Thursday, February 15, 2007


The Tuareg tribesmen of the Sahara have a saying, something along the lines of "Patience comes from God, haste comes from the devil". I wish somebody had told our Tuareg driver. The adage, doubtless well-suited to life lived at camel's pace under the scorching sun, is rather less pertinent when you're tearing across the desert at upwards of 60mph in that latter-day ship of the desert, the Toyota Land Cruiser.

There is only one main road linking the populous southern part of Mali, around the capital Bamako, with our destination, way up in the north-east - and we left the road behind at Gao, on the Niger river. It's another 200 miles across desert scrubland littered with boulders and trees bearing spines the size of toothpicks, following the hundreds of criss-crossing vehicle tracks over what is aptly known as a piste, to Kidal, the home base of Tinariwen, the Tuareg band whose latest album Aman Iman (Water Is Life) has just been released to huge acclaim.

By the time we reach Kidal, the suspension on two of our four vehicles has broken, their sturdy iron bars snapping like twigs as we slough around in sand and bounce over rocks and potholes. Not for nothing do the Tuareg have another saying: "The desert rules you, you don't rule the desert." Frankly, you don't even get a vote.
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