Saturday, April 10, 2004

Campfire in the Desert

After the dinner, it was getting a bit bored. Just imagine, in the desert, no electricity, no treated water, no toilet, no wash room, no human (supposed to, but a lot of tourist), no tv, no computer.... That's completely different from my daily lifestyle. However, for the few moments in my life, I was able to see such a clear sky and felt so relaxed.

Later the guides were chasing us to a nearby camp to join them in their campfire. So we joined 2 doctor couples from Germany. There they played music, sang and danced. It's a very wondeful experience.

Everybody sat around the camp fire

The 2 guides we met during the way to White Desert performed some Arab music using traditional musical instruments

Our guide was pretty good in desert dancing, but he just kept inviting those girls to join him!

After the campfire, I wasn't able to fall into sleep. It was not actually very cold at night, and I was also very much like to feel the White Desert at night and the beautiful night sky.

Candlelight Dinner under Starry Night Sky

Our guide drove round and round to find a good spot to overnight. After found, it was already quite dark, and late. I was actually quite hungry already. Nevertheless, camp still needed to be set up by our guide. After that they only started to cook for us. They're pretty experience in this, it's already quite fast that they settled everything.

Our guides prepared the food and drink to be cooked

This was where we gonna had our dinner, and sleep! Yes, under the star, and completely dark and quiet

Our dinner. It looked plain, but it's delicious, or may be I was too hungry?

Have a hot sweet tea after the dinner.

Sunset at White Desert

The sky was getting darker, and the White Desert still no where in sight yet. I was getting anxious. Finally, the guide drove off the main road, and we could starting to see some beautiful rock formations. After a while, we stopped just in time to catch the beautiful sunset, before continued to the place to camp overnight.

Sunset behind White Desert Rock Formations

Beautiful Sunset over White Desert (also Eastern Sahara) Horizon

Flower Desert

Picked up black flowery shape stone at "Flower Desert", which I believed is actually quartz and different varieties of deep-black iron pyrites, as weel as thousands of small fossils. Our guide called this place as flower desert.

Tour Guides

One of our guide with 2 guides from other tour and their 4WD vehicle at Naqb as-Sillim. These 2 guides were also the same guides that organised camp fire for their tour at White Desert and played Arab traditional musical instruments. We're so lucky to be able to join them.

At Naqb as-Sillim (Pass of the Stairs)

View at right after Naqb as-Sillim, also marks the beginning of White Desert

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain actually is a large rock made entirely of quartz crystal, easily recognisable by the large hole through its middle. The surrounding desert floor also littered with quartz crystals.

Desert Road

Road in the Egypt Western Desert between Bahariyya Oasis and Farafra Oasis

Sand Dune around Ain Della

Beautiful sand dune seemed at place I supposed is Ain Della. Our guides were not helpful on this.

Black Desert and Gebel az-Zuqaq

We were introduced to our guide, Mahmood and Hamada. Both of them were very friendly, but they didn't help much in introducting the place, as not fluent in English, and we didn't know Arab. But at times they would pointed to what to look out for at certain places.

After some preparation works done by our guide, we finally started the journey. The road to White Desert actually is also the road to Farafra. Here you will be able to see some of the most varied and amazing terrain in the Egypt Western Desert.

Our first sight on the way to White Desert was Black Desert. Black Desert is formed over the millenia as wind eroded the mountains and spread a fine black powder over the ground. We stopped at Gebel az-Zuqaq, where we climbed to the top to have the wider view of Black Desert. It's fantastic view.

Gebel az-Zuqaq in Black Desert

Kenji Hishikawa and Sing Wei, note the red, yellow and orange streaks limestone base of the Gebel

Black Desert

Our group at top of the Gebel

Ahmed's Safari Camp

When we reached Bawiti, guys from Ahmed's Safari Camp picked us up. 6 persons, with 4 of us, and Jeff Hiebert from Canada, and Kenji Hishikawa from Japan. Only Kenji hadn't paid for the tour. He bought his own bus ticket to come to Bahariyya Oasis. I couldn't understand why he didn't shop around for the White Desert tour, instead he got in the van together with us to the Camp. Ended up he paid USD $50 for the tour.

Ahmed's Safari Camp was a bit away from centre of Bawiti, major town of Bahariyya Oasis. I think because of its location, it's not so popular nowadays. We didn't see any other tourists in the Camp. The heat here was a bit unbearable, so when I knew that the vehicle we going to take was non-air conditioning, you can guess what's my reaction. And the vehicle was unspectacular too, not like other 4WD that's well decorated.

The office for the Camp's owner. We waited here before starting the journey. It was very cool inside, no air-conditioning, no fan, but very cool. Superior architecture I can said. Once stepped out of the door, the heat was unbearable.

Reed Huts - the rooms in Ahmed Safari Camp

The place where we had some food, and ordinary wash room.

The Bus to Bahariyya Oasis

Early morning, we cramped into the same small taxi as yesterday to go to Turgoman Garage, main bus station for bus heading out of Cairo.

The taxi was quite small, so all the backpacks had to go top

As I had anticipated, the hotel owner just bought the bus tickets for us. There was no tour leader and so. But that's good too, it meant that we'll not met him anymore, for good (but that's not the case). :)

Bus that brought us to Bahariyya Oasis.

One thing interested about the bus was that it will takes as many passengers as possible, due to scarity of the services. This applies to most long distance bus service sin Egypt too. So if the seats are full, you're welcome to stand or sit in the walkway. But don't bet on this, as the journey to Bahariyya Oasis takes 5 hours!

Tip: When we put the luggage into the bus, we were asked for EGP 1. This was actually a baksheesh, and we need not to pay him. We learnt this from a Japanese Kenji when we backed from Bahariyya Oasis. He insisted everybody in our group not to pay even EGP 1, and we were quite embarassed as we were actually already prepared to pay the guy. Bad luck to luggage guy. :)

Some vegetation planted in the Western Desert, along the road, may be due to reclaimation.

Train along the road to Bahariyya Oasis

The doctor Mohd. Mansoor who I met on the bus. May be due to the fact that I gave up my seat to him, he was very friendly to us. It seemed like in Egypt, they didn't have this culture. He even treated me with his self-made one bread with chicken, sardine and tomate, and another bread with cheese.

We chatted a lot, from his family to his country. What surprised me is that he just earning EGP 380 per month, and he is a specialist in children! And he as a doctor also has to serve the rural community for a specific period of time. He was on such a trip at that time.