Safari

‘Look, over there!’ I looked out of the window to my right and saw monkeys out in the trees. ‘Look!’ This time a slightly sinister group of vultures were pacing around under the shade of some thorn trees.

This was not a safari. I was not there with binoculars hoping to catch a glimpse of a handsome lion. I was bumping along a dusty dirt track hoping to catch a plane from the town about 100km away.

Safari means journey in Swahili. Not that they speak Swahili here in Chad. But the road trip across the desert was unlike any other. Passing through the occasional village, most of our journey was traversing vast swathes of dusty hot, deserted land.

The driver picked up the radio again and shouted our code into the handset, waiting for the UN to receive and respond at the other end. Every ten kilometres he picked up the radio and relayed back our position. This road no longer requires a convoy, nor a military escort, but it is not your average road trip.

Some of the staff bristled slightly as a truck sped past with men in military fatigues in the back. The conflict and violence in this area might have subsided, but it is by no means forgotten. The sensitive border area with Sudan is still prone to instability, with violence over in Darfur pushing more refugees into Chad over the last few weeks.

I was glad to arrive on paved roads as we reached the town and I arrived at the airport just in time for my flight. As the plane took off I looked out east again towards the refugee camps and thought of those who are making a desperate, hurried, fearful journey away from violence across the border, and I felt very lucky.

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