The Sahara truly is a magnificent place.
Everything you’ve seen or heard about this land of sand is true.
Sandy waves as far as the eye can see in either direction and deception.
A birds-eye view gives a better understanding, of how these towering dunes are created by shifting sands. V
Valleys appear like moon craters in a landscape the size of Europe.
This vastness is the desert’s oversized misconception, it is easy to loose orientation. If you do, good luck to you.
Running out of water here is both, lethal and paradoxical. The Sahara Desert holds the largest underground freshwater reservoir in the world in sandstone caves buried in hundreds of meters of sand and stone.
Oasis are the few places, where the water reaches the ground surface.
‘Reading’ the sand properly is a vital exercise that will make the difference between pleasure and pain, or even death.
Horned vipers, so-called Sidewinders, leave an S-shaped trail over the dunes as they travel. This looks as amazing as efficient on film. Do not follow these tracks, unless you feel a bit ‘Crikey’. Although buried in the sand to attract reptiles, the chances of being bitten by a viper are slim. But ‘a’ chance remains. Scorpions prefer to hide under stones during the midday heat, who could blame them? On wintery cold nights, scorpions are attracted by the heat from Open Fires. Sit up high around the fire and keep an eye out for those venomous critters. Check your shoes, if you are wearing any, and always close your tent zipper completely.
Silver ants wear a protective and reflective silver suit. This allows them to tackle the heat a little longer than other insects, which get baked on the sand.
It’s sticky business.
In no other ecosystem at sea level is the temperature difference during winter months as obvious as it is in the desert. 30+ degrees Celsius during the day can quickly drop below freezing point overnight.
It is the temperature that indicates sand and driving conditions. The burning sun warms up the air particles within the sand, which then expands.
The hotter the sand, the more the air expands and therefore the softer the sand appears. It is ALWAYS easiest to drive on soft sand early morning.
In extreme heat, these sand particles hover over the ground and a little bit of wind can create the deadliest threat of all.
Sandstorms can extend over several 100 km in width and bury anything in their path. These sand grains enter the atmosphere and fertilize areas like the Amazon Basin, 1000,’s and one kilometer away. How amazing is this planet?
The wind is also a significant factor in your off-road driving experience.
For example, an easterly wind carries the sand from the eastern side over the top to the western side.
What that means, is that the eastern side will be easier to traverse, as the sand is sturdier on this front.
All these aspects are solely common sense, which is what you need to survive out here. Or anywhere.
Geographically and unfortunately, Tunisia’s desert doesn’t hold oilfields as the neighboring countries do.
Tunisia is a very poor country and relies heavily on the tourism industry.
The northern rim of the Sahara Desert is very popular with off-road enthusiasts from Europe.
Overcrowded ferries from France and Italy yield easy access to Northern Africa, which clearly takes the fun out of my adventure.
It took THREE hours to actually leave the ferry on our return to Rome. Cars on two parking levels were combatting inch for inch to get to the ramp. Drivers arguing and squabbling with each other.
Air pollution from hundreds of running cars in poorly ventilated chambers. Inhumane behavior at its worst, is simply disgusting.
Sure, not everyone is lucky enough to live in Australia,
where I can choose my ecosystem domain of choice for the day, or a week or so.
But that is the reason why I live there.
However, it is the Sahara Desert that takes the beating. Despite its size, it is still a fragile ecosystem.
Animals big and small depend on the few trees that sparsely remain here and there.
They offer shelter, shade and food for desert dwellers. These scrubs are part of this gigantic ecosystem.
Instead, whole trees are burnt to the ground. For what? Because we can?
The biggest killer of the Sahara Desert, or any place on this planet, is rubbish. I couldn’t believe how many plastic bags and bottles lined the Sahara tracks. Cigarette butts are simply flicked out of the hands of careless smokers. It is the combination of arrogance and ignorance of us humans that really pisses me off. WE are too fudging lazy to discard our rubbish properly, when we should only leave footprints and impressions behind.
WE went through so much more trouble to buy and collect those items, why is it so hard to put them into a rubbish bag? Are they really that big and heavy, that we can’t collect them and discard them properly? I am embarrassed to be a human. Here I am feeling guilty about leaving toilet paper buried in the sand, whilst glass bottles are smashed and left behind with broken camping chairs.
Yet, everyone blames someone else and not the man in the mirror. It’s just not good enough. How is Mother Nature ever going to survive, if our growing population teaches juniors not to respect nature’s law? What answers will you have, when they ask you in some years’ time about the state of our planet?
My hope and faith for the survival of this planet, the only one with coffee and chocolate, is fading day by day. There’s no planet B, it’s as simple as that.
One thought on “The Sahara Desert; part seven, Signs of Life and Death, Douz, Tunisia, Africa”
Thank you for these beautiful pictures and your so truly comments.
Good look for further travels and maybe we meet again somewhere.
Cornelia and Jean-François Christinet
(we met in Lusaka Pioneer Camp and in Lower Zambezi National Park and just before you entered the park and we left the park and you took pictures of the killing of a buffalo by 3 or 4 lions)