Friday, January 17, 2014

Chad-Asher-Holidays 2014!

Chad - At the End of the Day! .jpg
Chad - Scenery 2.jpg

Chad = the all but covered military vehicleR2-06944-006A.jpg

This trip began when a  friend encouraged me to visit Chad - magnificent, nothing like it! So I had started researching  when Michael Asher mentioned he was planning a camel trek in the Ennedi plateau.  This would be for sixteen days, half with the camel and the rest via 4x4s, sleeping out except for the final night.  Impulsively, I invited myself along.  Afterwards, reality hit and I wondered if I could still do this kind of travel.  Turned out OK.

Camel treks are wonderful  ways to travel and be at peace with the natural world.  A meditative time.  Moving slowly, walking or on camel, you become part of the experience.  Not the way to go for  tourists/sightseers.  I can do both,  though I always want to go beneath the surface to understand a country and its culture.   Anyway,  I paid up and put doubts aside.

The group consisted of  MA, twelve participants, seven camel men including guide,  and

a cook and helper, The participants were an assorted lot -  from Mexico, Scotland, Kenya, Australia, Belgium, South Korea and the US. Half were  women.  Three had traveled with MA before.   All were enthusiastic  curious and positive.  MA, as always, was an excellent teacher of the ways and wherefores of the desert and the nomads. 

The actual camel trek was some 100 miles through desert dunes and scrub, sandstone rock formations, cliffs and buttes - going into hidden valleys that weaved through the landscape.  Gazelles occasionally darted across our path.  While there were some vehicle tracks  and nomads' dwellings about,  mostly, we were a solitary band trudging through countryside of unbelieveable beauty and contrast.  . 

Excitement came with the watering of camels at a local village, whose inhabitants  were friendly but reluctant to be photographed.  I did get a shot of a vintage military vehicle well covered with sand, a relic of someone's past war, that was in the midst of the village. The contemporary world had, at one point, invaded this peaceful nomad village. 

Rock drawings were discovered in several of the caves.  While one site was known by the cook, the other was a completely new find.  Awesome to be where years ago, Ancestors had lived.  There were also  pottery shards scattered about;  great discussion about their possible uses.  . 

I found walking on soft sand difficult and did more riding then previously.  I had a rather young camel, who I called Henry; he was good though he did like to suddenly sit down.  I now can get off a camel fairly gracefully but my boarding techniques are pretty gross:  clamber and climb, usually with someone  pushing!

The ending of the camel portion of the trek was a bit dramatic: a whirl of wind and we were in a mini sandstorm as we came into a sheltered oasis.  Not only hard on the camels but difficult for the walkers.  I could hardly see where Henry was going -  and hoped he was  as confident as he seemed.  But camping near a pond, filled with warm water from the nearby spring - marvelous!

On the return ride back to N'Djamena, we stopped to watch some 100 camels, grouped in queue, waiting for their turn at watering troughs.  A solo camel was pulling the water container from the well, a deep one.  Seeing the old ways, still working, was a moving experience for me. 

The travel to and from N'Djamena, was a transition from the old world to a newer one.  Also a change in terrain:  more scrub and acacias and less striking cliffs.  More vehicles and people.  Though one had be close to N'Djamena before finding anything resembling a road.  Lots of cross country driving.

Desert towns are a series of sheds with shops operating from them.  One gas station was a collection of drums of gasoline with a hose and nozzle on the side.  Dwellings are often mud brick/adobe and thatch with structure for animals and feed storage nearby. 

The final night was a chance to clean up at a charming Chinese-French hotel in N'Djamena after over two weeks  camping out.  Some used a tent; I didn't though one might have helped on several chilly breezy nights when I wish I had brought fleece pants in addition to my t-shirt. But it felt great to shower and sleep in a bed. 

I did  have several hours to look around N'Djamena the following morning: some large government buildings, an uncompleted religious building and lots of small shops and a large souk.  A work in progress. 

I always get asked about the food:  the food was good, excellent considering  circumstances.  Often, hard cooked eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch and pasta in the evening.   Sardines, tuna and goat.  Good cook.

Tour:  a five star success!  To be repeated next year (by MA though probably not me).   Cost was £3200  and worth every farthing.

Airfare:  $2400 via United, Ethiopian and Virgin America.  Almost missed the VA flight from Washington  DC home as the Addis Ababa flight was delayed.  FYI, VA is quite comfortable - their Economy seats are better than United's Economy-plus. Appearance is  high tech but there are charges for everything.  Very Steve Jobs.

Still getting the sand out of shoes and duffle!


1 comment:

DaisyG said...

A wonderful read. Would SOOO like to do something similar. Thank you for sharing this