NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 

Online Extra
December 2002



<< Back to Feature Page






Surviving the Sahara








By John Hare
It takes a tough nerve and an exceptionally steady hand to perform an operation with a razor blade on someone's eye. My nerve couldn't take it, and I turned away as Johnny Paterson started to cut through the layer of tissue that had grown over a congealed lump of sand in the white of Jasper Evans's left eye. Out here in the desert on our trans-Sahara camel expedition, we had no doctor with us, and if left, the irritating lump in Jasper's bloodshot eye could cause irreparable damage. Jasper, 77, did not flinch as Johnny, with painstaking care, slit the membrane, allowing the minute ball of sand to slide free. Johnny had not drawn blood. The youngest member of our team had most definitely won his spurs, for two days later Jasper's eye had fully healed.
 
We were then almost four weeks into our three-and-a-half-month, 1,500-mile (2,414 kilometer) trek on camels from Lake Chad to Tripoli, following an ancient Saharan caravan road. Until the end of the 19th century this road was essentially a slave route between the sub-Sahara and Arab coastal towns, a blood-stained highway strewn with thousands of human bones. Only the most robust slaves survived the desert march, and these were little better than living skeletons when they reached Marzuq in southwestern Libya. Since the 19th century it has been used as a purely commercial highway by local camel traders. The last foreigner known to have completed a journey along this road was the Swiss-born British national Hanns Vischer, in 1906.
 
Hanns who?
 
Indeed, it was partly to restore the memory of Hanns Vischer, once ranked by the British as an explorer on a par with Sir Ernest Shackleton of Antarctic fame, that I wanted to make the journey from Kukawa near Lake Chad in northern Nigeria across Niger and Libya to Tripoli. Vischer is remembered with affection in northern Nigeria not for his Saharan journey but for pioneering—against opposition in Britain—a revolutionary education system that gave due regard to the religion and background of the Hausa people, who are mainly Muslims. The system was later copied throughout much of Britain's colonial empire.
 
Vischer's book, Across the Sahara, which I discovered in the 1970s, caught my imagination. I loved his tale of stirring encounters in terrible desert wastes, where no water could be found for days and where oases were few and far between. I was gripped with a sense of the amazing capacity of a camel to survive in the toughest of surroundings and on the longest of journeys. Vischer told of hostile tribes and marauding Tuareg—all with a modesty that understates the staggering achievement of making the journey without loss of life and at the same time bringing freed slaves, who
attached themselves to the caravan for protection, along an ancient camel road from Tripoli back to the safety of their homes in Nigeria.
 
Having completed this journey, Vischer asked his boss in the Northern Nigerian Political Service, where he was a junior administrator, if he could undertake it in reverse, from Lake Chad back to Tripoli. On September 19, 1907, he received this frosty reply:
 
Dear Vischer,
 
I prefer my staff to do the work they are paid for, rather than seek personal kudos or geographical advancement in foreign territory. . . . If you are bent on the journey, you should resign and make room for a man who is satisfied with his job. Plain speaking but I like to run my own show.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
W. P. Hewby
 
So now, nearly a hundred years later, I determined to run my own show and make the journey Vischer had been unable to undertake. After a trying six-month wait, I finally had an acceptance from the Libyan authorities to cross their country with camels. After protracted negotiations with Sidi, a cheerful rascal from the Niger desert town of Agadez, 25 camels had been bought. Sidi had been introduced to me as a Tuareg chief through whom it was safe to bargain over the expedition essentials. Saddles had been made, ropes acquired, and in early September 2001 the camels were trekking to our rendezvous in the southeastern Niger town of Nguigmi.
 
Our expedition team was varied and colorful. There was Jasper Evans, a camel owner and rancher from Kenya. "Japper," as he is known, had come with me on a 1997 expedition to survey wild Bactrian (double-humped) camels in the Gobi desert of China. A bush man of great charm and resource and an expert on camels and their welfare, he would be the team vet. There was Yuan Guoying, the "Professor," a sexagenarian retired Chinese professor of zoology, who had been an invaluable help in obtaining permission for me to enter the Lop Nur area of the Gobi to conduct research on the Bactrian camel. I was attempting to repay the Professor for his kindness by offering him a chance to be the first Chinese in recorded history to cross the Sahara on a camel. Johnny Paterson, British-born and younger by 30-plus years than the rest of us, had long experience traveling across Africa and Asia. Carsten Peter, a German photographer with a penchant for arduous undertakings (such as photographing volcanoes from inside the crater), would join us later.
 
We foreigners were supplemented by four Tuareg: Ehom and Argali, who were relatives of Sidi, and Adam and Asali, the descendants of Tuareg slaves. To augment their expertise with camels, we hired individual guides, three in all, for their knowledge of different portions of the route. Vischer took no Tuareg—in his day they were desert marauders, raiding oasis communities along the camel road. But the Tuareg on our team were cheerful, very knowledgeable, loyal, and hardworking, and they fully demonstrated the amana, or trust, in which Tuareg hold their camels.
 
Our caravan consisted of 25 camels, with 9 for riding and 16 for carrying baggage—loads of up to 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms). Among the latter were five skewbald (brown-and-white) camels, which Jasper had read about as existing in Somalia and the sub-Sahara but had never seen. These remarkable creatures had blue eyes, and in the case of two eccentric camels, one blue and one brown eye. All five were deaf, a common trait with camels of that color. They were also—possibly on account of their inability to hear—the most fractious camels in the caravan.
 
When we left Lake Chad to begin the trek, we came to a seemingly endless undulating expanse of scrub spreading north, called the Ti-n-Toumma plateau. Our first obstacle was something as mundane but unrelenting as a burr. Tiny, fiercely sharp grass burrs covered the entire 150-mile-long (241.4 kilometer) plateau, preventing us from walking with the camels when we were tired of riding, as the irritation they set up was intense. I marveled that, because of the lie of the camels' hair, the burrs did not stick to their legs. The Ti-n-Toumma was also alive with scorpions, pale brown or yellow and in various sizes. Although we once discovered six lying inert under a sleeping bag, no one was ever stung. Preparing us against snakebite, Japper had brought a battery-powered cattle prod. If applied quickly, he said, the electrical shock would mitigate the effect of a bite, and he had used it while on safari in Kenya. Fortunately we never had to test this apocryphal snakebite remedy.
 
Our guide through Niger was a Tubbu called Abba. The Tubbu are ancient inhabitants of the Sahara, where they scratch a living from dates or livestock in northern Niger, Libya, and Chad. Before Vischer's time they were constantly battling with the Tuareg, and the memories still rankle. I had learned from Sidi that the Niger Tubbu were agitating for an independent country, linked up in this cause with disgruntled Tubbu over the border in Chad and Libya. The wily Sidi had chosen Abba precisely because he knew that his ties with the independence movement were strong. He was a good choice: Any Tubbu who had an eye on our caravan as attractive plunder would have been seen off by Abba, whose daily rate of pay was a compelling encouragement to guide us safely through Niger and northward to Al Qatrun in Libya.
 
Detachment from the bustle and rush of modern living and assimilation into a nonmechanical world does not come in 24 hours. But we quickly discovered how to pack up in an orderly fashion, to handle ropes, and how, under Johnny's wary eye, to load the wooden kitchen boxes. It was hot at midday—pushing 100°F (37.8°C)—and shade was welcome, but we found that it was not a good idea to take an hour off for lunch. If we did, then camels had to be unloaded and their loads tied back on again, a time-consuming exercise. We learned that the best way for us to cook at the end of a tiring day was to leave it to Argali and the herdsmen and not to attempt to do it ourselves. What they ate, we ate, and we followed this practice all the way until journey's end.
 
But traveling continuously for seven hours over a featureless landscape day after day does place an imposition on one's head. Johnny often managed to read a book as he rode. I tried this, but after an hour the camel's swaying gait made me feel sick. If I read, I couldn't concentrate on my camel. The clever animal sensed this and would strike off on his own line, more often than not diametrically opposed to the direction in which the caravan was heading. On one occasion I attempted to sing my way across the Ti-n-Toumma; I struggled to recall all the songs and hymns lodged in the crevices of my mind. One can of course ride up to a colleague and talk, but if the wind is howling head on, this becomes impossible. So one is left with thoughts that can quickly wing away into realms of fancy.
 
As we plodded along, the scrub around us jumped and shimmered in waves of heat. This and the imagined end of a Ti-n-Toumma horizon made the endlessly unfolding plateau seem irreducible—like dry bone. The blue of the sky was veiled in a hot, white haze, and a vindictive sun smote down on the hard-baked earth and frizzling sand, evaporating sweat before it left our pores.
 
