Inadjatafane

Its 2 pm and I am under a hut seeking refuge from the blazing heat. I think I am starting to acclimate to this environment, but it would be dangerous to be in the field right now. Water stays so hot in the shade you can make tea in a water bottle about 5 minutes without sunlight. For some reason, hot tea tastes better than hot water. I am set up in the small Toureg village of Inadjatafane (not even on the Mali map), where I met up with the elephant researchers Monday night. It was a hard, 12 hour drive north from Bamako, the last 4 hours on dirt. I drove with a nice guy named Chris - US army communications on assignment from Germany. The terrain is like nothing I have experienced (though in some ways similar to central Australia plus an element of what I'd expect to see in Afghanistan). There are thorny acacia trees scattered across the sand. The otherwise featureless landscape is enlivened by the occasional goat herder or camel caravan. There are a few remnant pockets of water in low-lying areas left over from last year's rains. They are drying up quickly and will continue to do so until the rains come again in several weeks. Meanwhile, the shallow pools sustain all life here – people, livestock and the elephants which have migrated here. This morning I photographed a group of seven elephants we found at the edge of a nearby marsh. It was quite exhilarating, as the animals are twice the size of their cousins I am used to seeing in central Africa. These elephants were mostly facing away from me (and from the light), but I could not safely circle up wind of them to photograph them head on. They can become quite aggressive when they smell an intruder. With me were 2 local trackers and Elmede, an experienced officer from the local department of nature conservation. Dr. Barnes and the others have taken one of the pickups to the town of Mopti for supplies and will return here tomorrow night. Meanwhile I will take advantage of the time to get familiar with this place and to photograph the local people, who in many ways are more captivating than the elephants (at this location). The people live very close to the land and are especially peaceful and kind. Most are devoutly Muslim and pray regularly. Their bright colors are striking against the drab desert background. I will be here in Inadjatafane at least through Friday, and after several days I hope to explore Lake Banzena, a couple of hours to the West. If there are concentrations of elephants there I will stay as long as I can. I would like to work in one place for a while so I can set up remotes and begin to document more behavior and interactions. Time has been passing slowly here, though I expect it to speed up, especially as I begin to sleep normally. Lying above the sand and beneath the open sky is a new thing. Last night I woke several times with an extremely dry mouth and once from blowing sands that were blasting my side. As desperation is the mother of invention, I solved my breathing problem by sleeping with a wet t-shirt over my face. I will continue to adjust and by the time I come home I expect air conditioning to make me shiver. I have been shooting mostly film thus far, but will try to make a few digital frames to upload to the site. Well the light is starting to soften and I must get ready for my afternoon session…..View new photography at www.carltonward.com