Goodbyes and Hellos
FROM UGANDA TO SUDAN
When it comes to sport my first love was horse riding. Before saying my goodbyes in Uganda, I got to go on the most amazing ride with Nile Horseback Safaris in Jinja. The riding here is fantastic, taking you through the local villages, across the cane fields and along the river. Best of all it was a fast ride, galloping through the fields. So much fun!!!I definitely recommend these guys – they cater for beginners through to advanced riders and from one hour to multi-day safaris. If you’re in Uganda, embrace your inner jockey and give them a go!
Before leaving Uganda, there was one last little drama and something I really feared getting – a parasite burying into my skin. The idea of some creepy crawlie growing under my skin made me shudder. One such parasite is a Jigger which is very common here.
***probably not something to read while you’re tucking into your cornflakes***
Jiggers, or Tunga penetrans as they are properly known, are a sand flea found in sandy terrain and warm dry climates. The female flea feeds by burrowing into the skin. The abdomen becomes massively enlarged so it forms a round sac the shape and size of a pea. Eeewww!
I had started to get a slight burning sensation in one of my toes at night. I initially went into denial mode and did the sensible thing of ignore it and hope it goes away. But it was getting inflamed and the burning sensation got worse.
It wasn’t until my last night in Uganda when my toe started to hurt again I asked Peter who I was with if he thought it was a dreaded Jigger. One look and he replied, “Yes”. Bollocks. The good news was he knew how to remove them. Though it had been some seven years since he’d put his skills to use. Hmmm…
It had to be removed. Leave it and there was a risk severe infection, gangrene and a limb being lopped off. Time to put my big girl pants on and let him do his thing. So, at Peter’s request, I got out a needle, Stanley knife blade and a cocktail stick. Your standard surgeon’s implements. Doused them with a bit of antiseptic liquid and a dose of Aussie ‘she’ll be right mate’ and he set to work.
Peter began delicately digging around this pesky parasite. The Jigger was in its sac and he had to avoid bursting it and eggs being released. Again, eeewwww!
Peter was amazing – slowing working away until finally this white pea size thing emerged from my toe. I was simultaneously engrossed and grossed out. He cleaned up the wound and the good news is it healed up brilliantly. The whole thing actually wasn’t as bad as I'd expected. Thanks to Surgeon Peter!
Having made many friends and had such an incredible time in Uganda I was sad to be leaving. A piece of my heart stays. It’s a special place that draws you in and I cannot wait to be back…. To everyone I met, who made me feel so welcome and who helped me in following my dream, THANK YOU. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
ARRIVING IN SUDAN
Minor surgery behind me it was time to fly to Sudan, arriving in the early hours of the morning. Khartoum is a large city, with nearly 50% of the country’s estimated 30 million living there. It’s a slightly chaotic, spread out city with the Blue Nile on one side, the White Nile on the other with the two meeting at the confluence.
I’d met paddlers and others during my reconnaissance trip in Aug-17 from Sudan’s Rowing and Canoe Club including the Head of the Central and East African Rowing and Kayaking Federation, Mr Abdul Rahim. Over the next week I spent time with them as well as Dr Adil Elamin who all helped preparations for the first section from Kosti in Sudan’s southern White Nile State to Khartoum, some 320km later.
The guys from the Rowing and Canoe Club were amazing – setting out the route, arranging for one of their elite paddlers, Busati, to accompany me and giving me letters to give the authorities on the way. Behind the scenes they spent hours with local authorities to ensure things went smoothly. They also arranged for people for me to meet en route. I was so humbled by the level of support they gave me.
Mr Abdul Rahim arranged for a TV interview too! When they said it was going to be an hour long live interview, I was a bit apprehensive, but the time flew by and it was fun to do!
On top of that I was introduced to Fahed, a Syrian who moved to Sudan 15 years ago and has since become a Sudanese citizen. He very generously offered me a place to stay and then provided land support as well as swapping with Busasti from time to time for some paddling. Oh the joy of having ground support! Not having to have all the kit in the kayak. And then someone to work out the logistics, find camp spots, keep in touch with the Rowing Club back in Khartoum. I got to focus on my paddling and not a lot else. Total legend! Fahed – thank you so much!!!
Before leaving Khartoum I got to see the amazing spectacle that is Sufi dancing. Sufism is a branch of Islam and each Friday worshippers come together to pray and dance as the sun sets. Once the dancing finished we were quickly surrounded by some of the locals keen to talk, find out where we come from and what we’re doing here in Sudan. One guy, when I said I was from Australia exclaimed, “Nicole Kidman, kangaroos, koalas, rugby!”. Good to hear what’s made an impact from back home here in Sudan! We chatted for ages before being invited for coffee and more chatting. It was an unforgettable experience.
