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Epic South Sudan River Trip for Enough Photographer

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Epic South Sudan River Trip for Enough Photographer

Posted by Matt Brown on December 16, 2010

Sometimes journalists working in chaotic, hostile environments uncover amazing stories. Other times, they become the story.

Veteran multimedia journalist Tim Freccia, who has been filing a series of dispatches from southern Sudan for Enough and Not On Our Watch, recently traveled to the town of Bor in Jonglei state. His goal was to link up with and document one of the barges that is traveling south along the Nile River bringing southern Sudanese living in the North back home ahead of next month’s referendum on southern independence.

Photo of Freccia on boat
Freccia hired a small skiff with some southern Sudanese soldiers and plied the crocodile-infested river in search of the barge. As a driver was unavailable, Freccia piloted the small craft.
“About three hours north of Bor, we still hadn’t sighted the barge," Freccia said. "With darkness falling, and the crocodiles basking in the evening sun (we saw one that was at least 12 ft. long), we pulled up to a fisherwoman’s primitive riverside hut and slept on the ground for the night. We were eaten alive by biting red ants and mosquitoes, and at daybreak literally ‘bugged out’ and got back on the river.”
Sudanese woman with pipe
After a few hours on the second day, the crew finally spotted the barge and floated up to it. They tied ropes from the front and back of the skiff to the barge and prepared to board. That’s when things went terribly wrong. The rope attaching the front of the skiff to the barge unexpectedly released and the small craft was dragged backwards by the larger barge.
“As I scrambled to cut the stern line, the boat instantly took on a ton of water as the 75HP motor was swamped and dragged down. The boat flipped and within moments I found myself and [my] gear racing down the Nile (the current is amazing), suddenly acutely reminded of the huge crocodile from the night before.
"I swam for my life (literally) and washed up a few kilometers down river, soaked, tired, and to be honest, a bit freaked out.”
The barge eventually returned and picked up Freccia and his soldier companions, but the damage had already been done. He suffered some bruises and a cracked rib. His entire inventory of professional photography equipment – $20,000 worth – was choked with muddy Nile River water and completely useless.
Freccia managed to borrow a point-and-shoot camera on the barge and spent the next day and a half documenting the rest of the journey. He sent these beautiful photos:

UPDATE: Freccia made it back to Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, and spent a few days drying out and recovering. He received a loaner camera from Nairobi and he is looking forward to getting back into the field and covering the important stories coming out of southern Sudan as the region gears up for the independence vote and tries to avert a return to civil war with the North.
“At least I’m back in action,” he said. “Gotta love this job.”