It's a cafe
The following day was full of some hair-raising cycling. We came into some very flat terrain and had a very strong wind with us. We stormed across some huge stretches, covering a large distance with very little effort. Coming over a small rise in the mid-morning, we saw that the sand was drifting over the road. Just over the brow of the rise there was a lone man with a spade shovelling sand off the road. We had not seen a vehicle or person in ages, yet, here was this man in the middle of the most desolate area of the desert keeping the road clear. We nodded as we approached and wished him a good day in French. He smiled, nodded back and we went past to leave him to his relentless, lonesome task.
At lunch, we arrived at the turn off from the Route du Tanezrouft (The Great Thirst) to Timimoun. At this junction, there happened to be a café-restaurant. It was small stone building set in a sandy, rocky backdrop. It was 30 kms from the nearest village. We were, firstly, confronted by several men who questioned us about our religion and what we thought of Islam. Dan and I were in no mood for this banter, so we pushed our bikes into the café.
Inside, there was a sandy floor, a few tables and another dark room off this main room. We ordered ‘un repas’ each which turned out to be pasta and little meat with bread. Stupidly, we drank the water on the table and also some sodas.
The cook came up and talked to us. I offered him a cigarette (we had bought some packets of cigarettes to help out at moments like this, never intending to smoke them ourselves). He offered to buy the rest of them from me. I said he could have them for the price of two sodas. In fact, he gave us four meals between us for the price of two. We ate gladly and were soon full.
A few kilometres down the road, we had to stop. We were feeling queasy. Something was not right in our guts. We camped out early on a stony plain, feeling weak and ill. We had picked up a dose of very bad diarrhoea but we weren’t aware of it then.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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