UPDATED June 6, 2024

BY Guest Author

IN Tour d'Afrique


UPDATED June 6, 2024

BY Guest Author

IN Tour d'Afrique


The X-Ray


Dave Auger was a participant in the first ever Tour d’Afrique Cycling Expedition in 2003. He writes, “During Covid-19 I, like so many others, had an abundance of time due to mandated isolation. I decided to write short stories from memories of my life that just popped into my head as I was thinking of what to write about. I ended up writing more that 60 short stories and decided to package up all the pages and get Staples to put them into booklet form. The title of this little book is: Life’s A Journey – Musings of an Old Fart during Covid 19. This story of my experience on the Tour d’Afrique, titled THE X-RAY, just made it in before it went to print.”

I am in the habit of saving large manila reusable envelopes for future use. I dug into my “stash” and found a large heavy duty envelope that would be perfect for my income tax documents to forward to my tax accountant. This envelope had the word X-RAY in large bold letters written on it as well as a bunch of Arabic writing, which of course, I could not read. It is this envelope which brings back memories for my next story.

In January of 2003 I set off on an epic bicycle journey from Cairo to South Africa – the Tour d’Afrique. There was a support team that carried our tents and gear. There was a doctor from each of the countries that we were to go through and an experienced East Indian nurse from South Africa who was to stay with us for the entire trip.

Dave (far left) gives the thumbs-up at a group dinner in Egypt

We were on the second day of our Sudan section and the roads were horrible – just after lunch the road became better but still rough – I was going up a short, steep hill and spun out from being in too high a gear and fell onto the road and hit my elbow on a large rock. I was pretty sure that I broke my arm. I knew that the support vehicle would be along soon so all I could do was wait. I could see a small cluster of huts off in the distance and saw a mangy looking dog wandering towards me. I didn’t want the dog to see me in case it was rabid or created some other issues that I was in no position to deal with.

Once I was picked up, it became clear that our nurse was a “take charge” kind of person and quickly brought me to a small dusty looking first aid station. By this time my arm was aching and swelling up. The local doctor, like the doctor on our trip, let our experienced nurse continue to look after me in his facility. She took me to the “operating room”. It was a small, long, windowless and rather dark room to examine me on a table.

Dave (L) with fellow rider Hermione after the accident

A cinematographer had joined our group the night before my accident and decided to come along to the clinic to see if he could find anything to shoot. Our nurse put his camera lights to good use by having him shine them on my injured arm. There were some unknown type of insects flying around the room and a person in the room spraying some substance in the air to keep them under control. I recognized the device from my childhood as a Fly Tox sprayer which had a tank on the end and a long tube that held a rod that forced a spray out of a nozzle.

What a sight it was with all these people standing around this room while the nurse sliced a small section of my elbow open to relieve the pressure that continued to build up in my arm. She was worried that the swelling would put too much pressure on my ulna nerve which might affect the movement of my lower arm. There was no x-ray machine at this clinic. She installed a little plastic device that would allow giving me antibiotics by needle a little easier, bandaged up my arm and put on a temporary cast.

Before we left the first aid station I paid the resident doctor for the supplies we used including enough antibiotics to get me to a clinic in Khartoum a few days away. The amount of money he asked for was so low that I felt compelled to give him many times more than what he was asking for.

Because I couldn’t ride my bike or set up my tent I spent our travel time in the SAG wagon. The next day and night we stayed at a town called Dongola which had a regional, walled, boarding school. Henry Gold our trip organizer and leader arranged for me to stay at the school and share a small, dirt floor room that was used by some of the teachers. Three teachers brought me food and sat on the floor in a circle and pulled a bed into the circle so that we could all eat and chat together. One of the teachers could speak fairly good English.

Henry had arranged a bus ride for me to go to Khartoum as well as a stay at a hotel owned by a friend of his. The trip to Khartoum was interesting. I met a teacher from Khartoum who was visiting Dongala scouting for students who might make good teachers. He wanted me to visit his school in the city and talk to his students which I agreed to do but as it turned out I wasn’t able to because of the time spent at the clinic. Our bus held about 20 people and was attended to by a steward who looked after a container of water with a dipper that was offered to passengers who were thirsty. The passenger section was separate from the driver’s area and to communicate with the driver the steward would open a window and pound on the window of the driver section and they would yell back and forth to pass on information.

On our journey we came across a family whose old 4 wheel drive truck was stuck in the sand. Our bus driver stopped and the able bodied men in the bus helped push them out – it reminded me of my helping someone out of a snowbank back home. Just as the family was rescued from being stuck I looked up and saw a small camel caravan off in the horizon passing through the desert – what a wonderful sight. This was before I had a digital camera and was not able to get a good ‘shot’.

When I got to my hotel, the hotel owner arranged for a driver to spend the next day with me to take me to the Foreigner’s clinic and arrange for the trip home. The hotel was over a hundred years old – it was a solid, well built, two storey structure. There was no plumbing in my room but it was spacious with a big beautiful armoire. There was a porcelain water jug and basin on a stand for customers to clean up. Down the hallway there was a bathroom that contained a tub and toilet.

The injury to my arm made it difficult to have a bath but it felt good to clean up after being on a dusty road. Khartoum is the capital city of Sudan and is where the White Nile converges with the Blue Nile. At the clinic you had to pay in advance for medical services – they had a cashier at the entrance and once you told them who you were seeing they advised what the fee was. I was brought to a female ER doctor who greeted me and sent me on to get an x-ray. Before getting an x-ray of course I was off to the cashier. The x-ray room contained an older looking machine with a heavy cable leading out into the hallway where the technician controlled the unit.

I took the x-ray back to the ER doctor who confirmed that my arm was broken and she suggested that a surgeon look at the x-ray and my injury – so off to the cashier I went again! The surgeon said that he could operate on my arm but I asked him, for travel insurance purposes, if he could write a note suggesting that I get the surgery done in Canada. He gave me the letter and a script for an antibiotic and I was off to try to get a ride home.

I was not scheduled to come home until the end of the trip in South Africa in May and had trouble with Lufthansa (a German airline) so I just flew them to Frankfurt, Germany. I then went to the Air Canada terminal where, after telling them my story, I was treated me like royalty. My return ticket in May was Economy and a fixed date. They not only let me update my ticket at no charge but gave me a business class seat! They also gave me a pass for the Maple Leaf lounge where I could eat whatever I wanted and could clean myself up in the lounge washrooms. Talk about service!

I had purchased a satellite phone package before my trip to keep in touch with my wife Marie but did not call her after my accident – when I got to the airport in Toronto I called her and she said that I sounded like I was calling from next door. I told her what happened and said that once I got home I would take a bath then go to the hospital for an x-ray and an operation.

I didn’t make it to South Africa as planned but ended up with a pretty good story!


Tour d'Afrique

The trans-African crossing from Cairo to Cape Town has long been one of the world’s epic journeys and an iconic goal for global adventurers. Over...


2 Comments for "The X-Ray"

I enjoy hearing about your travels Dave, thanks for including me !

Interesting story Dave. Too bad that it didn’t turn out as intended, but was surely an adventure. Nice to hear that you were treated well especially by Air Canada.

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