For two and a half days, we floated down the Nile River. We would leave the river late each afternoon, looking like the proverbial prunes, and make camp, exhausted. Finally, on the morning of the third day, we found people and got a truck ride to the village of Wadi Halfa. There was a twice-weekly train that operated sporadically between Wadi Halfa and Khartoum. The local Security Police thwarted our first attempt to leave Wadi Halfa. An hour and a half after leaving the train station, the Security Police removed Loren and me from the train and drove us by vehicle back to Wadi Halfa. Talk about anxious moments, it was the dead of night, and we were put into an unmarked car by men not wearing uniforms nor did they present badges. Were we to join the "never to be seen again" people who disappear from time to time in these forgotten backwater places? We were deposited at our previous hotel, the Crocodile Hotel searched, and our passports were confiscated, 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 long, hot dirty hours. I believe the train cars had no maintenance since Lord Kitchener's day. The glass was gone from all the windows, and 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 massive sand storm. We were 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 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 relentless 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 axle shafts, both right and left, and they came 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 relief agencies, someone suggested I contact 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 I was arranged 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 Jeep situation. He took me to his family home for the night and helped me arrange 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 milkshake.
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. We were "down" for 70 days for this minor, fifteen-minute repair! 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.