This morning we left just after 8am to visit Jebel Barkal (holy mountain). We were accompanied along the road by a very strong tailwind that seemed to be carrying half of the surrounding deserts with it.
The entrance to the site looked more like a police compound than a archaeological site. There are no signs at all just a huge number of blue camouflage clad policeman sitting around outside a building. They can't be there to protect the site from hordes of tourists as we were the only ones there. Eventually as at the previous site of Deffufa, some form filling took place, our nationalities were asked, money was parted with and a ticket/permit was given.
Walking out into the desert towards the ruins we encountered yet more policeman scattered around the site. This was a bit unnerving as we don't have a photography permit and we obviously wanted to take some pictures. In the end we just decided to carry on regardless and hope no one was aware of the rules. Fortunately, none of the police seemed that bothered.
As we wandered amongst the ruins one of the men from the entrance started to follow us and point things out. We didn't really want a guide and weren't really certain what he wanted, so we just kept walking. In the end it became clear that he was just there to open the door to the temple for us.
The temple of Mut was very interesting with the walls covered in carvings and hieroglyphics. The man who had let us in gave us a brief insight into the meanings of the carvings and with the aid of a torch for the darker sections gave us a short tour.
Having seen the ruins we headed round the back of the mountain and straight into the very strong, sand-carrying wind. It was a bit like being sand blasted as we struggled through the dunes to see the pyramids. The walk was worth it though, when the steep sided remarkably preserved pyramids came into sight.
Walking up a slightly higher mound to have a better look at the site I was waved at by a security guard. Oops! It turned out that the mound I was on, was in fact the remains of a collapsed pyramid, no wonder he was waving! After that slight error I tried not to commit any further mistakes as we wandered amongst the pyramids.
Eventually the wind got the better of us and we slowly headed back towards the bikes. Jebel Barkal has been well worth a visit and having it all to ourselves was great.
Leaving the site behind we encountered the first unpleasant Sudanese children we have come across. Pointing at our bikes and shouting 'give' and then pursuing us on bikes demanding money is something we have not come to expect in the country.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the bus station to find out about moving on to Atbara. As before we were told that it would be no problem, but being further the ticket cost for ourselves and our bikes is going to be a bit higher. This time we will be skipping nearly 300km of desert or three/four days of cycling that we really need to make up to get through Sudan while our visa lasts.
Leaving the bus station we went to try and have a look at the old derelict 'Nile Steamers'; boats that used to sail from Dongola to Karima when the Nile was high enough. Sadly we couldn't find the right road and when a young lad decided to accompany us on his bike and then start asking me to give him things we decided to give it up as a bad job. Thankfully we encountered lots more friendly and smiley children during our ride round the town, so the begging, rude few are not in a majority. Breakfast at a restaurant where we were assisted by a really helpful Ethiopian guy rounded off a busy morning.
The rest of the day has been somewhat less busy, although we have sorted some photos out and the blog is back up to date. Hopefully we will get to do some uploading soon.
Tomorrow Atbara and then it is back on the bikes for the ride down to Khartoum.