From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Kevin McDonald
Three Months Gone
By Kevin Mc Donald
30, Sep 2012 - 10:03

Well what a day last Sunday! I woke up on Saturday night to the sound of rain and on Sunday morning it was like a wet day on Sion Hill, not a great omen for the match - and it only got worse. The internet went down and I had neither sight nor sound of the game and only for the texts from Fish in some hostelry in Castlebar, my brother Brendan watching it in Loughrea and my cousin Paraic from Castle Street who was at the match, I would be completely in limbo. As the skies darkened over the Sahara and the thunder started, I didn't feel too optimistic. As the last text came in, it was as if the weather was echoing the feelings of a county and its ex-pats scattered all over the globe. The rain bucketed down and there was the distant roll of thunder.

Hamada Desert

I eventually decided to go for a gallop to let off steam and it is a surreal thing to be running in the desert while the skies are dark and the rain is streaming horizontally into your face. There were streams all over the place travelling at a fair pace and vast areas were flooded to a depth of 3 ft. The going was tough, to use a horseracing term, and I floundered in muck, loose sand and streams, still it was something different.

Swampy Sahara

Yesterday I was on a short patrol of only 85 km and it took us over 6 hours, as you can see from some of the attached pictures it was not what you would expect in the middle of an African desert. Driving was tough and the rivulets streaming down off the hill sides were deceptive and treacherous, tomorrow I lead a 2 day patrol of over 395 km and that will be some challenge, even finding a dry spot to set up camp will be problematic to say the least. Still I can't complain as this is the first real rain in 11 weeks and already today, as I type, the skies are starting to clear and the temperature is creeping past 32 degrees.


Sunny Sahara!

Fog in the middle of the desert.

Well the rain left finally and we had some serious fog for a while at the start of the patrol, visibility was down to 50 metres and with the GPS settings at 120 metres it was a strange feeling to be watching the GPS screen with one eye and the dense fog in front of the vehicle with the other, while giving the driver rapid instructions as to veer left, right or ‘feckin stop now' depending on what suddenly appeared out of the gloom. We took over 3 hours to travel about 89 kms and I was certainly thankful when a glimmer of light on the foreshortened horizon heralded the arrival of the sun, and gradually it burnt off the fog and we were back to normal conditions in a short while. It just served to reinforce (as if we needed it) that the desert is a place of many and varied contradictions and like the sea, you can never take it for granted.

Sand Dune

It was a welcome change to be back baking once again in the heat and for a while we revelled in it but once the temperature nudges 40 degrees it doesn't get funny any more, as we trundled across miles and miles of rocky desert, checking various Moroccan Army installations. After a few days of it hovering around 28/32 degrees it takes a day or two to be comfortable (ish) in the mid to high 40's but surprisingly the body adapts and it doesn't really affect us now, at least not in our ability to operate in such heat. What it does affect, however, is body weight and as I near the three month mark serving here, I can visibly notice the weight I have lost and that is despite eating more than I would do back home in Loughrea.

Rainy Sahara

Roll on next month when I hope to get some leave back to Ireland and sample a few well deserved ‘mediums' in Johnnies.

All the best until the next time.

Kevin Mc Donald

And fair play to the lads for a dogged come back attempt in Croke Park.


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