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  Field Notes From
Blue Nile Expedition

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View Field Notes
From Author

Virginia Morell

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Nevada Wier

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Nevada Wier (top) and Mick Davies

Along the Nile

Field Notes From Photographer
Nevada Wier
We were constantly surprised, even charmed, by people's reactions to us. We witnessed everything from terror to excitement.
While camped along a crocodile-infested stretch of the river, we heard a man trying frantically to get our attention from the other side. He whistled, yelled, and waved his arms. We were astonished when he stripped out of his clothes, got on a makeshift float made from a piece of wood and inflated goatskin, and swam across the river to talk to us. We expected him to be attacked by a croc at any moment.
The man was a health care worker from quite a distance away, and he had never seen foreigners before. He wanted to know if we had medicine and to hear our stories. He stayed up all night with us, listening and asking questions. The next morning after we walked with him upriver for a distance, he stripped down again, got back into the river on his homemade paddleboard, and kicked his way safely across the croc waters to the other bank.
One afternoon we pulled our rafts in to talk with an old man who had just come down to the river and waved for us to stop. He was as curious about us as we were about him. He was amazed that we wanted to shake his hand. “My hands are rough,” he said. “I didn't think foreigners would want to shake hands like mine.” My heart sank. I wondered what he had heard about people like us. What experiences had he had in this remote region that would make him even think something like that? That was a sad moment for me. Ginny and I decided to sacrifice a goat at the river’s sacred source, Gishe Abay, but before the Saturday event we headed out on horseback to visit a seer, Emma Abai, who lived in the forest and was said to be cared for by monkeys. Shortly after we arrived she said, “You should get rid of the goat. It’s going to cause you trouble.”
We were stunned. How did she know about the goat? Then, before we could get over our surprise, she rushed us out and told us to go. So we mounted our horses and headed back, right into the onset of one of the worst rainstorms I’ve ever experienced. We crossed a river just before it flooded. Did she know about that too?
Ginny and I agreed to give the goat to a local church, and I would sacrifice a cow instead. But when I went to make the offering, I was not allowed. Suddenly all the goodwill I had felt at Gishe Abay was gone. Then I learned that the priest told the townspeople we were there to steal the secret of the river’s source. Of course, I politely explained our intentions. But I didn’t want any trouble, so I left. Emma Abai was right. That goat was trouble.

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