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Pole to Pole

Day 64: Wadi Halfa to Atbara

Wadi Halfa, Sudan 
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The Nile Valley Express: Riding Roof Class.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleBut for all its inadequacies, riding this train is an exhilarating experience. As night falls on the Nubian Desert and a pale half-moon lends a ghostly glow to a landscape of silver sand and occasional low jagged peaks, I sit at the open door of our coach, with a little Van Morrison on my Walkman, and marvel at the sheer beauty of it all.

Twice we come to an unscheduled halt - once for a broken vacuum pipe, and once for 'engine failure'. As soon as the train stops, passengers on the roof jump down and curl up to sleep on the sand, usually in groups of three or four, with one person on watch in case the train should start. Some get out to pray, others to stretch their legs and cool off in the light desert breeze.

Then, miraculously, the train rumbles into motion and they all rush back as we continue into the night, shadows from lighted compartments forming an abstract pattern of cubes and squares on the floor of the desert and spent cigarettes flashing from windows like fireflies.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 64
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Wadi Halfa
  • Book page no: 142

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