SEA SHELLS CAIRO SMELLS
10 April 08
Giza - Wadi El Hittan
BRUCE: Well all I can say is that it is good to be away from Cairo and on the road again. We had an early start at 6am and were on the road by 7:30am.We went to the pyramids first which is always an awesome sight. We found parking down a little side street and walked the rest of the way. Definitely time to leave Cairo as we found ourselves snapping at the guys who hassled us on the way up to the pyramids. After a walk around the pyramids we returned to the car and decided to try and find the Metro market that our cab man had previously taken us to. We found it after a short drive and a traffic jam that included a donkey cart. 300E£ of groceries later we left Cairo loaded to the max!
The drive to Wadi Ryan was straight forward and we stopped for a swim at Lake Quiron on the way. The lake is huge with a booming local fishing industry on it, also loads of hotels and restaurants on it. The lake is bounded by the oasis on one side and the desert on the other. Wadi Ryan is a national park so we had to pay our fees at the gate and then drive in. The Wadi consists of 2 lakes and a spring all set in amongst the desert sands. We met one of the rangers on the road and the good news is that he said that we can drive onto Bahariya Oasis on a track that is apparently marked the whole way. We left the tar after the second lake and started on the track to Wadi El Hittan. The area was a sea bed 40 million years ago and when we stopped we saw that we were driving on fossil sea shells! The guys at the camp were great and showed us were to camp and even lit a cooking fire for us when we started one in the wrong place. Had the other 2 steaks for dinner but it was really windy and hard to enjoy them. A little bat-eared fox came to visit which was cool, he's obviously used to people because he came quite close. We found the road to Bahariya too which was good and we'll head off there tomorrow after seeing the whale bones!
WHALE BONES AND SHARKS TEETH IN THE DESERT!
11 April 08
Wadi El Hittan - Bahariya Oasis
SARAH: Valley of the Whales is amazing. It is a sea bed from 40 million years ago and you know you are on the sea bed from all the thousand of sea shells around us. My favourite were the one's that looked like little coins. We walked through the Valley of the Whales and to our amazement saw about 13 fossil whales which had been found. They were excellent with well preserved vertebrae, jaws, teeth, etc. Apparently 400 have been found in this valley. Looking at the layers of rock we could see the fossilised mangrove roots and whales were thought to have died of natural causes and then were washed into the mangroves where they were quickly covered in sediment and fossilised. The whales were found in a curved shape characterising that taken once dead. It was amazing. The Tethys Sea used to cover Egypt and as the north and south pole froze more water 40mill years ago the sea receded. Maybe the sea will return again with global warming and the polar caps melting? Our walk through the valley was beautiful as natural rock had been weathered into shapes and the yellow colours caught the morning light.
After walking around the site we headed into unmarked territory. We had T4A GPS map for the area but after speaking with the reserve guide found that there was a track from Wadi El Hittan to the tar road joining the great desert circuit. So Bruce and I headed off exploring. Luckily the track was well marked with sticks and we had some great stops looking for shells in the desert. Miraculously I found a fossilised sharks tooth! How amazing is that? We had a great time digging around and there must be hundreds more fossils hidden here. The sand was quite soft in places but nothing that we couldn't manage and we had a great day.
We popped out on the tar road 160km from Bahariya Oasis and camped at Eden Garden Camp. It was lovely with clean toilets and a hot natural spring. After kebabs for dinner we were invited to the large communal room for music. We sat on cushions on the floor around the fire with some French archaeologists and the local Arab Bedouin people who run the camp. They played lovely Bedouin music on the drums, flute like instrument and one guy was singing. The sheesha pipe was out with the owner smoking what he called 'Dr Feely Good'. Hmmm?
