National Geographic : 1934 Jan
THREE-WHEELING THROUGH AFRICA The surveyor was a good scout. He had the village chief get us the oxen, and we loaded them up and sent them off at sun rise, keeping out a few tools for emergen cies, a five-gallon can of water, and enough gasoline to get us to Maine-Soroa. Two hours later we started out. For the first 25 miles the trail lay across the smooth floor of a series of long, palm-studded cu vettes separated by low, rounding dunes. Twelve miles from the surveyor's head quarters we came across a small encamp ment of Manga people extracting salt from the pond in a deep cuvette. They poured the water into inverted cones of tight grass thatching, through which it slowly seeped, evaporating on the under side and leaving a deposit of salty hoarfrost. We passed our two oxen a little before noon, and by nightfall must have been fully ten miles ahead of them. We had tripled our lead by noon the next day, and then our troubles began. The line of cuvettes swung sharply off to the south, but our trail kept straight ahead. Desert sand again, piled up in huge heaps, blowing and drifting in the wind. For two days we struggled with it in low gear, pushing most of the time. The last afternoon we had less than a quart of water to divide between us, and from the looks of things there wasn't a well or a human habi tation within a thousand miles. Then we lost the trail, and half an hour later discov ered that we had only three pints of gas left. We were utterly exhausted. No water, no food, no trail-nothing but sand, sand, sand, and the heat. It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon, December 31, and we were still 22 miles from Maine-Soroa. "Well," said Flood, "there goes our New Year's Eve dinner." But look! Look! A turbaned black horseman galloping over the hills out of nowhere in a swirl of sand. Pinch me! I'm seeing things! He dismounts, unwinds his turban, takes out a piece of paper and hands it to Flood. A letter! Addressed to us! "MAINi-SOROA, December 30. "Messieurs les Amdricains: We are anxiously awaiting you here for several days, since they notified us from Gour6. If you are in trouble or need assistance of any sort, please send a letter by this messenger and command me. We hope that you are safe and that we shall welcome you soon. "(Signed) JEAN L. ROSIER, "Commanding Oficer of the District." Photograph by James C. Wilson NATURE PROVIDES A STAND-PIPE FOR A WADAI VILLAGE Living baobab trees offer the only storage tanks for many communities in French Equatorial Africa. During the rainy season water is collected in reser voirs and poured into the hollow trunks, where it keeps fresh and sweet during the long dry season. The woman on the limb is dipping out her house hold supply in a goatskin bag and lowering it. We knew that the French were building a military trail from Zinder to Lake Chad. We didn't know, however, that there was another native road camp just over the next dune, and a brand-new stretch of clay road from there to Maine-Soroa. But the messenger did. He sped away and re turned in half an hour with a detachment of 30 laborers. They shinnied up the palm trees in the cuvette, tore off the leaves, braided them into rope, and pulled us over the dune and down to the camp.