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Day 62: The Ténéré Desert

Michael Palin - SaharaWe camped last night in complete isolation. Or so I thought until this morning, when, out of nowhere, figures appeared, moving slowly towards us: a group of three women, one with a babe in arms, and a young boy. They were terribly thin and frail. Against the early morning light they seemed almost insubstantial, like wraiths. They didn't speak, just stood and watched us, passive and expressionless. The oldest of the women, who looked seventy but was probably no more than forty, touched her eye and then her leg.

Our drivers looked embarrassed. She was asking for medicine and they didn't have any. If they had, they'd be using it themselves.

We gave them whatever we could, along with some water, and Amadou the cook found some scraps of food. They were still standing there when we drove away.

Most mornings we're quite jolly when we hit the road, but today the mood is muted. It was as if we were all thinking the same thing. That the people who had visited us were starving and there was nothing we could do.

There is more sand about now. Pale, almost white, it gathers at the base of huge black basalt rocks making them look as if they are not rooted in the earth but floating a few feet above it. It blows up against camel skeletons that lie by the road, making graceful streamlined shapes out of bleached corpses.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 62
  • Country/sea: Niger
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  • Book page no: 176

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