Saturday, 22 September 2007
It was a bad hair day.
It was later than 1985, but I love this photo - it makes me laugh every time I see it - and it was the perfect shot for Flashback Friday this week.
I was in the Sahara desert. I did an overland trip across Africa when I was 21, and this was our fourth month on the road. It was hot. It was dusty. Needless to say, there were few showers, and even fewer during the Sahara crossing. A Dutchman also on the trip, always managed to remain well groomed - to this day, I don't know how he did it. I was the other end of the scale. I barely looked in a mirror for the entire trip, and to be honest, I didn't much care. I could never quite understand Ronald and his obsession with cleanliness, and no doubt he didn't understand me either!
On the day of this shot, we had been travelling the entire day in hot, dry and extremely dusty conditions. I had been leaning out of the side of the truck, wide eyed and entranced by the view. It was sand and dune or flat open ground, all the way to the distant watery horizon. Sometimes there were large outcrops of rock which we explored during breaks in the drive. When we got bogged, we would all climb down off the truck, lift sand mats from the side of the truck and push them under the wheels so the truck could grip. Often we would jog along side and place them in a continual trail, one after another, until we were clear.
Regularly the truck would stop so we could stretch and have a drink of water, and we would splash cold water on my faces to cool down. Eventually, late in the afternoon, I was told to take a look in the mirror and was astounded to find a stranger looking back. Layers of dust and water coated my face! I scruffed my hair a little, looked again and laughed - white eyes and shining teeth. It was a photo opportunity not to be missed.
The Sahara took me by surprise. I was expecting sand dune after sand dune and a long, slow and boring journey. It was basic. There were no road-side diners. No conveniences. There were no trees. It was us and the elements. It was hot beyond belief during the day and freezing at night. And yet we were rewarded with unexpected beauty. Rewarded with the adventure of the crossing. Rewarded with classic views and surprising variation. Rewarded with dark skies filled with bright stars. It was an amazing place. Totally beautiful.
Me? Not so beautiful...