18 December 2004

Roughing it - sort of

I never thought I'd look forward to camping quite so much. But after a week of delays, empty promises and broken plans, we were desperate to get away from civilisation.

It's all relative, of course. We arrived in three Toyota Landcruisers, the basic model, not like the flash monsters populating the freeways of Dubai. But we had a support vehicle carrying tents and mattresses, our drivers doubled up as cooks and had even managed to get supplies of fire wood. So not that basic. We put up our tent next to one of those marching sand dunes, a vast and perfect crescent with a sharp edge over which the sand flows slowly but inexorably at the thinnest whisper of wind. From the top we could see columns of similarly shaped dunes, all lining up in the direction of the prevailing wind, all pointing their crescents into the lee of the breeze, curves like the quarter moon.


A Marching Dune

There were car tracks on the desert floor when we arrived, no doubt from previous travellers. They disappeared into the body of the dune as if swallowed up, as if the drivers and their cars vanished into the twilight world of the sand. Of course what really happened was that the dune moved and the tracks, made a few years ago, have been preserved by lack of weather until the dune moved over them.


Disappearing Car Tracks

The further we drove into the emptiness the more ground down the environment became. It was like looking at the fast-forwarded development of the end of the Earth. This is what land will look like when weather is finished with it. Erosion has done it's damnedest here to reduce mountains, valleys, rocks and any kind of landmark to an even yellowish brown mush of small pebbles and coarse sand. It would be difficult to find a more homogenous, more arid and dead landscape. Sure, there is life here: We have seen tracks of dogs, snakes and mice, also ants and crows appear occasionally together with the ubiquitous flies, but the overall impression is dead emptiness at the end of time, all variety turned into inertia.


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