Read Part 1 of Across the Sahara: The Unexpected Adventure
Raymond’s narrative continued…
The sandstorm blew the entire trip. It blew sand everywhere till your face was full of grit. It blew into the back of the truck, filling every crevasse, sifting in every bag and blanket. It made visibility horrible, so that if you didn’t have sunglasses and a turban on, you had to walk backwards into it or it would scour your face.
The first time we got stuck, we all cheerfully jumped out, everyone offering advice, helping dig, and laying out the sand tracks. By the end, having wrestled the truck out of deep sand innumerable times, we were less than helpful. Mr. G— called us to get out and help. Nobody moved. He called out names and told us to get moving. Still nobody moved, so he dragged a couple of us out of the back, stuffed shovels in our weak and trembling hands and said, “Dig!”
We arrived at F—, and spent the night with a friend of Mr. G—‘s, who was in charge of de-mining the area north of F—. We needed permission from him to go any farther because of the danger of the landmines.
Our host was a great man. We were all starving, so he killed a goat in our honor and served us a huge meal. His boys served us hot tea every hour. We played card games till late at night, steadily drinking cups of tea.
This called for frequent trips to the outhouse. It was a very interesting outhouse, elevated six feet off the ground, open, with a four-foot wall around it. So while you squatted there, you had a fine view of the town!
The next morning, we found a guide to show us the rest of the way up to the lakes. All along the route, there were little red signs with skulls and crossbones on them to show where the minefields were – and where NOT to drive.
Finally, we went over one more rise of sandy desert and rock formations, and there it was – a paradise in the middle of desert!
The lake looked very out of place with sandy beaches, wavy palms, and azure blue water. I just about fell over from surprise.
We boys went screaming into the water with a mighty splash. It was a very bad idea. We started choking from the salt water, and then we were shaking to death in the cold water. But then we went and got into the hot springs. It made your skin feel wonderfully smooth and clean.
The next day, on our way back to F—, we passed by an artillery shell that hadn’t been fired, so we pulled over and took all the powder out of the shell – about five pounds of it. Our guide wouldn’t get near it and stayed as far back as he could while we shook the powder out.
The next night, one of us had the bright idea to put some powder into an empty coke can and set it in the fire. We expected fire to shoot out the top. Instead, it shoots fire out the top and then takes off like a rocket, spraying hot coals everywhere and skimming along the ground, nearly hitting us. Of course, we got in trouble and had to go to bed immediately.