It was a long drive the next day, heading east from Imilchil to Gourama on a mountain road build by the French Foreign Legion.
Our wild camp was near the site of a notorious prison, which, until 1950, held political prisoners. We camped near a village that had housed the families of the political prisoners. The area was sparse and arid and must have been a dreadful place to be incarcerated.
That evening, whilst we were sitting outside enjoying the view, a young man on a horse came by. We were becoming accustomed to people approaching us, making conversation before asking us to give them something. We shook our heads in refusal at the horseman and he turned away to leave. Hamid saw what was happening and called him over. It turned out he was from a Berber village far into the mountains and had left that morning to sell his honey at the market in the local town the following day. He had misjudged the time it would take him to make the journey; the day was ending and he had run out of water and still had several hours to go. He had approached us to ask for water and we, in our ignorance, had shaken our heads in refusal. Hamid explained to him we had not understood and the young man left an hour or so later, fully refreshed from Ray and Hamid’s food and water supplies. Ray had also bought a container of his honey. We waved an embarrassed goodbye.
As we sat outside to eat that evening, the temperature was still over 30° with a strong warm wind. Without warning wind suddenly increased, gusting and creating a whirlwind which blew sand into the camper before we had a chance to close the door. A minute or so later all was quiet again but everything inside the van was covered in a gritty layer – it was days before we managed to remove the worst of it.
The landscape was desolate, almost lunar in appearance and devoid of actual beauty, encircled by distant darkening mountains. The ground was flat and dusty, strewn with stones and with the occasional bush, otherwise not a living thing was in sight. But when we looked more carefully into the middle distance we noticed several nomad encampments dotted around, their brown canvas tents hardly visible against the dark terrain. Once you had spotted one tent it became easier to see another and then another. The Berbers were camped ready to attend market the following day.