Atar, the internet.
Spending my entire time in the Café Cyber, in Atar. With the connection going from nothing to break-down, the amount of patience I can bring to the game is being put to a serious test. Now about a month later I still cannot believe how I managed to put the 20051208-atar page online in 2 days.
Uploading (FTP) some 100 photos works but - don't attempt to download your mail or surf the net at the same time.
But in Atar I feel it'd be important to finish off with one part of the journey, before embarking on another 3 weeks in the desert, with different views-of-the-world/impressions/people-we-meet/vehicle-problems.
And then there would be Mali/new-year/the-festivals....
In hindsight, I am glad to have written the 20051208-atar story in time. Working off some backlog - never a bad idea.
We would not find an Internet Café till Segou, Mali (3 weeks after Atar). Now, already mid-Jan, in Essakane, the Tombouctou/Timbuktu-festival has started, I am finally finding time to put together the Atar/Tidjikdja/Nema....
The next tour. Birgit, Robert, Cristian with us.
In the Bab Sahara Camping We get to know Birgit and Robert, Austrian Italians, from Alto Adice, South Tyrol, the part of Italy that belonged to Austria till after WWI. They speak German and nowadays identify themselves as Europeans, their identity has never been neither fully Italian nor Austrian.
So Robert and Birgit join us/we together with Cristian join them. They are Africa and desert experienced, having traveled Libya, Algeria, Morocco and West Africa for many years. We want to do the "boucle" together, the Sebkhet Chemchâm/Guelb er Richat/Ouadane/Chinguetti tour.
So we are on the road/piste, search for varans and meet interesting and friendly people.
Hasna has picked up the local Hassaniya language quickly so real conversation is possible sometimes ...
And - Sunsets are still nice.
Africa, the cradle of mankind. Stone age has begun here earlier then anywhere else, some speak of 850.000 years ago.
The desert - once a rainforest with its resources of food in plentiful, was inhabited for most of the time.
Today's local people find the relicts - bifaces (Faustkeile), arrow heads, axes, grinding stones ... as the sand gets blown away and the heavier (stony) items are being revealed, sometimes for the first time.
These days not all is being sold to tourists, then smuggled out of the country, some is being shown in museums of sorts. Very interesting indeed.
Guelb er Richat.
Looks impressive from space and on maps, its vastness of some 50km however does not give the anticipated experience when driving through it.
Nonetheless we enjoyed the days in space/on the moon/in the desert.
Stony is our path most of the way. "All I want to do is, bring him back save, to Europe." Cristian, re his Mitsubishi.
And I have similar "soucis", feel pity for my Land Rover.
Only the (Toyota) Land Cruiser, with its big wheels seems to take it all without much suffering.
"I did journeys (with ny Cruiser) in Africa, where I did not touch my tools box a single time". Robert.
Out of Guelb er Richat into Ouadane and further to Chinguetti.
Lots of dune driving in between.
Chiguetti, xx holiest city in Islam (7th they say, after many [more then 7]) has a library, or a few. We saw one. Its treasures are old and Ahmad Al Mahmoud Ben Chinguetti is good for a funny presentation.
And Hasna is his sister, as in so many places in Arabia United.
On our own down to Tidjikdja.
We leave the friends as they make their way back to Atar this afternoon (14th), Cristian to return to Switzerland in due time to continue his studies in political science, and Birgit and Robert to make travel arrangements/bookings, the latter we intend to remeet in Tidjikdja 4/5 days down the road.
Hasna and I, we are looking forward to spending a couple of days on our own.
We think we could do the roughly 400km of the Chinguetti-Tidjikdja route ourselves, solely equipped with Rob's Thuraya phone number. They would not be far away....
He's got our Iridium number in case something happens to them.
So we are on our way, from 15th of Dec all alone.
We would not meet another vehicle for 2 days.
The terrain is difficult at least the first two days.
Navigation is one thing (there's a GPS on board), finding a track that goes our direction sometimes impossible. And many kilometres we just follow the needle on the compass (the GPS).
Over dunes and edges and cliffs and rocks and stones whatever comes our way. Oh, I understand why there's no path/track.
But we have the experience of a few month navigating and driving different terrains in the desert on our side. Relaxed and never fearful we go about the whole thing.
And - while - Hasna is looking for the meat. A goat, or a lamp would do (her opinion). What would we do with an entire goat? (my opinion). She would as well slaughter the animal herself. No problem. La femme sauvage.
- I find time to play with the camera's settings. Having got hooked by the Velvia Film simulation, it takes a while to get off that trip...
These people are not responsible for the colours, or the sunset, but a fantastic goats cous-cous Mauritanian desert style.
A 3-month old goat is slaughtered because we have arrived, or because it is Friday, or because some other people from the Mauritanian anti-"crique" team (locust detection and destruction force) camp near by as well.
Different from the Moroccan cous-cous royal that I know very well and love by now, it is truly delicious and comes totally unexpected (we have not found the meat yet). The mill/grain/whatevercouscous used is much larger and softer. Delicious. Mhmmmm.
Just a shame I spend all the time that evening under the vehicle (before the lights go out/paranoia!?), inside (after) trying to get the fridge working again (no success/frustration is large). A fuse would go again and again/too much dust and rattling.
Before Rashid and after.
On 17th of Dec. we reach the oued, valley, river bed, must be the Tidjikdja Oued, dry at this time of the year, but well flooded at other times. River beds have oasises attached and are well populated areas.
Driving as well as navigation is easy from here.
Later in the afternoon we reach Rashid the first town of any size since Atar. On one side of the valley is the old town/just ruins today/uninhabited/no UNESCO patronage (yet?why?). The other side new, with all/schools/hospitals/mosques.
We reach Tidjikdja on the 18th, Robert and Birgit make it there on the same day, Robert helps me get my fridge working, "an Engle does not break," and we leave all together for Nema the next day, the 19th of Dec 2005, my birthday.
I just turned 41.
Stay tuned/There's lots more that I know (now that I write this)/You don't (yet).
But one story after the other.
You know, they're trailing behind. THE STORIES; BEHIND THE REAL THING: