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Sahara

Day 20: Tfariti to Mejik

Tfariti, Western Sahara. 
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Inspecting Polisario troops near the wall. Their problem is partly lack of equipment, partly motivation after an eleven-year ceasefire. The flag of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic flies at the right.
Michael Palin - SaharaThough in my memory the fort on the hill will always be a sick room, I leave Tfariti with the optimism that always attends a departure and the prospect of a new destination.

Bachir aims to travel another 200 miles to the southwest, setting up camp for the night before moving on tomorrow to the rendezvous with our Mauritanian team at a place called Mejik.

Through the cracked glass of our windscreen we can see the relatively green landscape around Tfariti revert rapidly to stony desert. Despite the lack of cover, there always seems to be something out there, a solitary tree, a trotting herd of wild donkeys, even a skeletally thin dog that sniffs at us as we go by. And always the wind, sweeping across, sifting the sand, smoothing the rocks, leaching the rough ground and exposing the fossilised remains of a previous, very different Sahara, which, as recently as 10,000 years ago, was a grassland full of wild animals.

We stop for lunch in the shade and cover of a fallen acacia tree. Bachir rubs some resin off the bark and tells me to taste it. A sharp, cleansing, minty freshness. 'Arabic gum. Very good for all kinds of intoxication.'

I know the name well. Over the centuries, fortunes have been made from gum arabic, and it's still high on any list of West African exports. A preservative for food, it's also used for pharmaceuticals and making inks. It's rather satisfying to find something so precious in the wood the chef is gathering to make our fire.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 20
  • Country/sea: Western Sahara
  • Place: Tfariti
  • Book page no: 73

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