The White part of the Western (Libyan) Desert

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Monday, February 20, 2006

It was getting late in the afternoon when we entered the White Desert proper, only about 40km out of the Farafra Oasis. As mentioned previously the landscape had been diverse and spectacular so far and it was just going to get more so.

First fields of nipple-looking (for want of a better description) chalk outcrops hit the horizon. Kilometres of them as far as the eye could see as Makhmud blazed across the sandy plain. Before long these turned into more boob-shaped humps, moulded into rounded fluffy-looking marshmellows and interspersed with tufts of coarse desert grass. It's nothing like anything I've seen before so the photos will have to do the talking...

A few kilometres along the chalk mounds became more sculpted and we stopped at a formation known as The Chicken.

I suppose The Chicken is the cute little mound I'm leaning on in the photo above, with a large chalk ball towering precariously above it. As you can see these outcrops are huge and sit majestically against the azure background of the twilight. Magnificent!

Just a little further along we stopped for the night to make camp and appreciate the sunset in this surreal place. Curse the dust inside my lens - if I ever meet a Fuji employee I'm going to bounce my camera off his head for the shadows that mar my photos, but they're still beautiful despite the smudges.

And then the sun went down in a fluffy pallet of pinks and greys. Oohhh and ahhh indeed.

By then camp was struck so we could settle down to a couple of beers and a five star meal around the campfire. A grey desert fox or two came by to see what could be foraged from our stores, but didn't hang around to get acquainted as the bongo and water drum band started up not long after we were finally sated. The bedouins enjoy a tune and a dance so we got into the spirit of things for a friendship dance around the fire before settling down to count stars in the desert sky. I haven't seen that many since outback Australia and it was an absolutely awesome array.

They get about 2mm of rain spread over 3 days of the year here so I wasn't concerned with sleeping under the stars. Sleeping soundly under a camel blanket or two beside the fire, I managed to wake in time to catch the sunrise - yet another highlight of a great trip all round. I was so inspired I did a Linus and started typing so the other's could sleep a little longer.

And that was the extent of the expedition really. We stopped shortly after breaking camp to check out a formation called The Mushroom, but getting back was plain highway sailing all the way to Bahariyya. It didn't look any better than the day before but the mission was successful within 24 hours and all without rolling the 4WD once - nice!

Soon after I set off to Cairo again, with eyes out along the desert highway missed due to night travel on the way out. And it deserves a quick mention really as there is some pretty bizarre sights along the 330km stretch.

From the sublime (more nameless oases and herds of camel being driven north to market), to the horrific (a fatal truck accident and mangled guard rails evidence of many more), to the ridiculous (various checkpoints and dozens of concrete bus stops constructed for no obvious reason in the middle of nowhere), it's a fascinating road to take if you have the time to do it.

I didn't know what to expect of this little side trip but if you're stuck in Cairo for too long, take a detour to the Western Desert and I think you'll be very pleased with the result. Until next time, keep trekkin'.

Next entry -> re-united with the Mediterranean in Alexandria.

Words from the Wise #04

"The key to a successful marriage is not about finding the perfect partner, it's about being the perfect partner."
David and Leanne Avery
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