Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

What can I say, I’m 50 and feel much younger. I love photography although not obsessed, and I try to take life not too seriously : )

Part 9 - An ocean of burnt dunes

Beauty ………. No one could be looking at what was advancing towards me without emotion.

Orange waves of velvet contrasted strongly against the intense deepening blue of a clear post stormy sky. The dunes of Erg Chebbi welcomed us although not easily as our time was shortening, the sun dropped ever more quickly towards the horizon and our driver realised his mistake with timing. The 4×4 shot over the hardened rippled land which shattered our image of beauty and our fillings within our teeth. The tortuous journey went on for only minutes but my arms ached with bruises and holding tightly to anything and we were relieved but laughing when we finally saw a group of saddled long lashed, and I have to say, good looking camels. The light was intensifying, the dunes no longer the light orange of a wispy flame. They had taken on escalating jewelled tones, rich and precious. The shadow worms of windblown beach like ridges ever moving across the dunes.

The 4×4 ride now seemed cushioned comfort in comparison to the unyielding hardness of the saddle, my short cropped trousers being my only protection and totally inadequate to the chaffing at calf level against the sandpaper hardness of the blankets being used. Raw skin began to burn as we rocked in slow motion up towards another top ridge of another sand dune, a plateau opens up and we see boulder like extrusions against the soft even blanket, camels resting. A few adventurous people were now standing appearing like stegosaurus plates along the dunes topmost ridge. Our time was limited and running we attacked the slope. My son, a rugby player and gym enthusiast with the lean body that only a youth can have rode the surface, I am none of these and despite my desire and mind wishing I crash landed in a coughing fit inhaling sand three quarters of the way up. Dragged by both the youth of my son and the camel driver I reached the summit, not too strong a word, my small Everest. However the sand had reached deep into my chest and I founf myself retching, the beauty around me blurred in my tears as my body tried to excavate the sand out of my lungs. Water dowsed the fire in my throat and chest, feeling obvious as I drank keenly, the eyes of the Ramadan fasting camel driver on me.

An ocean, the burnt dunes appeared to move wave like as the shadows lengthened and the heat haze quivered above them. I looked around and as far as I could see dunes only existed. The sun now began its rush towards night, the cooling sky had encouraged a few timid clouds to form which textured the sky. We sat oblivious of others watching perfection.

Goosebumps reminded me that the sun had now dropped from view, the chill of the desert very rapidly attacking our sun scorched tenderised skin. We slide like children getting the last enjoyment out of our day down to our camels. The driver brought us quickly to earth with a selling opportunity out of the sight of bosses, small objects bought and haggled yet not wanted.

Friction….never should be underestimated. The slow wave like rocking motion going up turned into sharp jolting stabs of movement, my body slipped towards the hard pummel continuously, my hands no longer saving my camera but myself. Even with this pain the raw skin at my calves screamed louder, sensitized and screeching. I would lift them away from the blanket however I now balanced like an acrobat on a moving wire. My body pivoting sideways and forward, no legs to clamp at thigh, knee or ankle level.

Dusk had definitely come. The 4×4 warm cushioned comfort is a welcome ride, however if we thought roads would be followed we were again wrong our 30 km journey took us out across the barren rocky land. No signs, every now and again I could view, in the bright beams, a tyre track, the dark of the desert is total however today we were accompanied by the almost torch like brightness of a vast moon. She shone showing us her craters and shadows with white beauty. I have never seen a moon as beautiful as her. We stopped, no where special, just to view her.

Couscous and Tagine, a beautiful delight of a meal, welcomed us after we had showered out the sand. I walked to our outside meal with the gait of film western cowboy; cream soothed and would work its magic as did the food. Sleep visited us that night quickly however we knew an early start was needed as a journey of 700 km was to be covered the next day.

Journal Comments

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