Before I start telling you where I'd love to go, allow me to excuse myself for my English. I know it's not that bad but it's not my first language and I'm pretty sure I make some awful mistakes every now and then. Please don't pay too much attention.

I felt compelled to enter your contest because I love to travel. I'm Dutch, female, 33 years old. And during most of 2000 I travelled through Africa on my motorcycle. Ever since, my life has been different. The experience of travelling for such a long strech of time, in often difficult circumstances, has enriched my life. I have had malaria, run over a sheep while riding my bike on a railroad, seen wonderful things like Petra (Jordan) and the rainforest in Ghana, slept in an old Dutch slave trade fortress. When my mother saw me coming back, she almost cried and told me how much I had grown. And I don't think she meant physically.

Ever since I got back in Holland, I've had this yearning to go back. There's one spot in particular that I'd love to go back to. It's Lake Chad. Lake Chad, as many people know, is dissappearing. I've seen fishermen now living over a day's walk from the lake shore. Not many people know how strange and beautiful a place it is. Let me illustrate this by telling you one of the things that touched my heart there.v My travel companion and me were crossing the former Lake Chad. This is a very varied piste of two to three days. Most of it is not very hard. When we were there, there had been some rain already, and a thin, wiry variety of grass had started to sprout, making the dunes much easier to cross. It was not very hot (35 degrees celsius at most). We were resting, drinking luke-warm water from our jerrycan, in a field of small white lilies, that looked slender and delicate. There were a few birds to be heard, and the ever present desert wind, but not much else. Suddenly we felt a slight trembling in the sand and the next moment we found ourselves eye to eye with two men on camels. The camels were adorned with copper bells and colorful rugs. The men were dressed in deep blue gowns and wore white turbans wrapped around their heads. They were every bit as surprised as we were. Nothing about their appearance gave away in which age they were living. They looked exactly like people there must have looked hundreds of years ago. And they were traveling. Just like us. We admired their camels while they did the same with our bikes. There was no language that we shared, so we could not speak to them; but we greeted one another courteously. After that, we all just stared for a while and smiled.

A few moments passed; my companion asked (using gestures) wether he could take a picture. They seemed to feel it was OK. So he did.

By the time we got to see that picture (15.000 kilometers from there) it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The magic of the moment was not caught on film. It hardly ever is.

I'd love to go back. I'd take a plane to N'Djamena and travel from there to N'Guigmi in Niger. I'd travel by camel. Maybe I'd get to meet these men again.

We had a friend make a website for us about our trip, he updated it from our emails while we were away. But it's not by far enough. It does not convey the atmosphere. The magic isn't there. I'd love to make a beautiful story with pictures, describing in detail the very special Lake Chad area, its tragedy, its natural wonders and its inhabitants. This time, I'd find a way to catch the magic of Lake Chad on film and in words. And make it available on the Web for all the world to see. After all, Lake Chad is not going to be around forever. I'd make a digital monument for it. To remember it by.

Yours sincerely,

Klaartje Bruyn.

My own website is partially in English and can be found at
The Africa trip site is at . It's in Dutch but there are some pictures.