Drifting Through the Sands of Time: A Saharan Adventure by Ron Laikind is like a picture book for adults. The story recounts Laikind’s camel trek from Timbuktu, Mali through the vast desert north to Taoudenni, one of the most remote salt mining villages in Mali.
Laikind enjoyed his adventure through the Sahara, despite the setbacks and harsh environment of desert life. He had trouble finding a guide and translator since he was going in October – a time of searing summer heat in the Sahara. Once his guides were in place, he decided to outfit himself in traditional clothes to protect him from the intense heat and winds of the Sahara.. They slept under the stars and often woke partially covered in sand.
Along his journey Laikind met people in remote villages who’d never heard radios, phones, or any of the modern technology that Americans often take for granted. Exposing people he met to new things and sharing his gear became one of the highlights of his trip. His digital camera, satellite phone and portable play station were all fascinating to them. Although he had some misgivings about introducing the village children to too much technology, in the end Laikind settled on a full sensory overload – showing a movie to a group of kids who’d never seen one.
The high point of his journey was Araouane, the only village along the way where all caravans stopped. At Araouane, Ron and his translator attended a festival and danced the night away to the rhythmic drumming of the local tribes. Despite being the goal of his trek, Taoudenni, on the other hand, was a place Laikind wanted to get out of as soon as he had arrived. After a short tour of the salt mines he longed to escape the flies, rats and oppressive heat of the small mining town. He did, however, put his large medical kit to good use there, as men (there are no women in Taoudenni) with all kinds of maladies lined up to get simple treatments such as antibiotic creams on infections.
Laikind’s writing style is very conversational and although he makes interesting observations there is a lot of personal commentary and repetition which is normally edited out of a more commercial book. Despite some of my concerns with the book’s style, I would still recommend it for those planning a trip through the Sahara by camel caravan. The many pictures told the story and the lessons Laikind learned would be invaluable to anyone planning their own desert journey.
Drifting Through the Sands of Time: A Saharan Adventure, Ron Laikind, 2007, blurb.com http://www.blurb.com/books/141398