Go back to Africa.
Motivated by Tony Howard’s 1983 article on his exploration of Sudan (British Alpine Journal, 1988-89), we’ve been dreaming of seeing the place for the last 10 years. The established climbing options in the Taka Mountains in the east of the country looked limited; nevertheless, the pull of the place was sufficiently strong to draw us in. If you want to rack up pitches of climbing, you go to Red Rocks; or El Potrero; or Rio for that matter. If you want an adventure, you go to Sudan. That is indeed what we got even if we hardly did any climbing.
Stumbling onto a very favorable review of Travel Sudan Tours on tripadvisor’s Sudan forum was the final catalyst. I pinged them and got a quick response from Osman, the owner of the company. Yes indeed, they could put together a custom tour for us which would include a few days in Kassala at the foot of Taka Mountains; and yes, they’d take care of all the (considerable) paperwork including entry and exit permits, rona tests, and in-country travel permits.
In the end, we can add one more voice to the choir praising Travel Sudan Tours. Osman did a fantastic job for us and things could not have gone more smoothly. The country feels perfectly safe for tourists and the only hints of the ongoing political unrest were a handful of brief internet outages. The people we encountered were very friendly, the food was good especially the home cooked meals courtesy of Ghazi, and the coffee was excellent; probably the best coffee we’ve had outside of Portland.
Sudan Road Trip
Alaska Airlines Clusterf…
Sometime in the summer of 2021, we bought a pair of round-trip tickets to Khartoum on Qatar Airways. In late October, following the military coup and the ensuing protests, Qatar suspended their Doha-Khartoum service for about a week. They then resumed those flights only to suspend them again in early November. Their website would then announce that the flights would restart in two weeks. We’d wait and then that resumption date would get pushed. Calling them was a waste of time; and so we waited and kept checking. A week before departure, we have had enough and cancelled the reservation with a full refund.
We then rebooked on Turkish with Alaska providing the domestic leg to JFK; and so the fun began.
At the airport, three hours prior to departure only to find a queue frozen in time. Missed our domestic flight. Rebooked by an Alaska person on Emirates for the following day; our rona test results barely passing the freshness test. Layover in Dubai and a quick looksee at the Turkish app: what the fuck? Our return tickets had been cancelled. Call Turkish. Call Alaska. In limbo – no man’s land. Following the itinerary “modification” (fuck up) by Alaska, we got flagged by Turkish as “no-shows”. More bouncing back & forth. Apparently, the situation cannot be unfucked. Booking another set of return tickets as we’ve been warned that credit cards do not work in Sudan. Frantically completing the purchase as the final boarding call for our Khartoum flight is announced.
Arrive in Khartoum only to find out – some three hours later – that our bags are still in JFK.
It blows my mind that the biggest monkey wrench in visiting Sudan during the new Omicron panic and post recent coup would be caused by the incompetence of a silly domestic connector airline.
The one positive thing I can say about Alaska is their customer service line. It took many (many!) hours on the phone, but once we found the right person, they put in the work (about two hours’ worth) – which included calling Turkish Airlines themselves – and ultimately cleaned up the problem. We were able to then call Turkish and get our emergency return tickets refunded; an unexpected bonus.