Sudan
Section 2    The Journey

         Saturday 20th April 1985

           The morning started smoothly, everything was packed.  Late last night I had what was probably my last bath for a month.  I could hardly believe I was finally going, even as I arrived at Mike's house for the rendezvous.  After a few photographs we were off to get the taxi to London.

           Clayton Jones 'who runs a taxi business in Pontypridd' supplied the transport to London without charge. Brian Harris drove with us in a van loaded with our luggage.  Dorothy rode with Brian.  Alan Baylis, who met us in the town, Jeff Lloyd, Mike and myself. all piled into the taxi.  Mike and Jeff Lloyd talked all the way to Heathrow airport about the administration of the appeal.

We were soon at Heathrow and down to business.  Jeff and Brian returned to Wales.  Jeff is shortly to fly out to Ethiopia and Brian is to deliver a Land Rover to Southern Italy for shipping to the Sudan. Alan, Dorothy, Mike and myself were ready to start our journey in earnest.

After a wait in the airport terminal, where we ate sandwiches brought from home. We started making tracks toward our flight.  We sent our rucksacks off on the conveyor and we went through the machines that detect guns and bombs.  My hand luggage was searched when the machine detected my set of spanners (wrenches.)

The flight on Balkan Airways was a pleasant affair. The food was reasonable and the view as we passed over the Alps was wonderful.  However, Sophia airport was like something out of the 1960s.  The aeroplane taxied to a halt amidst  lines of Warsaw Pact fighter jets. The the passengers disembarked. We were met on the runway by a a large heavy set woman in a military uniform and sporting a machine gun. "Transit passengers get on the bus,"  she bellowed!  Gesturing toward the bus with her machine gun there seemed little doubt as to where we were supposed to go. One of our fellow passengers had the temerity to ask her a question concerning luggage or some such like. He was met with a moments blank silence followed by an even louder "Transit passengers get on the bus" shouted inches from his face and accompanied by a frenzied shaking of her machine gun.  This, it seemed, was the woman's only English phrase, in my view she expressed it well, transit passengers did get on the bus.

On our arrival at the terminal we went to the lounge for European departures, it being more salubrious than that for African departures.  We have a two and a half hour wait here in the workers' paradise before we leave for the Dark Continent. The decor in the European departures lounge was quite drab. 

It is 9:30 pm in Bulgaria. It is dark outside, it was getting dark when we arrived. Back home in the UK it is 7:35 pm. We now only have a half hour wait for our flight.  Mike Elliott is presently rummaging through a copy of the Bible (Authorized Version) looking for a reference to the Sudan in the Old Testament.  He had apparently seen just such a reference recently in some modern version. bible.  Dorothy is talking about de-hydrated orange juice.  Alan is suggesting that we attempt to telephone REST (Relief Society of Tegre) headquarters in Khartoum, to make sure that they know we are on our way.

At 9:50 pm Bulgarian time we were queuing at the glass frontage of the airport terminal ready to board the bus to the aeroplane to Cairo and Khartoum.  This time there were noticeably fewer European passengers. A small girl was staring at me, so I poked my tongue out at her.  She became embarrassed and giggled so I did it again.

We were last in the queue at the terminal doors, thus we were last to board the bus.  Of course this meant we were first off the bus and onto the plane.  I got a seat by the window.  I saw the lights of Sophia disappear beneath us as we ascended.  We were flying on Balkan Airways flight 177. We passed over Istanbul (Constantinople) before landing at Cairo.

In flight entertainment is a television showing 'in intermittent colour' what looks like a Bulgarian version of Bing Crosby's Christmas show without Bing Crosby or Christmas, it seemed just as dreadful as the real thing.  It was similar to the standard of television back in the terminal at Sophia.  There the television set was imprisoned in a metal box with a square hole in the front. Securely fastened to the wall out of reach, it was not only free from being stolen but free from anyone switching it to another channel, if there was one. However, the colour was consistent. The television program in the aeroplane soon switched to western pop music, interspersed with scenes from the Bulgarian tourist board.

      At 12:51 am in the morning of the21st, though, still the 20th in Britain. We approached Cairo. I saw the suburbs spread out in the night below. The view was the most beautiful so far, it seemed like an endless vista of glowing oases disappearing only at the horizon!

The temperature in Cairo is 20° centigrade.  We have forty minutes wait  in the aircraft, for refueling.  The aeroplane must obtain enough fuel here for the round trip to Khartoum.  Apparently there is an  insufficient supply of fuel in Sudan.  We shall soon leave Cairo for the final leg of our journey.  At the same time we shall leave the Egyptian soldier dressed in a greatcoat, steel helmet and a machine gun over his shoulder patrolling the runway around the aircraft.

During the flight from Cairo to Khartoum we were invited by the crew to occupy the first class section of the aeroplane. "It is quieter up there" so we were told, and so it was. We were provided with another meal 'the third on our journey.'  The flight was very good value for money.  Balkan Airways had given us a greatly reduced rate, on account of the nature of our journey.  They were the only airline flying to the Sudan to offer this. British Airways outright refused.

We landed at Khartoum airport in the early hours of the morning.  There was a strong military presence administering customs and entry into the country.  The soldiers and customs officials were smartly turned out, efficient and relatively polite.  As we stood waiting for our rucksacks to appear on the conveyor Mike noticed the customs officers. It looked like they were opening and searching every bag.  "Oh no" we thought! Not only will this cause us inconvenience in repacking but heaven knows what we might have that they could object to.

