National Geographic : 1955 May
710 John MI. Goddard Excited Young Alur Dash into Lake Albert to Greet the Kayak Caravan "They swarmed over our boats, inspecting us and our equipment in the minutest detail," says the author. "Some had never seen a white man; many had never spoken to one. They are probably still talking about the unprecedented visit of the mysterious strangers who paddled down the Nile." the natives, convinced we were not hostile, resumed their frenzied antics. The drum mers took turns heating their instruments over a fire to make them more resonant. The men danced grotesquely around the four musicmakers, their oiled, naked bodies gleaming in the moonlight. Women stood just outside the circle, jigging in time to the drums. From time to time they uttered pierc ing shrieks. The night was half gone when we got back to our sleeping bags. In the morning we shook scorpions and centipedes out of trousers and shoes and took up the paddles again. The day before Christmas we reached Rhino Camp, chief trading center of the Al bert Nile. Here turbaned Moslems in small stalls were bargaining with Africans repre senting every tribe within 100 miles. Christmas and a Hippo Hunt Prospects for a merry Christmas took a bright turn when we encountered a hospitable young Persian, Ali Khalfan, a merchant from Arua, 40 miles to the west. At the Khalfan home we sat down to a Christmas dinner table loaded with spicy delicacies-wheat chapat ties, wild rice with kebab, and stewed fish, the repast topped off with fruit pudding and lemonade in tall glasses. A few mornings later, once more afloat, we joined a group of natives in a hippo hunt. Armed only with spears, these people kill the animals for their meat-which we, too, found delicious-and feel the prize well worth the risk. We watched them spear a hippo in the river, then wait patiently for the beast to sur face. The animal will finally have to come to the top; so the hunters follow its under water movements with a wood float. The final round is bloody and violent, followed by grunting and excited shouting as dozens of natives drag the monster to the beach. Men may have been wounded or killed in the tussle, but the tribesmen still hold a vic tory feast, gorging on the fresh-killed hippo meat. After a week's travel on the serene Albert Nile, we reached the borders of the Sudan at Nimule. Behind a deserted customs shed stood a scattering of native huts. Here was the unpretentious gateway to the Sudan, a hodgepodge of races, cultures, lan guages, and religions. The Sudan comprises nearly 1,000,000 square miles, an area one third that of the United States, yet its popu lation is only 8,820,000, about the same as Ohio's.* The Negroid people of the south have no stable government, no currency, little com merce, no writing, no wheeled transport, few tools. They go about stark naked or clad in bark cloth and animal skins. Yet we found them among the happiest people we have ever met. * See "South in the Sudan," by Harry Hoogstraal, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1953.