Traversing the Sahara – adventure and romance

Traversing the Sahara - adventure and romance


Like an ocean, the desert holds a magnetic pull that mesmerizes us. From Bamako to Mopti to Tombouctou to Goa and all the villages in between, I was forever captivated by the Sahara.

In Whispers Under the Baobab, I tried to convey the majesty of the desert as I had Flo flee for her life with young Josef as her guide.

Other authors have written more comprehensive tales of survival in the Sahara – Jane Johnson, for one. Her romance / adventure stories are captivating. Here are two that I particularly enjoyed.






Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Latest novel published – sigh of relief.

Holiday in Mexico – brain reduced to mush in the heat.

Back home – routines restored.

Time to think of starting a new book, ie procrastinate.

And procrastination leads to sorting through old photos which leads to this blog.

Much of Whispers Under the Baobab is set in West Africa in 1970, and among my pictures I found a few I had taken back then that will give you a glimpse of what Flo saw and experienced as she fled across the Sahara to safety in Bamako.  Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo                                                                    Click here for more information.

Here is the only picture I still have of the 14th century mosque in Tombouctou, destroyed by Islamists in 2012.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

From Tombouctou, Flo and Josef traveled by boat – the General Sumaré – down the Niger River. Flo was on the second level and was able to go up on the top deck to view the surroundings. Josef, on the main deck would not have had that luxury.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

When the General Sumaré beached on a sand bar, the women and children were taken to shore in these pirogues. They are propelled by pushing poles into the river bed and walking along the side of the boat. Back in 1970, goods were transported hundreds of kilometers from Guinea to Mali in these (heavily loaded) pirogues powered by man.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Nearing Bamako, this is what the terrain looked like with calabashes growing in the fields.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

The Tuareg ring that Flo bought on her journey and wore on a leather thong.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Rubber ducky reading

My little granddaughter has a collection of rubber duckies. She came home from her walk with Grandpa and showed me the latest addition – the pink one.

“Grandma, her name is Darla and she found your new book and is reading it.”

Gotta love the kid. Here’s the book she’s referring to. If you’ve read When the Sun was Mine, my new book, Whispers Under the Baobab is a sequel of sorts (perhaps companion piece would be a better description), for they do not have to be read in a particular order.


When high school graduate, Brittany Wright, gets a job cleaning at Happy Hearts nursing home, she is terrified of old lady Flo and desperately wishes she could be in college instead. As an unlikely friendship develops between the two, Brittany discovers that Flo is in grave danger. But, from whom and why? As Flo’s Alzheimer’s worsens, Brittany scrambles to save her. But, ironically, it may be Flo who saves Brittany.


When rebel leader, Sidu Diagho, learns that reporter, Flo Mc Allister, has died, he knows that her power to destroy him is still very much alive.

Flo was with him during the coup attempts and all these years later Sidu could yet be tried at The Hague with her notes the testimony needed to convict him.

And the girl, Flo’s friend? How much does she know?

Sidu will do what he must to destroy the evidence against him.

Raymond comes with gifts


Raymond comes for another visit and, as usual, loaded down with suitcases full of gifts. As he pulls items from the cases and checks the list his wife has given him, we see that she hasn’t left anyone out.

Hand woven baskets for the moms, snake and iguana skin wallets (that I know from experience will never wear out), beaded bracelets for the girls, and handcrafted artifacts for the men and boys.

Raymond cross checks the items with the list. “Non, ce ne sont pas pour vous.”

AgfaPhotoSeeing that none of these are meant for us, he repacks the case and opens the second. He pulls out a massive wooden something.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Je ne sais pas.”

“But, Raymond.” I can’t resist teasing him. “You’re Malian, don’t you know what this is?”

He shakes his head and refers to his wife’s list.”

“C’est un piguet de tente.”

Light bulbs flash. A tent peg which can only be from the Tuareg of the Sahara.

What a unique gift. One we will always treasure.

What a sad gift.

Why sad?

Well, the fact that the Tuareg are selling basic items of their life tells us something of the dire straits they are in.

West African Tour – part 1

From Bamako via riverboat to Timbouctou, then Gao. A short flight to Niamey, the capital of Niger, and then by taxi brousse (a truck smaller than a half ton fitted with bench seating in the box) to Lome. Along the coast to Accra, a flight to Freetown, another to Dakar, and then back toBamako.

Sounded like a great itinerary to us. But then, what did a couple of 20-somethings know about travelling in West Africa? Not a heck of a lot, but boy oh boy, did we ever learn.

Rainy season, so the Niger River was navigable, but the shifting of the sand during the dry season posed extra challenges for the captain of the General Sumare. In fact the flat boat built especially for shallow waters did beach on an unexpected sandbar. Nothing but water and sand on either side of the boat as far as the eye could see. Hard to believe we were in the Sahara. During the long dry season there would be little to no evidence of water along the river bed.

Stranded? No need to worry. Pirogues appeared as if by magic.

The women and children were ferried to shore. Magically a mini-market appeared near us offering a variety of products for sale. My friend and I checked out the Tuareg jewelry. I was interested in the rings, but none of them fit. No problem. The vendor pulled a ring off his finger and offered it to me. It was too big, but I bought it anyway. How could I not?

We sat on the sand watching the men in long robes watching the men from the boat, who had by this time rolled up their pants and leapt off the side of the General Sumare. Waist deep in the water, they pushed the boat off the sand-bank and the women and children were promptly ferried back to the boat.

The next day, we anchored near a small town. Sitting on the top deck we spotted a circle of Tuareg women on shore. Without moving out of my chair, I reached down to my purse for my camera. I had the tiny camera only half-way out of my purse when the women rose to move away. I let go of the camera instantly. As it slid back into my purse, the women settled once more in their circle. All these years later, the image of those women is fresh in my mind. Some things are best without a camera.

To be continued.