Sunday, 16 December 2012

Driving on the Moon

We left the insane traffic of Cairo behind last Monday morning, and headed out on the Western Desert Road, where we hopped from oasis to oasis, making a long loop around to Luxor. The instructions we were given about the route sounded a bit Lord of the Rings - "go across the Black Desert to the Crystal Mountain and then into the White Desert" - and it was a rather like visiting another planet.  Some of the most stunning scenery of our trip so far and totally deserted most of the time.  I'd describe the White Desert as the most amazing place I’ve been, but never heard of before I got there! The photos we’ve attached below don’t do it the slightest bit of justice.

This was our first chance to try out some off road driving - with mixed success.  In the White and Black deserts the sand is compacted hard (with the odd squidgy bit to keep things interesting), so the Landcrusier could handle it all pretty easily.  We spent a couple of days bashing around in the dunes and discovering some incredible places, seen by very few. It also allowed us to do our first proper night of wild camping (some practise for Sudan), where we just had to pick a spot in the desert and pitch our tent. The silence was like a sound of its own, especially after Cairo (and its 5 am calls to prayer).

Unfortunately all this off roading made us a little over confident, and we managed to get stuck in deep sand the next morning, turning off to take a cool photo. Cue half an hour of digging, and gradually reversing out using our sand ladders. Very impressed with how it all worked in anger though. James and Anna 2 : Sinky Sand 1!

One issue out here through is the fuel shortages (which seem more or less constant) with huge tailbacks of farm trucks waiting overnight sometimes to get some fuel. Thankfully, as tourists we’ve been allowed to skip the queues, but it must be a massive pain for anyone living here.  We were really surprised how kind everyone in the queue has been about letting us in - but I guess we're only filling up a car rather than two tractors and six jerry cans.  Plus, we probably add to the general entertainment of fights and barricades by taxi drivers.

Our first night wild camping in the Western Desert. We just drove 20 mins off the road and picked our spot!

Stunning vistas in the White Desert 

Anna digs us out after some over adventurous off roading. We'd spent much of the previous day off road,  on hard packed sand having loads of fun, but got over confident an got stuck in some soft stuff. Shovels and sand ladders to the ready!

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