Occasionally a tiny spiral of dusty chaff would start beside the track, dance along a yard or two, and then die down, before springing up again and whirling off into the bush with widening coils. Once more it would collapse, then suddenly rear up and come swirling down on us. From rustling murmur it grew to a rushing, crackling roar, hurling up in its vortex leaves and twigs and small stones amid a thick cloud of dust. Down it would descend, filling our ears and eyes and nose with prickling sand—
spitting hot breath into our faces—and then it would dance off into the desert again, swaying and thrashing, just like a living thing, leaving us parched and gasping for breath.
 
After three weeks the sun-baked land of the burr abruptly gave way to towering sand dunes. We had reached the Great Erg of Bilma. At this point we were acutely conscious that we were, at last, in real camel country. We had slipped into a part of the world that mercifully the internal combustion engine had failed to conquer. In places the going was very soft, and although the camels sank hock deep into loose powdery sand, they struggled on, snaking around, up, and over the dunes, grunting when the uphill going was difficult and surging forward on a downhill slope. The baggage camels were all tethered together in a long line. As they descended the steep slope of a dune, Adam, who is no more than five feet (1.5 meters) tall, ran up and down the line urging them forward to ensure that the caravan kept an even pace. If it didn't, a tethering rope would snap, and the whole caravan would fall apart, causing us to halt while ropes were readjusted and retied.
 
Slithering down one steep dune, Johnny's camel, Albert, suddenly broke into a trot. Johnny was unprepared, and he fell off, crashing into the sand. The delicate Tuareg saddles are perched high up in front of the camel's hump. Once one's balance is lost, it's all too easy to fall out "through the door," and the drop is much farther than that from a big horse. Johnny was lamed and winded, so we made camp early. That evening the taciturn Asali scooped out a pit in the sand in which he lit a fire. The coals were allowed to glow for more than an hour and then were removed, leaving a baking hollow. Johnny was persuaded to stretch out in this hot sand bath. Next morning his stiffness had started to wear off.
 
While crossing the dunes, Jasper's camel was hitched up behind Argali's for security, but this caused a problem when Japper needed to stop for a pee. "Hey, Argali," he would call out in vain. "Stop, stop." But his words would often be misunderstood, and Argali's camel would plod on. "To urinate" in Hausa is yi fitsari, so Jasper's camel was dubbed FitzHarry, and when Jasper exclaimed, "FitzHarry! FitzHarry!" Argali heard and immediately understood.
 
Desert sand dunes rise and fall like something incarnate, time-bearing, at once peaceful and yet, in their isolated desolation, rather terrifying. After five days in the dunes, with a huge sense of achievement and relief, we slipped down to the oasis of Agadem, nestled on the western side of a range of mountains stretching in a broken line far to the north. The Professor bustled about the ruins of a French fort taking endless photographs with his prized digital video camera, popping in and out of broken walls that resembled crumbled biscuit. Although the oasis was unoccupied in Vischer's day, a hundred people now live there in rudimentary mud houses clustered together around a well. Their children rushed up to us clutching spearheads and arrowheads they had picked up in the desert. Some of these artifacts were immaculately serrated and of rare beauty.
 
Wending our way northward from Agadem toward Bilma, we passed through several more oases, each separated by about 20 miles (32 kilometers) of constantly shifting dunes. At one oasis, which was devoid of people, graphic footprints of giraffes, hippopotamuses, and elephants—animals that have long since disappeared from these parts—were embedded in the surface of an ancient dried-up lake.
 
At night at these watering holes, surrounded by an unending sea of sand, we lay down to sleep with a majestic display of stars glittering over us. Everything was silent and quite still, the stillness before creation. It was as though we and the camels were all that existed in the world. Sometimes a predawn mist lay over a surface so opaque that sand and sky were one. Then at daybreak a diffused light would brush the mist and stars away, and Johnny would stir to light a fire and make tea.
 
Our rations were nourishing but plain. Each evening Argali would cook for everyone. If we had bought a goat in an oasis, everything from the brains to the entrails would be mixed with macaroni, spaghetti, or rice. Vegetables, while they lasted, would be added. Cabbages and onions kept longest, and the blackest, slimiest cabbage, when cut, would often contain a succulent green heart. When meat and vegetables were finished, there was often a long period of plain macaroni seasoned with chili peppers and tomato puree. What was left over at night was heated up for breakfast. Lunch was a pocketful of dried dates, eaten on the move.
 
