For two and a half days we floated down the Nile River. We would get out of the river late each afternoon, looking like the proverbial prunes, and make camp, exhausted. On the morning of the third day we found people and were able to get a truck ride to the village of Wadi Halfa. There was a twice weekly train that operates sporadically between Wadi Halfa and Khartoum. Our first attempt to leave Wadi Halfa was thwarted by the local Security Police. An hour and half after leaving the train station the Security Police removed Loren and I from the train and drove us by vehicle back to Wadi Halfa. Talk about anxious moments, it was the dead of night, we were put into an unmarked vehicle by men not wearing uniforms, nor did they present badges. Were we to join the "never to be seen again" people who, from time to time disappear in these forgotten backwater places? We were deposited at our previous hotel, the Crocodile Hotel, searched and our passports were taken from us, virtually under house arrest. The following day, after much questioning by the chief of the Security Police and a great deal of "talk" we were finally allowed to leave on the next train, three days later.
The "Nile Valley Express" train ride from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum was thirty very long, hot dirty hours. I believe the train cars had seen no maintenance since Lord Kitchener's day. The glass was gone from all the windows, and in fact, once the train was loaded to capacity and way beyond, the only way in or out of the train car was through the open windows. The night air was quite refreshing. However, once the sun rose, that air was anything but cool and towards the middle of the afternoon we traveled for several hours through a huge sand storm. We were literally sweating "mud" when we arrived in Khartoum. The replacement free-floating axle shafts were ordered from the United States, via a telephone call to my mother, bless her soul, and mailed to the US Embassy in care of a very understanding American official who did not mind stretching the rules a bit.
Loren was concerned about the Sand Ship Discovery being left all alone, so after purchasing a six week supply of rice, beans, oatmeal, and powdered milk, he returned to the Jeep, via Wadi Halfa to await my return. Loren's return trip was a fifty-two hour ordeal on the "flying camel" (The Nile Valley Express) that was spent on a flat car exposed to the merciless sun. He had to stand for the first 12 hours because the car was so packed with humanity.
I remained in Khartoum staying with a wonderful American family we'd first met when we arrived in the city in early June. The axle shafts, Loren had ordered both a right and left, arrived in unbelievably short order; eleven days after my mother posted them I had them in my hands! HOWEVER....
Khartoum sits at the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Exceptionally heavy rains in the mountains of Ethiopia (source of the Blue Nile) and in the southern part of Sudan (the White Nile flows through this area); along with what little rain fell in Khartoum, produced catastrophic results. Khartoum was cut off from the rest of the country. The railroad tracks were washed away; what "roads" existed no longer did, and all domestic flights were canceled. I was stuck in Khartoum. I was sure that Loren and the Jeep were above the flood waters of the Nile, but I had no way to inform him as to the cause of my delay. I knew his food supply was dwindling, by now he'd been back at Broken Axle Camp for some 40 days. I talked to everyone I could think of, and even asked for information about camel caravans going north! After a couple of weeks of talking with charter airlines, Sudanese government officials, friends, and some of the relief agencies, I made contact with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Khartoum. This organization had the monumental task of coordinating all the relief agencies' efforts. The Belgium Air Force had just loaned UNDP the use of a Lockheed C130 Hercules for transporting relief supplies to the northern villages, the ones hardest hit by the flooding Nile. The Hercules was flying to Wadi Halfa the following morning and it was arranged for me to be on board.
Upon arriving in Wadi Halfa I was taken under the wing of the Shell Oil agent, Mr. Murbarak. Along with the entire village he was well aware of the situation involving the Jeep. He took me to his family home for the night and helped me arrange for a boat to take me up the swollen Nile River the following day. It was a long six hour struggle up the Nile, whose waters were the color and consistency of a thick chocolate milk shake.
Loren was able to replace the broken axle shaft in fifteen minutes. Since the axle is of the free-floating design, he did not even have to jack the Jeep up or remove the tire. For this minor, fifteen minute repair, we were "down" for a total of 70 days!
Four and half hours and 36 miles after leaving Broken Axle Camp we were on the rumored tarred road in Egypt, it was a good feeling! We had traveled some 8000 miles through the heart of the Dark Continent, nearly half of which was done in four wheel drive.