The Story of an African Adventure
At a crossroads in her life, Roxana decides to take a ten-day safari trip to Africa. In Namibia, she meets a local guide who talks about “the courage to become who you are” and tells her that “the world belongs to those who dream.” Her holiday over, Roxana still carries the spell of his words within her soul. Six months later she quits her job and searches for a way to fulfil an old dream: crossing Africa from north to south. Teaming up with Richard and Peter, two total strangers she meets over the Internet, Roxana starts a journey that will take her and her companions from Morocco to Namibia, crossing desserts and war-torn countries and surviving threats from corrupt officials and tensions within their own group. Through Dust and Dreams is the story of their journey: a story of courage and friendship, of daring to ask questions and search for answers, and of self-discovery on a long, dusty road south.
Crossing the Sahara, Roxana and her travel mates hire a local Touareg guide and start a 7 day tip into the heart of the dessert. But do they fully realise the risks they are about to take?
The music was on and we had been driving for a while. I didn’t know if I should speak to him; if I should try to wake him up from his trance. I drove on in silence, trying to concentrate on the path ahead. Peter was on the back seat, too far away to speak to, Richard had gone in the other car that was following us, and Ibrahim on my right seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.
His palms came up slowly towards his face, and when he wiped them all around his forehead and cheeks I knew he had been praying and this was the end of it. He opened his eyes and seemed to have come back.
“Were you praying?” I asked him. I knew he was. And I also knew that a devout Muslim would pray before starting anything, like a trip into the desert for instance.
“Yes,” he said.
“What were you praying for?” I went on.
“That we would come back. That the desert gives us back.”
I suddenly didn’t feel like asking anything else. I looked around. The landscape was more rocky than sandy, but there was sand in the air and sand on the horizon. It looked like we were about to lose ourselves in an ocean of sand.
“What is the biggest danger? That we lose our direction? That we can’t find the way back?” I asked after a while, not managing to get my mind off his earlier comment.
“This, too, happens sometimes,” he admitted. By now he was smiling, though, and I knew he was not too worried about this possibility.
“But you know the way. You said you’ve been here thousands of times.”
“It is not the same. It is never the same. The desert moves. It changes. The dunes move, they change their shapes and their place. Everything changes.”
We might have trouble finding the way, but I still didn’t think this was the biggest problem we had. In the past month, 32 European tourists had disappeared from nearby Algeria. They still hadn’t been found. We knew about it from the Internet news sites we used to check frantically every time we had the chance to go online. We also knew that the Tuaregs used to highjack cars from tourists not very long ago, and it happened even in the middle of the towns.
Agadez was also another hotspot on the Tuareg rebellion map in the mid-1990s. If in Mali the Tuaregs were demanding an independent state, here they only wanted an autonomous region in a federal country. They were as unsuccessful here as they were in Mali. And in both countries the central governments had sent troops against them and there were battles and blood. More than 100 people, Tuareg rebels, civilians and armed forces, died here following the beginning of the rebellion in 1990. At the height of the conflict, in 1992 Agadez became a closed city and the borders with Algeria were closed as well.
A peace treaty was finally signed in 1995, but it didn’t make the region any safer. Banditry and sporadic violence were still reported, and some tourists had lost their cars around here. Some others had lost their lives, too, and right now all we were thinking about were the 32 people missing just over the border in Algeria, somewhere in the Sahara. This, I thought, was a bigger problem than the dunes that kept on moving.
“Do you think we’ll have problems with the bandits?”
“Not really. Otherwise I wouldn’t take you here, would I?” His eyes were sparkling with amusement. It was a dumb question. But if so, why was he praying?
“The desert takes us now and I prayed that the desert would give us back. May Allah’s will be done,” he concluded.
Then he told me a bit more about the Tuareg rebellion in Agadez a few years before.
“They were crazy people. They were driving around the town in their 4×4 cars armed with their rifles and they were talking of war. Madness. They scared all the tourists away. It was a very bad time for business.”
“What did they want?”
“Autonomy and independence and all these kind of things. Stupid people. They should have known this would never happen. Not in this country,” he said, with bitterness in his voice.
“But what do you think?” I insisted. “Do you think you should have an independent Tuareg state?”
“I don’t know. I don’t care. All I care about is my business and those people scared away my tourists,” he said, as if he was avoiding answering.
“I think what they wanted was impossible. And you don’t need all that shooting and killing to find out. You see, we’re just too many tribes in this country; the Hausa, the Fula, us, the Tuaregs. Too many people; too different.”
Maybe all conflicts were about one and the same thing in the end.
“Anyway, I was happy when it was all over,” he said after a while. “And we could go back to our business and take tourists around once more. It’s reasonably safe now.”
Reasonably safe. I had heard this before. This was what the websites said. This was what he told us as we struck the deal, when we asked him if it was safe to go there. This was what we told ourselves as we decided to go on and have a tour in the Ténéré, the desert of deserts, the most beautiful place in the Sahara; reasonably safe. What did this mean anyway?
Thank you, Roxana Valea and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.
As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.
Website – https://www.roxanavaleaauthor.com