Our bags appeared on the conveyor We took them and gave customs a go. We got through with no trouble.  We had to fill in lots of forms to enter the Sudan, one of which was to declare all foreign currency we were taking in.  However, they charged no levy, and we went through customs without having our bags searched.  We proceeded toward the exit.

I was absolutely knackered by this time and it was beginning to get quite warm. We expected, and were told that someone from REST would be there to meet us but, none turned up.  We were on our own.


             Khartoum    

          Sunday 21st April 1985

Here we are, gathered in the exit of Sudan's major airport.  It is getting warmer. There are a multitude of people walking by and  milling around.  Some look opulent others shabby, some in native dress some in European, there are opulent and shabby in both groups.  There are also soldiers some as smart as European soldiers 'these are the officers' others in worn out ragged uniforms 'these were the troops.'  I am already very aware that I am in a strange and new cultural setting.  Everyone seems to be going about their business. We were sat amongst it all wondering what to do. REST headquarters was unobtainable on the telephone, Mike had tried it with some persistence, but to no avail. It is now getting light.  Perhaps it would have been wise to have taken Alan's advice in Sophia airport and attempted to call them from there, though I doubt if it would have been any more successful.

At about six in the morning we decided to take a taxi into the city and try phoning from the post office.  The post office is near the Peoples' Palace. We had a street map with us obtained from the tourist information desk.  Mike asked a soldier how much we should expect to pay for a taxi into the centre of Khartoum. "About 10 Sudan Pounds" was the answer.

We found a taxi, it was a beaten up yellow Datsun with bald tyres.  The driver was a tall heavy set gentleman in native dress 'white djellaba and turban.'  He had a row of gold teeth but spoke no English. With the help of other taxi drivers we negotiated a price.  The taxi driver went in a £20 we went in at £10 we agreed on £15. The interior of the taxi was decorated with mock leopard skin and there were lots of Arab style decorations dangling from the sunshades and rearview mirror.  With our rucksacks dispersed between the roof rack and the boot (trunk) we set off.  The driver stopped on the way to ask directions and help in interpretation from some pedestrians.  We passed a burnt out car on the side of the road, the driver pointed and smiling enthusiastically said "Nimeiry."

The driver stopped, we got out and retrieved or luggage from the trunk and roof rack Mike tried to pay using pounds sterling at the exchange rate.  The driver would have none of it, so we paid up in Sudan pounds obtained at the airport.  The taxi drove off. We were alone again walking strange streets in a strange country.  It was now getting much warmer and very dusty.  The streets are of dry brown wind blown sand, packed hard through decades of traffic. Our rucksacks were starting to get very heavy and we were getting very hot.

We found the post office open but not for business.  It was deserted and very near derelict, there was not a soul to be seen. Needless to say none of the telephones worked. There was no hope of locating the REST office from here.  We marched on having decided to try a hotel in the centre of town that we had seen from the taxi.

We passed beggars in the streets (mostly women.)  We passed soldiers lounging with their guns on the walkway.  We passed a bank 'it was closed' and asked the security guard the name of the hotel we were heading for.  It was the Meridian.  We pressed on toward it but were sidetracked by another hotel which we saw was closer.  On the way to this second hotel our path took us past an open air market. To our over sensitive western noses the smell was becoming decidedly unpleasant.  It became worse as we passed a skip containing decaying refuse and 'heaven knows what'.  Next to the skip was a child of about fourteen years having a shit, the stench was beyond description. Taking very short breaths 'every 30 feet or so' I made it to the hotel, it was boarded up.  Diagonally we crossed the marketplace and once again made our way toward the Meridian.

We reached the foyer after a short walk.  In the Meridian the staff were very helpful.  They allowed us to use their telephones.  We nonetheless failed to reach the REST office.  The hotel receptionist had a go, she did not fail.  Mike took the phone and arranged for someone to come and pick us up.  We waited in air conditioned comfort until our ride came.

The REST office was in another part of the city, the other side of the airport from where we had been waiting.  We slept some of the day in an upstairs apartment nearby, rented by one of the female aid workers.  Getting towards the late afternoon we went back down to the REST office.  They provided us with dinner, a local dish. It was very pleasant and went down well.

Later in the day as it was getting dark we went, with one of the REST workers (Fasahad,) into Khartoum.  He went off on business and we went for a walk to see some of the night sights of the city.  It was much like the day but darker and just as busy.  It had become dark very quickly.  Within an hour we were back at the spot where we had agreed to rendezvous with Fasahad.  It was a hotel, not as plush as The Meridian but obviously popular with the Europeans.  We had a soft drink each and sat in the lounge and waited.  At the allotted time Fasahad arrived.  We all left with him in the four wheel drive vehicle we had arrived in. There was another passenger with us, a young French woman named Patricia (a reporter from French TV.)

Back at the HQ we were shown a video of the work in the camps of the Tegrean refugees.  The video focused upon the work of an Australian group 'Community Aid Abroad.'  Very shortly after this the exertions of the past two days caught up with us and we returned to the house and retired for the night. 


Khartoum

Monday 22nd April 1985

            It was an early awakening at six o'clock in the morning.  We were driven to several government agencies.  The bureaucracy in Sudan seems to insist on all forms being filled in in triplicate.  We were a attempting to acquire a permit to visit the refugee camps and a permit to take photographs.  We also had to register as aliens.

