19 March 2010 Night in the Sahara

Sunset

After all the disappointing things happened to us, we turned towards South to explore the desert at least. We have spent a splendid night there in-between the dunes...

After breakfast the teams agree not to leave Tunisia behind unless going to its desert. We reorganise ourselves and Gondwanateam takes the lead to arrange everything. We drive back to Douz in a convoy, where we can get permission from Tunisian authorities to enter the desert from their side.
Convoy

It’s around noon when we hit the town and luckily we run into Amor who runs an agency for organising desert tours. Balazs goes to arrange the paperwork with him when he offers to join us, and would lead us along the road so we would not get lost in the Sahara. We kindly refuse this offer at the beginning, but when we are realising how useful it is, we take it. It’s fun to get lost and spend some nights in the Sahara (Gondwanateam has already experienced this in the past) but it’s not so wise if you have a ferry to take the very next day.

We agree with Amor to meet in an hour, and he prepares everything. Our little convoy is composed by Gondwanateam; Magnum Team; the Latvian couple; Tarmo the Estonian traveller; our old Polish friends: Marek and Grzegorz (and their friend Wacek); Das Team (Attila and Bela); and all the Paweleks: the real Pawelek (who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a rubber boat), the Rally Camp 1-2 teams (with Nissan Patrol and Iveco); Margo and Grezogorz; and Maciek.

All of these people have a character. They are really good guys. Very helpful and very funny people. Of course all of us are crazy but that’s the good in it. We are all adventurers!

Amor is ready so do we. However some people are always missing as they are gone for buying food, water or else. When we are again together and the convoy is ready, we follow Amor and his Toyota Hilux. (Except Tarmo, who will go directly to Ksar Gilane on a paved road as his minivan is the only non 4x4 vehicle. He doesn't mind it as his motto is from Henry David Thoreau, who said once: "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.")

highway

After leaving the asphalted road more and more sign show the desert is approaching. The plants are smaller and smaller. The sand is more and more. Fewer and fewer vehicles and more and more camels.

We are slowly entering the deserted area when the radio calls: the Latvians are having problems with the car. The water is boiling! Or better said it’s boiled away! There is no water inside the radiator and probably they were running with it, therefore the engine/cylinder heads are also damaged. Arek our nice Polish Pawelek Repairman tries to fix it somehow. He suggest them to go back and not to enter the Sahara with this car as they might not return from there.

life on the sand

But our Latvian friends are made from steel, they decide to go on. No matter what. They already went to Mongolia all alone, why this small trip stop them. They didn’t even changed yet their broken tire! Brave people! Respect!

We continue. But soon after we have to stop again as Latvians are facing problems again with the car. Arek repairs something and we go on.

caravan

We see a caravan passing by and another one having some rest in the oasis. We also stop at a Café called La Porte du Desert. (The Gate of the Desert). We get some more water and deflate the tires. It’s necessary when entering the sand as the tires have a bigger surface to adhere to the path. Also it raises the consumption, and requires more power from the engine to make the car move but without this easy and simple action, you might stick in the sand. (And also it wont secure you not to stick. The one who enters the Sahara will get stuck for sure at least couple of times. But this is what is all about: Adventure! To do something that you wouldn’t do back home!)

cafe la porte du desert

Again the Latvians are boiling their water. Finally they decide no to give up but to go back to Douz and take the paved road and get to Ksar Gilane as tries Tarmo too. We start the ride!

This is why we are here for, and this is what we have been waiting for weeks! The desert! It’s threatening and welcoming at the same time. Like a real woman! Rather said a lady with pride and glory; punishes all who doesn’t respect her, as she needs.

We didn’t have time for ceremony and respect therefore we got stuck. Nobody knows who the first was. But we stuck one by one. Everybody is digging and shovelling to get out of her embracing arms.

From now nobody can describe what’s going on. Some of the teams are out and some get stuck again. We are trying to help each other. We pull, we tow, we push, we dig, we shovel. No stop.

prisoners of the sand

Do not misunderstand it. We do enjoy it. So much! After all those unnecessary resting days in Tunis by waiting for the visa, our moral went really low. Nothing is worst than waiting for something that one can not ever reach. But now we are reviving! We feel our muscles as we are struggle our battle against the Queen of Sheba.

While we are trying our best to get out, we realise we are prisoners of the Sahara. Time flies and soon the sun starts to set down. It goes really fast. You just realise what’s going on and the very next moment the darkness is surrounding you. Then nothing much you can do. If you know the way out let’s go and try. If you don’t; then better build your campsite and wait for the next day to come. If you have a guide ask him what he thinks. Amor decides to move on as he knows the desert by heart. For him it’s not a problem either day or night to get out of it.

So we are reorganising our lines and follows him. Expect our dear Polish Friends: Marek and Grzegorz. They decide to wait as they can’t follow the convoy. Their Iveco is too heavy and too high. Therefore either they speed up and they risk falling over, or they go slow but then they stick to the sand. Amor will come back and assist them out to the Café la Porte du Desert.

Our convoy is reduced by size but we are more experienced by now. Those who had their first sand-driving experiences they already learnt how to manage not to stick in every minute. We can move very quickly.

sunset

It’s very dark and barely can see a light. Only the Crescent Moon and the stars are showing the way. We go approximately an hour when the people get really tired. So we decide for building the campsite and stay overnight in-between the dunes..

Nobody is worried or stressed about it. We pull up our tents, make a campfire and cook our diner. Of course the Paweleks are seeking for anything to drink, but they ran out of their stocks. It’s time to open the treasury locked spare bottle: the 95% Alcohol. Brrrrrrrr.

We are lost in the battle. Lights out!

The night is calm and peaceful. The stars are all around us and they are exceptionally bright. We also can see some fallen stars. No civilised nation can experience this feeling. Only those nomads who are far away from the electricity ruled world. The Sahara is incredibly silent when the night comes. No noises at all, only the wind blows, if blows. You can touch the darkness and the silence. Terrifyingly beautiful!

victory