There are three contingents of soldiers: Egyptian, Sudanese and British.
The Egyptian and Sudanese armies have been trained by British military instructors and are being led by British officers.
We are in the heyday of The Empire, which is living on borrowed time. Come the 20th century and it will crumble before the tumult and upheaval of two world wars, a Great Depression, and two major revolutions.
But right now, in 1897, The Empire is in its full glory. No power on earth can defeat it.
It was late afternoon and we had been riding our bikes over unsealed roads into a powerful headwind for most of the day. The wind was far stronger than the weather report had indicated. Along with the wind, we also had to battle the dust. We knew we weren’t going to reach our destination, a town where we had planned to stay the night at a caravan park.
We desperately needed to stop. But we were surrounded by undulating crop land as far as the eye could see. It was autumn and everything was barren and dry. There was nowhere we could pitch our tent and our water was low.
I was in a bad mood. The grievances piled up.
When we had arrived in Australia that January, our plan was to leave in March/April, fly to Beijing, and then take the train to North Korea. Now thanks to Covid-19, international travel was impossible and who knew when – and if – the world would ever return to what it once was. I had this uncomfortable feeling that a viral Frankenstein was on the rampage. Former irritations – e.g., crowded airports, endless cues and long flights – were now reasons for nostalgia.
So here we were, plan B, making the best of our situation by …riding our bikes into a vortex of dust and wind with no water, no prospect of stopping for the night, surrounded on all sides by a great nothingness.
Then it appeared in the distance, like a mirage…..