            The permit for photography proved the most difficult.  The woman whose job it was to deal with the applications was very officious.  The other permits were obtained with ease.  However, a letter of reference was required for the photography permits.

        We had been driven around Khartoum chasing after these things for most of the morning.  For a short time the driver disappeared on his own business errand and left the four of us in the car.  despite it being a relatively mild day by Khartoum standards, it felt very hot to us.   We waited in the sun baked car, being harassed by beggars, mostly women or children or both together.  There seems to be a lot of poverty in Khartoum.  However, the beggars all seemed to be relatively healthy.  We were saving our efforts and alms for those we imagined to be in greater distress in the refugee camps.

        Khartoum is a mixture of the rich and the squalid. Most are in between, though closer to the squalid than rich.  Those who have houses have huge houses by British standards.  It strikes me that space to build is not a problem in this desert  country.  However, despite the big houses the majority of people are poor and endure a low living standard.

        We saw many more soldiers and police today.  Only a small proportion of the soldiers carry guns in the streets of Khartoum.  Those that do seem to be guarding a specific site, public buildings and thing of that sort.

        Poverty in Khartoum does not go hand in hand with alcoholism.  Drink is prohibited here and is euphemistically referred to as 'medicine.'

        We went back to the REST office in Riyad (an urban district of Khartoum) at about mid-day.  Juliet, whose flat (apartment) we are staying at took us, in the afternoon, back into Khartoum  with a letter of reference for the photography permits.  We were given the photography permits with some ado. Most of the permits required passport size photographs.  These we acquired during the morning in a shabby studio at about four times the price one would pay in the UK.  Two visits were paid to the studio, more photographs were needed than at first anticipated.

        After having acquired all the necessary permits, the next job was to find somewhere to exchange travelers cheques for currency. It is our intention to leave Khartoum for Gadaref tomorrow. we need the money to buy passage on the bus. It turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. We tried the bank. It was shut.  We tried a hotel, with no more success.  We tried a hotel called 'The Acropol',  this was the place we had bought the soft drinks yesterday.

        The Acropol  seems to be the meeting place for relief workers.  Many seem to stay here when in Khartoum.  The management, in principle, would have would have exchanged currency with us but unfortunately  had no spare cash at the time.  We went upstairs and had some drinks.  In keeping with the spirit of prohibition, the drinks were of the soft variety, 'The Acropol' is no speakeasy.  Juliet met an acquaintance in the lounge who was being given a ride to Gadaref tomorrow.  She tried to scrounge us a ride with him.  He said he would enquire as to the possibility and would get back to us on the matter.      

        On the way out Alan looked at the post cards,  Mike was looking at the maps, and enquired about the price.  Juliet commented that they are expensive in The Sudan.  Mike thought he may buy one once he had got hold of some Sudan currency.  The proprietor of the hotel (a Greek gentleman) said; "No need, you can have one with my compliments."  We left the hotel having thanked the proprietor; Juliet told us he has a reputation for generosity.

        After another unsuccessful attempt to acquire some  Sudan pounds, we returned to the Acropol to find any news of the possibility of a ride tomorrow.  Once again we waited in the lounge.  Juliet asked Alan what had made him become a church minister.  However, it was Mike who dominated the conversation which focused on the church and social responsibility.  

        Our contact did not arrive, so after a while we left.  We met him outside in the street he was on his way to the Acropol as we were making towards the car.  It has transpired that the ride will not be available for either him or us.  Our contact  had acquired, on  the black market, a ticket for the bus and was himself all set to go in the morning.  His colleague (an elderly Englishman from 'Help the Aged') lent us a hundred Sudan pounds, along with his Land Rover and driver.  We went about six miles outside of town to the bus terminal.  It was long, full of shady traders and goats.  There are goats all over the city.  we were able to get two tickets at twenty Sudan pounds each (about seven pounds sterling each.)  We returned to the Acropol and gave the man his change back.

        Juliet drove us back to Riyad via a scenic route.  We saw the Blue Nile, it was wide and had a silent beauty all of its own, along its bank were colonial buildings.  After stopping off at the REST office we returned to the apartment.  We ate some de-hydrated meals brought with us from the UK, I then got some sleep for an hour or two.

        I was awoken by Mike who said we were going back into Khartoum. to get some cash.  This was  news to me.  Juliet had phoned from the REST office a bit earlier to say we weren't.  Mike it seemed had new information.  As it turned out we did not go.  Juliet turned up with one of the local REST workers (a local gentleman.)  Minutes later The older Englishman man from 'Help the Aged' who had lent us the money arrived at the apartment.  He was with the driver and another Arab gentleman in traditional Sudanese attire, sporting another ticket for the bus to  Gadaref.

        We are now packing ready to start our journey at five o'clock tomorrow morning.  We had a supper of boiled eggs, crisps (potato chips) and tea, boiled in a saucepan, with no milk.  We finished the rest of our packing; had a wash and went to bed.  We shall try to get the fourth ticket in the morning.  It has been agreed that we go in minimum groups of two or not at all.


         To Gadaref   

        Tuesday  23rd April 1985

  Our third day in Sudan, we are ready to leave for Gadaref.  After a sleepless night, Gomer who had driven us around Khartoum yesterday, drove us to the bus station this morning and acquired another bus ticket.