While in Khartoum I met up with the lovely Hind, from Nile Swimmers, a UK charity focused on drowning prevention. They teach people in Sudan and other countries on how to keep their communities safe around water. They provide training on water safety and the rescue and resuscitation skills vital for developing long-term drowning prevention at a community scale. They build strategic partnerships with local communities, governments and businesses to ensure appropriate drowning prevention strategies are delivered to the local communities.
Here in Sudan a lot of time is spent working with schools, training teachers to then pass on the skills and life saving strategies to their students. As a lifesaver with North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club and former swim teacher it was fascinating hearing about the amazing work done by Hind and the team here in Sudan.
BACK IN A KAYAK!
It was about a 5 hour drive down to the put in at Kosti in the south of Sudan. We stayed the night there and the next morning went to meet with the Minister of Youth and Sport for the White Nile State and his colleagues. They were interested in finding out more about my trip to date and my plans. They also asked about how Australia differs from Sudan and about kayaking back home.
I’ve been blown away by the level of support and interest by everyone here in Sudan in what I’m doing. Everyone I spoke to who has been to Sudan said that the people are all incredibly hospitable and generous. I can definitely concur! It has been extraordinary.
But now it was time to get to the start and putting together my kayak. I’ve got a Neris folding kayak. The big advantage of this is that it packs down to a large backpack, so I’ve been able to bring it from Uganda up here without having to worry about freight etc.
Then it was time to launch onto the White Nile. So good to be back kayaking!!! It was a relatively short day to kick things off – about 4 hours on the water. Having not kayaked for about 3 months, there was some adjusting to be done to get used to it again.
That afternoon we pulled up were quickly surrounded by people wondering what we were doing. We were at a village and one man invited us to stay. We went to his home and were given beds and food. We met the family and I was invited into the room where one of his daughters was with her 4-day old baby along with her sister and the nieces and nephews. Her sister Huwaida spoke some English so I got to learn about their lives there. The home is split into different small cube like buildings. Each with one or two rooms. Some for sleeping, some for relaxing, another for preparing food. In between there are outdoor courtyards. It was in one of these spaces we had our beds.
So I got to sleep looking up at the African night sky – heaven.
The next day back on the water. And a headwind. We battled that nearly all the way to Khartoum. The river is super wide here – up to 3kms, so the wind whipped up some serious chop to paddle into. It was hard going. It also meant having to get a bit of help in a couple of sections. The guys needed to be back in Khartoum and to meet the schedule. So like Uganda, it was time to get a lift from local fishermen for a couple of short sections.
The rest of the the way we had some amazing camping spots next to the Nile watching breathtaking sunsets and cooking on open fires. It was awesome!
At Ad Douiem we had a welcoming party arranged by Colonel Essam Abdoullah who’s now on the Sudanese Olympic Committee and manager of the local sports facility aimed at encouraging youth in sport. He took us for dinner, put us up in a hotel and even arranged for some musicians to play for us!
After a few days, the blisters on my hands were brutal and come the last and seventh day, my body was feeling it. But I got the most amazing lift as we made our final approach into Khartoum.
The Rowing and Canoe club had arranged for a welcoming party. On one boat was the President of the Olympic Committee for Sudan and the Chief of Water Police for Khartoum. There was also Mr Abdul Rahim and many others. Another boat was skippered by Mojaheid and another by Hamza, and finally Adil on his boat. All with people on board coming to see our arrival. The President of the Olympic Committee awarded us medals for our effort. I was completely blown away by it all. That these people had not just given up their valuable time, but had made the huge effort to come out and greet us – a highlight from the trip so far that’s for sure!
A huge thank you to Captain Hamza Abdalla and Mojaheid Obaid and Mr Abdul Rahim for all the work to make this first section such a success and this fantastic welcome back. They have welcomed me so warmly into their paddling family and I feel very honoured and grateful.
It was good to be back in Khartoum. That section was a nice warm up and trial for what comes next. That’s going to be around 1,200km of paddling up to the border with Egypt. Things get more remote, the weather will have a bigger role to play, with both heat and cold. It means careful food planning as well as my approach to the paddling. The good news is I will have people with me all the way, including a safety boat escorting me and security. Can't wait to get going again!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Wishing you all the best and I'll be back soon!