Friday, 9 November 2012

Of Barges, Vultures and Sand...

Written on 14/04/2007

Hello Everyone,
Arriving in Aswan

View from our window..
Egypt after 6 months to the day, has been left behind with an interesting excursion on a cargo barge. We arrived at Aswan high dam port at 07H30 and were finally processed by 14H30. By 16H00 the cargo barge, which was to be towed, was finally manouvered into position alongside the quay. The +45m barge was pushed, pulled, hauled by it’s twin, this one with 2 engines, and screaming, shouting, “Old sea dogs” on the quay.

A rush of “I know horses” helping hands reluctantly stood back after Christine gave them a tongue lashing they shall never forget. We sedated the horses and led them drunkenly onto the barge. Chami needed a little push and my heart sank as I watched him teeter on the edge between the quay and the barge. 5mm of hoof was all that he was standing on, the rest of his leg was soon to disappear down the gap and his leg would snap like a twig. Suddenly with a lurch he was on, a sharp left, down rickety wooden slats into the bowels of the barge and tied up. Fetched the other 2 boys before the “I know horses” gang had recovered their confidence. Nali went in with a decent scrum by myself and a guy who had muscles I wish I had. Before we could scrum in Rahaal he jumped into the boat fearing he may be left behind.

Plenty of room!

Sudan... here we come!
Long song and dance tying the two barges abreast in a staggered formation with our barge in front. Right, GPS is on, ready for our journey, which is 200m to an island where we’ll “wait out the hazy weather and travel when we can see”. This just happens to be next morning. Anyway two day trip to Wadi Halfa and we’ll unload at about 10H00 tomorrow morning says Captain Shams (Sun in Arabic). Finally processed by 16H00 but the “dam” ferry from Aswan has taken our quay space for unloading. They depart next day at 17H00. The barge soon turns into the newest attraction with a constant stream of people from customs, the port authority to the average labourer, who come to check out the horses and the mad foreigners.

Wadi Halfa Port
Finally the ferry leaves and we can dock, but wait, there’s an engineless barge in the way and no one can seem to work out how Captain Shams wants to dock. Forty five minutes later once all the screaming and shouting has died down we are finally alongside. The quay is still too high and the boys will have to jump up and across a large gap off a slippery steel surface. As fate would have it, Chami’s back legs slip out from underneath him and he skins his back legs on the quay and in the process lands on top of Christine, who skins her knees too! Nali having viewed this near death experience stands like a big chicken wandering what to do. Rahaal having at first gotten tangled in Nali's rope, spots Chami on the quay and having spent four days in the corner of the barge between two big boys suffering from cabin fever, knows where he wants to be. With a massive leap he bypasses Nali and is safe on terra firma. Nali cannot be shown up by the little guy and takes one “Giant leap for horse–kind.” We let them go one by one and they ran around like lunatics on the lake shore.

Yum... paper!

Our first night on land in Sudan.

Of course there had been endless discussions on which was the best route in Sudan.

907 km to Khartoum if we follow the railway line through the desert or 1,296 km to Khartoum along the Nile with an unknown desert crossing, perhaps. We chat to the station master at Wadi Halfa,.He will drop food off for us at all the manned stations at no charge.

Wadi Halfa Station

We chose to follow the railway line.
Chami started the desert really strongly but the first night showed stiffness from the skinned legs. Soon we changed him to pack horse but he stopped eating and drinking and it was round about this time that we picked up the two Egyptian vultures. 260 km into the desert at Station 8 we had to fetch green feed for Chami from Abu Hamad 90 km away. His pain induced colic, lasted 9 days and eating almost nothing, he had almost disappeared.

Resting at Station 1.

The vultures!

Isn't the desert beautiful?
So this is when the sand storm struck, lasting five days. Nothing was free from dust. One has to hand it to the pair of Egyptian vultures who either couldn’t fly in the storm or firmly believed this was our end.

Sand storm!

Followed by a clear sunrise..
Regards to all,
William and Christine

P.S. Currently 280 km from Khartoum waiting for Rahaal to recover from a sprained fetlock. Will write again when we get to Khartoum.

Zei Dab, 280km north of Khartoum.

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