Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Newly Weds Cross Sahara by Camel

I love true adventure stories, well told, about places I know I'll never visit but wish I could -- although some of the stories convince me I wouldn't enjoy what they experienced.  Such is the book I just finished Impossible Journey by Michael Asher who crossed the southern Sahara from Mauritania to Egypt with Marianantoinetta Peru, his new wife.  A journey of 4500 miles, 271 days, incredible hardship.

I especially love true adventure stories when they are told in wonderful spare prose with the appropriate occasional moments of lyricism.  Asher has the kind of amazing vocabulary I ony read Englishmen writing.  It seems many Englishmen also have his kind of grit and insane determination to make a journey never made before and recorded. He and Miriam got married because he was attracted to her, she was determined to prove to herself and the world that a tiny woman (5 foot 1) could do very difficult things. They had not even consumated their marriage when they began. They were determined to use only camels --in 1986 when there were roads and vehicles.  I loved reading of the many varieties of landscape are in desserts, what a variety of guides they hired, how incredibly strong the camels were, and how they faced, extreme heat, extreme cold, sand and dust storms, bandits, large hyenas (that sometimes attacked camels and men), how they dealth with border guards and other officials who were suspicious, sometimes could not read their permits, thought they were crazy, were spies, were illegal for any reason.  They hired sequential guides, very different men, some incompetent.  I love reading about the people who live in elemental places in the direst hardship but who always offer a traveler tea, help him water his camels. 

As a very comfortable tourist, I saw a bit of Sahara in Morocco, slept in a comfortable tent among Morocco's highest dunes, visited a woman and her children in a camel hair tent, saw a small oasis with date palms. Compared to Mike and Miriam this was nothing at all but having had such an experience gives me a peek through a very small window so that I could enjoy living their desparate moments, the long days of walking and riding, their very spare diet.

The book sat in my to-read bookcase a few years.  I now see from Wikipedia that Asher has written other books and I'll keep an eye open for them. He's a writer I totally trust and admire. 

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