The farther north we went, the colder the nights became (often below freezing), and loading the camels after a hurried breakfast could take from one to two hours. The cold stiffened our fingers, making them unwilling to grasp and haul on icy ropes. Neither Jasper nor I chose to sleep in a tent, which made it easier for us when it came to bedding down or loading up. As we packed, we were engulfed by the groans of the baggage camels. If the loads were not evenly balanced, a camel would soon let the loader know—with a prolonged howl of disgust—that he had done a bad job.
 
By the time we reached the ancient oasis of Bilma, 520 miles (837 kilometers) from Kukawa, my affection for Pasha, my riding camel, was matched only by my admiration for the way he had safely reconnoitered the dunes. I named him for the horse Vischer had acquired in Kidwa—on horseback he could get around the caravan faster, allowing him to end quarrels among his retinue before blood was shed.
 
Pasha the camel had at first been truculent and unruly. But fully conscious that the best way to an animal's heart is through its stomach, I shared my pocket of dates with him while on the march. "Hey, Pasha," I would call out, and he would swivel his head round on his elongated neck and catch a date that I flicked toward him. Just as neatly, he spat out the stone. Soon he would come to me, like a dog, when I called him.
 
But as the Tuareg say, camels, like some people, have two characters. On certain days Pasha was biddable and calm; on others he was grumpy and obdurate. The trick was to ascertain at an early stage just what the mood of the day was and react accordingly. This dual nature applied to his relationship with the other camels in the caravan. Pasha was determined to get his share—and more—of the food. If he felt his share was not large enough, he would give a rival a smart bite in the withers. This of course could equally well be returned with credit. For ten days I couldn't ride Pasha, as my saddle would have aggravated two large flesh wounds a wither bite had exposed.
 
Bilma is a mud-brick town surrounded by date palms and clumps of grasses and built around an infinitely beautiful and precious spring, where migrating birds of all descriptions pause among seductive greenery during their long flight over the desert wasteland. Vischer had met the Tubbu chief of Bilma, a man called Maina, describing him as "half blind, deaf, quite lame, and over 100 years." We were introduced to Maina's grandson, a cultivated man named Agi Marder Taher, the government official in charge of Bilma. He was delighted to meet us and entertained us in his house—the only one in the town built with cement—to a meal of goat, mutton, rice, and potatoes. To our shrunken stomachs this spread took on the appearance of a banquet.
 
"Can you take me back to England with you to meet Vischer's sons?" he asked, as bare bulbs in the room flared and winked with the fluctuations of his generator. I politely declined but sensed that Vischer himself would have been delighted to learn of this meeting.
 
From Bilma our route toward the Libyan border led us into an area of ancient desert that had no vegetation whatsoever. "No bird is seen," wrote Vischer, "no living animal, not even the smallest insect and the roughest grass can live among the dark broken stones which cover the surface of the road." With this in mind I had bought grass for the camels and additional supplies for us. Not one of the Tuareg had undertaken this stretch before, so it was difficult to gauge just how much grass to buy. As it would turn out, I seriously underestimated both the length (180 miles (289.7 kilometers)) and the unyielding conditions of the route, along which the bones of camels on either side of the track gave stark testimony to this "howling wilderness," as Vischer described it.
 
The northeast wind kicked up clouds of sand, which stung as it blew into our faces. Jasper was hunched up on his saddle, swathed in yards of white turban. Slung on his back facing the sun was the solar panel for charging the satellite phone—a reluctant concession to our times. The wind prevented conversation between riders, and I continued to struggle to read a book. But it was no good—the camel's gait induced nausea, and I had to give up. Noting this, the Professor said he had worked out that we swayed backward and forward 4,000 times an hour. "If we travel ten hours a day for a hundred days, then we will have done four million swaybacks," he commented. "That's a Chinese first that should be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records!"
 
After five wearisome days and bleak nights we reached the scruffy border post of Toummo, where Libyan soldiers and police barred our way with a succinct, uncompromising message. "No foreigners allowed to cross here." After an enforced wait of two days, clearance to proceed came down from on high. Advance preparations had paid off.
 
The road now worsened. The frigid wind screamed across the wilderness, driving dust and sand straight into our faces. Hunched up on his camel in army fatigues, his turban tied around his head like a bandage, the Professor resembled a First World War soldier with a serious head wound.
 
