An angry and incredibly fast Nile crocodile chasing our raft on the river.
Our raft put-in just after the First Portuguese Bridge and the Blue Nile Falls.
Sudan's answer for Albert Einstein; the shop keeper in a small village in the northern Sudanese desert close to Meroe Royal City. From what Arabic I could understand, I think he was telling us about the law of relativity
An ancient mosque rises from the skinny lanes in Medieval Cairo.
The challenge I most dreaded in Sudan was trying to get official permission to paddle. My first break was through a fellow volunteer who knew a high ranking officer at the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage. He was like every other Sudanese official I had met; plump and earnest, with a face that gave little away, but he was prepared to talk. After four excruciating visits, three letters in two languages, passport information and photos, the officer agreed to write us a letter of support. The only catch was the Ministry didn't have a typewriter, so we took a short stroll to meet someone called Midhat for help.
I waited alone in Midhat's office, with my hands in my pockets, not really knowing what was going on. The office was bare apart from a computer desk, a few decorative chunks of rock, a Sudan-shaped wooden clock and a glass tank with a lifeless scorpion in it. I was edging closer to sneak a peek at the invertebrate when the door swung open.
"So you are going to travel down the Nile?" asked a young man as he sauntered into the room. He had lightish skin with well groomed short wavy hair and western clothes. I thought he might be Midhat, but his name was Moez.
"I hope to, but we still have lots to do before we get on the river."
Moez stepped closer and lowered his voice. "Watch out for crocodiles. I have seen ones bigger than six metres in Lake Nasser,"
I stood back. "You have spent time on Lake Nasser? I hear it is notorious for crocs?"
"I am from Wadi Halfa," said Moez, puffing out his chest. "My family hunts crocodiles on the lake, let me just say they catch a lot."
He shaped his hand like a crocodile's muzzle and jabbed it in front of my face.
"If you get bitten by a crocodile, its jaw will lock." Pausing, Moez looked me straight in the eye. "You only have one choice but to tickle it."
With the index finger from his other hand, he stroked the piece of skin where his finger joined his thumb. Moez stared intensely at his hand as if it was ready to strike. Sensing my disbelief, he left the room.
Scrummaging sounds came from the corridor and Moez returned holding a shoe box, held closed with thin, yellow twine. After unknotting the ravel, he cautiously lifted the lid and plunged his arms into the box. Delicately he pulled a live, 40cm long, baby crocodile. A real live crocodile!
Thankfully the thrashing grey reptile's snout was bound shut, because he didn't look happy at having been trapped in a dark box. His soulless eyes conveyed a chilling malevolence.
"Holy shit, that is a real croc! Where did you get that?" I asked, taking a step closer.
"Wadi Halfa, we have nine up there, much bigger than this one. My brother wants to start a tourist site."
After carefully loosening the band that held the crocodile's snout shut, Moez waved a piece of paper by its chops.
Snap! In one lightening movement the crocodile clamped onto its target with horrifying swiftness and vigour. I gulped, not looking forward to meeting his big brother on the river.
Hesitantly following Moez's signal, I guardedly tugged on the piece of paper lodged between the croc's chompers. It wouldn't budge. "Lock jaw," he grunted.
Without taking his eyes off the crocodile, he reached back to the desk for a flimsy sheet of paper which he used to tickle the end of the croc's mouth. Sure enough, almost mechanically, its jaws edged open. Moez perched back on his right leg and nodded his head, obviously happy with himself that it had gone to plan.
© Copyright 2012 Mark Tanner
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