We woke up to a sunny day with a light breeze. We all enjoyed the shower facilities, knowing we were headed for the land of no-plumbing, ate breakfast and relaxed. After packing up and making sure our guides (Islam and Suada) had everything they (and we) needed, we headed out back into town.
Here’s when we realized the "Dip" stir we had caused the previous day. Apparently having four American Dips wandering through the White Desert may cause President Obama some concern (we were actually told, “We don’t want Obama to be mad.” We assumed the end of that phrase was something like, “… if anything happened to you.”) So after waiting at the Desert Police station for an extended period of time, one officer was finally chosen to accompany us on our overnight trip. So he climbed in Islam’s car and we now became Six Men and Julia: Camping.
As we headed out of Bawiti, we were able to capture some of the town scenes (we liked the sign this one camp had, offering "Rooms with pathroom" - the "P" and "B" issue in Arabic can be amusing at times):
We followed the two-lane highway for a while, but then Islam veered off onto the sand and much to Ben’s chagrin, we began our off-roading adventure. Yesterday, as we were relaxing around the camp, Badry, the man himself, stopped by to chat. We talked about his expansion efforts, the new generator that allowed a constant flow of electricity (this was new), his family, etc. Then he gave us his advice on life, love and off-roading. It all came down to this: there are two types of sand, male sand and female sand. Male sand is hard, unmoving (uncompromising), and female sand is soft and yielding. The latter will suck you in and trap you; at least according to Badry. So for the next 24 hours Ben must have muttered a hundred times, “Stupid female sand,” as we were spinning our wheels, or “Avoid the female sand!” I fear this has caused an even greater setback in his relationship desires.
So our first stop on our off-roading desert adventure was in the Black Desert. These golden volcanic formations are covered in black rock deposits. It looked like cookie crumbles everywhere. (I’ve done extensive online research and can find very little about this area. Some sites say these are iron deposits, other basalt deposits.) Regardless of the geology of the area, the terrain was slowly becoming other-wordly. To be in such a surreal environment, and to see no evidence of any other living being, was a remarkable feeling.
We all took a moment to marvel, oogle, and take in the wonder. Ben started calculating the best apertures and f-stops for the scenery, Jim felt the moment should be marked with a beer and Ron grabbed the chance to introduce the Ericsson Alien to, well, possibly the closest thing to his home planet. (The stuffed penguin is “Tux” and belongs to Ben. How is it that I’m the only girl on this trip and didn’t manage to bring a doll?)
Once we collected everyone back in the vehicles, we continued on. We stopped again below a volcanic formation that took our breath away. Thinking back, these sights just kept getting more and more amazing, but in comparison to what was coming, these were miniscule.