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Pole to Pole

Day 75: Gedaref to Kanina

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe follow an unmade track, the rain-softened soil already churned up by trucks from the border. This is where the drivers earn their money. They must be able to read the tricky surface ahead, riding in the grooves when there is clearance enough to do so and switching onto the ridges when the grooves run too deep. The driver must match decisiveness with delicacy - as if the walls of hardening mud were made of eggshell.

As happens in Africa, there are people walking in the middle of nowhere and Mikele stops twice to give rides - once to an old woman and her daughter, and further on to a farmer whose name is Ibrahim. He is going to visit his fields in the village of Doka. He has twenty cows and also grows simsim, which I'm told is sesame. He wears a crisp white djellabah and a neat lace takia and argues loudly with Mikele about religion. Arab versus Christian.

We pass the carcass of a cow, picked clean by the birds of prey. Yellow butterflies flutter about the bones and alight on the skin, which has shrunk in the sun and now looks like an inadequate blanket put there by someone trying to conceal an accident. Nigel films it and Fraser dangles his microphone boom over it. Basil asks Fraser why he is recording the sound of a long-dead animal. Fraser seems genuinely hurt by the question. 'The flies are alive!'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 75
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Gedaref
  • Book page no: 158

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