About Me

My photo
Author of Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure from Casablanca to Cape Town http://tinyurl.com/owdwvrp I write about travel and adventure from my home in California and from Africa. I've sailed a catamaran from California to Hawaii, trekked in the Himalayas, worked as a construction manager on a bridge project in Zambia, hiked 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, (http://bootsbedouinsandabridge.blogspot.com/) and traveled in over 100 countries and all seven continents. Indie Book Award Winner for Best Memoir of 2012, New York Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, Travelers Tales Solas Award for Best Travel Writing Honorable Mention for My Gambian Husband. Indie Book Award Finalist - Best Travel Book 2013. BOTYA Honorable Mention 2013 - Travel Essay. Member of The Explorers Club since 2013 You can follow my current 2013-2014 expedition across Africa, this time in a 1973 Land Rover Series III 109 on http://teresaokane.blogspot.com/ and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/safarijema

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Swimming The Nile in a Muu-Muu

In the sandy port town of Wadi Halfa we waited two days for our truck to catch up to us. It was supposed to leave before us in a separate vehicle ferry but the ferry had broken down and was towed to Sudan by a tug. While we waited we climbed every hill in the area (two), pet stray puppies, took tuk-tuk rides, drank cardamom-flavored coffee and ate chicken and rice with pita.

It was a time of killing time and casting about for random activities. Not only were all our clothes on the truck but also most of our books, our journals,and our money. One late afternoon English Alice and I waved down a tuk-tuk, showed him ten Sudanese Pounds, and asked him to “just drive us around, ten pounds worth.”

When he dropped us off back in town he made the crazy person sign to his friend by circling his index finger around his temple.

At dusk, we climbed up a small mount to watch the last of the setting sun and at night we slept on webbed beds in a dirt courtyard practicing patience while counting shooting stars.

In a small covered market I bought a muu-muu. For my British friends, in this context it’s a long Hawaiian dress, not a female body part. When I wore it around town local men gave me thumbs up and exclaimed “ Good! Good!” and women gave me a smile and a look that said, “Hello, sister.” Days later when we drove off the main road to Khartoum to find a waterhole where we could get some relief from the heat, I walked directly into the Nile, muu-muu and all. The heat drove me to it but in hindsight it was a stupid thing to do because over the doorway of a hut near the river was a crocodile head, and across from it lying on the ground was a complete 14-foot long croc carcass. Scott thought it’s gaping mouth, teeth intact, made for a good photo op – “Tris, put your head inside!” We asked the man leading us to the river, “Did you kill those crocodiles?”

“Yes, I shot them right here,” he said, gesturing to the area where we were supposed to swim. But that’s just how hot I was, and I walked right in. Sadly, the Nile was only wet, not refreshing. It too was reaching the boiling point.

Somewhere between Wadi Halfa and Khartoum - the hot days have all blended together in one hazy mirage - we visited the Nubian Pyramids of Meroe. Nubians were building pyramids long before the Egyptians even started. I prefer the slender lines of the Nubian variety to those at Giza, despite the fact there isn't a Pizza Hut restaurant within a thousand miles. The Nubian ones are still out in the middle of the desert where pyramids should be. Accompanied by two Bedouins who walked along next to me I rode a camel around the Pyramids holding my red umbrella over me for shade. Scott said I evoked an image of Lawrence of Arabia.

When we reached hot, dusty Khartoum we thought we would get some respite from the heat since we would be camped along the Nile at the Blue Nile Sailing Club, but it was still 110 degrees in the shade.

In teams of four we take turns cooking for our group of twenty overlanders and the first night in Khartoum my tean was on K-P. We decided on Sudanese style Spaghetti Bolognese. We were stunned by the price of tomatoes - $15 for 4 kilos - and we eyed with trepidation the beef hanging in the open-air, bloody floored meat shop. “Well, let's just cook it a really long time,” I said as the butcher lopped off a 2-kilo hunk of red meat of an unidentifiable animal and put it through a mincer. Thanks to the culinary skills of Phil (one-half of the delightful Tom and Phil twins on board) and Matt who reminds me of my nephew Colin and makes me long for home at times, it turned out great. I made garlic bread by spreading olive oil on pita bread and covering it with dried spices and small chunks of garlic. That came out pretty good too. It was a hot and dusty afternoon spent shopping for food then cooking over a charcoal fire. By the time the dishes were done and everything was put away I was dying for a shower. But there was no water! There are times when a wet one, even one the size of a bath towel just doesn't suffice and this one one of them. I went to bed that night sticky and miserable.
The best thing, the only thing, you can say for the Blue Nile Sailing Club is that The Melik, the gun boat that Lord Kitchener took up the Nile to conquer the Mahdi, sits as a monument in the middle of the hot and dusty campground. thinking it might somehow be a little cooler inside the old boat I climbed some rickety stairs to take a self guided tour and found a couple of men using it as their bachelor pad. there was no relief from the heat at all. Fortunately later that day Kamal Omar, a longtime member of the Blue Nile Sailing Club, took a few of us out for a sunset cruise on the Nile in his motorboat. Finally respite from the heat! Hot dogging water skiers from Dubai deliberately doused our boat as they jetted by. The waters of the Nile cooled me, and my muu-muu - you Brits can infer your meaning of muu-muu now - enough to be able to sleep that night.

Scott and Tris (in her muu muu),


Next: Ethiopia. “You! I love you!”