Sat 10 Apr
I had tried a number of times using various email addresses to contact "my man" in Khartoum. On one occasion I received a courtesy reply saying he will really reply the next day. He never did.
When I land at Khartoum airport I
borrow a moneychanger’s mobile phone and call Midhat.
"You are in Khartoum?" he seems surprised (and I like to think, a tad embarrassed).
"Yes, I’m at the airport, can we meet at your office? in say an hour?" I ask desiring the loan of a tent.
"No, I am near the airport, I’ll meet you at the gate, I am on my bike."
Imagining an arrivals hall packed with waiting friends, families, drivers and maybe even the odd tour guide I ask how I will spot him.
"Oh it’s blue and white."
Oh yes, I guess there won’t be so many people with bikes. The public side of the arrivals hall is indeed crowded. I walk straight through and look outside, still not sure whether "bike" means gleaming powerful motorbike or a sit-up-and-beg Phoenix boneshaker bicycle. No sign of any two-wheel vehicles sporting blue and white, I walk past the taxi stand, 200m to the tollbooth gateway and on to the public road.
Midhat is the manager of a tour company based in Khartoum. He's used to whizzing the wealthy around in Land Cruisers visiting archaeological sites, and assisting the adventurous with trekking and camping (with or without camels). For the past two years he has provided invaluable logistical support for the Sudan section of the Cairo to Cape Town Cycle Challenge (www.tourafrique.com) and has a pile of photos and enough cast-off gear to prove it. The blue and white bike is in fact an aluminium frame, front and back shock absorbing suspension mountain bike and half the weight of my town bike back home.
When we get to his office door he points to a 750cc motorcycle. "That’s my bike too" he smiles; it's also blue and white. I am delighted that the ambiguity could have gone either way. Then he laughs, "Only joking, it belonged to an American who camped in the desert near Wadi Halfa and was eaten by hyenas."