"Once you get used to sand and flies in your food, you can hardly do without them," said Burmeister as we ate lunch on the porch of the Rest House, which came to be called the Pest House.
George is furious to discover that the crew has been harboring a secret refrigerator hitched up to the generator. All this time he thought they were drinking hot beer.
The undercurrent of hostility between George and Mike now surfaced, and George approached the group with the suggestion of a "mutiny." The group responded with characteristic lethargy and the matter was dropped. Even the news that the crew was getting fresh eggs and beans for breakfast while we choked down porridge with powdered milk aroused no great antipathy, for the group by and large liked the crew, and there were obviously not enough locally bought fresh eggs to go around. On such tenuous threads do mutinies hang.
The brochure had said that the Tenere "is subject to unpredictable sandstorms," and for once it was right. The next night a north wind came up, waking us before it was light. Sand lay over my sleeping bag like an extra blanket, filling my ears and stinging my eyes. The Land Rovers, only a few feet away, were barely visible. When I sat up my pillow took off like a plump, pink-striped bird and disappeared in a vortex of sand. Pam leaped off her cot, and her mattress followed my pillow. Lannan caught a hat as it sailed past his bed.
We were to continue on our way, said Mike, once we were dressed and huddling in the lee of the Land Rovers, since Rossi felt confident he could find his way. Visibility was zero as we started off. The vehicles stayed close together, almost bumper to bumper. Dimly, Rossi could be seen sitting high in the truck, gesturing left, then right.
"Sand ripples generally point in a northeasterly direction," said Chris, "but how he finds his way when the sand is blowing about...incredible." By late afternoon the worst of it was over. We settled down for our last night on the desert. Hiroshi honored the occasion by taking strobe shots.
This is not an arduous trip. There is nothing arduous about sitting in Land Rovers day after day. I sometimes feel like a sack of laundry being hauled about from place to place. Tomorrow we move into another blasted hotel.
It was not as bad as all that. In Djanet we stayed in grass huts, boasting doors that locked and electric lights that sometimes went on. We ate in a restaurant high on a hill and were served couscous with goat meat, although Burmeister said it was camel hump.
Trust Suzanne to have more Arabs than the rest of us, I wrote in my journal after the first night. Suzanne complained that three Arabs had tried to get into her room. Pat Grandy said an Arab in a long white robe stood patiently outside her door most of the night. I had my own Arab to report. Having ventured out late that night to find the loo, I soon got lost, having left my only remaining workable flashlight in Bilma. Wandering around the empty courtyard I became aware of footsteps following mine. "�a va?" said a voice. I saw nothing except the tip of a glowing cigarette behind me. "I am looking for my room," I said in French, and told him the number. Still invisible, he guided me back to my room.
"Merci. Bonsoir," I said, and closed the door, my basic problem still unsolved. As I puzzled over what to do next, there was a soft tap at the door.