From Tamanrasset we travelled South towards Mali. Relentlessly. It seems bizarre now, looking back, but the trip was tedious and boring. Mike-A was obsessively focused on getting the truck to the end point (Nairobi) and used every daylight hour on the road. A few of us got into the habit of getting up for breakfast around 6.30am (stale baguettes, jam or peanut butter), then clambering back into sleeping bags in the back of the truck to snooze till lunchtime (stale baguettes…). Passing slowly through miles and miles of Sahel with little changing scenery, hardly interacting with anyone off the truck, was an odd experience. Detached and unsettling.
There was a bit of excitement when we got close to a border. Border crossings could be unpredictable and the crossing between Algeria and Mali was in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea how Mike-A found the official buildings among the vast expanse of nothing-ness. There were no roads, just sand and rocky outcrops. Anyway, we pitched up, Mike-A and Cathy collected our passports and went into the hut-office. It was mid-afternoon and Mike-A had hoped to be well into Mali by the time we stopped trucking for the day.
They re-appeared looking grim. The border guards had decided to keep our passports and were not being very forthcoming about when they would hand them back. We weren’t going anywhere.
This situation, not surprisingly, caused a right old furore. But then, the gabble was cut through with a piercing scream. A hideously vile, yellowy orange enormous shiny spider had slowly climbed over the side of the truck near Lucy’s head. It was a seriously freaky beast. Someone quickly flipped it back over the side. Breathe, breathe, breathe….breathe, breathe, breathe…. I HATE spiders.
I then felt this tiny little tickle on my shin. I looked down in absolute horror to see another one climbing up my leg.
“FUCKINGHELLFUCKSHITFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK” I SCREAMED, doing a cartoon leap into the air with my legs paddling away like crazy.
“GETTHEFUCKERAWAYFROMMEFUCKFUCKFUCK” I howled. This second monster was also flipped over the side of the truck. I peeked over the side of the truck. A small group of truckees were standing in a circle with an upturned bowl in the centre.
Bloody boy scouts, why couldn’t they leave the fucker alone? One of them flicked the bowl back over but it had disappeared. Christ, they burrow??? This was turning into a worst nightmare.
There was a hasty retreat back onto the truck, where we all sat, scanning the edges for any yellow legs. Brad and, I think Geeky Chris, were more interested than afraid and went off to suss out the possible sleeping quarters. They came back pretty sharpish when, on a closer view, the semi derelict buildings were pretty much made up of these spiders.
The hours passed very slowly with some interaction with the border guards. They wanted a couple of women to join them for a meal (seriously, could this day get any worse??) Lucy (mad as a hatter but charming) and Patricia (very sensible and, importantly, French) were despatched, in their glad rags and bright blue eye shadow, early evening. The rest of us sat around, fidgeting, edgy and anxious.
The dinner dates returned a few hours later, clutching two armfuls full of passports. Around 4.00am, before dawn, Mike-A rounded everyone up quietly and we got the fuck out of there.