Riding Pasha, his much loved white camel, John Hare set out from the shrinking shores of Lake Chad with 25 other camels, 4 Tuaregs, a Chinese professor, a white Kenyan rancher and a young Englishman. His objective: to reach Tripoli, following an ancient camel caravan route, notorious in the days of slavery as a road of extreme hardship and death and last crossed in its entirety by Hanns Vischer in 1906. Today the ancient way is strewn not, as formerly, with the bones of dead slaves, but with over one thousand carcasses of dead camels, testament to the rigours that still face those who dare to pass.
The expedition took three and a half months to cover 1,462 miles and along the way encounters every kind of person, from village market stall-holders, to incredulous border officials and the owners of specialised camel caravans that still carry salt in the ancient way all over the Sahara. They meed descendants of people who met and entertained Hanns Vischer. En route Hare and his companions introduce the Tuaregs to the powers of acupuncture and the ancient art of Tai Chi, against a backdrop of crumbling Roman, Berber and French forts. In this waterless and unforgiving landscape, the remarkable, unrecorded rock art discovered by the team in northern Niger recalls an even older time, when the sands of the Sahara were covered with verdant pasture and roaming elephants, giraffes and lions.
Arguably, the true heroes of this trek emerge as John Hare's wonderful touch camels, creatures which day after day traverse knee-deep dunes, often short of fodder undaunted and (mostly) uncomplaining in both extremes of heat and cold, or in the face of icy winds. Two animals die of exhaustion, but the others bring the men safely to journey's end -- a heroic adventure made more enjoyable by the author's lively and engaging account of the party's daily endurance and intense joys.