|Anyone whoís followed our previous journeys, up, down, round and across the world, will know that my working relationship with The Master Of the Static Frame is a bit too much like two old friends having a good time to warrant any more appreciations. My praise for Basilís work has been slavish and unstinting. Now, like all of us, heís becoming increasingly old and eccentric, and itís time for the truth. Unfortunately, Iím writing this in the lap of luxury at the Pao family home, so the truth will just have to wait. What I can reveal is that, in little ways which his natural modesty may forbid him to share with you, being inside the Sahara was far from a picnic for Basil.
The Sahara is no gourmetís paradise and Basil likes his food. He eats well, cooks well and expects high standards from the kitchen, but with few exceptions, the desert menu is quite severely limited. Camel, couscous, chicken, rice and salad basically saw us through the Sahara, with goat and mutton on a good day. Bas, however, was not to be defeated by dietary deprivation and produced from his voluminous and elegantly matching set of bags, a seemingly endless supply of lip-smacking delicacies, all neatly zip-locked and miraculously unaffected by sand, sun and international customs controls. Smoked mussels, beef, pork and salmon jerky, smoked eels, clams and oysters. Even kimchi tuna from South Korea made a brief appearance on the straw mats that were our dining rooms. We may have been in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to Mr Ziploc we could be anywhere in the world.
If thereís one thing more scarce than a menu in the Sahara, itís a wine
list. These are Islamic countries, and if there was alcohol at all, it was
usually no more than a beer, or if you were really lucky, a cold beer. Basil,
a firm friend of the cocktail hour, was thus deprived, at a stroke, of the
only tried and tested method of recovering from a hard dayís work.