Christine Henchie and William Brenchley - riding across the African continent!
Latest news - November 2010
Good afternoon all,
Here I sit in the office of AbdelKhalid, manager of the coke warehouse in Rabak. That's right, you read correctly - Rabak! We are back again...
Early on Wednesday the 27/10/2010 we set out from Rabak heading for Southern Sudan. It felt great to be back on the road and adding kilometres to our journey... We quickly fell into a routine of riding 12-15km in the morning before finding some shady spot near some water for lunch and a rest and then riding a further 5-7km in the evening to the nearest village. 20km a day doesn't sound like much but it slowly eats up the distance!
Unfortunately, Chami started to get a pressure sore on his back and I found myself doing a lot of walking! Reliable Nali just kept coming, albeit VERY slowly! You would think that he and William had nowhere to go! The horses also struggled with horse flies and mosquitoes of which there were many. The closer we were to water the worse they were... It was not unusual for the horses to have spots of blood from bites all over them... poor things. The mosquitoes here are like super heroes! They bite straight through one's clothes. Long sleeves and jeans are no longer enough protection... A suit of armor may suffice though!
We spent the nights in various locations, once next to a little shop, in a school, in a police station, at the Omda's (Headman's) house, on farms and with very normal people in their homes. Once again we were blown away by people's generosity. The poorest people are willing to share everything they have with us.
As we neared the border between north and south we were stopped more often by police to check our paperwork, which thankfully is all in order. The border crossing was a little slow but after relatively little hassle, there we were in the south! It really does feel like a different country - There is savannah and thorn scrub intermingled with very green patches. Beautiful ponds with lily pads dot the landscape. There are more Christians and fewer Moslems. Although everyone speaks Arabic, there is an abundance of other languages, English included. Men and women dress differently from the north. There are no camels but lots of cattle with impressive horns. Villages consist of thatched huts made of reeds rather than the standard mud house of the north. People were just as friendly though a little more wary of us.
We arrived in the south in the morning and as is normal we found a place to rest during the heat of the day. We had just finished untacking when a whole platoon of soldiers arrived demanding that we return to their camp with them immediately. after tacking up the horses again (which takes a while with all our kit) we started walking with them. I couldn't work out why they were being so aggressive with us... a few minutes later, an intelligence officer who we had met and befriended at the border post arrived on a motorbike. He quickly found out what the problem was - someone had told the soldiers that we were carrying guns! After they searched our kit and chatted with this officer, they relaxed and became very friendly and apologetic!
After 10 days we arrived in Renk, the first big town in the South. We made our way to the government veterinary clinic where we asked to stay. Having been told that the road to Malakal was still closed, we were left with only one option - to get a barge from Renk to Juba. After much discussion and information seeking, we discovered that all the barges were full and we would need to book our space in Kosti. Billy was to take a bus to kosti and organize this when he came down with Malaria ... and Typhoid! We ended up staying 2 weeks in Renk while he tried to recover. I am now adept at giving injections in the bum and drips! I must say that he never complained and put up with being a pin cushion!
We then heard that the road to Malakal was now open and our next thought was to ride to Malakal and then catch the barge to Juba. But it was not to be.... Billy has very painful haemarrhoids from the Typhoid and can't sit his horse. It will take too long for him to recover and we have little time left on our visa. So back to Rabak we came to book a place on a barge to Juba. I am told it will take 3 weeks - let us hope this is long enough for Billy to recover completely so we can ride on from Juba to Uganda.
We hope to be on the barge in the next couple of days. Check our facebook profile Christy Billy Africanhoofprints for updates from our phantom facebooker! Sadly I have not had time to update the blog but will do at the first opportunity.
Christine and William
Please click here to go to Billy and Christy's blog
William and Christine have set off on an amazing ride through 13 countries, starting at the most northerly point in Africa, Bizert in Tunisia, following the east coast of Africa and ending in Cape Aquinas, South Africa.
We wish them the very best of luck on their dangerous and exciting journey.
June 2007: "Currently 280 km. from Khartoum waiting for Rahaal to recover from a sprained fetlock.
Egypt after six months to the day has been left behind with an interesting excursion on a cargo barge. We arrived at Aswan high dam port at 07.30 and were finally processed by 14.30. By 16.00 the cargo barge, which was to be towed, was finally manoeuvred into position alongside the quay. We sedated the horses and led them drunkenly onto the barge.
There have been endless discussions on which was the best route in Sudan. 907 km. to Khartoum if we follow the railway line through the desert, or 1,296 km. to Khartoum along the Nile with an unknown desert crossing, perhaps. We chat to the station master at Wadi Halfa; he will drop food off for us at all the manned stations at no charge."
This e-mail is long overdue, but it's difficult to write with a cluttered mind. I won't mince words the stress of the last couple of months has been enormous.
Rahaal and Chami suffered injuries while Nali and Chami fell
victim to Babeseosis (tick bite fever). Our slow progress means our visas expire
after 3 months. South African bank refusing to transfer money to
Chami got colic on our second day of the 350km desert crossing. The colic lasted 9 days with him refusing to eat and drinking very little, it was almost as if he were trying to commit suicide. Obviously he was not ridable and so little Rahaal had to step into the breach. This he did strongly for 570km before he sprained his left back fetlock. We rested 45 days and in this time both Nali and Chami got Babeseosis.
The vet, a specialist on ticks, refused to give me the brand name for the drug (Foray & Euflavine not available) used in treatment as he said there was no Babeseosis in the area and I should bring my horses into town for blood tests. I was loathe to use Berynil as it is a painful injection and carry it to treat Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping sickness).