        Alan and I embarked on the bus at seven o'clock.  Mike and Dorothy took the next bus about half an hour later.

        The bus was fully air conditioned and the radio played Sudanese music all the way to Gadaref.  I was sat next to an elderly dignified Arab gentleman.  He offered me a cigarette, but I am a non smoker.  I was able to catch a badly needed ½ hour of sleep.  I was awoken as we stopped for refreshments at what Alan calls "the motorway services".  It was a neglected square building with a central courtyard.  it sold dubious looking water and dubious looking cooked meat.  It also sold soft drinks 'carbonated orange'. I did not recognize the manufacture, the writing on the bottles was in Arabic.

        Alan paid, and received change. We walked away to drink them. I took a few photographs. We were sought out by an Arab gentleman 'the proprietor of the restaurant'.  He asked if we were from America "I'm sure my hat gave this idea'.  "No" I said "were from Britain".  He asked why we weren't eating at his restaurant.  Alan told him we had taken breakfast before setting out this morning.

         The bus honked its horn and everyone re-embarked for the rest of the journey.  We crossed the Blue Nile, as we went we saw the carcasses of animals lying dead, desiccated by the sun.  We saw camel trains. We saw round huts with straw roofs.  The terrain was dust brown desert.

        Two hundred kilometers more and we were stopped outside Gadaref by the Sudanese army.  a soldier came onto the bus to make a random check of our travel permits.  Fortunately he did not check ours, we had none! 

   We arrived in Gadaref  lost, despite the map drawn for us.  We were being harassed by children begging so we decided to make a move anyway.  It was desperately hot, but we soldiered on.  A Sudanese woman stopped her vehicle as she was driving past.  She introduced herself as the deputy commissioner for refugees, and gave us a ride.  She asked, "Where are you going?"  We replied, "The rest house in Gadaref."  By a misunderstanding we were taken to what looked like a government run hostel for relief workers.  We were let in but there was no one with authority or anyone who spoke English.

        We thought at the time, that we had the right place.  We also  thought that Mike and Dorothy would never find it.  We left the rucksacks there and went on foot to meet the next bus.  After a little confusion as to the direction of the bus station, Alan and I followed an educated guess of mine and got there just as Mike and Dorothy were disembarking.  Of course they came unquestioningly with us to the wrong place.

        It was a while before we realized the error.  The people at the hostel gave us some water and took us back to the deputy commissioner of refugees to register.  By this time she had realized where we should be, and arranged for us to be taken to the right place.

        The four of us were sat in the Gadaref office of REST drinking tea, made the Sudanese way, black with about an inch and a half of sugar, we also had orange juice, (Tang) which is a powdered product.

        Rosie arrived, she is a teacher from London and had just returned from the refugee camps.  She had almost lost her voice in a dust storm.

        We talked for a while of things relevant to our being there. Rosie talked in a quiet horsed voice. She took Mike, Dorothy and Myself up to the mechanics' shop to show us the work in progress.

        In some ways the shop was well equipped.  It had new lathes and a very nice large horizontal milling machine with a vertical head.  All the machines were conventional not computer controlled (CNC.)  This was a sensible approach since computer controlled machines are expensive to buy and expensive to fix (probably impossible to fix in Sudan.)  I first saw CNC  machines in in 1980 in the Machine 80 exhibition in Birmingham, they are wonderful things for production shops in Europe but not suitable at all for a maintenance shop in North East Africa.

 

        Whilst they had some nice new machine tools there were things lacking in other areas.  They had no arc welding equipment.  They had very few small (hand) tools and virtually no precision measuring equipment such as micrometers and verniers. Shop safety was also an issue, it was crowded there were no goggles etc, though I had seen and worked in worse. I took some photographs and hop to revisit the place later on.

        A walk around the local market was our next activity.  There was only the four of us Alan had stayed behind at REST.  We had a bottle of Pepsi each. Someone tried to sell me a sword.  Several years ago I had been in a fencing team in my local town.  Of course this sword was quite different to those that I used to use in competition.  Furthermore, it would raise a few eyebrows if I attempted to take it through customs.

        We drank up and went back to REST taking a route through the market  In both Khartoum and Gadaref there is an overpowering smell of urine.  It is just something one has to get used to.

        We arrived back and were left by Rosie at the REST office.  She went off to write a report, and promised to return and take us to a restaurant on her return.

        It was now too dark to write up my journal, there is no electricity at the moment.  The supply is very erratic; even in Khartoum there is only four hours of power per day.  This also is a factor that would have to be taken account of in the mechanics' shop.  As for us we didn't even have a hurricane lamp, so I took the opportunity for a short sleep.

        As seems normal in Sudan Rosie turned up later than expected. Instead of going to a restaurant she invited us to a party.  The party was at the house of an Australian Doctor   Dr Alexander proved to be hospitable in the extreme which is also normal in Sudan.  

        We arrived at the party, held in Dr Alexander's garden. Also present were; members of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR,)  an Australian organization called Community Aid Abroad (CAA,)  REST, Help The Aged,  The World Council of Churches and probably some others.  The drink flowed, it was called tetch.  it is a Sudan brew that has the taste of honey but the consistency of beer, actually I quite liked it.  However. we were on dangerous ground Sudan being under shariah law.

