterklaas but because this takes some phone calls and there is time difference we had nothing else to do but wait. We stayed at the embassy (once out, it's difficult to get back in) reading a book, walking 10 feet and back, playing games on the mobile.. terrible and time goes slow! At the end of the day no news, so we went back to the hotel.

Tuesday we decided not to go to the embassy but just wait for news from sinterklaas. Nothing and we spend the day doing exactly nothing. Later on we found out there was news, but we (and anybody else) have problems here with making calls, receiving calls and the same for text messages and thus we missed the news.

Wednesday would be the big day then. We got hope again because it was confirmed to us that the message had been sent the day before to the embassy of Sudan. Mr. Whalid didn't got anything again! We got really sick of it because the message had to be somewhere in the embassy, but where? So we searched for the origin of the message, though this was hard. We got send from the windows to the office to the other building and back and in the end they had nothing. Remember that most of them speak only very little English, so we think they sometimes just didn't understand. It was getting late, we were tired of waiting and mostly of the bureaucratic people there so we got to the hotel. We explained to sinterklaas that this very simple thing of sending a message was not able with the embassy of Sudan in Addis and asked what to do. Actually we had given up hope and had to go back to the normal procedure (3 a 4 weeks).

Today started strange. During the night we had woken up and twice found a cat in our room! Maybe it was because of the open window.. While getting ready for the last try at the embassy we noticed a very young cat, not more than 1 week old, in the closet! We named him mr. Whalid (when we got home today they had disappeared, damn). Sinterklaas had given us a last option, but only if we really got desperate. At the embassy mr. Whalid told us: nothing. We also were not allowed to see the counsel or the ambassador. We were desperate. With help from another sinterklaas, Cor from Addis, we got something like the message we needed, though it was not the same and we doubted if it would help but at least it was something. At first mr. Whalid waved the message away. Damn. Then we explained to him what was said in the message, he hadn't even read it! Now he was willing to ask his superior what to do. They accepted and now also Pietje is approved to enter Sudan! After this it is only a matter of filling in the application form, pay 61 USD and wait. Two hours later we left the embassy for the last time, but not without a picture with mr. Whalid!

We have to say many, many thanks again to both sinterklaas Peter and Cor and our phone-linker in The Hague of course!

After a hilarious border crossing (because of the Ethiopian officials), we checked into the first good looking hotel we saw, which was a succes. We had our first Ethiopian beers and food (very nice!). We also checked the oil in the car, which was fine. This made it a bit of a mystery why the pressure light came on...

We met with a guy named Biruk, who took us to a nightclub (bar with extremely loud music). He told us some stuff about Ethiopia and its history. It was a good night. The next morning, again, we started a very long drive. But this time, it was tar road. Ethiopians are friendly people, but when you sit in a car and drive through a village, there not so friendly. Everybody keeps shouting at us all day long, very tiring. And then the oil light came on again, but would not go away this time. So we stopped for 2 minutes to check the oil, fine. And when we started driving again, it was gone. Still a mystery, probably a broken sensor... After 530 km we stopped in Awasa and checked into a fine hotel for a beer and a meal. We went to bed at 8, nackered.

Next day, monday--> Addis. We arrivd at around 12 and went straight to the Sudanese Embassy. Here we got a real load of bad news. I'll spare you the details of this bureaucratic institution. It took us 5 hours to get our letters from our own embassy signed by Mr Whalid and then we were told to come back in 2 weeks! Maybe by then there would be approval, but it will probably take 3 weeks. We were stunned, and to be honest, very angry. But that is not the way to deal with these people... We talked to this Mr Whalid for a bit. The only option to speed up things is to arrange a letter of invitation by the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So we are doing our best to arrange that. Our other option is to fly to Cairo, and do it there (is much faster), but this is too expensive for us (550 USD pp). Depressed, we left the embassy. Outside a guy in a Land Rover asked if we needed any service. We did, so we followed him to check out his shop. It all looked good, so we made a price and arranged to come back the next day.

We drove to the center and checked into the first hotel we found, Hotel Baro. After that we got drunk... Whilst drinking we decided to go for the option of the letter from Sudan, if it doesn't work, we wait. Luckily we have our car so we can do a historic tour of Ethiopia which will take about 10 days.

Today we went to the garage. Here, they first washed it. That took about an hour! It was so dirty, but it's all shiny now! The guys also found a leakage of one of the oil breathers. So this was fixed and the oil pressure sensor was replaced. All set we left for the Hilton to have lunch, we were very hungry. We had a huge meal, enjoyed the view from the roof and that was it! More news soon...