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Published: November 6th 2014
What a way to start a day- alone on a sand dune and a desert sunrise in complete and absolute silence. I will always remember this morning....
Did you know that day old flat bread can be refreshed to perfection when laid directly onto the hot ash bed of a fire? It's probably contextual but that was the best flat bread of the trip- a little bit crisp, a little bit ashy and hot- so delicious. Perfect with fried eggs and lots of hot tea.
We begin the day with a hike to the oasis about an hour away. What is very cool are the hundreds and hundreds of animal tracks absolutely all over the dunes. Obviously stealthy, quiet as mice, mice and other little creatures (excluding scorpions- Hashem reassures me it is too cold for scorpions- Hashem obviously doesn't realise how intrinsically dangerous it is to live in Australia- what with the crocodiles, venomous snakes, redback spider, sharks at every turn....). There are lots of burrows too, to the point that they cave in as you walk over them. Despite all the tracks and all the burrows I didn't see a single creature.... except for the fox... and
1 swallow. We reached the oasis after about an hour of up and down dunes, the oasis was actually much larger than I thought, walking at the vegetation line you couldn't see from one side to the other as the height of the reeds was so high. The length of the underground stream feeding the oasis is about 7km and it's lined with reeds and rushes the whole way. Head back to camp to refill the water bottles then head off in a north westerly direction for another 2 hours or so, once again crossing every terrain the desert can throw at us. The aim is to climb a very big hill by 12 MD in order to rendezvous with another tourist who will be joining Hashem and I. It is really hot as we approach another dried up bed of quicksand- I say to Hashem, "it'd suck to be doing this in quicksand season", Hashem doesn't laugh- I explain my pathetic joke to him... he still doesn't laugh... After clearing the QUICKSAND (that sounds sooooo dramatic), we take a long, slow incline to our meeting point.
Me - "Is that a camel Hashem?"
Me - "looks like a camel, maybe I am seeing things, maybe I have heat stroke?" several seconds elapse
Hashem - "No, there are 7 camels, one is a baby" Hashem has made a joke.
At the top of the very big hill we wait for Ali and the tourist. It is still hot. I find a small tree with a small skinny shadow and avoid a small, skinny bit of sun. It feels pretty nice to take the shoes off. After 20 minutes there's till no tourist and my shadow is disappearing. Get up and have a look at the 6 big camels and 1 small camel. Build a tower with the many white rocks in the vicinity. Take some photos of my water bottle. Take some photos of my feet. Take some photos of my shoes. Finish my water... Hmm, no water. Middle of the day. Deja vous... Then we hear the jeep - Ali and Negar and Firouzeh and the tourist are here. Rescued! The tourist is called David from Spain. Negar has brought rescue lemon flavoured non alcoholic beer and it's very cold- delicious! The jeep ride
back to camp is great fun- Ali is a maniac- lots of huge dunes - so much fun.
Back at camp we devour the lamb stew, rice and bread that Ali has delivered. I'm allowed to get the fire going to make tea. Hashem and David from Spain do the dishes- first in sand then in water. I am liking the division of labour. David from Spain then has a siesta- probably because he's from Spain, before we go afternoon trekking. Actually he is having a siesta because he had caught a bus from Tehran yesterday, it then broke down and for 3 hours they had to wait at the side of the road. Consequently he didn't arrive to Ateshooni until 2am- a long day/night.
So, the afternoon hike. Lots of sunscreen, very happy to be wearing a hat AND my headscarf- the sun is beating down big time. We retrace the 2 hour walk from the morning, retrace the quicksand pit, re-climb the big hill then keep going. Another desert surface emerges- cracked, thin, peeling mud layers. Fascinating. David from Spain becomes my third new best Spanish friend (after Javier from Spain (Shiraz) and Ignacio from Spain
(Garmeh) over the course of the afternoon. He is 40, an engineer, from Barcelona but moving to Munich. He likes trance music, he likes to party, he has just given up smoking (this afternoon). We then move on to our common interest- travel and walking. His last trip was the El Camino Santiago, he loved it. I think I would too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago
Back to the trekking- we reached another fairly significant hill at 4.45pm, what made this big hill special was "The Grand Canyon" view that lay beyond it! Another surprise in the desert. We slid down into the canyon (much like the Mt Damavand sliding /sand skiing experience) and Hashem announced that we were going to climb Mt Damavand - another joke from Hashem... number 2 for the day.
Damavand being the enormous mountain like hill on the other side of the canyon. It seems Hashem was only half joking. Climbing the "Damavand of the Desert" was interesting- we had to go up one by one. Why? Well, to avoid being showered with rocks and sand from the person ahead of you. The surface was so unstable in several parts of the track that it would disintegrate
on contact. It made for an interesting ascent, done all fours for most of it! But it was a lot of fun!!! We all got to the top in time for sunset- an amazing, magical surprise ending to a day in the desert. Perfect.
But that's not all folks... we then slide back down the mountain and pick up the pace to get back to camp. It gets dark, then darker, then even darker as we walk fast, then faster, then even faster before we're saved by the moon rising and giving us a faint bit of light. The moon rises bright orange and brown, Spectacular. The good thing about the darkness is that I can have a pee- I get to use my GoGirl again- YAY! (I realised it had been about 9 hours since the last one despite about 4 litres of fluid for the day). We stumble on- literally stumbling over rocks, etc (I am reminded of Nicolas from Belgium that Mary and I met last year trekking in the Upper Mustang Region in Nepal- he had retinitis pigmentosa and was severely visually impaired- this is what it would have been like for him ALL the
time, not just in the dark that we had now). Anyway after 5 hours we hear a jeep, and then see it about 1km away. Ali has come looking for us- we guide him towards us by using our phone lights! Love my i-phone. We get to have another fast and precarious drive back to camp and then Ali proceeds to light the fire in about a minute and a half (I think Hashem told him it had taken me about 15 minutes at lunch time- I hope this doesn't mean I am relegated to doing the dishes!!!). Ali the wonder jeep driver has also brought dinner- potato cakes, cucumbers (David from Spain hates cucumbers), tomatoes and flat bread. So delicious.
The rest of the night is spent chatting around the fire drinking smoky tea then smoky coffee with coffee mate. I dig out a Cherry Ripe (brought from Australia and leftover from the Damavand trek) and divide it into 3- Very, very delicious. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_Ripe_(chocolate_bar)
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