        Amongst the organizations present were also several nationalities.  Thus the Frenchman did the cooking.  The conversation moved to the many sad stories born of the famine.  The man from Help the Aged whose associate had lent us the money for our bus ride was there.  He had been given a lift, we had used also his ticket for the bus. He is a doctor and an Irish national and claims that "old age begins at six" in the refugee camps   He also says that becoming emotionally involved is inevitable and adds "why not?"

        One of the women from the USA, a nurse with one of the agencies said that she had cried herself to sleep.  It had rained, being that time of the year, she knew that the roofs of the houses would leak and some of the children in her care would inevitably freeze to death in the night.

        The party ended late in the night with everyone having to sing their national anthem at the same time.  there was lots of laughter.  It was a warm beautiful evening the memory of which will remain always.

        I slept that night on the verandah of REST. It was the first time I had slept outside.


        Kashmir-Girba  
        Wednesday 24th April 1985

        It is dark now and I am sitting in the compound of Christian Outreach in Girba. I arrived here at about 7 o'clock in the evening.  It's 9:30 and the lights are about to go out, quite regardless of what anyone is obliged to do.  The rules here are rigid.

        We cadged a lift this morning with Francis, an Irish woman who works for UNHCR.  The ride was arranged by Rosie who has gone to another camp with Mike and Dorothy.  The ride was a little late, we waited in the UNHCR building.  Here we were advised to seek out the local commissioner for refugees and tell him what we were intending to do today.  We did so, and seemed to sort things out but there was a language barrier.  Alan and I were wishing to visit the camp at Kashmir-Girba.

        Our ride turned up and we were soon on our way.  It was a rough long drive, stopping occasionally at towns on the way and seeing more government officials.  Also along on the ride was an American woman also destined for Girba We had a few misunderstandings but we got there in there end.   

        Prior to leaving Gadaref we were invited by Christian Outreach to visit and stay the night in Girba, the town across the dam from the Kashmir-Girba refugee camp.

        On our arrival in Girba we had a meal in a Girba restaurant,  I got the runs.  Francis, the American woman and Alan ate there also, I wonder if they also have the runs. 

        After the meal we crossed the dam.  The dam is a restricted area and photographs are forbidden.  It is guarded by soldiers in machine gun posts.  The camp was half an hour fast drive from the dam over mud roads. Kashmir-Girba camp is under construction.  It is being built to take the pressure off the other refugee camps.  The area  we visited this afternoon was devoid of refugees.  We walked around and asked questions of the workers, and visited the Community Aid Abroad (CAA) compound.

        CAA received a delivery of aid.  it arrived on a truck and they had to negotiate a price for the unloading.  Fifteen Sudan pounds was the price settled on.  The native workers had it all unloaded in a jiffy.  The boxes, red wooden chests, were locked with stout padlocks.  There were no keys.  The chests were prized open with chisels, pipe wrenches and hammers.  A twist of the padlock with a pipe wrench made short work of the matter.  It was like Christmas, each new box revealed diverse contents.  The aid workers were alive with excitement.

         We got back to the dam just in time prior to its closing for the night.  I had managed to get a few photographs of the camp along with some desiccated carcasses of livestock.  The dam closes at 6 o'clock (pm.)  It was a hair raising ride in a four wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser.  We would not have cut it so short had the driver filled up with diesel earlier in the day rather than waiting to the last minute. 

    The diesel was kindly provided by another relief and came from an oil-drum, pumped by hand.  We picked up a hitch-hiker on the dam.  He gave us a huge watermelon, we dropped him off in Girba.  We had a tyre in the back of the vehicle that needed repair.  The repair shop was closed, necessitating Francis to drop it off later the next morning.

        Our next stop was the office of Christian Outreach.  Like most of the agencies we have met they were angling for aid from home.  I sat down in the courtyard and talked to one of the young women there.  She interrogated me as to what we were doing in Sudan.  She asked  if all the doctors coming out from Pontypridd were Christian.  I said "yes," she seemed to think it was important.  Frankly, I did not.

        The workers and missionaries spent the evening at Christian Outreach in frivolous conversation as to who was to occupy what tuckle (round hut with a thatched roof.)  Their concern was not about the comfort of workers and guests but of the propriety of the sexes being in the same hut.  All the workers at the site were evangelical fundamentalists, clean cut and middle class.

        They spent a little time in bible reading and chorus singing after which general conversation resumed.  Their indignation was apparent as they recounted negotiations earlier in the day with an Arab taxi driver. He wanted five Sudan pounds per day (£1:70 sterling) to provide exclusive unlimited service.  Five Sudan pounds per week was the sum offered.  Needless, to say the driver sought business elsewhere.

        An elderly native woman, employed for domestic duties within the compound, struggled with a bowl weighted down with used washing water. Water swishing  to and  fro in the bowl as she struggled depositing it down a drain.  A chorus of admonition came from those mission workers seated in their garden lounge chairs; "you really should not lift such heavy things."  No help was offered to ameliorate her lot besides the crocodile tears of sympathy.

        I was well into this entry when one of the aid workers came and informed me that it was nine thirty.  They switch the lights out at nine thirty she told me very politely.  Nonetheless, I was pissed off about it.  There was nothing left to do but bed down on my planks in the compound for the night.  "I hope there are no camel spiders!"


         The Camp

         Thursday 25th April 1985

         Thursday our first visit to a refugee camp.  My night's sleep was not as comfortable as my bed at home in Ynysybwl.  However, sleeping in the open air in North East Africa had its own reward.  The view of the Milky way was something to behold, it really was like a cloud.

