The White Desert
We packed and left the Badiwiya after breakfast and walked
over to the Waha. There we met Amei, a German lady in
her early 60s who had been teaching in Namibia for the past
seven years and has travelled from South Africa through Malawi,
Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Sudan on
her own in a Toyota Landcruiser of indeterminate vintage. She will
be joining our tour of the White Desert, scheduled to leave
Farafra at 1pm today.
After Friday prayers, the 4WD was loaded up and we set off in convoy,
with Achmed the school teacher driving us and Hamdi with
Amei in her car. Driving about 45km out of Farafra,
we found that the "White Desert" is actually only
about 100 metres off the main road. From there, we drove to the "New
White Desert" about 1km off the main road and just an extension
of the original White Desert.
was very spectacular with weird limestone rocks carved by the wind.
Limestone formations lying on the ground looked like the royal icing
one finds on wedding cakes. Unlike the Pinnacles, just north
of Perth in Western Australia, which were formed when
sand was washed away from around limestone deposits, this limestone
seems to lie on the top of the sand.
Various large sculptures have been given names, such as the Mushroom
(top right), the White House, Horse and Flower Rocks.
The landscape looked particularly lunar today as the remnants of the
storm kept sand particles suspended in the air, giving an unwordly
look to the area.
THIS CHEAP TIP
If you can't
afford the price of a night's safari in the desert tour, might I
suggest that you organise a "special" taxi between Bahariya
and Farafra for your group (up to 7 people). You can stop
at the White Desert and the Black Desert along the
highway during the trip and just walk in - the famous "Mushroom
Rock" is only half a kilometre off the main road.
A "special taxi" such as this might cost around EP140
(A$31.10) but between 7 of you, that's only EP20 (A$4.45)
Whilst the others
explored the Mushroom Rock, Amei, Hamdi and I took
off in her Landcruiser too see the Horse. We got a little
bogged in the fine sand and had to let the tyres down before we
could drive back.
I was so impressed by Amei. How courageous to undertake such
a trip alone! Her husband, who is older, remains in Germany.
Her car was broken into in Malawi, she had a bout of typhoid
in Ethiopia and has had a lot of trouble with her "carnet"
since coming to Egypt but still she continues, planning to
go on through Sinai to Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Greece.
Incidentally, a "carnet" is the certificate to
licence a vehicle to travel through a country in Africa.
You must have one before bringing a vehicle into the country.
Returning to the others, we discovered that Guy had found a
wonderful campsite for the night sandwiched between three huge limestone
Hamdi, Achmed and Guy built a fireplace of limestone
boulders and started a fire with the wood which they had brought in
Amei again proved her worth by producing a cold gin and tonic
for Jay, Guy and myself whilst we listened to her adventures.
that she had headed a project in Kenya for 2-3 months, I mentioned
my childhood in Kenya. What a conincidence! She was based in
Kakamega, only eight miles from my old home in Sigalagala.
Our world grows smaller every day!
Hamdi and Achmed produced a delicious vegetarian meal
of rice, potatoes, tomatoes, onion and aubergines with oranges and
peanuts for desert, followed by the inevitable tea.
Jay, as an ex hotelier, pointed out to them that they should
also have supplied meat - possibly chicken - but personally I was
quite glad to have a break from meat.
As we had suspected, the tour was not very well organised. They had
no torch (luckily we had), no matches, only 4 cups and plates for
6 people and no planning whatsoever. But they meant well and tried
hard. Sometimes it is better to support the poorer tours in order
to spread your money around the local community. I wouldn't like to
think of the rich man at the Bahariya getting every tourist
dollar that came to Farafra.
sat around the fire talking and admiring the stars until the cold
drove us into our sleeping bags. Amei slept in her Landcruiser
whilst we lay around the campfire, soaking up its warmth and staring
up at the countless stars above.