National Geographic : 1926 Jun
THROUGH THE DESERTS AND JUNGLES OF AFRICA BY MOTOR 653 TIlE MARKET AT COLOMB BECHIAR, THE STARTING PLACE This important outpost of the French in Africa lies on the northern edge of that arid hinter land of Algeria known as the Southern Territories. It is more than 400 miles by the Algerian State Railway from Colomb Bechar to Oran, "the Chicago of Africa," on the Mediterranean. 330 miles without finding a drop of water. It was in this stretch of desert inferno, some 50 miles out from the Ouallen well and still within plain sight of the moun tains surrounding it, that we found the dried skeletons of several travelers who had died of thirst. These bleaching bones were all that remained of a caravan from the Sudan that had miscalculated its water supply (see page 66o). The Arabs say that death in the desert from thirst is an indescribable sustained torture in which the whole body dries up. The contact of clothing becomes insuffer able and it is discarded, but only to let the cruel rays of the scorching sun inflict additional torment. The desert peoples exercise great care in dealing with those who are suffering severely from thirst, as it would be fatal to give them drink at once. First, their lips are moistened, then the body is rubbed gently with a wet cloth and bathed slowly for several hours. A small quantity of milk is administered after a while, and finally a swallow of water. Sufferers who have been thus rescued sometimes re- main dull and mentally befogged for a long time. After driving for five days in the Tan ezrouft our nerves began to feel the ef fects of its monotony and the vastness of its solitude. Coincidentally we experi enced all sorts of difficulties. The cars seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the sandy ground and consumed great quan tities of gasoline, due to the necessity of an almost constant use of second gear. MACHINE GUNS MOUNTED TO WITHSTAND ATTACKS OR ROBBERS The blinding brilliance of the sun, the intense heat, and the foul smell of gaso line, caused by an everlasting rear wind, all had a disturbing effect and contributed toward the development among us of a very real anxiety lest our gas or water fail before we reached the oasis at Tes salit. Our fears proved groundless, how ever, for we sighted waving palms before our supply of either was near exhaustion. As we approached the vicinity of this oasis we took precautions to guard against the robbers who sometimes frequent it.