The White Desert

March 26-27, 2014

We packed up and got ready to leave Ahmed safari camp and Bawiti. The word oasis had a new meaning for us and although we were excited to see more of the desert we were sad to leave this place. Wilhem gave us a warm farwell and made us promise to keep him updated of our progress and to eventually come visit him in the Netherlands once we returned to Paris. Karen sent us off with a large can of dates from the trees right next door.

The strong winds carved these beautiful formations.

The strong winds carved these beautiful formations.

Before heading towards the White Desert, we made a quick stop in town to pick up last minute supplies. We stocked up on some fruit and vegetables for that night and bought some falafel. For a few pounds, we left with 40 small falafel balls. This and a salad would be our dinner.

We were down to our last gas can and wanted to stretch it as far as we could. We hoped it would last at least until we got out of the desert and could figure out a new cooking system.

It was mostly flat leaving Bawiti. We passed through the Black Desert, so named because the mineral deposits in the sand give it a dark hue. It was pretty, but not breathtaking. Surprisingly, we also passed by a number of agricultural fields. It looked to be mostly oranges, and we were surprised to see them this far out in the desert. The floral smell reminded us a little of Turkey.

On the road to Farafra.

On the road to Farafra.

We passed our first police checkpoint. These guys weren’t as excited to see us as some of their fellow officers down the road would be. They were still close to town and so must be used to seeing lots of traffic. We always had to stop and sometimes show passports, but obviously the posts were communcating with each other since the next one knew to expect us.

The scenery became more impressive as we left Bawiti behind.

The scenery became more impressive as we left Bawiti behind.

It seemed like we were being followed by a car, which made us a little nervous. Finally the car caught up to us and a man was leaning out the window holding out two 1.5 liter water bottles for us. We pulled over and told him we could only carry one, thanking the men in the car for their generosity. Just after they pulled away, they turned around and asked us for the bottle back so they could replace it for a colder one.

We found a perfect camping spot just as we crossed into the White Desert National Park. It was near the famous Crystal Mountain, although a more apt name would be the Crystal Lump. Just another rock formation, it was possible to see the crystals that had formed over the years. A little bit anticlimatic, really.

Crystals in the rocks.

Crystals in the rocks.

We prepared our falafel dinner and watched the sun go down. The next morning we passed another police checkpoint. These guys were excited to see us! They invited us for lunch and we accepted since we weren’t planning on riding far that day. We chatted with the policemen (of course, only men), took photos and exchanged phone numbers while we waited for lunch to finish cooking. We had planned to get a local number in each country and gave the number out to anyone who asked. It wouldn’t work once we left the country, so we weren’t worried about our new friends calling insistantly.

These police were excited to see us and share their lunch.

These police were excited to see us and share their lunch.

We’d carefully carried all of our trash out from our campsite and hoped that the police could take it. Just like our first night in the desert, our bag was accepted then swung around the head and this time just tossed into the open desert. We were reassured that it was okay since the foxes would come and eat it at night, but we weren’t so sure this was the best disposal method.

Someone forgot his helmet.

Someone forgot his helmet.

After lunch we quickly arrived at the main entrance to the touristed part of the White Desert. The White Desert gets its name from the fantastical limestone formations, brilliantly white and blown into strange shapes by the wind. I’d hoped to camp near one of the famous formations, a couple of kilometers into the park.

The White Desert is a national park.

The White Desert is a national park.

We took a break near the entrance, long enough to enjoy some shade and take pictures of the maps of all the trails. It didn’t look like it would be that difficult. We started riding, but soon found that riding in the soft sand was impossible. We had to walk, straining to push the bikes at times.

Not the most appropriate clothing for pushing through the sand.

Not the most appropriate clothing for pushing through the sand.

After a few hours and about six kilometers, we still weren’t any closer to finding the special formation called ‘the chicken’ and Scott was ready to call it a night. We found a secluded spot and set up the tent. We’d seen one or two vehicles earlier in the day, but as we climbed up the small hill next to our campsite at dusk there was nothing as far as the eye could see so we thought we were the only ones there.

Big bug.

Big bug.

As it got darker we started to see small clusters of lights to our left, right and in front of us. It was local and foreign tourists who were also out camping in the desert. We set up our chairs and watched the stars come out.


March 26-27, 2014: 151.65 km (Total km: 8363.39 km)

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