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Pole to Pole

Day 64: Wadi Halfa to Atbara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleSleep is not easy at the Nile Hotel, what with the heat and the almost unbroken nocturnal soundtrack of rasping, hawking, spitting and snoring from just outside my window.

At one point in the night, despite stern instructions from my brain, my bowels are wide awake. I reach for torch and toilet paper, seek out one of the plastic jugs which are scattered around the hotel, fill it from one of the earthenware Ali Baba jars full of muddy Nile water, and, picking my way carefully between the sleeping bodies, head for the lavatories like a condemned man. There are fewer flies to contend with at night, but the smell is very bad, and it's best not to breathe through the nose if you can help it. This is not easy if you have to hold the torch in your mouth to keep both hands free.

Up at seven o'clock. Fraser has found a scorpion in his room and killed it with a shoe. Wash at a communal trough, into which oozes a thin trickle of water. Breakfast consists of dark red beans, cheese, jam and two eggs sprinkled with turmeric.

The train leaves at five o'clock this evening, so I have time to stock up on some provisions for a journey that is scheduled to take thirty-six hours.

The desert begins at the door of the hotel. Across an empty expanse are houses surrounded by long, low, mud walls, the same colour as the sand and the hills, so all seem to blend together in one wide, dim-brown desiccated vista. No rain has fallen here since 1998.

In the market most people seem to be either eating or washing their hands. Dogs hang around waiting for scraps, children play with sticks and hoops, and the stalls sell onions, beans, some cucumber, dates, bananas, garlic and rice. Flies cluster round the already decomposing fruit.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 64
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Wadi Halfa
  • Book page no: 140

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  • Using the lavatories
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