        I was awoken at ten to four in the morning by the sound from the minaret, calling the faithful to prayer.  Ron one of the people visiting this settlement brought me some tea.  I sat down to breakfast, but not before I experienced a dose of the gallops. I ate nothing all day, but drank much.  I was hoping to get rid of the bug I had contracted.

    Once breakfast was over a group of us, that is; Alan, some of the locals, some Nurses from Christian Outreach and Myself set off in one of the land rovers towards the dam.  I was sitting in the front between two of the nurses, one of whom was to my left driving. I had to ask the driver to stop in order to throw up.  She did and I exited the vehicle through the window clambering across the passenger to my right. The doors on this vehicle did not open from the inside.  I made it just in time as the contents of my stomach came up as squatted beside the road.  The land rover moved off to give me some privacy.  I would rather it hadn't.  Privacy was a cultural phenomenon that I cared nothing for at that time.  My main concern, other than retching, was that I would have to walk the about a few hundred feet to resume the ride to the camp.

        I clambered back into the vehicle and we continued over the dam to Kashmir-Girba.  The track was about five miles of dusty brown/grey dry earth dotted with the occasional desiccated animal corpse.

        Kashmir-Girba is a new camp and at the present time not fully occupied.  It consists of three large areas of tents. Each area designed to take about twenty thousand people The tents make the dust brown desert look like a sea of blue.

        We stopped first at the reception centre and took a few photographs.  Alan and I sat down inside the centre in the shade.  A young girl came up and stood before us and looked at us for a few minuets.  She spoke no English  I took a photograph, though it was a little dark. She looked about twelve years old, but it is difficult to tell age in these circumstances.  She handed me her medical card written in Tegrean.  I of course understood not a word of it. I smiled handed it back as some men ushered her off.

        We talked for a while to a man from Britain (Whitchurch, Cardiff.)  He said: "One gets very cynical out here with people dying.  The refugees are very demanding, especially the older ones.  After a few months in the camp they start demanding things; "I want my rations. You must give me this. You must give me that." I tell them I don't have to give you anything.  If I want to I can just get on an aeroplane and go home."

        We asked him why he doesn't. He replied:  "Because I like the work.  It's like this; there was a boy who came here.  When he arrived he was so thin and emaciated, he could not walk or even eat by himself.  He was listless and could hardly move his arms.  We looked after him for a few months, fed him up.  As he got stronger we started helping him we started helping him to walk. It took a long time, but he finally took his first steps with me.  I was holding his hand and he just let go and went off by himself."

        We were soon invited to see the supplementary feeding department.  The Christian Outreach nurses drove us there in the land rover.  The supplementary feeding section was a large building made of wooden uprights with a roof of straw mats.  The walls were also of straw matting, reaching from the ground half way up to the roof. Thus providing daylight to the interior. Again with the use of matting the inside was partitioned off into stalls, areas into which patients were treated.

        So far the population of Kashmir-Girba is only about 800 refugees.  Some of these I saw; emaciated bags of bones on the floor, skin stretched tightly over skeletons.

        The next stop was a similar building but without interior partitioning.  It was about the same size as the supplementary feeding section, a rectangle of about three thousand square feet and ten feet high.  This was to be the hospital manned by Australian doctors and nurses.  Given the materials on hand the building looked fairly impressive. However, once it is full of very ill refugees suffering from starvation I am sure it will change from impressive to overwhelming.

        Our last stop was briefly at the CARE compound, populated and run by people from the Republic of Ireland.  John one of the people working there wants to get a workshop together with a three phase generator some bench drills, lathes, milling machines, etc.  He wants to use it to improve the sanitation of the camp.  The equipment of course would be set to work on the plumbing.

        Of all the compounds in Kashmir-Girba the CARE one is the best, constructed with bricks and cement.  There is clearly more to relief work than turning up with a bowl of soup.

    We had arrived at the camp approaching six o'clock in the morning and were gone by eleven.  By this time I was really feeling under the weather.  We arrived back at the Christian Outreach camp in Girba at about quarter to twelve.  The desert day was really hotting up and so was I.  I had a really bad headache, probably from dehydration.  So I retired to the shade of a tuckle, curled up on a mattress and there I remained until evening, moving only for water and to the toilet as my bowels dictated.

        The home comforts here in Girba are better in some ways than in Gadaref.  here they have running water and electricity on a regular basis.  I even had a shower in the evening before going to bed on the planks.


          Back To Gadaref

          Friday 26th April 1985

          Up at four thirty this morning for the trip back to Gadaref.  It is cooler in the morning which makes travel less irksome.  The road back to Gadaref is tarmac all the way.  As we drive, the view from the front window is exactly the same as the view from the back.  We had hit the road at 5 o'clock, after the others had taken breakfast.  I am on a fast.

        There are seven of us in the land rover.  In the front two nurses each side of Patricia St John, a Christian children's author.  In the back Alan, Brian, Myself and Ron.  Ron is one of the British organizers of Christian Outreach.  Brian is working in the Sudan on a long term basis.  Patricia St John, who is quite elderly is gathering material for a book.

        After a long ride back Alan, Patricia St John and Myself were dropped off on the main road, about three miles outside Gadaref.  Here we caught a taxi.  Patricia St John is coming with us to meet the people at REST.  She is going to stay at Dr Alexander's place.

