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Was There an Addax in the Erg?
Jeannette Bruce
June 25, 1973
The answer awaited a hardy band of tourists who, guided in part by a Tuareg with conjunctivitis, crossed the Sahara in Land Rovers
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June 25, 1973

Was There An Addax In The Erg?

The answer awaited a hardy band of tourists who, guided in part by a Tuareg with conjunctivitis, crossed the Sahara in Land Rovers

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Up all night swatting mosquitoes. In the morning my pillow looks as if Lawrence of Arabia had swept across it slaying Turks.

There is an old Senegalese saying: "When the moon rises, Africa dances," which I do not note here to reaffirm the saw about Africans' inherent rhythm. In my opinion, they dance to shake off the mosquitoes.

The Senegalese are a handsome people, very black, tall and slender, with aquiline features and strong, white teeth, which they clean by chewing sticks from the tamarisk tree. Colorful dresses worn to the ankles and exotic headgear brightened the brown, dusty landscape. The baobab tree was everywhere—leafless, twisted and as gray as an old man waiting to die. Children followed wherever we went, selling fertility beads and asking for cadeaux (gifts). First they would say, "�a va?" and then pounce with their wares. Lannan and Burmeister found an all-night casino at the nearby Hotel N'Gor. "The gambling is legitimate but don't tilt the table," said Burmeister. "If you do, the whole hotel goes over and 80 guests slide into the swimming pool."

Grand Hotel, Bamako, Mali

If the desert doesn't get us, Hans will reads my next not-very-explicit entry, composed after a short flight from Dakar. It was in Mali (formerly the French Sudan) that Hans the Dutchman showed his teeth. Hans' displeasure was caused by the quixotic service at and the ruinous state of the Grand Hotel. At dinner the waiter brought Hans fish instead of steak, and the beer he ordered had Biblically turned to wine by the time it reached his table. Hans, a bachelor, had a penchant for order and precision. The first thing he does on arriving in a strange locale is to check maps, timetables and street plans. The hotel in Bamako could produce none of these. Hans was onto the desk clerk immediately about the sorry condition of his room. My own room was hot and humid and occupied by a few dozen mosquitoes that had followed us from Dakar. I pressed a button labeled FAN. The fan, an enormous affair suspended over the bed, whined once and stopped. Management had overlooked the installation of plumbing in the bathroom. Fortunately, due to a change in the flight plans, our stay in Bamako was brief, with just enough time to wrap and pack 12 sets of fertility beads purchased in Dakar from 12 sets of cadeaux-type children who had made 12 separate assaults. Like fertility itself, the beads were fragile.

In predawn darkness we clambered aboard a creaking vehicle called the Mali Mammy bus and headed for the airport, where Dr. Musgrave John, an English obstetrician, and Dr. James Wellard, a British expert on the Sahara, awaited us. Dr. John was to take care of our bodies, Dr. Wellard to instruct our minds. Lindblad thinks of everything, though an obstetrician seemed a peculiar choice. Burmeister thought it might have something to do with the fertility beads. "Last year we had a midwife," said George and, as we boarded Air Mali's Russian Antonov 24, he added, " Timbuktu is where the desert really begins."


Have lost my handbag. Everything is in it—tickets, passport, money, lipstick. George is beside himself, his favorite position.

A rather hysterical entry, made just before the bag was returned by a blue-robed young Targui (singular for Tuareg) who found it hanging on the saddle horn of his camel, on which he gave me a ride. "�a va?" he said, pointing to the saddle, which looked like a child's training seat. "Oui, �a va," I replied, and the camel knelt, roaring all the way down. A camel sounds like an elephant with a head cold. The camel, wrote the American artist-writer John Sk�lle, is the victim of many misconceptions, especially concerning its sex life, "perhaps because camels very rarely make love in the presence of man." It was a gentle, swaying ride. The group was green with envy. In the excitement, I left my handbag behind.

That afternoon Hans telephoned what he called the rent-a-camel office of Timbuktu and arranged for a "private" camel, but being unable to produce a camel driver's license, for which there is little call in Holland, he had to rent a driver as well.

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