My miscalculation over camel grass was now starkly apparent: The camels would have to go without grass for three more days before we reached Tajarhi, the first Libyan oasis ahead of us. Camels can go without water for seven days or more, but if they're working hard in hostile conditions, they must be fed. I grimly surmised that some of our weaker camels would be joining the skeletons by the roadside.
 
The first night without grass was terrible. We bedded down by an ancient cluster of rocky grave stones, which gave some protection from the wind, and the hungry camels stood pathetically around us, staring. "What are you doing?" they seemed to ask. "We worked hard for you all day. Where is our food?" I felt shamed. Next morning the fetid smell of their breath confirmed, if confirmation was needed, that their stomachs had ground all night on nothing.
 
With heavy hearts we loaded them up once again. Then a miracle occurred. We reached a point where another caravan had camped overnight. Unlike us, they had adequate supplies of grass—so much that they had left some of it lying in the sand. We jumped off and scraped it together with our bare hands, separating sand from nourishment. Next day the miracle recurred, when we came across another campsite with more surplus grass.
 
The howling wilderness had one more miracle up its dusty sleeve. For days we too had lacked what to us was a basic sustenance: alcohol. One evening as the sun was sinking, we noticed a sack lying in the sand. Argali went off to investigate. To our utter amazement it contained liter bottles of whiskey. Some poor traveler must have taken fright before he approached the customs post at Toummo and jettisoned his contraband. We took two and gave up prayers of thanks.
 
The whiskey and grass carried us through to the important oasis town of Al Qatrun. Since leaving Kukawa on October 24, precisely two months earlier, I had not seen my face in a mirror. Although I had shaved as best I could, guiding the razor through the gullies and over the weathered contours of my jaw, now I was face-to-face with reality, and it wasn't a pretty sight.
 
The next day was Christmas Day. It was also Jasper's last with us, and I felt an overwhelming need to look and feel spruce. (His son was getting married on New Year's Eve, and he was to leave by bus to return to Kenya. All of us, including the camels, were to miss him greatly.) I wanted to shed the mad scientist image that tousled locks conveyed and wallow in the luxury of a personal shave. Poor Abdul, the Qatruni barber, he was slightly unnerved at the sight of his extraordinary customer.
 
Of an indeterminate age that hovered around 40, Abdul was plump, dressed in a dirty white shirt and soiled fawn trousers. He had a disconcerting tic that caused his head to jerk involuntarily to the left every few seconds, and I wondered idly whether his hand would keep his gleaming cutthroat razor on an even tack around my whiskers. He held up a pair of scissors and hand-operated clippers in each hand and waved them in front of me. I pointed emphatically at the scissors, and moments later he had dived into my graying locks with unrestrained enthusiasm. As soon as the first furrow had been plowed, I realized the damage was done, and when he concluded the operation, I was shorn like an old ram in midsummer.
 
As we moved into the Desert of Marzuq, patches of shingle and shale giving way to vast expanses of sand, the Professor excitedly drew our attention to butterflies. Were they migrating? And dragonflies. How do they survive without water? But our camels saw something else. At one picturesque, uninhabited oasis, they would not settle for the night. They charged about in a group. Then they would suddenly stop, stare into space for a moment, and set off in another direction.
 
As usual Argali was ready with an explanation. "There are jinn [evil spirits] here," he confided, "The jinn are making sport and trying to ride the camels. The sooner we leave, the better." The temperature that night, New Year's Eve, dropped to 23°F (-5°C), and once we left, early the next morning, the camels settled into their uncomplaining, uncompromising, steady gait of two to three miles an hour. The restless spirits were left behind to frolic in their haunted oasis.
 
Like many other Libyan townships, the ancient camel staging post of Marzuq, with its dried-mud habitations (a place of "pestilence and fever" to Vischer) had been cleared in the 1970s by government decree, its citizens moved into concrete new towns. I pottered about the Marzuq ruins and the majestic old fort. The foundations of crumbling mosques and collapsing houses were cluttered with rusting tins and broken bottles. Unlike Vischer, who had spent more than a month here resting and taking on fresh supplies, we stayed for only a day.
 
After passing through the Fezzan, a benign oasis belt verdant with cultivation, we encountered dramatic sand dunes—400 feet (122 meters) high or more—encompassing a dozen or so mysterious desert lakes. I viewed the dunes with apprehension. The camels were hard and lean (and so, by this time, were we), but the extra effort involved in crossing these great mountains of sand could prove daunting.
 
