The second night of my introduction to camping was spent on the banks of the White Nile. How exotic and romantic it sounds. I’ll give it this, our campsite outside Mongala was the nicest of the entire trip.
The ground was flat, the riverbank edged with tall bushes and scant trees, enabling Tim to erect our tent. We could hear hippos in the river, but they were deemed a safe distance off. Comforting to know, considering they are the most dangerous of all animal African mammals, if you discount human beings.
By the third day, we should have been in Nuba territory, but the people we met were not those depicted in the Riefenstal photographs. Perhaps, as was suggested, most of the traditional Nuba had withdrawn to a safe, more distant place.
The few Nuba we saw were dressed in tee shirts and shorts and cotton skirts. These were people who had been acculturated and now did not really belong anywhere. It was a sad but unfortunately common experience.
Colin Turnbull’s book of the 1960’s “The Lonely African” tells this sorry tale.
Because we had been delayed 3 days in Khartoum, we could not afford the time to continue further in hope of finding the illusive Nuba people.
We had a deadline by which we needed to be back in Khartoum in order to catch the once-weekly Swissair flight home, and it was going to be a challenge to make it.
Feeling rather deflated, having travelled this great distance for what now seemed an unattainable purpose, we set up camp for the third time. Tents were abandoned. They were rather pointless and after 10 hours of bumping along in the truck, no one wanted to be bothered.
Constant wild fires had burned all the grassy stubble that was everywhere, and everything we touched turned our hands and our clothes black with soot.
That was the same day I had cause to regret my foolishness over the issue of footwear. The shoes I had purchased as a compromise were neither beautiful nor efficient.
I came to discover this when thorns thrust their way through the soft soles to impale themselves in my insufficiently protected appendages.
I was beyond caring about whether or not we had a tent, but on this particular evening, Taff had scoured the horizon for a tree where he could conceal the truck.
I’m not sure from whom, as there was not a soul in sight in any direction. But find a tree we must.
Just before dusk, a sad specimen was spotted, and Taff maneuvered us beneath it.
But not before I spotted a vulture sitting on a branch, sizing up its potential dinner.
I more or less fell off the truck with my backpack, cast my eyes around at the endless pit-sized ruts, and exasperatedly asked Tim “well where am I supposed to put my sleeping bag?”
Perhaps he had detected a slight lag in my sense of humour and not quite his usual irrepressibly cheerful self, he growled, in response:
“Just curl yourself up around a rut!”