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May 15, 2007

Gedaref Hospital

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

LOCATION: Gedaref, Sudan
Longitude: N:14deg.02'29.
Latitude: E: 035deg.23'19.
Kms from Djibouti: 1,766

Two hours ago I was discharged from the hospital here in Gedaref (rather I released myself in the interests of health - not being the most hygienic medical facility on the planet!). Joking aside I have much to thank them for. Having a laboratory on site they were able to diagnose the real substance of my complaint: severe food poisoning, which in turn was leading to dehydration. And the whole process from walking in the door, to consultation with a Doc. (who spoke a little English), to the lab processing, to diagnosis and taking the first round of antibiotics; all within 30 minutes! You'd be dreaming to expect such service from the National Health Service in the UK or even a private healthcare facility in the US.


The day did not start out quite as well however. I knew there was something more afoot than just dehydration from heat after I awoke on this 5th morning still with chronic diarrhea, periodic vomiting and general malaise. The distance from Gallabat to Gedaref is only 156 kms but it has taken three days of slog against a crushing headwind that has kept my speed under 10 kmph the entire way: a snail's pace even given the heat and sickness. My daily routine has already adapted to that which I used throughout the Central American leg in 1997: hiding from the sun in the flood tunnels under the road after midday to late afternoon; then biking till dark; sleeping in another tunnel till 5 am; then riding until noon, by which time the temperature has soared to the point that I have to wear gloves to even touch my bike frame without getting burnt.


These tunnels not only provide shade during the day, but also a safe haven to sleep undetected from the locals at night (someone has to be looking straight down the length of the tunnel to actually see me): better than pitching a tent out in the open where I'm free game to hordes of inquisitive children or opportunistic chancers with less than admirable intentions. One time of year these tunnels are not to be recommended however is during the rainy season, for obvious reasons!

When I finally arrived in Gedaref late this morning I was immediately flagged down by the local police and ordered to register with the 'Passport Police': something every 'Khawaja' (foreigner) has to do within 3-days of entering Sudan. This involved a 20-minute wild goose chase across town, only to be sent back in the opposite direction (upon arrival at the correct police station) to find the 'Sudan-French' bank that could change my Ethiopian Birr into Sudanese Dinar so I could pay the $66 (US) registration fee. The exchange clerk behind the counter at the Sudan-French bank looked at my Ethiopian currency like I was holding a turd, and with a sweeping gesture of his right hand that encompassed most of northern Sudan sent me off in search of a money changer called 'Mohammed El Git', or at least that's what it sounded like to my ignorant ear. I must have asked half of Gedaref where this 'El Git' was, even in the 'souq' (market place), where the noise, confusion and stomach-wrenching images of animal body parts carpeted with black flies and smelling like three-week old camel's toe-jam finally put me over the edge: I lost total sphincter control and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. The temperature was now touching 47 degrees.


When I finally found him, 'El Git' turned out to be a very kind and courteous man, giving me a decent rate for my Birr and buying me a bottle of chilled water - the most heavenly thing I'd tasted in a long time. Sensing (and smelling) that all was not well with my condition, he gave me precise directions back to the Passport Police who, upon my dramatic-smelling entrance, processed my registration in double quick time just to get me out of their office. Finally I was free to wobble off in search of the hospital, something which I really wasn't expecting to find until Khartoum, reflecting on how traveling with a partner can sometimes have real advantages.

I hope to have better images and descriptions of the surroundings when I'm well enough to continue and in a better state to absorb what I know will be a fascinating country to travel through: a vast land of contrasts boasting desert caravans, lush river valleys, over 100 languages spoken by 20 major tribes and more pyramids than Egypt. Stay tuned.



> Total to raise: $4,500
> Total raised to date: $2,900
> Total still to raise: $1,600

Sincerest thanks to the following for your pledges -
- The Sheltons, UK, $500
- Karl Kaseoru, US, $500
- John and Bridget Maxwell, UK, $50
- Jennifer Mackenzie, US, $50
- Ian McCormick, UK, $200
- Terry Mason, California USA, $200
- Jackie and Jean Bernard, Djibouti, $250.
- Erden Eruc and Nancy Board of Around n Over, Seattle USA, $250
- Sharon Kessler, Colorado USA, $500
- Jane Koca, San Jose USA, $50
- John Caldwell, San Jose USA, $100
- Greg Kolodziejzyk of Pedal the Ocean, Canada, $250

Posted on May 15, 2007 7:10 PM