Earlier we had picked up a new guide, a Libyan Tuareg called Shikou, who was dressed in garments befitting the Lord of the Rings or Aladdin's genie, with a huge turban and voluminous robes. These were matched by his overwhelming urge to talk to anyone in sight. If there was no one to talk to, he would talk to himself. Not far ahead was our last formidable barrier, the Hamada al Hamra—a barren, rock-strewn plateau stretching more than 180 miles (290 kilometers) from north to south and 300 miles (483 kilometers) from east to west. Vischer summed it up as the "first in terms of difficulty among all the deserts in the Sahara . . . where shouts and laughter cease and the human voice is drowned." Vischer was wrong. Nothing could drown the voice of Shikou, who never stopped talking.
 
He was certainly a better talker than he was a navigator, and it soon became clear that he was unsure of his way. The Hamada al Hamra presented the prospect of a pitiless six-day crossing in the best of circumstances, but by the time we reached it, Shikou was well and truly lost. By misdirecting us, he extended the hamada crossing by a further two days.
 
As we climbed onto the plateau, I was worried. The camels were tired, some nearly exhausted, and one or two had started to stumble, always a bad sign. Halfway up, just for an instant, I had a curious sensation that Vischer was beside me. "It's going to be all right," he seemed to say.
 
For the first two days we found tufts of rough grass, which enabled the camels to fill their stomachs. But then it was clear that two of the camels were utterly exhausted. I willed them to continue. If only they could make the six-day journey to the well at Tabuniyah at the northern foot of the plateau, they would be surrounded by lush vegetation where they could eat, rest, and possibly recover.
 
Argali and Asali fashioned boots for one of them to help him overcome the problem of cracked and swollen feet—first from sheepskin, which in a day was cut to pieces by razor-sharp stones, then from the stout inner tube of a truck tire. This kept him going for two more days, but then utter fatigue took hold. He would go no further. My daily journal is explicit: "Very cold night which froze half an inch of water in the hand washing bowl. . . . At about 4 p.m. I am forced to abandon the exhausted camel which is being dragged along by its rope at the tail end of the other camels in the caravan. I hate doing it, but I know that now there is no alternative. So we release the poor creature that has served us so well, to an inevitable end."
 
Soon the second camel would also give up. If we'd been carrying a gun, I would have ended the camels' lives quickly, but the alternative, to slit their throats, was beyond me and the Tuareg, who will never kill a camel.
 
Next day, Shikou was also released, loaded onto a van—the first vehicle we had seen for days—whose occupants were scouring the desert, hunting gazelle. His departure induced in us all a collective sigh of relief. Argali took over as guide and, by a great slice of luck, took us down the escarpment and into a long narrow valley that led to the Tabuniyah well. Tamarisk and acacia trees abounded for the camels, and it did not need much imagination to picture the great southbound caravans that had rested there since Roman times, before setting out to tackle the rigors of the Hamada al Hamra.
 
We now struck north for the township of Mizdah, the end of the journey. Beyond Mizdah was a sprawling suburbia, unknown to Vischer, that led to the bustling Libyan capital of Tripoli—no place to take camels. For the first time we found ourselves walking by the side of a tarmac road. Taking pity on our wretched appearance, drivers slowed down and threw loaves of bread out of their cars.
 
We camped five miles (eight kilometers) outside Mizdah, and I looked for a buyer for the camels. Libyans are partial to camel meat, and I was determined that market traders with long knives would not get hold of the animals that had served us so well. I ended up selling them to a tour operator, fervently hoping I had convinced him that, once rested, they would provide a good financial return from foreign travelers.
 
The rush of traffic, the frenzied negotiations with hard-faced business men, the plaintive, mystified look of our uncomplaining camels, our emotional farewells to the Tuareg—all forced on me the realization that our hundred-day retreat into the unhurried world of the camel and our relationship with Hanns Vischer was finally broken. I looked up at the stark, flat-topped mountains that surround Mizdah and mused that they would survive whatever unwanted change man inflicted on the desert. With their wind-scoured black caps of rock, they exuded the bleak monotony of the everlasting.
 
John Hare's expedition had additional sponsorship from the Bradshaw Foundation, the Brownington Foundation, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Society for Libyan Studies. His book Shadows Across the Sahara will be published in the U.K. in spring 2003 by Constable & Robinson. A goal of the expedition was to raise funds for the endangered wild Bactrian camel in Asia. See the Wild Camel Protection Foundation's website at www.wildcamels.com.

Top



E-mail this page to a friend.



© 2005 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe