Day 4-5: Bawiti, Bahariya Oasis

by - November 18, 2010

Bahariya Oasis on the horizon
I am currently nursing an electricuted hand, courtesy of the hostel computer which doesn’t really have any casing.  So there is another excuse for any typos.  Also, a notice for mum and dad, when I texted yesterday saying “the internet has desert” I actually meant that the desert has internet.  It was too expensive to send another text correcting that. 

Bedouin Tea on arrival

Yesterday we left Egypt’s sprawling metropolis of a capital for the Sahara Desert.  We had originally planned to spend 4 nights in Cairo, but we felt that we had seen what we needed to see, and were also starting to get a bit tired of it.  It is a city of 20 million people - an inconceivable amount that is nearly three times larger than London, and it heaves with an energy that is invigorating at first, but after with something as simple as crossing the road being fairly life threatening, we were after somewhere a bit calmer.  The bus journey to the Bahariya Oasis took 5 hours and was an amazing experience.  We drove through the oil fields to the west of the city where the landscape is completely barren, bar the odd oil derrick.  Half way through the journey we stopped at a small bus station and this was probably the only thing that resembled a settlement on the 300km between Cairo and the oasis.  To think that the Sahara continutes for thousands of miles beyond this is amazing.  The oasis was exactly what I expected to be, except on a far larger scale - all of a sudden there is a shimmering on the horizon that develops into a large green area covered in palm trees.  Bahariya consists of several oases, and we were staying at the main town - Bawiti.  A minibus arrived to collect us from the bus station and took us back to the hostel, along with three french people who we got talking to.

Pick up truck ride to town

We arrived at the hostel and were given Bedouin tea (which is very sweet) to drink in the shaded seating area, before being shown to our room.  I then spent two hours writing the preceding two blogs - it is a marvel that there is internet this far from civilization so I am not really complaining.  The owners of the hostel offered to make us dinner while we went into town, so after a little wander to see the sunset we came back and had a meal of soup, local bread and fish - all for about 2GBP (there is no pound symbol and the word pound is confusing anyway).  After the meal we were given fresh mango juice made from fruit picked from the garden, while we watched Argentina vs Brazil with Arabic commentary and also a comedy about two Egyptian guys on holiday in Bangkok which the family here found hilarious.  The nights here are epic because the sky is so clear - my camera can just about take photos of the massive amount of stars.

Tom giving me a motorbike lesson
Woke up late the next morning, which was surprising considering that my bed is actually made of bricks.  We showered, which was amusing because the water smells like rust and it is really just a hose on a hook.  It was warm though so we can’t complain.  We hitched a lift into town on the back of a pick up truck (all the locals drive them and are happy to let us hop in if we flag them down) and rented a motorbike for the day for 20GBP. A lot of the local Bedouin people have bikes and are happy to rent them out when they aren’t using them.  Tom had ridden before and gave me and Danni lessons for the morning, which was fun but tough on the sandy streets - I fell off when I tried to go too quickly around a sandy bend, but its all cool.  We then tried to go and find one of the springs around which the oasis is based, but only found little ones - or hot sulphurous ones that were not recommended.  A local guy saw we looked confused and decided to help us, telling us that a cool spring was “one minute away”.  Unfortunately it became clear that after half an hour of walking, ‘one’ was the only number he actually knew.  Amusingly, when we arrived it turned out that it was a little warm pool with water that came up just above our ankles - so tomorrow we are going to go and find one we can actually swim in.  After walking back into town and doing a bit of shopping and postcard writing, the three of us got on the bike and Tom drove us out into the desert.

Tom and our motorbike
This journey was epic, and three English people on a motorbike was definitely the most exciting thing that the town had seen in a while - EVERYONE waved or said hello.  It took us five minutes or so to negotiate the town centre and to reach the desert beyond, where the roads are deserted and we were able to reach far higher speeds (nothing unsafe mum and dad - I’m still alive right?).  After driving about 20km out of town, to where there was nobody around at all, we parked the motorbike by the side of the road, took the key out and wandered out into the desert.  The Bahariya oasis is surrounded by high cliffs and mountains made of sand and rock, so we picked one and decided to climb to the top of it.  The walk wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be - there were a lot of rocks in the sand which were good for getting grip.  At the top, me and Tom who were slightly ahead of Danni had the one in a life time experience of seeing a desert fox.  Apparently they are incredibly rare, but unfortunately we scared it off as we got over the crest of the ridge.  We decided to try and follow it, walking further into the desert whilst vaguely following its tracks, but we didn’t find it.  We headed back to the ridge and found a load of broken pottery which could have come from anywhere - Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Englishmen and Bedouin have all settled in the oasis, so to find pottery was epic.  We had a team photo on the ridge and then ran back down the dunes towards our motorbike.  It was approaching the time that we had promised to return the bike and it was getting dark, so we headed back into town as the sun setI decided I felt comfortable enough to hold my camera whilst on the bike, so there are now some EPIC video clips of us riding through the desert and the town, with every local that you see waving at us.
View over the Sahara

We hitched back to the hostel after a quality day and are now sitting around watching the TV and will go out for dinner in a bit.  We don’t know quite what we are doing tomorrow - we would like to find a cold spring and are also tempted to spend a night camping in a Bedouin village, but the prices they are charging are very high.  Who knows.  But log in tomorrow anyway. 

Team photo

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