The land of White and Black Desert.

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, November 6, 2006

I took a bus from Cairo and we drove for 350 km in desert to get to Baharriya Oasis. Then I hired a guide with a Jeep and we drove for another 150 km in the desert to White Desert, Black Desert and Cristal Mountain. This was the most spectacular part of my trip so far. I was accompanied by a couple from Madrid, Spain. We slept in the desert under the stars, no tent, nothing. It was cold as hell. We were 500 km deep in the desert. This is the first time in my trip that I thought for a minute:"What if something happened to me here?".

It was a full moon night. So we got to watch the sunset, turning the sky and the rock formations red and then it was completely dark for a couple hours, allowing us to contemplate the stars and the Milky Way. Than the full moon rose, bringing us back to a semi day light condition where the white rock formations seemed to glow in dark. The landscape under fool moon was just like we were at the North Pole. And it felt just as cold. Than the sun rose again turning the sky into a pinkish color and the temperature quickly rose back to miserably hot.

My guide was a Bedouin guy. One of those nomad people that have lived in the desert forever and that know everything about it. He didn't speak much English and we mostly communicated with hand signs. That was a lot of fun. This guy really knew his stuff. He was at home in the desert. On our way to White Desert he stopped at some very small oasis and he bought some wood from the locals, 5 pieces of wood to be precise. The locals cut in front of us from an old tree that had fallen down naturally. In the desert, energy is not wasted, especially not wood which is very rare.

When he found a place suitable for establishing our camp, he lit the fire and 5 pieces were exactly what he needed to cook diner and "Bedouin Tea". We needed every little tiny piece of it, but we had enough. The only tool he had was a pocket knife. I can't tell you all he did with that pocket knife. From building a wind screen for the night, to cooking diner, to fixing everything that broke on the Jeep, it was truly amazing.

On the way back to Baharriya Oasis, right in the middle of the desert, what I feared the most happened: we had a mechanical problem. The Jeep stalled. The first thing that came to my mind was to look at my water reserve. To my great despair I only had half a bottle left. The two Spanish didn't have a drop left and our guide didn't have anything either. Half a bottle for four people ! But I knew our guide would find a solution, after all, he had a pocket knife !!!
 He looked at me and said:"Are you going to drink that water?" I replied: "Eh, yeah, I was hoping to." He said: "Drink it now." Common wisdom is to save it and make it last as long as you can, and there were 4 of us so I wasn't too sure what to make of it. He then made me understand through a few English words and many hand signs that he needed the empty bottle. That's when I finally figured out that we had just run out of gas. He had a spare 5 gallons but nothing to put it in the car. So I shared the bottle with my fellow travelers and we drank it up in a minute. Our guide then used his pocket knife, yeah yeah, his pocket knife, to cut the bottle in half. I held the top part as he poured the gas in the Jeep. And we were back in business.

The Oasis itself was an extremely poor place with very little infrastructure and as most desolate place, a very conservative Muslim place. Women didn't have it easy in Baharriya Oasis.

Andre.
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