My good friend, Dr Helen Tiffin, told me not to fiddle about and inject. I split the Berynil in 4 and injected the neck and hindquarters. Nali ended up with such a painful neck that he couldn't lie down and had to be fed at head height. Chami kept running away from me for fear of another injection. My heart practically broke but they both recovered and have slowly forgiven me, I think...
200km on disaster struck again with us experiencing a heat wave
in the desert giving Rahaal and Chami what I can only describe as heat stroke.
Chami's fragile state brought on his laminitis again and Rahaal's tired body
succumbed to a mild laminitis. We put the boys on a truck and drove them the
An old friend of Christine's, Brett and his wife Toni have kindly put us up. We have received good support from kind friends of theirs Khalid and Walid. Chami is recovering well but Rahaal has a massive abscess in his right front hoof. It has just started to erupt and things in that department are looking up. Looking at his strong well shaped hoofs I would never in a million years have predicted this.
Christine has left for
What can I say about the South African bank refusing to transfer
MTN (SA mobile company) are opening here in a big way which will improve peoples lives not damage them. South Africans should understand more than Westerners the "collateral damage" brought about by sanctions. So much for our level of sophistication but then I forget they haven't been here have they...
We are particularly grateful to the Sudan Railway employees who have taken great care of us as we have followed the tracks all the way from Wadi Halfa. All the Sudanese have welcomed us into their homes and been most gracious hosts.
Chami was exhausted and needed to rest. We were at an abandoned station in the middle of our 350km desert crossing and yes there was water in the big concrete water tank and yes the horses had food only because Chami hadn't eaten for a couple of days. But Christine and I had no food just a piece of bread for breakfast that morning.
I had already pilfered our emergency rations and if we stayed and left the next morning our first meal on an already depleted diet would be at best 3pm. Very dangerous risk to take! I had not made up my mind but Christine had and was prepared to stay. Suddenly the horses warned us of an approaching train.
The train driver stops and asks us in for tea. Apples and oranges
appear, an absolute luxury in
What can I say? Big Guy you just keep coming through...
God bless you all.
William and Christine
Here are some extracts from a subsequent interchange of emails between CuChullaine O'Reilly and William Brenchley:
To which William replied: "RISKS:
I love Christy and I love my horses, I do not believe in taking risks.
When researching the different diseases we would be exposed to I started with the northern countries, but by the time I got halfway through the list I was ready to call it off. Then a thought struck me, "what conditions do I live with everyday? South Africa is rife with disease and yet I live here!" That was enough for me to decide to get my vaccinations, buy a good medical aid kit, send Christy on a medical aid course and make good informed decisions daily..... Bottom line is that 7 years in the military did not make me "gung-ho", but responsible and careful. If the journey needs to be called off then that is what will happen. I am not a "record books" or Machiavellian type but more of a plodder who does things slowly enough to see the ground I'm treading.
The horses are fat, but not fit. Rahaal although not out of the woods yet with his abscess, is looking a lot better. We will exercise patience regarding his convalescence and return to fitness. Southern Sudan is going to be very difficult indeed as we will be leaving the desert for the jungle; disease, rain and alcohol use are probably the serious considerations."
Please be careful, William and Christine. We pray that you and the horses stay safe.
To all our friends,
It is with heavy hearts that we write this email. On Saturday, 15th September, our little Rahaal died. He had been struggling with a high temperature for a couple of days so we had blood tests taken but nothing showed up. In the week before the 15th, he kept going into shock and dehydrating. Each time we managed to administer shock therapy and pull him out of it. On Saturday afternoon, we realised he was going into shock again. We rushed off to the pharmacy to get a drip to rehydrate him and dexamethyzone to treat for shock. By the time we got back he was already dead. We did an autopsy/necropsy and found nothing other than jaundice. We believe it was biliary, but were never really sure because he did not show all the symptoms and the blood tests were negative. We also dissected his legs and hooves and found that the pedal bones in the front feet were chipping. We were and still are very sad. He was a great horse and a very special member of our team and we miss him terribly.
The two other equine members of the team are doing well. Nali got caught in his rope a while back and had a sore hind leg but is recovering well. Chami had an allergic reaction to something and his legs and sheath swelled up. He looked a bit like the Michelin man. He too is recovering nicely.
We are still staying in Khartoum on a horse farm owned by an English lady. She does riding lessons and hippo therapy so we have become really involved. We plan to leave on the weekend of the 26/27 and head South to Kenya.
Our next email will follow soon and we hope it will be more light hearted.
Billy and Christy
The Guild received this message from Billy:
As you know, our horses contracted babesiosis (biliary)
and the little one died of it. Our other two recovered well. I flew to Kenya
taking blood samples with me. The test results came back negative which was a
huge relief, but we were told that both horses' blood counts were down. This
means that their metabolism is affected etc etc. So we have been feeding them a
high protein diet, treating them with vitamins and minerals and a drug to
increase their metabolism and both of them look great now. We have become
involved with the International School here in Khartoum and they have asked us
to get their riding school off the ground. So we have decided to stay in
Khartoum until the end of December to instruct and develop a sustainable project
for them. This gives our horses ample time to recover fully and get really fit
and healthy. It also gives us an opportunity to earn some more money towards the
rest of the journey.
After much thought and deliberation we have changed our route south. We will be travelling through South Sudan and into Uganda, then Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.
Here is another message from Billy:
I'm in Khartoum & Christy has flown home to spend time with her family & recharge her batteries. The 2 boys are in an enforced 6 week break during their annual "African Horse Sickness" vaccinations. They are pretty much out of their skins with boredom...
We'll restart the journey in December\January & head south to Uganda. The route between Malakal & Juba might be connected by a new road along the Jongula canal, otherwise we may have to do some distance by barge, which I don't fancy.
Good luck when you get back on the road!
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