Sudan Border Walk: Ready to Push to the Limit Without Water

Got a real 05h00 start this morning. That plus it being overcast from the halting storm we had last night made it a good walking day. They call these March rains Mango Rains here. They are a very short wet season before the real wet season starting in May. Mango Rains are lots of wind, dust, thunder — and some rain, if you’re lucky. We haven’t been lucky yet.

We followed my recon path from last night and joined the mura; it is big and definitely a transport route. Unfortunately, it kind of veered to the north and we needed northeast to stick to the Douyou. Even on the trail there was no recent cattle activity; it looked like the last ones through were well over a month ago. Once we veered off, we saw not even old cattle dung, or hardly any burro dung, all day.

About two hours in, we saw a nice male warthog and all along the path common warthog dung. An hour later, Felix whistled from behind and pointed with his nose to the south. It was a nice group of red river hogs. A bit further on, we saw a single hut that was much more substantial than the normal herder shelter. It would have had a tarp over it with a rack inside. It was either poachers, or more likely one of these traveling salesmen that follow the herders. They are Arabs, according to Yaya, not Hausa, who follow the transhumance with food, tea, sugar, cows’ medicine, batteries etc., on donkeys to sell.

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The vegetation varied from this beautiful Rubiaceae forest that is about 10 m high and has a very clear understory. Sometimes you can see for a couple hundred meters under the canopy. Unfortunately, all we ever see is the occasional pig underneath. Then we have these very open Terninalia forests on black cotton soil. Also, there is the occasional laterite flat that has only single legume growing on it. In general, the walking is good.

We saw one more huge tusked male warthog as we approached the Douyou a second time. Water levels are still plenty for our needs, even if more and more organic as we go on. Yaya had the runs all night; either the water or bad fish. I gave him Cipro and told him to keep well hydrated and to drink salt water.

For the last 5 km we were in and out of the floodplain of the Douyou. By far the highest density of warthog and red river hog dung and tracks, but no other large mammals in the oxbow grassy flats. These normally would be where we would see kob, hartebeest, waterbuck and herds of buffalo.  Unfortunately, nada; all gone.

We pitched up on the Douyou after about 17 km in a straight line. I had told the guys earlier that I was going to go ahead, real light, with just Felix, to see how far up the Douyou we can get before we run out of water. I want to get as close to the Sudan border as possible. So Felix is going to carry minimal food and I barebones comms.

We will shoot for two and a half days up, and the same coming down. We will leave Herve and Yaya behind. Yaya is looking very frail, and Herve is still not 100 percent, so this will give them four days to rest up and fish. So I will not be sending journal updates for four days.

Africa explorer-conservationist J. Michael Fay is in the Central African Republic, completing an expedition he started in 2014, retracing as best he can the footsteps of the 19th Century American Game Hunter-Explorer William Stamps Cherry. Fay, a former National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and recipient of numerous National Geographic Society grants, has also worked for decades for the Wildlife Conservation Society. His transects through some of Africa’s most remote and inaccessible wildernesses (among them the National Geographic-sponsored Megatransect and Meglaflyover) rank among the most significant in the history of exploration of the continent. You can read all his dispatches at Expedition Through the Heart of Africa.

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