You know, I wasn't absolutely sure that everything was going to work out. I was half expecting a last minute hitch. They had happened frequently enough. The authorities in the Port thought that we were really mad and I was half expecting them to triumphantly produce some Trump Card of Objection to stop us. As far as I know no one and I mean no one had ever hitched a lift from Port Sudan anywhere ever at any time. So this was a first! And quite probably the last!
The ship headed out of the Port into the Red Sea and the Pilot disembarked. Then and only then were we able to pinch ourselves and realize that our dream had become true. There was a little disturbing news that some floating mines had been spotted in the sea. They were some relic from a previous conflict in this disturbed part of the world so extra lookouts were posted. I think that the Spiritual forces who were guiding us still wanted us to trust them. Life at its best is always uncertain and extraordinary things do happen in quite ordinary moments so we had to keep on our spiritual toes so to speak.
We did not relax but kept up our daily devotions and engaged in friendly chats with the mainly Muslim Crew about our and their faith. They had to admit that if our story was true and they had no reason to believe that we were making it up, there was some pretty strong evidence of our very powerful DIVINE HAND helping us in an amazing way.
I do not know about you, but Indian cooking is my favourite and the curries and chicken Tikkas and Marsalas and Chapatis and Nan breads were sumptuous and in the evenings after dinner we played games like chess and some fun parlour games that I had learned in the Navy. Table tennis was also a favourite and Pakistanis generally have a great eye for a ball, boasting very famous World Class Squash Players and Cricketers.
All the Officers became our friends but particularly Vinod who had a favourite Aunt and Uncle in down town Bombay. He was very open to our Christian Faith and was always asking questions and we would give him answers from our pocket New Testaments which we carried at all times together with a handful of Pandita Ramabai tracts.
Well we thankfully missed all the floating mines and sailed into the Gulf of Aden heading South East into the Indian Ocean. We then bent left around the Southern tip of Shri Lanka and headed up toward Indonesia and Malaysia. We would only make one stop and that was off the coast of Shri Lanka when we purchased very fresh fish from a small Sinhalese fishing boat. It would have been nice if we could jump off and then make our way to India but we had to be content to keep going overshooting to Singapore.
Soon we would be showing our Passports to the Singapore authorities and would have to explain to them what we were doing and where we were going. We were such unusual tourists that the Captain was wondering whether they would receive us into their well policed and guarded and run city and country of Singapore. We had no return tickets which would be normal for tourists.
We got our first view of the Island of Sumatra as we entered the Singapore Straits. This was the furthest East that I had ever been. I was born in India in the state of Utra Pradesh in a city called Secunderabad to British parents. My father was an Indian army Major at the time and the year was 1938. Dad had to go off and fight while my My mother and I had stayed in India until after the war and so I was returning to a country that I had left at the age of 6/7 and now trying to return there 40 years later.
The morning came when we moored outside in the anchorage. The Customs and Immigration officers came on board to inspect the ship's documents and of course our passports issued in Cairo a month before. They were very amused and helpful and not a bit suspicious after we told them our story. We were able to show them 3000 or so US$ which was what we had accrued in nearly three months of travel. Not bad when one thinks we started out with about 200 DM or 100$. We had travelled 13000 miles or 21000 kilometres, slightly more than half way around the world
Then a very loving and welcome touch from Vinod. He pressed an envelope into my hand returning the 120US$ of our fare. That brought tears to my eyes and he also gave us the address of his uncle and aunt in Bombay and said they would put us up for a few days and he would warn and write to them. God bless him he was very special for us. The launch taking us ashore arrived and we waived good bye to all the officers and some of the crew that had become our friends on a voyage that we or they would never forget.
Once on shore our immediate need was to find a Hotel for the night. We hitched quite easily into the centre of this extraordinarily modern city. There were sounds of patriotic songs and very modern shops and traffic control. It was like a super city and very striking after Cairo and Asswan and Wadi Halfa and Port Sudan that were all quite primitive by comparison.
Our lift dropped us outside one of the most famous Singapore 5 star Hotels called the Mandarin. I think everybody who has ever been to Singapore will have heard of this very impressive hotel. Well we marched in with our 2 faithful old travel bags, swinging from our shoulders and asked the duty manager if we could speak to the Boss. He was amused and asked us why and that any way the Managing Director was very rarely available. It was the evening about 5 to 6 pm. Well we played all our cards before this young guy and were amazed to see that he did not even flinch but winked instead and gave us our key to a double room with strict instructions not to drink the Alcohol that was stacked in the fridge. He asked us to be out by 10 the next morning as otherwise he might get into trouble and we could help ourselves to the Buffet breakfast at any time after 6 am.
That was luxury if there ever was. Rags to riches. As a missionary we have experienced this so often and the key seems to be thankfulness, no matter what.
Now quite ridiculously I was beginning to worry about our heavy luggage that should be waiting for us in Bombay in some warehouse. Now Irmgard and I had survived very comfortably on 2 bags of clothing and personal possessions each for three months. We had lacked nothing and yet I was concerned about these heavy baggage which for the life of me I could not even remember what they contained. Religious books and? Oh yes! The donated Di Georgio Guitar. For ridiculous reasons this seemed to loom large in my eyes and the urge to go quickly to pick them up was becoming paramount.