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How to Escape Sudan


Most people register upon entry.

We didn’t.

Making our way from Cairo to Cape Town, Danny and I refused to pay an inflated premium to entertain the bureaucrats at the border of Wadi Halfa. We insisted we would make arrangements in the capital Khartoum.

We didn’t .

Three days elapsed and the window closed. We remained apathetic. 8 Epic Arabian Nights passed. On the 9th day, we awoke in a merchant’s shed in Gallabat, the border town before Ethiopia.

Painting of Gallabat/Metemba (1940)

A narrow bridge occupied by heavily armed Sudanese soldiers separated us from the next realm of Africa.

Sudanese Soldier

6AM: We attempted to cross, but a quick glance at our passports landed us in trouble.

Inevitability, we found ourselves in the custody of  some rather uncouth army officals.

“You did not regisister! This is unacceptable”

“But we, we thought…” Our excuses fell on deaf hears.

“You must pay $70 each.” He demanded.

“But we don’t have that kind of money and the only ATM is in Khartoum.” I protested.

“We then enjoy Sudan.”

7AM: We were released and told to return with the money. Things looked grim. Khartoum was at least a day’s travel and $70 felt like a fortune on our budget. Fuck that.

“What do we do now?” Danny asked.

“Follow me” I said.

The border bridge hung over a deep trench where a small stream meandered. I followed the stream as far out of sight from the bridge as possible. A small Sudanese kid followed us.

“Hey kid, where’s the nearest town in Ethiopia?” I asked.

The boy picked up a stone and threw it across the stream to the other side. Ethiopia was only a few metres away.

The Border

I scanned the trench; it looked an easy obstacle. But that wasn’t my concern. The bridge was being patrolled by a lone sentry who’s shadow stalked the land in the dusty dawn light. A watchman, armed with a shimmering ambassador of death; an AK-47. His back was turned.  I had a momentary lapse in reason. Seizing the opportunity,  I began descending into the trench.  It was a reckless decision…

“What the fuck are you doing?” Danny whispered.

“Come on, it’ll be grand”

With barely a moment’s hesitation he followed. I wasn’t the only one with looking for an adrenaline rush; Danny was no stranger to danger. Time was of the essence.

We reached the bottom, crossed the stream and started scrambling up the other side, becoming alarmingly visible. If any of the guards saw us, there was a good chance we could be shot in the back.

We stayed silent, kept our bodies low and moved in a stealthy manner.

My heart was pounding so heart I thought the noise would give us away.

We made a last dash to take cover in the shrubbery across the border.

In the safety of an African bush, I savoured the moment of relief. We had evaded capture.

Navigating our way through the bushes we eventually stepped out to Metema, the Ethiopian border town!

But alas, our troubles were anything from over…

Metema outpost

7.10 AM: We enter the border office to validate our Ethiopian visas, a small hut with no electricity. The border official, a stoutly gentleman, sporting a large moustache greeted us. He asked us to sit down and took our passports. Investigating the pages, he  looked increasingly puzzled.

“OH! You did not leave Sudan. You must GO BACK. You must GO BACK NOW!

Our faces dropped and our stomachs tightened. I panicked. Not only did we deify the authorities with registration, we also just jumped the border illegally. That meant prison. Prison in one of the most oppressive countries in the world. A country that stones adulterers to death; where Sharia law reigns supreme. Weeks before, the Sudanese authorities had even jailed a women for calling a teddy bear Muhammed. Our lives were over.

The future looks bleak...

“WE CAN’T GO BACK! THEY WILL ARREST US!” I pleaded, explaining how the Sudanese  authorities had stopped us crossing. I broke down and told a tale of woe; a tale of extortion; a tale of two young infidels being exploited by corrupt officials…

We were on trial. Our prison: Sudan. We had made our defence but the odds were against us – we had blatantly broken the law.  We sat in despair awaiting the verdict.

Our judge held a stern deposition.

The tension was soul destroying.

“Ehh.. Sudanese!” He laughed, stamping our passports.



My Sudanese Visa

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10 Responses to How to Escape Sudan

  1. mrkillian June 17, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Brilliant. “Sure it’ll be grand!”

  2. Alex June 25, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Nomad, you definitely put Africa on my travel list. Seems to be a place where real travel adventures can still be had.

    What did you roughly spend on your trip from Cairo to Cape town? How much time did you take?

    • naughtynomad June 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

      That’s great Alex!
      Africa is my favourite continent..
      It only cost about €1000 per month to travel.
      It took us 3 months to get from Cairo to Cape Town 🙂

      • Alex June 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

        Thanks very much for the info!
        Oh, and the black ladies, you don’t know how crazy they drive me 😀

  3. Fred Tracy | Personal Development April 20, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    You crazy bastard. This is like something out of a movie. What an awesome story to have to tell.

  4. Cocker Jarvis April 26, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    Great, great story.

    I was hoping to get your story on Uganda (Kiva, was it?) The place that gave you the biggest rush of all your experiences.

  5. Magicman July 11, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    im sudanese from that same town where u crossed into the ethiopian border …that shit is fuckin crazy man i dont know how u guyz r still alive but u gotta know that these niggaz aint playin in sudan they cud hav shot u guyz in a second…crazy story

  6. Drew | The Hungry Partier May 26, 2014 at 2:12 am #

    Damn, this is intense! Makes me want to go to Africa soon… And Sudan is on the radar! Thanks for sharing this great story

  7. James Jacob April 15, 2015 at 4:05 am #

    I had a similar experience in the capital where the ministry of the interior detained me. I must say you chaps were rather lucky but its a well written story. Thank you for bringing back a few memories. The border crossing you went to has a fascinating history and I’m glad you have added to it.

  8. Luka April 11, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

    No fucking way. Who decides to illegaly cross a border while in the viewpoint of ‘highly strapped’ and corrupt Sudanese soldiers…where do you carry the wheelbarrow for your balls? This is a life truly lived to the full.

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