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Day 65: The Ténéré Desert

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Michael Palin - SaharaOmar tells me that camels only need two hours' sleep a night, and having got up to commune with nature in the early hours I can confirm that the majority were up and grazing in the moonlight. Two were lying flat out on their sides and three or four others were kneeling, with their long necks bowed and heads resting on the floor like wilted plants.

Breakfast this morning is the remains of the mutton, reinforced with rice and macaroni. Heavy and almost indigestible, but as the next meal may not be for ten hours there's no question of not eating it.

By mid-morning, having completed shots of departure from camp, the crew and gear are taken on in vehicles to the next stopping place. I could go with them, but I've not walked much with the camels in the heat of the day and I feel I must try it. I fill my water bottle, and take another litre, which Omar insists on carrying for me. We set off, twenty-eight camels, eight cameleers, me, Omar, one sheep and a small black goat. No-one is striding out. The overriding consideration in this climate is to conserve energy, and I fall happily into the steady even pace. The only sound, apart from the soft rustle of moving camels and the flip-flopping of Omar's sandals on the ground, is an occasional burst of song from Izambar, which rises, hangs in the air and blows away into silence. All that matters is the present. The past and future cease to exist.

Omar and I fall to talking about the health of camels and what threats they face out here. He says parasites, insects and particularly spines in their feet can easily cause infection (which is ironic, having seen them crunch 2-inch thorns in their mouths without blinking). One esoteric piece of information is that if a camel eats a praying mantis it will die. The camel, that is, not the praying mantis.
The Ténéré Desert, Niger 
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Another Tamahaq language class with Izambar.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 65
  • Country/sea: Niger
  • Place:
  • Book page no: 183

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