18-Apr-2009 -- Dear Brothers and Sisters of the World of Confluence, on 18 April 2009, my colleague and I embarked on a very fateful journey to the confluence at 12N 34E. We both approached the hallowed day with an awe and reverence unseen for other missions undertaken to the field. [In fact, I owe a debt of gratitude to my colleague and fellow team member for first enlightening me on the subject of confluence.] We hired a car and a driver and armed with a compass, a Hughes 7101 Thuraya, and a bevy of hot and cold beverages, we commenced our trip at 08h08 UTH from al-Damazīn, Blue Nile State, Sudan (approximate GPS coordinates being 11°47'30"N 34°21'40"E).
Initially, on a map generated by UN OCHA, we were inspired by the fact that a village named Wilāyat al-Nīl al-Azraq (literal translation 'State of the Blue Nile') was located on the very Confluence! Thus, part of our journey existed in either confirming or dispelling the myth of whether a place named 'State Where the Nile is Blue' in Blue Nile State actually existed and furthermore if it existed on the confluence of 12N 34E.
My colleague and I, both of European descent, did our best to disguise our obvious 'whiteness' in the face of sub-Saharan Africa, but to no avail. In fact, it is quite humorous to imagine even the thought of camouflaging two white guys in the middle of Africa, n'est-ce pas? Anyway, our intention was to travel the necessary 70 or so km to the Confluence and return back to al-Damazīn within three hours. However, our total trip time was in excess of seven hours.
Our trip itinerary started in al-Damazīn travelling in a westerly direction for roughly 30 km to the town of Agadi (approximate coordinates being 11°49'00"N 34°04'00"E), then following in a northwesterly direction along the road to Gerebin for roughly 11 km (to 34° E) and then in a northerly direction along 34° E for about 11 km to the Confluence. Most of the roads agreed with our general course of action; however, the road apparently ended at 12°00'05.43"N 34°01'25.56"E. We thought that the road we were on would lead us too far south of the Confluence and for this reason we went by foot travelling mostly in a westerly direction. Although we were giddy getting started, we dreaded the fact that we needed to travel some 2.5 km in 54° C (best estimate) temperature through an ecosystem so harsh that only grasshoppers and ants could survive! At the Confluence, there was neither sight nor sound of any human existence – the barest of the bare African bush land. Just after we had reached the Confluence, much to our chagrin we not only found a road but also a commercial bus passed us. In any event, we for once and for all dispelled the idea that a settlement named Wilāyat al-Nīl al-Azraq actually exists on the confluence of 12N 34E.
In the end, we triumphed over the prevailing elements and though exhausted, we were both very proud of our achievement – confluence Heaven at 12N 34E! Our next venture may be 11N 34E but that, gentle reader, will be for our next chapter.