Jottings

Sahara Central

Art and Survival in the Tassili Plateau

 

As I’d spent my formative tourleading years in Morocco, when one of the rarely operated tours to the middle of the Sahara came up for grabs, my managers and I both made a beeline for it.

 

The tour involved taking everything with me to run a trip which was centred around the charming sounding town of Djanet, pretty much smack in the centre of the Sahara, sandwiched between the mountainous region of Tassili n’Ajjer and the legendary Tenere stretching away south to Niger.

If a camel could take a selfie
If a camel could take a selfie

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NOT Trainspotting, but a bit like it

Collecting STUFF. We all do it in some way or another but collecting passport stamps as a pursuit in itself, rather than incidentals that just happen from time to time always veers a bit close to braggadocio for me. Nevertheless just as train and car number plates fascinate some people, so do passport stamps. It takes all sorts ! (I have to admit my own peccadillo is collecting CAA airport significator codes – LHR, DEL, MCW etc).

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Comrade Bob in the Steps of Tamerlaine

I had completely forgotten that my name might arouse some amusement, to say the least, when I went on a trip to Central Asia. Bob, you see, means a bean in Russian (also Hungarian for that matter), and a polite but wry smirk crossed the face of every Intourist guide and receptionist for the next few weeks.

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So, what’s it worth ?

The question of value, and of values, can often be highlighted by travel in countries with which we may only have a passing acquaintance. The commonest example of this disparity is when people part with money willingly. It stands to reason, I think, that when people dive out of a tour bus in a small town to get a few bits of fruit or whatever from the market; one, you’re a stranger to local prices; two,Europeans are usually unversed in haggling over prices; three, whatever you’re asked for a bunch of bananas e.g. will be still be trifling compared to what you pay at home; four, as a foreigner, you’re likely to be one of the richer people around and therefore fair game for what I like to call “skin tax”.

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The best thing to order is what they’ve got

We were on a tour through Ethiopia soon after the summer rains, and much of the country we saw was covered in a green pointillist haze for the time being. We were in Bahar Dar, a substantial town on the edge of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. A normally wide and shallow outflow within walking distance of our lakeside hotel allowed us a view of the waters at the start of their long journey through Ethiopian gorges until debouching onto the lower lands of Sudan, at Khartoum, where our Nile joins the White Nile, already well travelled from Lake Victoria. From there the combined waters would irrigate an intermittent strip of habitation until reaching Egypt where the population crowded around the river as far as the Mediterranean. Read more…


Congo story by Steve McHardy

My Favourite Day of the Tour… The early 90’s was still a time when you could operate tours in Zaire, but only just. Our tours began in Uganda. Groups arrived at Entebbe Airport not only with their own luggage, but also with a pallet of assorted tinned and dried food put together by the ever hard working and multi-talented operations managers back in the UK.

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How dumb can you be ? 2

It can be quite a surprise to discover how quickly someone who has high level responsibilities can abandon their sense of self preservation, observes Bob Cranwell. It’s just one example of how day dreamy some people can get when they are relieved of day to day responsibilities at work and someone else takes on the work of organising everything. Read more…



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