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Day 66: The Ténéré Desert

Michael Palin - SaharaA new arrival at the camp this morning. A baby gazelle, no more than a day old, has been found abandoned by its mother, possibly frightened by the arrival of the camel train. It is a tiny, spindly, shivering thing, with its coat all mussed up; confused, lost and breathing hard. Its legs are as thin as matchsticks, its eyes big, black and searching, its ears as long as a rabbit's. The news that Amadou is to take care of it worries me initially. He is, after all, our chef. But I'm assured that this delicate little beauty will not end up in the pot like the two sheep and the goat, now one sheep and a goat, which accompany the caravan. Later, I see the gazelle being held in the massive hands of El Haj, whilst Amadou tries to get her to take milk from the end of his finger.

The camel train moves into spectacular desert today. 'Désert absolu', as my Guide Bleu describes it. The krim-krim grass, acacia scrub, even the ubiquitous desert melon bushes, whose fruit is tempting but inedible, have all disappeared. This is landscape reduced to its barest essentials, a rippling, rolling, shadeless surface purged of every living thing.

The immense emptiness quietens everyone. Progress is slow and steady, although such is the lack of distinctive landmarks it sometimes feels as if we're walking on the spot.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 66
  • Country/sea: Niger
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  • Book page no: 187

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