National Geographic : 1967 Nov
absorb too much of the wind's power. Also they possess only rudimentary brakes. One type, for example, is slowed by pushing upon a hinged stick, which then drags upon the ground, raising a furious cloud of dust. With these unlikely machines, it is to be hoped, we will prove that men can defeat the wind of the sands, which from time imme morial has told desert travelers when they may go and when they must stay. The pilots Swill command, the wind will obey. They will ride the gale, they will be its masters. Ah, but will they? They will soon learn some things! The machines will stick in sand; high winds will capsize them. Upon striking obstacles, they will fly into many small pieces of wood and wire. They will limp. But they will go. Adventure Begins on an Asphalt Road We assemble and tune the 12 yachts. Six are of one design,"B. B.'s" of French manufac ture. No, you are wrong. Those initials do not stand for Brigitte Bardot. The manufacturer merely liked the sound of the letters-bdbd, French for "baby." Three are Arguins, also French-made, and the rest English. We are taken under a steady fire of com ment from the populace of B6char. On the whole, the remarks are not encouraging, but happily most of the pilots understand neither French, nor Arabic, nor the languages of the desert. Among the curious are Blue Men of the Reguibat tribe-"people of the clouds," of Arab and Berber stock. One must not confuse the Reguibat with the Tuareg of the Sahara, although the two peoples have some customs in common.* "Where are the motors?" asks one of them with experience of lorries. "We ride the wind," I reply. "But when the wind sleeps?" "We also will sleep and await the will of Allah." And this answer meets with approval. "With such brakes, how will you stop in the face of obstacles?" a Frenchman wishes to know. "As one does in a sailboat," I say. "Round up, head to wind. The machines are light. The wind stops them quite quickly." For those who predict we will perish in the sand, I list my arrangements: six accompany ing Land-Rovers, two light reconnaissance planes from the French Army, a doctor traveling with us, Algerian and Mauritanian garrisons standing by, a radio network *See in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: "I Joined a Sahara Salt Caravan," by Victor Englebert, November, 1965; and "Sand in My Eyes," by Jinx Rodger, May, 1958.