Chingetti and the Sands of Doom: 2004-06-28
Everything was telling me not to go to Chingetti a place where paved road meets piste and piste meets the sand dunes of the Sahara desert. Night was drawing in as the bike bucked and jolted to the corrugations of the rough mountain pass to Chingetti when a storm loomed ahead of me. Lightning was cascading behind the mountains ahead and I was heading straight for them. Perhaps I should have turned back then for fear of being struck by lightning, but my spirit of adventure wouldn't let me turn tail. I struggled to keep the bike upright as the rain began to pour, when I came within a whisker of a camel sat in the middle of the road. The camel turned gracefully from its observation of the sky to gaze at me instead. Was this yet another omen to turn away from my goal? Then the storm cleared and the moon now lit my way. It seemed as if I had been on the road too long not to have arrived in Chingetti already. I was worried I had taken a wrong turn. For fear of being lost in the desert without sufficient fuel or water I calculated to pull over and sleep under the stars for a better view of the landscape at daybreak. As I pondered under the beautiful night sky in desert silence I imagined the worst outcome of a weary traveller perishing in the heat of the desert the next day. My ears pricked up to the distant sound of a "Kat Kat", a 4x4 pick up truck. I waved it down and asked "combien de kilometres pour Chingetti", "vignt" called the driver as he pointed in the direction I had been travelling. My fears were allayed. Joyfully I packed my bike again and sped on. I arrived at the outskirts and pulled over to figure out just where the garden and swimming pool of Khaled might be, a place that Mahmoud had told me of at our chance meeting in Nouakchott. Before I had a chance to think about it a dark thin figure sleepily walked from a gate in no more than his shorts. I greeted him "As-salaam ahlaykum" and explained who I was looking for. Mohamed with surprise said "Khaled, il est mon père" and said that I could go to his place tomorrow. For now I would sleep on the building site of Mahmoud's new auberge, a pile of bricks, sand, one room and a swimming pool full of sand.
I awoke to find myself covered in sand. Mohammed and his co-workers had moved inside, I followed but decided to film camel herds as they passed silently through the sand storm that was blowing through the town. A few takes later and I found my camera could no longer focus. Looking at the tape inside I could see little imperfections most likely created by sand particles. After several futile attempts to clean the camera head I realised I had come all this way to destroy my highly valued recording device. There was nothing more I could do other than to rush back the 550 km to Nouakchott to solve the problem. I couldn't leave Chingetti until the sun's blistering 50c heat came down again that evening. All the way back I could only think about Chingetti and its sands of doom, the wasted time and potential end to my fruitful video documentary. So here I am in Nouakchott marooned with a sand laden camera, and no way to record new material or edit all my existing footage. Is this the end already?