BUSH CAMPING IN THE WHITE DESERT
12 April 08
Bahariya - Agabat (Bush camp)
BRUCE: Got up earlyish this morning and after unsuccessfully trying to shower joined a naked old man in the hot spring for a wash. It was really good, but hot! After that we joined Talat, 'Dr Feely not so good this morning', for Bedouin tea and a chat about our options for moving on. He was keen for us to stay and follow one of his groups to the White Desert, which would have been great, but they take 2 days and an added day of waiting meant that it just would have been too long. So we headed off after tea, saying goodbye to the chatty camp Arab Zionist with the green beatle and were on our way. Made a good stop in town for a tea pot and some green tea and a bad stop for diesel where I was overcharged and not sharp enough to pick it up. Next stop was at the crystal mountain which was more like a crystal rock! We saw a few tour groups there with Land Cruisers and spoke to the drivers who said that we should follow them to the White Desert, but we decided to do our own thing, which in hindsight was a mistake and based on our scepticism of Egyptian people more than anything else. Also met 2 Austrian bikers on the road which was great since we've not met any other overlanders.
Next stop turned out to be Agabat which is a great collection of rock hills and small dunes. Met Mohammed, the 'Desert Tiger' there again, but Se and I had decided to camp here and not go on to the White Desert. Set up for our first nights bush camp in what looked to be a sheltered spot but the wind was picking up which was ominous. What followed was a miserable night. Cooking the kebabs on the fire was a nightmare in the howling wind and after going to bed I got no sleep as the wind was blowing so strongly. At stages I thought our tent was going to be ripped to shreds! Now I know why we were the only car camping in this area and we should have been more open minded and trusting. Lesson learnt!
13 April 08
Agabat - Farafra (White Desert, Bush camp)
SARAH: Neither of us slept well with the wind but we were ready to go by 9:30am before the sand got too soft. When we left it was already 30deg. Bruce and I had a great day off roading and followed a track from the GPS. The White Desert got even more beautiful after Agabat and the rock formations made all sorts of shapes - mushrooms, chickens, faces etc. We even saw one that looked like either Dan Verbaan or Drew Wilson, although it could have been MacDuff. Luckily there weren't any dunes but fine soft sand lay over and between the chalky white rock. I felt like I was in a star wars movie. The heat was so harsh and we stopped in the shade of a rock outcrop, soon to be joined by hundreds of FLIES! It must have been 45deg in the sun with no wind at all. The afternoon drive was less inspiring along sandy stretches of desert to Farafra Oasis. It's a real one-horse town and with the unbearable heat we took the tar road back to the White Desert and camped amongst the strange white rock shapes along with other tour groups. Tonight was a perfect evening, warm and still. We had a brilliant sunset with cool drinks for sundowners. In the night moonlight the rocks shone white looking like icebergs. Quite surreal!
14 April 08
White Desert - Kharga Oasis
SARAH: It's seriously hot in the desert. It was 38deg at 8am! We pretty much got up and went as the heat was pushing us on. We stopped for pancakes in the sand on the side of the road which I made whilst Bruce filtered some water. We are going through stax of water and our fridge is straining in the heat. We had the windows open fully and the hot air blasted into our faces like a hair dryer. At the end of the day my eyes were watering they were so dry. We passed 2 South African guys in their cruiser who were heading north. Flagging them down we stopped for a chat, swapping stories. It was awesome to meet some South Africans (from Cape Town). They are nearly finished their trip, taking 2.5 months.
At Dhakla Oasis we stopped at Al Qsar, an old village from the 1500's. It was run down and so hot we only walked a little bit of it. However we suddenly had an uninvited tour guide showing us his house and asking for Baksheesh! We can't escape the bloody Baksheesh. So paying him only 0.75E£ we moved on. Back on the road we passed a family of 5 from Amsterdam who'd been on the road for 2 years. Spotting another Land Rover, we flagged them down. Their girls are 4, 9 and 10 years old and getting home schooled. How amazing! Travelling with them was another Dutch biker who'd been on the bike for a year. Suddenly it was getting touristy. After days of seeing no other overlanders, we met 3 groups in one day.
Dhakla Oasis was the prettiest we'd seen with green farmland set against the harsh desert. We stopped for ice creams too. Yum! Our day didn't end so well as we got to Kharga late and couldn't find the hotel in the dark so were both fed up with each other. After driving around for an hour we found it, had kofta for dinner and crashed into bed.