After 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.
So we smash our way to Melut, banging on each wave and forcing me, in the roughest section, to approach this like riding a horse, standing off my seat a fraction of a second before we hit the largest waves. Russell and I discuss the instantaneous fatigue this craft would demonstrate when at such point smashing into each wave had gotten too much for it – there would be no warning and we would find ourselves in the water with an outboard engine flying past us wondering where the boat went. The impressive thing about this surf is that it is boring south while the 3-4 knots of current is still carrying the river and its rafts of weeds north.
As we approach Melut the river swings from south- north to east west to east-west and we find ourselves cutting the corner rather than following the bank. Suddenly we are in the middle of a vast expanse of water and the bank we were hugging minutes ago is barely visible. Out here our attention moves from the reeds the possibility of unnerving a hippo, to the large barges which would not see us and simply roll us over and under if we got in the way. As we swing west the surf dies down, the river now protected from the wind by the north bank, and our run across to the landing we are aiming for is much easier on the butt and thighs (if you ever tire of your stair master a couple of hours travel like this each day will sort out that lard in unwanted places!).
We lunch with Bev and Chris, a Canadian couple living and working in Melut. Quite amazing really. They have been here for a number of years but in the recent round arrived here just after January 2010, lived in a tent for seven months and then under a mossie net for two months when the tent disintegrated while they built their current house. They live on a property of about 30 acres which is used for a variety of purposes – MSF are here, their own operation called FAR and the local theological college. We are treated to lunch which is a thoroughly pleasant affair for food and conversation, and we talk about the challenges facing this new country. We are served a cold drink that looks like red cordial but is made from a local hibiscus. I couldn’t get enough of it. Bev and Chris are planting out the 10 acres their house is situated on with as many vegetables and fruit trees as they can. Theft is a problem but they hope to address that over time. They flood irrigate their gardens from the Nile using a couple of large two stroke pumps that sit on the river bank.
But the pièce de résistance is the shower block. I have come armed with soap and towel and a change of clothes just in case, and while Chris and Russell get distracted with a generator which is misbehaving I ask Bev if a shower is possible. Solar heated, it sure is, and I soak off four days of dust that has blown into just about every pore and baked there. Not living up to the Bulyaninnie standard I know, and definitely not to the old Kangaroo (military exercise) standard. But four days is enough and if it is there why not use it? The mud I watch draining away to the Nile is farewelled without regret. How sweet it is.
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