Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Road trip to the heart of the Sahara Desert - Ghat Libya

Raj al Ghoul in the heart of the Sahara desert....what a scramble!

Jump to the pump....Libyan style


Going to Niger ....whith a whole lot of luck

Raj al Ghoul

Sand storm

salt lake in the middle of the desert

Libyan speed bumps

Nigerian woman

Old medina of Ghat

Nature's sandblasting

Harrassing the wildlife


Salam alekum! Here are some photos from a recent road trip into the Sahara, April 1 -11. It&#8217s nearly 2,000 kms from Benghazi to Ghat in the SW corner of Libya; very little traffic, warm temps in the 30&#8217s, beautiful mountains and friendly people. Great camping for 10LD per night and only spent 50LD (40-45 Can) on gas to drive 4,300 kms! Photos are numbered and hopefully appear in order. See JPEG titles for brief explanations and for more hot air read further elaborations below..... 7. Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa loading up for the return journey. Note the water jugs on the side. They generally take 2-3 weeks if they make it at all. In mid-May 2001, a Niger-registered truck was found in a remote stretch of the Libyan Sahara; alongside it were the bodies of 93 people who had died of thirst. For those of us who visit the desert for pleasure, it is worth remembering that crossing the vast Sahara is a matter of life and death for some. If it wasn&#8217t for the oil, (95% of all exports) Libya would very likely have the same poor standard of living at the other Saharan nations and therefore fewer immigrants searching for their El Dorado. 12. Even though the sand is very fine and soft on the feet (finer than most ocean beaches) the particles are relatively heavy so even the strongest winds can rarely lift them much higher than an adult&#8217s shoulders. 14. Umm al-Maa lake. One of the 11 or so lakes in the Ubari sand sea. They have a very high salt content and one can float easily; the water is &#8220cool&#8221 on top and hot tub temperature about 5 feet down. There are also full of tiny shrimp which the local people harvested for centuries until Ghadaffi kicked them out in the &#8220name of progress.&#8221 A few of these lakes have recently dried up; deep drilling for intensive desert agriculture and piping water to the coast through the &#8220Great man-made water project&#8221 (predicted to last a mere 50 years) are the likely culprits. We are one very short sighted species. 20. Tuareg are the once nomadic, indigenous people of the Sahara. Most are in permanent settlements these days and those who are better-off financially, take tourists around in 4WD&#8217s. They are one of the few people in the world for whom men, but not women, must wear the veil. It serves a social purpose in the hierarchy of relationships as well as protection against wind and sand. Tuareg women enjoy a high status in the community; inheritance is through the female line and historically, only the women were able to read and write. They are also able to pass freely between Libya, Niger, Mali, Algeria, and Mauritania&#8230.borders mean nothing. 37. We spent 3 days scrambling this massif and never got to the true summit; steep-sided cliffs/rock bands on all sides made route finding quite challenging (and no guide book). There was very little indication of previous human presence; no trails except for much lower down and only 2 cairns. We did get to the summit plateaus which were capped with soft sandstone pinnacles, which I&#8217m not sure if they could be climbed, although a historical reference claims it is so. I&#8217m guessing they are about a 4,000ft climb. The only information I could find on this mountain refers to a historical reference in which in which Heinrich Barth, one of the greatest Saharan explorers, reached the summit, but was completely exhausted and thirsty by the time he got there. One the way down, he lost his way and collapsed and to stave off thirst he cut open a vein to drink his own blood. 27 hours after setting out, he was found by a local Tuareg man, feverish and close to death. We carried plenty of water. Thrills, fun and excitement abound&#8230&#8230now its back to school for the final term. FYI, the school website is now operational at: Ma&#8217as salama&#8230&#8230Steve and Maria We dance round in a ring and suppose,/But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. Robert Frost