Yes! Yes, it is for Real. That is a Land Rover. And, the Land Rover is stuck in Silt and Clay or Mud as I would say. What happens as explained to me after this adventure is that it rains heavy once every 30-50 years of this magnitude. Unbelievable! We were stuck.
I have not seen the movie “Lost in the Sahara”.
Cosmopolitan France - I was called for a trip to Tunisia. 3-4 Editorial Fashion stories. Along on the trip also coming was the Art Director Henri Latzarus. I booked Andrea Brabin, a model from Iceland in Paris I had photographed several times, and loved her femininity style especially for the stories I anticipated shooting for Cosmopolitan. Andrea has a graceful gait and a mysteriously mischief smile. This would be fun.
Planned out with the location driver was the idea to go to a desert oasis to photograph some of the fashion collection for one of the stories. Call Time was early so as to save time driving out to the desert oasis which was not a tourist spot but rather a real oasis some distance from the hotel we were staying at and the other locations we had planned. Time is always tight with productions. We took off as along the way I wanted to get some other shots for the stories we were working on. Often I built story-telling as we travelled when on trips. Some planned, some planned spontaneously which added mystery. Villages and road side were common for me. No - not large crews with laptops and all the big gear. This was the 1990s! Not that we did not do that in Paris or Deauville but not on these kind of trips. We did stop at some locations. Did some shots for the fashion stories.
It was hot hot hot. Henri Latzarus had to cover himself this was much too strong a sun as it was for us. We went from one spot to another - what you see in the pictures is only a very small view. Most of this production, and my other productions is sealed in my storage. I will have to open up these treasures of my Archives - Negative and Positive Film - Kodak Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Fuji Film, some Agfa and Polaroid.
At a certain point we were running short on time and to get to the Oasis, we took the off-road route, and went some distance, took another route, then a short cut or what was supposed to be a “shorter” cut-through route. Boooooom! The sound I heard was grind and splashy sloshy spin! Wheels spinning. This heavy metal tank of a vehicle had sunk into the Mud. Oh, yeah! Muscle-man, we got out and tried to push or lift… I am kidding, that is a joke not worth the words. This was heavy, and, move it where? The full road ahead was all Mud Mud MUD. Clay.
When I stepped out, my foot went deep down to my knees.
The fashion editor in her Yohji Yamamoto when down deep into the mud.
By now the light was getting low and dusk was approaching. What were we going to do? Oh, yes, my iPhone… let’s call… what? What iPhone? No mobile phones - 1990s. And, as we sat there, I realized we only had some water, some wine, cigarettes… a few, one blanket, and we were all in light clothing. It got dark quickly. The Sahara Desert gets pitch dark. And, …Cold! Freezing! I could feel pain in my arms as what felt like crystallizing blood vessels.
Stars? I do not remember - though the night experience is something else. Superb!
We rubbed each other and used the blanket to cover all of us so as to create heat from breathing. I remember seeing tiny lights in what was a way-off distance - far far away. It was a long long night. I made a mental note of the direction of the lights as there was no other way with nothing in sight - it was a Desert!
Over time - rock gets broken into smaller and smaller particles by different and various weather processes, changes in temperature, moisture, chemical and biological processes down to silt and clay. Sand is the removal of everything and in wetter climates the soil is held together by moisture clumping plus vegetation like roots of plants.
A long night with very little sleep - perhaps 3 hours for me - if at all.
Early sunrise! I saw the light starting to come up. Dawn! I stepped out… Oh! I did not mention, sleep was in the Land Rover. Yes, it was Tight Tight Tight. I stepped outside and took a walk around. The Land Rover look charming and certainly stuck! Stuck in Mud!
Well, I decided I had to walk it - in the mental direction I had made of the tiny lights in the distance I had seen. There was no other way out. We did not have phones, no contact method. This was an adventure for sure. I had no idea how far the tiny lights were, and no idea of any distances. There was nothing in sight. Clay, mud, barren.
The others in the team woke up and stepped out of the Land Rover. I let everyone know I was walking it, if they were following then to keep in the same direction so that we were in the same general direction to make it easier to spot when help was found.
