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Sahara

Day 47: Tirelli

Michael Palin - SaharaAs we clamber up into the village one last time I'm reminded of the severe beauty of the place. The proportionsof the houses, the materials that match the surrounding rocks, the harmony of the village with its environment. The cliff is still, as it has been for 1000 years, a sanctuary, lacking cars and satellite dishes and overhead wires and things that seem to be everywhere in the world but here.

But it's no use getting sentimental. As we load our gear, women climb slowly past us, carrying the never-ending shuttle of water up to the village. They ignore our awkward smiles. As our car finally pulls away, I reach for the outstretched hand of a boy who rushes up to the window. But he doesn't want to shake my hand. He just wants a pen or a sweet or a coin.

We remain us. They remain them. For how long, I'm not sure.

One of the small pleasures of hard travel is the way basics can be transformed into luxuries. Tonight, back at the Kanaga Hotel in Mopti, the finest champagne in the world would be no match for the forbidden delights of running water.

The heat and dust of the Pays de Dogon have taken their toll. The plastic cap on my tube of travel wash has melted, my urine is the colour of mustard and it takes so long to strip away the layers of dust that I feel as if my body might have turned to mud.

Tomorrow we face the Niger, so it's an early night. Lean over to switch off my light when a power cut kills it for me.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 47
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Mopti
  • Book page no: 146

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