We started our 2014 travels in Iceland. Land…of ice. And spectacle.
It seems only fitting, therefore, that we end it in the total opposite part of the word.
By camel. Obviously.
Typically, we arrive in a storm. Bad weather follows us around the globe. It’s a wind storm, luckily, not a sand storm. It’s not hot enough for a sand storm. It’s probably not even above 30 degrees; it got up to 56 during the summer!
It’s obviously not a rain storm, either. It rained last month, after all – you can tell by the shocking amount of greenery. It probably won’t be due to rain for another five years.
So yes, it’s not that hot. By it’s dry. Very dry. Perched on the back of a lumbering camel, plodding straight into the sun and the howling wind, it’s very much like experiencing a fallout.
It is easy to imagine the desert as a mass of sand. That’s what the movies would have us believe. But that’s because vast rolling sand dunes are pretty epic.
The reality is far less pretty, but arguably more epic…
We’ve come all the way from Iceland to the Sahara this year, yet one aspect of the landscape is hauntingly similar: the nothingness. The wasteland. Where Iceland was covered with volcanic debris, here we are surrounded on all sides by mile upon countless mile of barren rock and dust. Even the sizeable stones have been ground down to sand and blown thousands of miles away.
There are no roads or signs – obviously. We rely on a couple of heavily-wrapped nomads, who navigate the landscape by instinct and memory. They stop us at outlying camp for a massive lunch, then march onwards into the nothingness until, eventually, we find some small dunes.
Here we stop for the night. We eat another enormous meal, drink copious amounts of sickeningly sweet green tea, and sit around the campfire – swapping riddles.
Vikki and I don’t know many riddles. Luckily, the nomads know plenty. There’s not much entertainment readily available when you live in the Sahara.
Eventually we sleep in a tiny tent. Or rather, we lie in a tiny tent and wait for the dawn. The wind is so strong that it constantly blows sand through the walls of the tent itself, making sleep – and even breathing, at times – virtually impossible.
When we finally rise – and consume a vast breakfast – it barely takes any time to break camp, load the camels and make our way to our next destination: Erg Chigaga
Finally, we discover big dunes. Dunes like you see in the movies. Dunes big enough to sandboard down and, with much leg and lung-burning, clamber back up again.
This is a good way to end the year’s travels.
By feeling farther away from anything than ever before.