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Pole to Pole

Day 75: Gedaref to Kanina

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAlarm sounds on the chair beside my bed at 5.15. Slept well despite a rich assortment of noises off - dogs barking, cockerels crowing from an indecently early hour, cats, crickets and muezzins. It was as if someone had broken into the BBC Sound Effects Library and put on all the African tapes simultaneously.

The dawn temperature is a refreshingly cool eighty degrees, and an encouraging contrast to the stuffiness and claustrophobia of the night before. There is no breakfast, so after a bracing argument over the bill we pack up the vehicles, in which our Eritrean drivers have spent the night, and head for the border. It'll have to be another Sainsbury's picnic on the way.

Surveying my Michelin map (Africa North-East and Arabia), I notice the road to Gallabat is clearly marked but lined with a series of blue notches. The key reveals that these indicate 'roads impassable in the rainy season'. The rainy season, though late, is past, but its aftermath is the only thing that seems to cause the Eritreans any concern.

We are only ninety-six miles from the frontier, and with luck could be in Gondar, Ethiopia, by this evening.

Fifteen minutes later comes the first, ominous, sign that things might not be so easy. We pull up at a crossroads in the centre of Gedaref. The town is already full of people, buying bread, selling hot corn on the cob or just hanging around. A shabby group gathers curiously by the vehicles, peering in. Normally we'd either get out or wind the window down but this morning we want to keep moving. Instead the drivers are consulting, pointing and arguing. It's clear that they're already lost. After a few minutes they climb back in and haul us round in a bad-tempered U-turn.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 75
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Gedaref
  • Book page no: 157

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