DAY SEVENTY-TWO Out across the early morning sand, a figure was walking towards us with a sack perched on his head. Scotty had returned!! He had a long story about taking all day getting back to Arlit, getting pissed and laid that night, spending all next day forging a letter of authority and then finding a lift back to the border in a taxi. The “taxi” was crammed with 18 people and suffered a broken spring which meant they had to spend a night in the desert then hitch a ride with another truck. The trip wasn’t a waste though, as not only did he get the letter done but he met 3 guys, an Algerian & two Tunisians, one of whom knew the border officials and could get us through “no problem.”
Scotty, Pullar and I went over to the Niger side to get some more water & the fucking bastards charged us another 30 Francs “exit tax”.
Then, with our 3 new passengers on board, we hit the border. Another Kumuka truck arrived just after us and we had a yarn to them (all dressed up in nice clean clothes!!¹) The border took a lot of time but we got through and after a search of our luggage we were away.
We stopped at the dusty border town of Ain Guezzam where our three friends shouted us lunch in a restaurant then we drew some water from the local well and moved on.
The landscape changed from flat, featureless sand to rocky outcrops and sharp, eroded hills until, at about 4:00pm, we arrived at Garieka where there is an area of unusual rock formations.
We decided to camp the night there and unpacked the truck, then we all took our cameras & walked up over a rocky ridge & across the smooth sand to the rock formations. They were an unusual mixture of flat-topped mesas and smooth, rounded pinnacles. The way they caught the light made them great subjects for the camera and I shot off nearly a whole roll of film only to discover later that the ASA rating² on the camera was set at 200 and I had 64 loaded.
The night was clear and cold and the sky was a mass of stars.
¹This Kumuka truck was heading south and were only a few days into their journey, hence the clean clothes. By this stage of our journey, we were dressed in rags, half-starved and pretty filthy!!
² The ASA (American Standards Association) rating of film related to the “speed” of the film, that is, the rate at which the film would absorb light and create an image. The higher the ASA rating of the film, the faster it would create an image on its coating. If the ASA rating dial on the camera was set higher than the rated speed of the film, the resulting image would be under-exposed (ie not enough light would have reached the film’s coating to completely form the image). In some instances, this could be used to the photographer’s advantage, and under-exposing (or “pushing”) film, especially in bright light, could enhance the colours of an image. I was a great fan of pushing film and I often “pushed” my Kodachrome 64 film to an ASA of 100 in order to get superb colours in my images. However, in this case, mistakenly pushing the film up to ASA200 (I had used a faster ASA200 film earlier in the day) was too great a step. The resulting images (I discovered later, back in London) were dark and “muddy”, that is, the colours of Garieka had not been faithfully rendered on the film.