Monday, 12 October 2009

In the desert

... we took the Toyota to a filling station to refuel and there, standing next to the pumps, was a giraffe.
I stared at it incredulously. 'For God's sake! What the hell ...'
The giraffe bent its neck and looked down at us with mild eyes. 'What's the matter?' asked Byrne. 'Haven't you seen a giraffe before?'
'Not at a filling station.'
Byrne didn't seem in the least surprised. 'I'll be a little while here. This is where we start the distribution of our message.'
I nodded wordlessly and watched the giraffe amble away up the main street of Agadez. As Byrne opened the door I said. 'Hang on. Satisfy my curiosity.'
'What about?'
I pointed. 'That bloody giraffe.'
'Oh that. It's from the zoo. They let it out every morning and it goes back every night to feed.'
'Oh!' Well, it was an explanation ...

.... I said 'The most incredible thing today was that bloody giraffe.'
'Civilized people hereabouts,' said Byrne. 'Don't like to keep things in cages. Same with camels.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, a Tuareg-trained camel is worth more than one trained by an Arab, all other things being equal. A Targui is kinder about it and the camel responds. Real nice people.'
Looking up at the stars that night I thought a lot about that ...

.... A camel, I found, is not steered from the mouth like a horse. Once in the saddle, the Tuareg saddle with its armchair back and high cross-shaped pommel, you put your bare feet on the animal's neck and guide it by rubbing one side or the other. Being on a camel when it rises to its feet is the nearest thing to being in an earthquake and quite alarming until one gets used to it ...

From: Flyway by Desmond Bagley.

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