I distinctly remember, at the age of five, playing with brightly coloured plastic toys from Chad Valley. I was also aware at that age (remarkably) that Chad is a country in the middle of Africa and assumed the two were related. Ever since, I have thought it would be interesting to go there.
Later in my childhood I became aware of Lake Chad, at the time one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world, on the edge of the Sahara desert. Incredible, I thought, I wonder why it doesn’t dry up?
As an adult I learned Chad has the highest mountains in the Sahara (over 3000m) and unsettled borders with most of its neighbours. I read travelogues by the hardiest of travellers; hitching rides on loaded lorries for hundreds of miles across dusty plains and bleeding bribes at every police roadblock along the few roads that there are.
In recent years the lake has reduced considerably, in fact in one period of drought it was reported to have dried up altogether. The Michelin map shows a vehicle route around what was once the northern shore. These days local traffic favours a straight line across the Lake Chad basin; now just a sandy depression.