dispatches aperture poste restante etcetera

Road to Erg Chebbi
By Evelyn - 28 May, 1999

Page 1 of 4

Click to Enlarge

The morning sun was already high by the time we left for the desert area called Erg Chebbi, 26km from the Moroccan border with Algeria. The plan was to be up and out by 7:30am but fighting the fire the night before knocked out Ibrahim (our chaffeur-guide). I crawled out from under the berber tents (on a concrete rooftop) where we slept before 6am to see the sun cast its warm glow on the rocks of the Todra Gorge. Soon after, Gregg got up and we headed out for a walk into the gorge. We came upon a mother and her two daughters on their way to work on their fields. Seeing us, the daughters ran up and told us to take their picture. When we declined, they demanded a dirham (ten cents US) anyway.

The day's drive of 250km would take us 8 hours. The first stretch of road was the same familar terrain as we'd seen the day before—the odd kasbah overlooking a lush green oasis valley, dotted with pale clay—baked dwellings. The car windows were all rolled down, letting in a steady hot breeze that held us each in a trance-like state listening to West African beats from Ibrahim's stereo.

Click to Enlarge

Our trance-like state was broken as soon as we hit the desert. The thick dusty air looks like dense fog and in the distance you can see mini-tornados dancing their way across the barren landscape. Before us, the straight and narrow road would disappear in a cloud of dust and sand. Similar to the experience of going through a car wash, you begin to wonder how well sealed are the crevasses of the car. The effect of sand collecting on the window frame is mesmerizing the way an hourglass is.

Click to Enlarge

Perhaps because there is nothing else to do on these desert roads, drivers entertain themselves with a game we call chicken. Only one car at a time can fully fit on the paved part of the road; the shoulders slope off abruptly into gravel and dirt. And because the road is paved, drivers find no need to slow down. Like Ibrahim most just fold in their side mirror—every little bit helps. Usually, but not always, the bigger vehicle wins. The five of us were in a Fiat Uno, often passing tour buses several times our size. I had an uncomfortably good vantage point from the center back seat. Ibrahim would see the oncoming vehicle, stay center to the road at around 90km/hr, and about three car lengths apart, he would sway left of center into the path of the oncoming vehicle. This way he would force his opponent to react and lay greater claim to the road. Only at the last second would he throw the wheel right to avoid head-on collision. Sometimes we would end up on the shoulder, in which case the stronger traction of the right front and back tires would throw the car off its equilibrium.




Road to Erg Chebbi
  Il y a un feu!
  The Mauri Visa Game
  Rabat Run-in

  New York
    New York City
  West Africa
    The Gambia
  Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember; and I remember more than I have seen."
-- Benjamin Disraeli
  © 1999/2000 ~ All Disasters Deterred.