        Dr Alexander is an Australian woman working with the Sudan Council of Churches.  It was at her house where we attended the party last Tuesday. Her residence is just around the corner from the REST office.  Knowing all this did not make it any easier finding either the REST office or Dr Alexander's house.  Our landmark was the radio mast in Gadaref.  The REST office is within two hundred yards of it.  But standing by the mast all the streets looked the same.  It took us three quarters of an hour to find our way. 

        Patricia St John disappeared into Dr Alexander's, Alan and I we went off to the REST office.  The staff at the rest office are entirely Tigrean.  Their English is not all that good, but their hospitality is overwhelming.  It is impossible without being extremely rude to get them to understand that I am on a fast for my health's sake.  They understand that I am ill, but their response is: "You must go and see a doctor."

        My fast had thus far exceeded twenty four hours.  I thought, wrongly, that it might be wise to take some food.  For this reason and good manners, I broke my fast..  I could have gone much longer, I think probably due to the heat.

        I spent the day avoiding the sun, trying to keep cool and drinking lots of liquids.  The liquids mainly took the form of bottled soft drinks.  This way one can be relatively confident that the contents are fairly sterile.  The water here comes from a well. It is not particularly safe unless it has been boiled of chemically treated.  I have no facilities for boiling, however, I do have purification tablets brought with me from Britain.  Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming taste of chlorine when the tablets are used,  they make the water taste like it has come from a swimming pool.

        Patricia St John came around at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, to talk to Tadyl, one of the senior workers at the REST office.  Senior in terms of status, Tadyl is in fact in his mid to late twenties.  Patricia St John was researching her book.  She was interested in the route and journey in general from Eritrea to the camps.  Tadyl was not forthcoming with specifics.  I believe Tadyl did not like the idea of this information appearing in print.  The Ethiopian army from time to time attack REST convoys and other refugees as they transit from Eritrea to the Sudan.  The current conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia is one of the exacerbating factors of the famine. Patricia St John returned to Dr Alexander's with some information of a very general nature, but no specifics.

        During the evening we went  down into the town to the souqu.  Alan asked where one might buy tickets for the bus.  Tadyl pointed the appropriate source.  Tadyl took us to a milk bar and suggested we have a drink,  iced sweetened milk.  We all did, of course bovine TB sprang to mind as I drank it.  I said to Alan: "This will probably bring back the runs."  Alan laughed and replied: "If so, I shall probably get them too."


       Gadaref

        Saturday 27th April 1985

        Saturday morning, I awoke at daybreak, four thirty in the morning.  The runs are back with a vengeance!  Of course Alan has got off so far Scot free.  I feel terrible, all I want to do is keep cool on what I know is  going to be a blazing hot day.   Alan went down into town 'at about six a.m.' to get some bottled drinks.  He came back with them in his flask.  He left it with me, and wet over to Dr Alexander's to see if it would be possible to reside there.  Meanwhile I tried to keep cool by lying on the ceramic tiles beneath the bed.  It was a fairly successful strategy.

        Alan turned up an hour or so later with good news; there is accommodation in Dr Alexander's house.  I packed my bags as best I could, went over there and convalesced.  I ate a little and drank much, including re-hydration salts.  I also vomited violently

        The room that I was in had another resident; a small hornet.  I dealt it a death blow with my hat. All I needed to make my day at this time was a nasty sting!


            Gadaref

            Sunday 28th April 1985

           Sunday, I am recovering my energy.  After breakfast the rest of the crowd here went to the local Evangelical Church.  Dr Alexander has gone to Girba.  I stayed here and got my Journal up to date.

    The rest of the crowd were back within two hours.  Patricia St John came back and talked with a gentleman who had fled Ethiopia, being an evangelical Christian he had fallen foul of the Marxist government there.  Alan talked with the pastor from the local church 'he had arrived on the coat-tails of the others.'

        I heard Alan today telling one of the Tegrean refugees who worked for the Sudan council of churches that the journey through life seems very hard.  I think he is probably right but it is hardly ground breaking news.

        We sat down to dinner.  I have decided to start eating normally. I feel much better.  I can now drop wind without without crapping my trousers. I had started digging into the meal set before me, an Arab dish, I didn't know what it was but it was very good!  All present bar one Irishman dipped into the same plate.

        A middle aged American couple, whom I had met yesterday, arrived bearing gifts of chicken soup, apple sauce and ginger beer, all cures for my current perilous state of health.  Our Arab hosts did not like the look of the chicken soup.  For me it was a taste of home.  It went down a treat. God bless America!

        Dorothy and Mike turned up,  Dorothy was tired but fit.  Mike on the other hand, like me had the runs.  They came bearing news; the Sudan government had had shut the border at  Wad Kowli.  The possible reason being that the rains are due.  Rain will turn the camp into an unsanitary mud bath with a population of 60,000.  This of course is bad news for those souls who have walked the few hundred miles from the interior of famine bound Ethiopia only to be turned back.  Whether they will be allowed to walk the blistering miles to another camp none seem to know.  General speculation was that it may spell the beginning of the end to the Sudanese open door policy; a policy they have been under pressure to abandon.

