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Pole to Pole

Day 75: Gedaref to Kanina

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe track is now so badly pitted and potholed that our drivers are forced to seek the drier, less well used ground on either side. It is less well used largely because it is planted with crops, and as we charge through, flattening maize and sesame, I try not to think of the grossness of our action.

As the sun declines the colours of the countryside become more beautiful. The blackness of the soil contrasts with the pale lemon of the grass and the glowing russet of the eucalyptus trees' bark.

When our drivers are not pulling each other out of the mud they are questioning anyone who goes by. Little children, old women bearing piles of wood, young girls, all are asked with increasing desperation, 'Gallabat . . . Gallabat?'.

Night falls and one of the Landcruisers is stuck at an angle of 45 degrees, another sprays an arc of mud from its back wheels as it tries to drag the beleaguered vehicle onto the level. A donkey trots quietly past bearing an elderly man who gives a hint of a sad smile as he overtakes us and disappears into the distance.

Seven o'clock. One Landcruiser is now seriously damaged, with a crack in the suspension. This necessitates much unloading and redistribution of baggage amongst other, already crowded vehicles. It is pitch dark. As we are doing this three figures appear from the undergrowth. One of them is a little boy holding a candle. Behind him the horizon is momentarily illuminated by a flash of lightning. We are tired, dusty and saddle-sore but there is something about this moment which is unforgettable.

By eight o'clock, after thirteen hours' driving, we find ourselves in a small settlement. There is no electric light, just a collection of dimly lit huts and dogs prowling about beside a smelly stream. We are told this is the village of Kanina. Being near the frontier, it has a police presence. Their advice is that it would be highly dangerous to travel further tonight and they agree to put us up in the compound of the police station. They gather beds together and by the light of oil lamps and torches we rustle up a meal of cheese spread and pressed chicken and other slithery things out of tins. The 'bathroom' consists of a large urn of water in one corner of the mud-floored compound. The lavatory is outside. Anywhere.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 75
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Gedaref
  • Book page no: 160

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