April 3-5, 2014
Al Qasr was the first and smallest of the three towns that made up the Dakhla oasis and as we left we passed through the others. These villages were larger and more developed and we were happy that we had stayed in the smaller, more relaxed Al Qasr.
We stopped at a busy looking food stand on our way into Mut. To our surprise and delight, on offer were a sort of fruit calzones. Fresh dough was filled with apples, shredded coconut, sugar and spices. It was baked in a pizza oven and eaten hot. Delicious. It was a perfect snack.
Again, most of the day was spent in conversation with Nico and Julia. As it came closer to dark we passed by an ambulance station. Nico and Julia had stayed almost exclusively at these stations on the ride into Bawiti and had only positive things to say. We decided to stop.
Since there were four of us we didn’t want to assume that the ambulance drivers would feed us. Almost immediately though they were offering us dinner. We refused a few times, but they insisted. Foul, bread and lots of sweet tea.
Just up the road from the ambulance station was a television tower. There’s not much to do out in the desert and the men at the television station frequently visit the ambulance station. While waiting for dinner, we joked with the tv men. There’s no mosque, so at prayer time, one of the men simply sang the call to prayer. After prayer and before dinner there was enough time to have an impromtu dance party. One of the men really enjoyed showing off his moves. Julia and I were no match for him.
We had been expecting to put up our tent next to the building, but the ambulance drivers surprised us by giving us our own room complete with a big mattress. Julia and Nico slept on the mattress, letting us use their sleeping pads for some extra comfort on the floor. We finished the night with a movie.
The ambulance stations were striking in how poorly equipped they were. They didn’t have a lot of medicine or even basic first aid supplies. We saw a few nearly empty cabinets with old, dusty supplies.
As we left the ambulance station, the television men waved us over to stop and have tea, but we’d already set out later than planned. We pressed on. A man drove by in a truck then pulled over and asked to take a picture with the four of us. Of course we accepted. He offered us water too.
We passed by an abandoned city. It was strange to see rows and rows of identical buildings that were all empty. The train tracks were covered in sand and had bviously been unused for some time. We came upon another television tower and were waved over by the men there. They offered us tea and biscotti and let us take turns shooting their air gun.
These tv men told us about a French family with three children who had passed through shortly before we did. This was the first time we heard about this family, but months and many thousands of kilometers later, we were still finding people who had crossed paths with them.
After leaving the television tower, we only cycled a short distance up the road and set up camp near the train tracks. No trains passed through that night.
Approaching Kharga the scenery began to change. We began to see huge sand dunes, much more like what we’d imagined the desert would be. Scott and I were planning to stay the night in Kharga so I could get in touch with my parents to wish them both happy birthdays, but Nico and Julia were going to continue further down the road.
We shared a final koshary together and took guesses on when we would catch up to them again. As they hit the road, Scott and I began to look for a spot to stay. It had been easy in all the other oases, but it was difficult in this one despite being much bigger and developed.
I needed internet access but none of the places we checked had wifi. We were forced to settle for a boxy, imposing building. It was clean and had one of the most comfortable mattresses I’d slept on in a long time. That night I slept so well.
We wandered around the souk to pick up some fruit and veggies, and got falafel sandwiches from a small shop. We assumed the long line meant it would be good food and we were not disappointed.
April 3-5, 2014: 245.73 km (Total km: 8953.15 km)