        Our group is now back to four.  This makes accommodation  a problem.  However,  Dorothy and Mike eventually stayed at the REST office.  Rosie stayed over here at Dr Alexander's  Before retiring the four of us Dorothy, Mike, Alan and myself discussed where we were to go next and what we were to do.  A journey into Tegrae seemed less likely as time marched on.  Dorothy and Mike had psyched themselves up for the trip.  It now looks like there are four of us to do the work envisaged for two.

        Dorothy and Mike had visited two camps: Wad Kowli and Safauwa.  This left only Wad Sherifi and Fau to be visited.  The idea was discussed that Dorothy and mike return to Khartoum, while Alan and Myself visit the remaining camps.

        Another thing Alan and I did today that is worth noting; we went to the evening service at the Gadaref Evangelical Church.  Alan went to preach, I went to spectate.  The sermon was taken from Isaiah ch1 v18: "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be a white a snow."   Patricia St John was with us; the pastor asked her to open in prayer.

        The church was just like any evangelical church back home.  It was a little ramshackle, a little hot and very committed to its message.  There were a few differences: They ended their service with open prayer, people turned up at all times.  Normally the pastor delivers his sermon in Arabic, with a Tegrean translator present.  Of course on this occasion the sermon was in English, with two translators, one in Arabic the other Tegrean.

        After the service the congregation milled around in general social chat, just as would happen at home.  The pastor stood at the exit shaking hands as his flock left the building.

        The pastor, in his sixties and an Egyptian national, in conversation with Alan just outside the doorway, expressed the view that the Europeans and other nationals working in the refugee camps are living in huge houses, enjoying a luxurious lifestyle on the backs of the refugees.  His view being that they should live amongst the refugees, eating what they eat and living as they live.

        All very idealist, however, in my very short experience, I can see the folly of adopting such policy.  While by the standards of  relief camp life the relief workers may well be living in the lap of luxury, by what is normal back home believe me they are roughing it.  Those that don't go down with sickness and the trots in the first month are the exceptions.  Electricity supply in the capital 'Khartoum' is erratic and even more so in the towns.  Water supply is suspect and needs boiling or purifying.  A toilet if you are lucky is a small flight of steps with a hole in the top one, a bucket underneath, the stench of previous visitors, swarms of flies vying to first up your anus.  Some toilets are worse, just holes in the ground surrounded by the splatter of the poor aims of those gone before.  Last but not least, the dehydrating heat, from  ten in the morning to four thirty in the afternoon.

        The notion of living with, like and amongst the refugees is not really a sound idea.  A relief worker who attempted this would most likely experience a rapid deterioration of health and render his or herself useless to anyone.  While such behavior on the part of the relief worker may act as encouragement to raise the living conditions of the refugees.  The fact is that this is exactly the idea of being there in the first place, is to ameliorate the lot of the refugees not undermine your own.


         Gadaref

         Monday 29th April 1985

        Mike and Dorothy came around this morning.  They are on their way up to the UNHCR to try to scrounge a ride to Khartoum.  They returned shortly devoid of luck.   They will have to buy bus tickets later today.  Rosie and Patricia St John left today, bound for Khartoum and  Dr Alexander returned from Girba.

         I awoke  early this morning after a hot clammy night of the runs.  I had to wash two pairs of trousers as a result.  as wirth all theses days of waiting I spent most of my time trying to avoid the heat and the sun.  For a short time the water came back on today in Gadaref, long enough to fill some 45 gallon drums.  The electricity came on aswell, cosistently for several hours.

          A Sweedish gentleman came with the possibility of travel to Kassala and Wad Sherife.  He came with a Norwigian girl called Ingrid.  Ingrid, Mike and I went for a stroll together in the late afternoon.  We went around the market place in Gadaref.  The smell was beyond description.  Ingrid and I had a coke,  Mike did not indulge due to the parlous state of his bowels. "Indeed this condition is a reality out here."

         It began to get dark and we had to make a dash for home, not because of the darkness but because Mike was nearly caught short.  However, we had some difficulty in finding our bearings.  Ingrid had been in the Sudan only four days.  This fact along with the dying of the light made her apprehensive of following my intuitions as to the way home.  Mike also had his resrvations, and as the darkness grew so too did the feeling of danger.  However, my sense of direction paid off and we were back at home base in a jiffy.

         The electricity was still on and Mike made it to the W.C without  embarrassment. This was despite having to wait for Alan to finish.

          Today is a special occasion, it is Dorothy's birthday, she is 25. We all went out in the evening to a restaurant.  The restaurant consisted of a collection ot tucles in a corrugated sheet steel enclosure.  dorothy ordered Vimto, Ingrid orderd Coke the rest of us had the local brew 'Tetch.'  We did not eat at the restraurant. The place seemed very seedy to my European eyes.  It was in fact breaking the law since it was serving alcohol.

          The waitress was dressed in European fashion.  There were cattle loose in the enclosure. There were other customers in dark corners having a good evening.  There were chairs and beds  'of the old type, bedsteads with mattresses' to sit on.  Most probably these were the beds that the proprietor and his family used to sleep on after the restraurant clses at night.  The girl who was waiting the tables gave Ababu 'one of the Ethiopians with us' a traditional mug to drink from.

         Walking back to the house for supper of cheese and buscuits we happened across a wedding procession of noisy open backed mini buses tearing along the road carrying jubilant guests.


       Gadaref

           Tuesday 30th April 1985

           Dorothy managed to get tickets to Khartoum yesterday.  Dorothy and Mike said their goodbys and set off at about seven o'clock this morning.      


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