Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mice, mosquitos & woodworm

How could I get fed up with this view?
I'm currently on holiday at my flat in Calabria. Everytime I return I fall in love with the location and views all over again, whilst my stomach knots with fear and trepediation at the work (aka money) the flat needs. I joke it will be finished when the mortgage is paid off, but have a horrible feeling that's the truth.

This is my 3rd summer here, although only 2nd in the flat, and this year there is a plague of mosquitos. Managing to remain primarily unseen, they strike any millimetre of skin that the repellent missed. Along with the plague, my flat has an infestation of woodworm. When I arrved last week there were piles of sawdust on/under chairs, the table, window frames, the wardrobe, and even the bed frame. I've just arranged for the builder (roof is being started in September inshallah) to remove all old wood, eaten chairs, even firewood, whilst I've been spraying toxic stuff into thousands of holes in order to stop the spread. ugh

Finally, Saturday, returning from eating a proper Italian pizza (none of that Pizza Hut type immitation stuff here), I discovered a mouse in my bathroom. The poor thing was scared of me, whilst I was worried it would get into the main part of the flat. Retreating, I left it hiding behind the toilet, locked the door between us and turned on all lounge lights to discourage it entering. Thirty minutes later it had left. Where to, I don't know but hopefully out of the flat.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The best day ever!!!

Meroe (Bajarawiya) pyramids 
What a difference a week makes- last Saturday I had the best day out, ever, whilst this Saturday I was struggling with tiredness after the long journey (with compulsory middle-of-the-night check in) back to UK. Last Saturday was my last, for the time being in Sudan, and a friend arranged a trip out of Khartoum for me.

I had wanted to see the pyramids of Meroe since buying a guide book back in March and seeing the amazing photos, just like the one I took above. Despite my urging for an early start, I was picked up in a minibus at 8.45am and our next stop was at the fruit & veg market for supplies. Then we stopped to get a road permit, and finally we left the city heading north. People no longer need travel permits to travel to this part of Sudan, which actually makes it more difficult to travel as at the police checks they now have to note passport numbers, visa numbers, names of people traveling with you, shoe sizes etc., instead of you just handing a paper with your passport. One friend was getting quite angry with the delays, and then I caused a laugh by using one of the police check point desert toilets. I will not go into details, but it involved a low wall built of adobe bricks and a hole.

Around four hours after being picked up, numerous checkpoints, and about 230kms, finally, we arrived at the site, and it is quite amazing! Predecessors to Egypt's pyramids the Meroe pyramids stand like giant broken teeth emerging from the red sand, visible from the highway. Driving up we discovered that we had the site to ourselves, the half a dozen camel men, and a couple of police - this is not a tourist place like Giza. Some of the group preferred Egypt's pyramids, but I loved this isolation and lack of crowds. It was very, very hot, high 40s°C, which made walking in the sand difficult. The pyramids have been 'restored' in places, which helps to give an idea of what they were like before being destroyed by treasure hunters.We didn't cross the road to the Royal City, because it is overgrown and supposedly difficult to understand for amateurs.

Back in the minibus, and after a short prayer stop, we headed back south to visit Sabalooqa, which is at the 6th and final Nile Cataract, just 60kms north of Khartoum. Due to the rains and opening of dams to provide irrigation at this time of year the river was enormous. Of course, we took a boat ride on the river, before the final drive back to the city. I arrived at my hotel at 9.15pm, tired, sweaty (did I mention the AC in the bus stopped in the morning???), very dusty, but with an enormous smile on my face due to the fabulous trip we'd had.

Thank you Hazim for arranging everything.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Escorted by the police - the story

I had an encounter with the police this morning... 

It is my final weekend in Khartoum as I leave next Friday, back to Europe for the summer before my next destination, which is not back here despite it being what my heart cries out for, but that's another story. Not as early as I had planned, I left the hotel to take some of the photos I have been meaning to but hadn't. Sticking with my policy I adopted when I arrived (here) I still have not taken those "picturesque" "interesting" poverty shots, but still wanted to capture the essence of the city. I walked around several of the blocks near the hotel, which being Friday are quieter than normal, as I wanted to capture some of the buildings.

Although it was already quite hot, high 30s I guess, I continued across the railway. I find the railway fascinating as the old station is still there (below), but nowadays there are not passenger trains out of Khartoum, just very slow freight. Crossing the road, I'd intended to investigate some buildings a block over, which I have spied from the road, but got distracted by the abandoned passenger carriages. I took one photo and was about to take some gorgeous blue carriages next, when there were shouts from in-front and behind me.
Ahead was a man who had been sitting by the grey train, whilst behind me was a policeman. He wanted my permit to take photos. This document I had asked for on arrival 4 months ago, to be informed that it wasn't necessary. hmm. My Arabic is still non-existent and the policeman no English, although I managed 'isme Susan' and he 'my name Nadil'. I was walked back to the road and a man in a car then worked as a translator, although I have no idea who he was as he was dressed in a jelabiah and had 3 kids scrambling around inside.A second policeman arrived, with his shirt covered with insignia, so I guess he was of higher rank than Nadil. I was asked who I work for, and then where was my ID. Oops I had swoped purses because my bag was heavy and didn't have even my driver's licence on me (I don't normally carry my passport as I'm scared it will get lost).

I was still only 2 blocks from my hotel, and I understood I was to go with them to get my passport. However, they started walking across the road in a different direction. Momentary panic, until I understood the word for a vehicle, but it was at this point I decided to call someone from work. The higher-ranked policeman got in the driver's side of a truck, and I scrambled into the passenger side, Nadil then got in beside me and I was sandwiched between them. Gulp. At the main junction they waved at the traffic police, who was astonished to see a Westerner with them. Arriving back at the hotel, the first words from reception were 'what have you done?' as the two policemen walked me in. Reception gave the policemen something in Arabic with my name on it, and I showed them my visas, and everything was okay. The policemen even offered me a lift back, but I thought I'd had enough excitement and said goodbye. Cheekily I asked if I could take their photo, which I think Nadil would have liked, but the officer said no.
The offending photo is above - they didn't make me delete it even though I offered too. The other photos are here on my other blog and on flickr.

Please remember all photos are © and all rights reserved by Sue Pownall.
Contact me if you wish to use any images, thank you.