Day 16, Rest Day, Dongola
We should have looked more closely at the Olla Hotel signboard before we checked in. Next to the hotel’s name was a big white heart, and inside the heart were profiles of two people, a man and a woman, in silhouette. In between the two, in pale yellow, was the word ‘love’. About a dozen of us stayed at the Olla. Half of us were unfortunate enough to be rather close to the commercial wing and had their sleep interrupted hourly. We were booked in for two nights. Those whose sleep was interrupted decided not to stay for the second night’s performance. Vince and I stayed of course.
It is now the season for the pollination of the date palms. This is done by small little fruit flies that swarm in the billions. Their genetic programming must have mutated though because they seemed to ignore the date palms and swarm around us. They had been with us for a couple of days. However, in Dongola there was an answer. Street vendors were selling netted hats like bee-keeper hats to keep the little blighters away. You had a choice of lilac, pink or banana yellow. So not only did we show up in neon-coloured spandex, we now wore lilac bee helmets. Not a pretty sight.
First thing in the morning we went out looking for breakfast. Little was open. Things start late. But I found some oranges and yoghurt and Vince found a just-opening café that served decent coffee. Today was supposed to be all about eating. My appetite had not been great for a few days and I needed calories. I had also not felt very strong the last few days. I was determined to eat. So about 8:30 we met up with some of the others and went out for a second breakfast. I had a big falafel sandwich and then all of a sudden felt a bit of a gurgle in my guts. By 9:30 I was flushing my system into the squat and grunt fixture. I missed lunch. But by 2:30 I managed a dry fart. The small victories of travel are not to be sneered at. And by 6pm 3 of us were in a small restaurant devouring 2 whole rice-stuffed chickens between us – complete with bread and trimmings – all in all a successful day.
The only disappointment of the day was the lack of ice cream. Three or four shops advertised ice cream but none was to be had. Oh well, it is the desert and it is 42C.