28 March, 2010

A Sight I'll Never Forget

A little over a week ago, I was recovering from a weekend that will be etched into my memory for as long as I am able to remember my stories. I spent the weekend of March 18-20, 2010 in the Black and White Desert out in the Bahariya Oasis

We left on Thursday after the others finished classes around 12:30pm. The bus was much smaller than the normal bus that we took, but it allowed for us to be relatively comfy. 

I spent much of the ride to the Oasis watching REPO!the Genetic Opera on my iPod and once I finished watching, I quickly pulled out my book, put on some music and continued to occupy myself. This has nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to be anti-social. It does, however, have everything to do with the fact that Sean, Moose and Will had decided to read Dune aloud to everyone on the bus. This wouldn't have been a problem, except for the fact that they started half way through the book and were just very annoying about it. 

We made two major stops along the way. One to the On the Run convenience store and once for a bathroom break at a little cafe in the middle of the desert. I once again got to have the experience of using a squat toilet. I do have to say though, after you get the hang of the first time, it becomes much easier.  

After 5-6 hours on a bus, we finally arrived at the hotel. The hotel itself was fine, though I would have liked to have taken a shower while I was there, but sadly I did not. Mainly because when I turned the water on in the shower, it came out orange and I was automatically put off by that. I once again shared a room with Shruti, who I really enjoy talking to about random stuff. 

We weren't at the hotel long before we were taken off to dinner in 4X4 jeeps...one of which was named "Nightmare". Dinner was at a little place called "Rashed". It was decent food, but nothing too special. Salad, "bird tongue soup", rice, meat and potatoes in a tomato sauce, and bread. Pretty standard Bedouin food. 

After dinner, we were invited to go to a get together that the Bedouin's were holding. So, we went. There was music and dancing and tea. Oh, tea. It's always delicious and a big stable here in Egyptian culture. Also, the Bedouin men who were dancing around thought it would be a good idea to pull up some of the girls to dance with them. I caught this on video and eventually I got pulled myself...at which point, Shruti caught it on video. 
Shruti pours us some tea for the evening. 
 The Bedouin man dances to the music.
We left the get together and went back to the hotel where I hung out with Shruti, Will, Tyler, Samir and Sean for a bit. There was also a swing, and so the five year old in me came out and I had to swing on the swing. I'd say it was a pretty good end to a really long day. 
Breakfast was sometime around 8 or 9am and consisted of falafel, fuul, bread and an absolutely delicious fried egg.

We left for the desert at 10am. We made a quick stop in town for a bathroom break and some snacks before heading out into the desert. The ride was pretty awesome. It was a combination of driving on the road and driving through the sand dunes like we did in Siwa. I can't really explain the feeling of traveling in the SUV with everyone. It was comfortable and family-like. It was an absolute wonderful feeling. 
 Our expedition team. Two SUVs ready for an adventure.
Our first stop was in the Black Desert, where we climbed up one of the dune mountains and saw what they call "the British House". It gave us a wonderful overlook of the desert. We then reloaded the cars and drove further into the desert. 
 The formations in the the Black Desert.
After seeing the Black Desert, we stopped at a little area so that our guides could have prayer on Friday. Once they finished with prayer, we were back on the road again, traveling deeper into the Black Desert.

 The Black Desert. Not exactly what I was expecting,but pretty cool nonetheles
We eventually stopped for lunch at a little cafe where we had lunch under a Bedouin tent. It was a much needed break from traveling and everything. After lunch, we made our way to the Crystal mountain...which was actually made out of quartz crystal surprisingly. I climbed to the top and it felt like a huge accomplishment. 

With a few other stops along the way, we finally made it to our final destination in the White Desert. The Valley of the Mushrooms. We watched the sunset behind the mushroom and chicken rock before setting up camp nearby. 
 The sunset behind the mushroom and chicken formations.

 The White Desert. Beautiful.
The nice things about traveling with guides is that they do just about everything for you. They set-up camp, with a little bit of help from Sean, they built the fire we sat around to keep warm and then they made us the most delicious food I have ever had. Chicken grilled on the open fire, rice and a potato curry dish. It was spectacular. 
Sean helps one of our guides unload the SUV.
After dinner we all sat around the fire for a little bit before deciding it was too cold and that sleep was coming fast. We all grabbed sleeping bags and laid down...even though it was only 10:30pm.

Oh, yeah. But, before I forget to mention it. The stars we saw once all the light was gone was amazing. I've never seen so many stars. We tried to point out constellations and kept getting lost in the cosmic sea of stars. 

Morning came earlier than I wanted. 6:30am to be exact. I saw the sun rise over the White Desert and then I couldn't fall back to sleep, so I retrieved my book from the SUV and read for a little bit. About 2 hours later, our guides finally awoke and gave us breakfast before repacking camp and beginning our journey back to town. 
Early morning in camp. Some people have woken, others still lay about in their sleeping bags.
We had a slight mishap on the way back where one of our SUVs had a flat tire, which required us to stop and change it. We also made various other stops to sight see in the desert some more. Our last stop before hitting town was to a mountain in the black desert. We were originally supposed to climb said mountain, but after taking a vote, the majority decided to not climb it. 
The mountain we were supposed to climb, but didn't.
We arrived back in town and quickly switched our gear from the SUVs back into the bus and had lunch at "Rashed" once again. Sadly, it was the same meal we had had for dinner Thursday night. We ate and then began our journey home. 
Me in the early morning desert. Scarves are wonderful to prevent sand from getting in your ears and hair. Sunglasses prevent it from getting in your eyes. Hence, my appearance.
It was a tiring weekend, but one I will never be able to forget. I slept outside, under the stars in the desert and survived. Writing this experience can't describe the rush and thrill of the adventure. It was something you just have to experience. It actually felt like real adventure. 

While we were on the trip, Will was reading an old travel log of an explorer from the 1800s or sometime around then, who was traveling through the desert in Egypt. The explorer made mention of how he believed the art of adventure would soon be lost as the train was a new invention and he feared it would cut through the desert and ruin the adventure. I have to say that he was only half right. While we no longer travel across the desert on camels, we still hold onto the thrill of the adventure of traveling in the desert.

One more interesting thing to note about this trip has to be the fact that at every checkpoint when the driver was stopped and asked about the passengers in the car, he would say,">مصريين اثنين واربعة استراليين" (Misryeen it-nain wa arba australeen), which literally translates to "two Egyptians and four Australians". I later asked why that was and found out that we were Australian because it saves a lot of paperwork and trouble. You see the American government likes to take care of its citizens abroad, which is fine, but it also means that had we been traveling as Americans we would have had to have a guard with us at all times...and that would have been a pain. So, instead we were Australian. Hey, whatever mate. 

And that my dear readers, is the sight I'll never forget. I'm glad I made the decision to go as it was one of the adventures I'd been looking for.

1 comment: