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Day 72: Assekrem to Hassi-Messaoud

Michael Palin - SaharaAn alarm sounds in our dormitory, followed by total silence. Then a rustling of sleeping bags, a muffled curse, a cough, a variety of yawns and silence again. We've all been very well behaved in the night. No raucous snoring, farting or too many trips to the toilet. I know, because I've been awake most of the time. I never sleep comfortably if there's an unusually early start in the offing. My body knows it's in for a shock and stays on red alert for most of the night. A torch is switched on, the first light of the morning.

Pull myself reluctantly from my sleeping bag, which has had more use in the Sahara than on all my previous journeys put together. I keep thinking I won't need it any more, then up comes a night like this. Middle of the Sahara and cold as a Scottish winter.

Bleary, grunted greetings. Queue for the lavatory, faces washed with a splash of bottled water. Tea has been made by someone, God bless them. Then out onto the mountainside. The mass of bright stars, normally such a delight, seems to be almost hostile this morning, the cold already intensified by a wicked little wind. The top of the hill is a few hundred feet away, up a steep zigzag footpath. Nigel and Pete set the pace, weaving up like mountain goats, despite carrying more than anyone else. Maybe Nigel, a well-established quinquagenarian like myself, felt an urge to prove himself after yesterday's encounter with the boyish sixty-eight-year-old Tom Sheppard.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 72
  • Country/sea: Algeria
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  • Book page no: 199

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