I walked and walked and walked. It was clay, then sand, then mush, then wet, then sand - sort of. Then, I saw a long wooden stick, this worked as it helped over the mud clay with my legs sinking. I walked and walked and walked. It felt like a prophetic sensation. No one in sight. Empty. Empty. Empty. As far as my eyes could see. I thought for a moment some Angels would descend and the Earth would open up into a garden of grapes, dates, olives and wine. Nope!
No Food. No Water. No One! And, No Gods!
I walked and walked - it was about 7 hours or 8 hours later that I saw a road with cars whizzing by. I waved and waved and waved. No one stopped. No ONE.
Then I saw a man on a scooter. A Man on a Scooter driving through the Desert!
Yes. I stepped into the road to block him and stop him. I stepped into His Road.
He stopped. But now, I did not speak the language. He did not speak the language either. Well, he motioned me to sit on the small back seat and he drove off with me holding on - holding on!
He brought me to the hotel we were staying in. I could barely walk by now. I made it to the lobby and asked for the manager, who knew we were a fashion photo team, and knew me! - besides, as with all my productions everywhere, I always made a point to meet as many of the hotel staff - it is always very helpful to do that and then, also to get to know them, I’ve always enjoyed meeting as many people on my trips.
The manager got a hold of someone at the Tourism Bureau and sent a helicopter to pick up everyone else on my team. That is what I know - and - I made my way to my room for a hot bath and slept for a couple of hours.
Yes, I did sleep in that Garden in the Desert with grapes, dates, olives and wine. Yes, indeed, there are the most beautiful Angels in the Desert. You will need a VIP Pass though. And, with the dates, - yes - very distinctive “Sweet” as I did have a Date when I woke with… well, that would be another story of Amyn Baba on the flying carpet from Zanzibar!
On a side note - I have done a lot of production trips. Loved them all.
Let me tell you, it is fun, adventurous, and an experience that is fantastic. I have had many wild adventure experiences like being lost at sea in the Mediterranean, caught in a storm off the coast of Turkey in the first Bodrum Race, chased by people off the Island of Cleopatra for taking pictures of topless models (I did not know, honest), sailed under a rocky moonlit sky off the Island of Cleopatra in a small fisherman’s boat – which I was not supposed to do according to the authorities as it could have turned over - they came to make sure I was safe, was caught in probably three or more serious desert storms – sand storms in the Sahara Desert, was lost in the Sahara Desert in Tunisia for a whole night (no food, water, and only t-shirt – and it gets super cold at night, actually felt my blood freezing in my veins – this with the whole crew, this story you just read!), hung out of helicopters with no harness or heavy belts to hold me in – taking pictures of aerials – and almost fell out when my friend, David – caught my pants from the back as I was reaching outside the helicopter up in the air on top of the city of Calgary - to save a Nikon Nikkor lens that was going to fall outside, have stood near a pack of wild cheetahs (for real) – 15 feet away - in Kenya while on a production for Vogue Hommes out in the jungle - yes - the mother cheetah feeding her pups - I did ask her for permission to photograph, really!, the following night talking with an Elephant Bull at a waterhole at midnight for a couple of hours - this Elephant Bull visited my Tented Camp hotel room at 6:00 am next morning to pull off my covers!, got out of the jeep my mother and I were in on our jungle safari April 2004 in the Serengeti and chased after 5 giraffes on foot for over 2 hours taking pictures....thank God there were no hungry cats!...have had a gun pulled to my head in Hamburg, been in the gun factory in one of the places where it was not safe at all and the tour guide would not even come into the village – well I got the pictures even though the chief looked me in the eye, in the Dead Sea where you float like you are sitting on a couch, and had a hot bath on the terrace of my hotel in Elat where I could see the other city while I was soaking....simply spectacular... I have been to the Kyber Pass, froze my butt in Hunza at the top of a mountain too...actually it was so cold that I did not take off my clothes at all ...and more Luxor, Cairo, Morocco a few times and on one production for Daniel Hechter with Kareen Hechter - a memorable time, …oh, how about 7 hurricanes in southern Florida… you do not want to do this, the Montblanc Alps is simply gorgeous.
So is Zanzibar.