by Arlene Liska
Ed.—The following are some thoughts about world travel by the esteemed Arlene Liska. For those not familiar with Arlene Liska, she and her late husband, Danny, circumnavigated the globe on a BMW motorcycle. They accomplished this feat in the late ’50s and early ’60s with little more than a dream and determination. The first half of their journey was chronicled in the book Two Wheels to Adventure.
As summer fades here in Nebraska, soon the ice will grow bringing winter’s freeze; my thoughts go to the hot, dry atmosphere of the Sahara Desert. We would never sweat, as one’s sweat would evaporate before it beaded up. When we traveled the African Continent, we never had any thoughts of our motorcycle breaking down. As one goes far into the desert, the illusions are really four miles away. Sound, too, will be heard over four miles away.
A lorry (truck) running nine pounds of air in the tires, can, as the Bedouin and the camel caravan people call it, “walkup on the Sahara.” This can only be done if you stop the truck on the downhill slope of the dune. Never stop on an uphill drift of sand. If you do this, you will bury the vehicle. We learned this the difficult way with the motorcycle, and finally had to put our cycle on a camel.
There are known oasis in the desert with good water and bad water in the water holes. So look for frogs; if there is a living, moving frog in the water it is good to drink. After going far into the Sahara Desert, we met people of wisdom and with a respect for life. One Arab asked us, “Is there someplace we had been where the sun never sets?” We had to think about that for a time. With his inquisitive mind, he knew that his world was not the only world. (On the longest day of the year the sun skirts the horizon at the Artic Circle.) My footprints will always be in the desert because the desert has a crust on it. One breaks the crust when making tracks. The round sand blows and rolls into the tracks and will roll and uncover again. I’ve seen the tracks of the “Lady Be Good”.* Then, after the Sahara we crossed Libya, where it was120 degrees at 10 o’clock at night. Libya is almost impossible to get per-mission to cross nowadays. Spent a lot of time in and throughout Egypt; up the Nile, the White and Blue Nile.
We survived the deserts, sandstorms, the overcrowded boats that transported (mostly) people up the Nile, the narrow escape of being chased by a rhino (they don’t run in a straight line, as most other animals do), and drove over the tail of a ten-foot long, black cobra in the tall grass. He was very angry, looking for something to attack. Cobras can immediately raise 2/3 of their body to strike. So we were following this tall grass trail and somehow we dumped, with me falling right into a big cactus pile. Danny was frustrated, trying to pick up the BMW, and I was trying to get out of the cactus pile; it wasn’t fun there! It’s the ultimate if you have enough gumption and composure to just laugh at everything, even if the tribe’s people are coming at you with clubs!
* The “Lady Be Good” was a B-24 bomber that crashed in the Libyan desert in 1943. Eight of crewman were able to bail out and tried to walk out of the Sahara but all died without rescue. Their footprints are reportedly still visible.