We went in the front entrance of a large building and asked at the reception if there was an English speaking doctor. Actually all the educated class spoke English and the less educated a good smattering. We were ushered into an office and there was God's man for us. He was very charming and listened intently to our crazy story. Our first need was drink. He immediately ordered the local equivalent of a sort of Lemon Fanta. About 12 small bottles arrived and we literally drank them down in front of him. He asked us lots of questions and we told him we were on the way to India.
"What else do you want?" He exclaimed. I replied, "A bath would be awesome". He lead us down some stairs into the basement where there were lots of old fashioned baths with cubicles around them. We thanked him profusely and proceeded to fill two baths to the brim with cold water. It wasn't really cold but it came out of the cold tap.
Soap was provided, that kind of brown block stuff and we jumped in with all our clothes on. Now remember it was blistering hot. We found out later that there had been no rain for about three years. We soaped ourselves and the clothes and socks down, only our sneakers escaped and then jumped into another full bath to rinse off. I think we scrubbed our sneakers too.
We certainly did not have to dry ourselves as in 10 minutes of walking outside we were all as dry as a biscuit. We waited for our train and this time it was not packed out to the brim and so we spent a comfortable night sitting up straight in our compartment. The next morning we pulled into Port Sudan.
This city is placed almost exactly half way down the Red Sea and pretty much directly opposite to Saudi Arabia's famous city of Mecca. We soon realized that Port Sudan was the end and there was no way to go except two options. God would have to part the Red Sea so to speak as he had done for Moses 3000 years ago or we would have to head back to Cairo with our tails between our legs and to try again.
We walked through the city full of Arabs and Sudanese in their robes and turbans. Many stalls rather than shops and then we found a Church. It must have been Eastern Orthodox as the priest had a beard and usual high black top hat. He spoke English and French so I was able to tell him everything. He was sympathetic and I think quite lonely. It must have been tough as he was surrounded by Muslims who definitely had the upper hand.
He and we had to tread carefully. He gave us a room without a ceiling that joined on to the church and his residence. The beds were comfortable and so we slept without mosquito netting as I do not remember mosquitoes. There were no puddles for them to breed only salt water. No river or ponds. However as soon as the surrounding lights went out many and I mean many rats would use the top of this wall as a highway. One could watch them and there was no way down unless they fell which thankfully they didn't. I did not wake Irmgard as she would have freaked out but that little detail remains very clear after 24 years.
The Priest also gave us an adjoining room with a huge electric fan hanging from the ceiling. This was a great place to hide out between 11 o'clock to 3 o'clock avoiding the midday heat and raging sun which made any kind of work almost impossible. Early mornings say from 7.30 to 11 and then 4 to 10 were are imposed working hours.
We found out that there were many ships using this port and they would come in and unload their cargo and then leave. I boarded many ships that were heading East but without any luck. One day I had run out of ships to visit and there was a shipping agent for the Pacific International Lines. PIL. They were a Chinese owned company based in Singapore. The shipping clerk was a Protestant Christian and that should have been a help. He was rather like the Doubtlets of Santos Brazil. He spoke so much doubt to us telling us what was probably quite true.
He said that in his memory no one had caught a hitch hike on a vessel. It was just unheard of. Eventually I asked if I could word the telex myself and so he allowed me to write out my own petition to these Chinese directors in Singapore, pleading for their help. I wrote it with lots of prayer of course!
Now we had a new problem. Irmgard was telling me that she had a stomach problem and that it had started way back in Yugoslavia but was getting worse. That evening we found some very nice Muslim doctors and they agreed to take Irmgard to their clinic the next day for a check up. Naturally I and she were both pretty worried and were continually committing this problem to the Lord in Prayer.
We arrived next morning early and they took us both off in a Jeep to where the clinic was. What we saw really broke our hearts. Water was in such short supply that people would queue up for hours in line waiting for it to be turned on and then fill up everything that they could find and take it home. People were there with their camels waiting patiently. Remember I told you no rain for three years so the water table was at an all time low.
Irmgard disappeared and then came back smiling. Her sickness was that she was one or two months pregnant with our oldest and first of seven children Mikey.