Once we got out of that dreadful situation, we set up camp on the first suitable site.
We had not set foot on land for eight days Anton said he would need to rest up here as he was unwell he looked pale and had a fever. I made him comfortable under a shady tree; the natives soon had fresh fish and game cooking.
This place felt like heaven after the hell we had just come through so we stayed there for five days until Anton had recovered.
The river was kind to us for the next one hundred and twenty miles the jungle had mostly gone now and then I could see green rolling hills in the distance.
Up ahead the river split into many different parts all were about thirty feet wide lined on each side with that dreaded tall grass. Then sure enough one day later the path ahead was blocked, it was late in the day so after spending another night in the canoes. The next morning we decided rather than hacking a path ahead we would move to the right, hoping to find a stream again, luckily a day later we did. This stream took us closer to the river bank, then we cut a path to the bank there I saw a small hill nearby Anton and I climbed it to get a view of what lies ahead.
There was nothing but mud flats and tall grass as far as the eye can see. On the walk back to the canoes my feet became sore so I took my boots off which had now been destroyed by the black mud, my feet started to develop blisters.
I again removed my boots at the canoes to find the blistering worsening.
I left my perished boots off and wrapped a shirt around each foot and set off helping haul the canoes for the next seven miles.
My feet were in a bad state so I was unable to make any further return trips to help haul the other canoes.
We set up camp then moved on the next day, I was unable to walk much and went barefoot in the canoe.
The river became shallow but easy to travel then one of the fishermen in the canoe in front of me.
Stood and grabbed a spear then plunged forward into the water there was an almighty struggle with water splashing all around. The other natives came to his aid, they hauled an enormous snake into a canoe and continued clubbing it until it stopped thrashing. I had never seen or heard of a snake so big, its head was as large as a horse's head, and it must have been over thirty feet long.
At the next campsite the natives skinned the snake then cut it into strips and hung them up to dry, we would have food to take with us should we get trapped again.
Anton said his boots were beyond repair now as well as mine so we spent some time making crude boots out of the snakeskin.
We travelled on again after three days; my feet were on the mend.
The natives had plenty of dried snake food they also made two water contains from the snakeskin.
With the knowledge of what was behind us, we were better equipped to deal with what may lie ahead or so we thought.
Then we came across an enormous bull elephant dead in shallow water.
It had been killed while drinking, the tusks were removed.
There must have been twelve to fifteen very large crocodiles feeding on the putrefying carcase.
We approached on the far side of the river and were charged by two of these monsters.
Anton hit the closest one with a great shot; we quickly back paddled as others blocked our path ahead.
Anton said that we would have a better chance at night these reptiles are not very active in the cold and the nights were still very cold. We kept the canoe's side by side paddling with great care so as not to make ripples.
It seemed to take forever and I could see eyes everywhere on both river banks.
We travelled on for many months dealing with the good and bad sections of this mystical Nile River.
Although the journey by camels to Lake Victoria was never all that far from the river it was rarely reachable due to mud flats swamps and reed beds.
We rounded a bend in the river then the welcome sight of Khartoum came into view, this was the end of our native's leg of the trip. Anton had negotiated with their tribes' ruler, for their services the tribe would receive seed grain, medical supplies, sugar, salt and flour that they will now take back. I could not thank them enough; we could not have made it without them.
Anton arranged for another canoe, supplies and a new Arab crew for the rest of the journey to Cairo.
With four days rest in the first bed, I had slept in for over twelve months I felt fresh and recharged so we moved on.
Two weeks later our path was blocked by soldiers mounted on camels in a shallow section of the river.
Anton and one of the soldiers were yelling at each other, I had no idea of what they were saying when it was quiet, I asked Anton what was going on. He said that they are accusing us of robbing a recently opened tomb nearby.
I can't convince them otherwise so we need to go with them; they spotted us miles back and think that you have the stolen goods in your navigation box. We have to go with them back to Luxor, I will instruct our crew to stay here and wait for us, and it shouldn't take long to sort this out.
Back in Luxor the Arab military commander opened my box and saw my navigation instruments.
He had not seen anything like that before so he assumed that it was stolen from the tomb.
We were then thrown in jail where we remained for two days, then Dr Allan Manson the archaeologist I met in Cairo almost two years ago approached our cell.
He said well he said you certainly wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time.
He told us the story of how he had been called there as the thieves had been caught.
He said he laughed when he saw the contents of my mapping box he said he could understand how my sextant could have been mistaken for ancient Egyptian artefacts.
We were then released I then told Dr Manson the details of our trip over lunch.
We were then taken back to the canoes and continued the trip; it was not as perilous as the leg to Luxor but still had its hair raising moments. The terrain was now dry desert country meat was scarce, so fish birds and crocodile was the diet.
The Arab crew said that they had not seen the river that low there must be widespread droughts upstream.
I was totally spent by the time we got to Cairo as was Anton so we took an Arab traders sailing boat for the last leg then the sense of achievement was overwhelming.
I had successfully mapped the Nile River and I confirmed it to be the longest river in the world with a length of just over four thousand one hundred miles.
The mission took over two years, it could never have happened without the help of all involved from Lord Stanley down.
Anton was the real key to our success with his language and organization skills he told me to tell Lord Stanley the next time he plans such a mission then leave him out, one such trip like that in my lifetime is enough.
Read part 6. The new mission
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