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ThereAndBackAgain "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Algeria - Nov 2007

ALGERIA | Monday, 3 December 2007 | Views [1080]

Spent the best part of the month of November in Algeria. A little bit of time was spent in Algiers, Cherchell, Tipaza, before flying south to Ghardaia, and then on to the main point of the trip which was 10 day in the Sahara - basic camping, visiting Djanet and onto the Tardart region.

Incredible geological formations and huge sand dunes, rock carvings and paintings close the Libyan border. I successfully managed to climb up to the Tassili plateau - although only 600m or so in height it takes 4 hours and the underfoot conditions are treacherous - rocks and boulder - not sprained ankle territory but broken leg territory! Luckily neither and we all made it up and down again safely. Andy, my gym instructor, should be proud! On my return, he said I was the only one of his clients who comes back fitter than when they go on holiday! Well, no possibility of over indulgence on food or drink here!

The sand dunes of Moul el Naga and Tin Merzouga are gorgeously red - a classic desert landscape. Camping out was one of the highlights of the trip. Snug in your sleeping bag watching the stars cross the clear desert sky - beautiful, perfect place to be.

Then westward across the Sahara heading for Youfihakit, Tamekrest and the Hoggar Mountains. Youfihakit - never heard of it before, but I now have a beautiful lasting memory :) of a desert night. The landscape is all mushroom rock formations, quite bizarre. We were there at the time of the full moon and the light was something else - the closest thing to it is the light you get in the north of Scotland in mid summer when the sun has gone down but its light is still seen in the night sky. This desert light has a blue, grey, pinkishness about it - you feel like you are walking on another planet! Maybe it was the company!

The Hoggar is everything you see from its photos, a stunning vista from the top of at Assekrem with the mountains shrouded in all their glory at sunset and sunrise. A cold, breakfastless walk up but worth it. The guardian's bergamot tea was a most unexpected delight!

Three attempts to fly out of Tammanraset because of adverse weather conditions frayed our patience a little, and made us miss our day in Algiers itself. Never mind, the desert was the point of coming.

There is no place like the desert. There is no place I feel more at home. I seem to cope well with the dry heat. I love the open spaces, its quiet peacefulness, the forms of the rocks, the shadows they cast, the changing colour schemes from day to night. As Ahmed says "Le desert est tres calm". If you want to forget about the western world, the rat race, the hassles, the chaos, the stresses of our modern life, then this is the place to be. Ahmed recommends 15 days in the desert to de-stress. I'd love to do it. 10 days was far too short.

What hit me this time was first in Algiers airport and then even more so in Paris - the people, yes I'm now used to adjusting to the crowds, the noise and the light on returning, but this time what got me was the nasal onslaught, a sheer cacophony of smells - manmade smells - not just the aftershaves and perfumes of the airport duty free, but the floor polish, the toilet disinfectant etc  - all those man made, artificial smells that are just there, and ignored, normally. They were awful.

This trip made me realise just what I value in how some people respect their environment and are very much in one with it. When was the last time you saw a someone swerve his car to avoid a lizard, then stop to ensure it was alive, not stuck up the chassis somewhere but safe in the shrubbery; when was the last time someone stopped his car, you though to take a leak, but instead to pick some medicinal herb he's seen growing in the middle of nowhere. There's something almost Buddhist about it, even though the Tuareg are not obviously religious, they are clearly very spiritual. It brings you back to what really matters in life. I think that was why I was so emotional, so touched, on receiving a small gift - something given such affection, such generosity of spirit, that it dwarfed all the more expensive presents I've ever received and made them drift into oblivion. A small gift given with a big heart makes such a large impression. Perhaps there's a lot to be said for being in a smaller world but being more close to it. I'd love to return.


Tags: Deserts

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