May 12 to 14
Algiers, Tipaza and on to Tamanrasset
May 12th, Algiers, Sunny. All was in a mess during the past few days, save two things. One is that I totally recovered from diarrhea which really made me relieved, the other thing is that Algiers is much more beautiful than I thought.
We arrived in Algiers in the early morning of may 12th before dawn. We had a feeling as if we had traversed the time tunnel back to civilization. Our guide was a little late to pick us up which made us worried at the moment. Our guide is a Tuareg named Lamine. He was very pleasant. Then we drove to our hotel and during the time followed, we toured Algiers which was sort of at an atmosphere of war since there were extraordinarily quite a number of police and security in the streets. And we went to the Embassy and were met by the Ambassador.
We also went to the post office to get a stamp on our commemorative envelope as we had done in every of the countries we passed. After that we went back to our hotel to rest.
On the 13th, we went to tour Tipaza, the famous Roman ruins, 70 kilometers east of Algiers.
And on the 14th, we had a rest day at the hotel, then
we flew to Tamanrasset during the evening and met our caravan there.
May 15 - Friday:
Begin Camel Trek -- Tamanrasset - Assekrem
We arrived in Tamanrasset early in the morning and after check-in at our hotel, we went to tour the market in Tamanrasset. And after lunch, we drove to Assekrem, one of the highest peaks of the spectacular Atakor mountains in the Hoggar. It was an arid but impressive landscape. The cars took us to the Refuge at Assekrem. From there we walked for 20 minutes to the top. The view over the volcanic landscape with its chaos of black and forbidding rocks, basalt peaks, cliffs and mountains was breathtaking. Pierre de Foucauld, a French priest, built the chapel in 1911. He came to the Hoggar to study Tuareg culture, but was killed in Tamanrasset in 1916 during a revolt against the French. We spent the night in a dormitory in the Refuge de l'Assekrem, just under the summit.
Days 41 - 45 (May 16-17-18-19-20)
Saturday through Wednesday
Camel Trek: Assekrem / Aouknet / Tin Esmeguert / Edekelt / Ellel Narakaya / Illanianen
The dramatic Hoggar Mountains are a true highlight for visitors to Algeria's southern region. They consist of a plateau of granite and volcanic rock. Eroded cliffs and granite needles form fascinating shapes in pink, blue or black basalt formed into spectacular pillars. The view from Assekrem was overwhelming. The landscape below was chaos of black and forbidding rocks, cliffs, peaks and mountains.
We transferred to the camels on Monday morning, but the camels were not very comfortable. They were not like camels in China which have two humps and riders could gain balance between the two humps. But the camels we had in the desert had only one single hump and we had to put our feet on their necks to keep balance. Also it was not convenient because it was not easy to get down. Whenever we wanted to get down, we had to first try to explain to our captain our wish, but Captain did not understand English, and when finally Captain understood, he would make some sound signals to order the camel to kneel down so that we could get down. So a lot of time we spent in trekking not camel rides since we would stop to take photos very frequently.
Yes it was very very hot and dry and we were very tired every
day, but you could imagine how astonished and happy we were every day to be
able to see and experience the real Sahara Desert. So we were in definitely
good conditions and mood. There were six camels in our caravan, four for our
supplies and two for Fei Xuan and me to ride. And there were three Tuareg guides
among them only one had 8 years at school and knew a couple of English words.
So communications were done not through language but through gestures.
Day 46 - May 21
Thursday: Return to Tamanrasset
We returned to Tamanrasset in the afternoon on May 21. Tamanrasset was a charming town of red mud brick houses. The town emits a vibrant air, despite being situated in the middle of the Sahara desert. Tamanrasset used to play a key role in the trans-Sahara trade between northern and sub-Sahara Africa. Nowadays it still is a meeting point for Touaregs traversing the Hoggar. Overnight in Hotel.
Day 47 - May 22
Friday: Tamanrasset to Tamekrest
After a two-hour drive through the Hoggar Massive, we arrived at the natural spring of Tamakrest. Here in the parched desert terrain was a small waterfall that runs down the smooth pink and purple granite. Toureg herdsmen from the surrounding camps brought their goats and camels here to drink. Above the granite rocks was a small oasis with lush green vegetation. We camped near the spring at night.
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