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Published: December 1st 2008
This weekend adventure on November 21st and 22nd takes place in the Black and White Desert, and stars Andy, Wolf, Mitch, Chelsea, Casey, Trish and myself. We left Cairo at 11pm Thursday night in what is commonly known here as a minibus, but what might be called a Mormon van back home. Basically it's a big, white, 13-seater van. We drove 5 hours to where we slept from 4am-10am, which was this interesting compound at the Bahariya oasis. It's hard to describe, but I can tell you that there were a lot of mosquitoes. Our beds had mosquito netting over them and Andy, upon getting into bed, declared himself a princess. Apparently princesses have netting over their beds. When he woke up and discovered that my mosquito netting was purple, he was quite jealous. At first I had tucked mine up, thinking, "There aren't any mosquitoes here..." The minute I laid down and closed my ears I heard the whining. I scooted under my covers with only my nose sticking out, but still I was getting bitten. Finally I had to give in and pull my netting down. I still got about eight bites.
We left the next morning and
The drivers and our police escort eating breakfast
We stopped on the top of a dune at the beginning of the Black Desert to eat breakfast.
headed in two jeeps into the Black Desert, so-called because it's, well, black. This is because the large lava rock formations are eroding onto the desert floor. Andy, Wolf, Mitch and I climbed one of the biggest of these formations (Andy and I barefoot), which was probably only a 5.5, but made quite harder by the fact that the rocks were not stable and you had to watch that your footing didn't tumble away underneath you. On the top we added rocks to a cairn, then climbed down the other side where the jeeps met us. We bounced around the desert some more and then stopped for lunch at this coffee shop on a road in the middle of nowhere, where we ate bedouin-style at a low table, leaning against cushions with mats underneath us. They laid out quite a spread for us, which tasted allright, but may have given me food poisoning. Hooray!
After lunch we headed into the White Desert, which is comprised of formations of this white, very chalky rock that has been blown by wind and sand into very strange formations. The white rock is also all over the ground, and it's obviously this white
rock that gives the White Desert its name. First we stopped at Crystal Mountain, which is a mountain (more of a hill by Oregon standards) made entirely of quartz crystal, which also covers the ground. Looking around from the top of the hill, it felt like I was on the moon. We then went into the part of the desert with the formations, and then onward to where we camped for the night. We camped next to a large hill made of the chalky white rock that we all climbed up to watch the sunset. It was quite hard to climb because your footholds and handholds would just crumble under you, literally like chalk. We all got up, though much dustier than we had been at the bottom.
Since the sun was going down we lit a campfire, and our hosts started cooking dinner, which smelled delicious and, as it turns out, tasted pretty damn good. There was a soup with orzo pasta in it, vegetables cooked in tomato sauce and rice. And there was chicken, but I can't attest to its delicious factor. We were sitting around the campfire watching the food cook when one of our guides,
Casey going on an expedition
You can see why they call it the Black Desert
looking at the sky, remarked, "You've heard of four and five star hotels? This is the million star hotel." And then it was time for a Bedouin style campfire jam session.
Our driver played the flute and someone else played the tabla drum. Casey contributed by playing the empty wine bottle (if Youtube ever decides to upload my video, you can see the party in action!). At this point another guide who was friends with our guide brought a group of Germans over, as well as another guy named Mahmoud who brought a sheesha. We danced around the fire and hung out until about 4am, which apparently is bedtime on this trip. We slept mushed in like sardines on thin mattresses under grimy blankets, basically all cuddling because it was so cold. Before we could go to sleep though, we all just about died laughing while Casey told us about making Dutch ovens while in bed with his wife.
The next day was rather uneventful; it was basically our trip in reverse without all the stopping and taking pictures, but more food poisoning for me.
In other news, I found out today that the term Jedi, as
in Jedi Knight, comes from the Arabic word jed3 (the 3 is like an "a" sound, but you have to kind of choke while you're saying it) meaning basically "manly man."
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