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Who Really Needs a Sparkplug?

April 7, 2011

sparkplug290.jpgLast night the prowling African cats kept me awake for a long time. There is nothing to strike fear into your heart quite like the sound of    a mangy cat with a chicken bone stuck in its throat.  Cat in Shrek came to mind with his cough. Kack, kack, kack… I would have thrown a boot at it except the boots were keeping the mozzie net pinned to the floor.  The sound of his hacking cough fades as he drifts away around a tukel but he clearly runs into one of his mates and round of shrieking and yowling ensues. What a zoo.

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Meet the Future of Sudan

April 5, 2011

girl-290.jpgWe suggested (an important word) that our boat crew be on the bank at 5.30 for the return trip. To our surprise they chugged to a stop at 5.35. Not so surprising was the fact that we had some extra passengers. You grab whatever lift you can around here.  A girl about 18 and a boy about 15. And second girl, also about 18 with her two children, a young baby about 3-4 months and a daughter about 3. The wind has dropped, almost completely and the evening is yellow and warm and calm. We head off against the current with the bow down and a three year olds face peering at me from the safety of her mother’s side. I pull faces and wink but nothing happens in that little brown face. At least to start.

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Hibiscus Infusions in Melut

April 4, 2011

nile_290.jpgAfter shaking off my arbor instructor and his insistent “write it down” I piled into the runabout with Russell and some of the lads for a run to Melut (meh-loot) about an hours north of travel. There are no roads so it’s the best option. Pretty much the only one actually. But the wind is up and the Nile chop is really no chop at all but a reasonably heavy surf running at about ¾  of a metre and the tops breaking off and peeling back. But our helmsman could care less – that outboard is for running full  pelt at maximum revs or not at all.

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A Dinka Start to the Day

April 1, 2011

dinka_1_290.jpgI woke from a lucid dream of trying to fit level guttering on curved Dr Suess houses – and laughed. I had spent yesterday putting guttering on a building that had some “level challenges”. There is a hint of blue sky and the breeze is down a little but it is decidedly cool. Armed only with shorts and T-shirt I am hard pressed to stop shivering in the pre dawn light. I am parked down near the Nile which is a noisy river I have decided. The rafts of vegetation slide past at a steady 3-4 knots but the waves make a steady sloshing sound as the water is pushed around by the breeze.

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Would you Like Some Mud in Your Hair? Yes Please.

April 1, 2011

img_1382-version-2.jpgI have forgotten  how stifling a mozzie net is. If there is any puff of air out there it is obliterated by the net. At the end of a windy day there is no breeze and I lie in the open stripped right off (sorry sensitive reader) leaking more sweat than water drunk today, of that I am sure.

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A Drum’s Journey

April 1, 2011

44_290.jpgA 44 gallon drum is manufactured in the USA in a highly automated production process that sees no human involved, from the arrival of the rolls of steel to the packaging of the empty drums onto pallets. Only when the pallets need to be loaded on to trucks does a human appear, in the form of a forklift driver.  Even the plug and bung are inserted by machines.  

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The Workshed

March 31, 2011

workshed290.jpgThe breeze I was looking for last night is here this morning, cool and steady, stirring up the reeds along the riverbank and creating a noisy chop on the river. There is nothing to hint at the 40 degrees to come. There is no one about as I park on the bank and watch the rafts of foliage, mainly hyacinth, float past.  Some sort of wren with a copper blue breast picks around in the dirt at my feet. I should have brought the camera with me as I see waders drifting along, birds I have never seen before.

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My Name is Wal

March 30, 2011

Our resort on the banks of the Nile is a small compound about 25 by 25 metres. It is hedged by a stick fence, mostly falling down though on the outside there is a jumble of thorn bushes as an extra layer of deterrence.  Integrated defence some might call it. Peter, already introduced, keeps the compound and watches the gate, though he watches all sorts wander in and out without attempting any sort of policing role that I can see. But it is a community guest compound after all so that is to be expected. There are a handful of tukels  – mud huts – and a couple of semi permanent safari style tents. Home is one of these.

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Thiangrial

March 29, 2011

(As I tap this out in the back blocks of Sudan from my hand written notes I see it is 4.45pm on Sunday and the Writers Group will be wrapping up their monthly session – writing, worlds apart in so many different ways). Ribbons of black streaks stain the grasslands below, the result of burning off. Stock trails leave faint marks through it, like the light touch of chalk on a blackboard. Heading to 6,000’ and the pilot turns and suggests we buckle up the full harness, its going to get rough. The full harness is already on and nipped up tight alright. At 5,000’ the cabin turns into an oven again. But there it is, creeping out of the distant haze on our left is the Nile, snaggling and stretching across a flat plain. It is an impressive sight. Sandy scribbles a note in my notebook as an island slides past: We are passing the Island of Fashoda where Churchill came down to retrieve the French officer. He and his troops had planted the French flag claiming it for France. But Churchill took the officer back up to Khartoum and then on to France. The Brits and France did a deal. France gave up its claims in Sudan and the Brits gave three Canadian islands to France.  We circle the strip  – the obvious check of the runway for animals or people that might be in the way, and a check of the wind but also to signal our arrival.  The nose points into a mud strip and we make a neat landing despite the buffeting wind, roll to the end, stop. The silence is deafening. I step out into a view of sparse bush in every direction. The aircraft instruments tell us it is 41 degrees. I feel right at home.

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206 to Thiangrial

March 29, 2011

If pilots pray before they take off with passengers then I guess they usually keep it to themselves. Not this guy. He gives a safety briefing which is thorough and practical and before he climbs in prays. What does that mean about the prospects of the flight? Well, given it is AIMAIR it means we are doubly in very good hands. He climbs into the tiny cockpit of the Cessna 206, calls “clear”, fires the engine and off we roll.  We launch south into a stiff breeze, but quickly turn north as we climb out over UN camps and Food Relief facilities.  I am travelling with Sandy, a nurse from Canada who has been working across this part of Africa for the last twenty or so years. She runs a clinic up here at Doro. I am impressed at her commitment to the people and work and enjoy a long chat with her through to Loki. But in this small craft we are forced to sit in line and the noise prevents any conversation anyway.

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