Thursday, April 17, 1997

Slow Train to Wau

I caught the Train from Khartoum to Wau 3rd Class – the ‘Slow Train to Wau’. And slow it was, often at walking pace, preceded by a guard checking tracks for damage and sand cover. There were a few break downs on the way, too – spent most of one day at Babanusa with the engine in pieces.

The third class carriages were unbearable. I decided to take my chance on the roof, where I spent almost all the journey (6 days) – squatting and chatting (gesticulating) with a roof full of Dinka tribesman, sleeping head to toe across the camber of the roof – too crowded to fall off as the train rocked on at a few miles an hour.At one stop at a village, some hopeful Dinka travellers tried to clamber onto the already crowded roof of the train. A bit of a barny ensued. The soldiers disembarked from the military carriage and lined the train to prevent any more attempts. The Dinks didn’t much like being told what to do by the Sudanese (Arab) army. One shot a guard with his home made rifle. Only a slight cut on the head but the tense stand-off lasted for several hours. Spear wielding Dinks lined up against rifle toting army, glaring at each other.

I was relieved when the whistle blew and the train started to chug on before a full scale war could erupt.

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