March, 20 – 22 / 2011
From the fabulous, backpacker friendly, Oasis Town of Siwa, we negotiated a ride with a jeep driver (that fit in our backpacker budget). Us and our 2 Canadian friends were planning to cross the Great Sand Sea to the next Oasis town of Bahariya. It took a day of bargaining a price, 6 hours driving and 8 military check stops to get there, but was worth it. We were all exhausted after the journey and after the last 6 days of relaxing, swimming in freshwater springs and numerous bike rides through palm groves and farmland (I know, tough life we lead!), so we just hung around our hotel in the garden area reading and enjoying cups of tea and coffee. We had some really informative chats with the owner of the hotel. He was very modern/westernized and spoke perfect English. He was talking to us about the revolution and how the Prince took his farmland from him 10 years ago …just because he could. The owner had no say in it and could not protest. To do so would likely land him in prison or worse. Just a couple of weeks ago (since the Revolution) he got a call from the military who not only returned the land to him, but gave him a few extra acres for his troubles. He was very emotional when telling us about how the Egyptian, Tunisian, Lybian and many other Arab countries have been treated by the ruling dictators over the last 40 years.
We parted ways with our friends and Nick and I headed out into the desert on a one night safari. Just us and our guide. This time was nothing like the camel safari we did in India, we were in a 4×4 land cruiser stocked with food, mattresses, blankets and even a table! We first went through the amazing black desert where the sand transforms from golden coloured to black from the volcanic rock. We also saw Crystal Mountain (mountains full of quartz) and a Bedouin Village with a natural hot spring for swimming. It was like no other desert we have seen, the landscape changed from massive black sand dunes to golden sand then to blindingly white rock formations jutting out of the ground, in the shapes of rabbits, Sphinx, chicken and camels!
We made camp under the stars in the middle of the white desert for sunset. Our guide set up our camp for us, perfectly. He even had a wind screen so we wouldn’t be cold in the night. After the sun had set, we had a fabulous BBQ chicken dinner (cooked right over the coals) complete with a vegetable stew, rice and bread, all enjoyed under the stars…then the foxes showed up! I couldn’t believe it, there were 5 of them around the camp hoping to scrounge up some chicken bones. Around 6:00 in the morning our guide said he woke up and there were 2 foxes sleeping at my feet, just like a domesticated dog would…we were told there were cobras in the desert so maybe the foxes were protecting me.
Every opportunity we have to be out in the desert, we take. The desert is the most peaceful, tranquil place. The silence is deafening. The sound of a bird flying overhead sounds like an airplane and there’s no one around for miles and miles. But the best part is the star-gazing, there’s not a single light around (except for the campfire) making the stars appear so bright and numerous. For us, the desert is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and rigors of independent travel. We always have the best experiences and memories that we will keep forever. Hopefully there will be more desert trips in the near future.
Bahariya: Budget Backpackers In The Desert,