The Africa Tour
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2.Stage (March/April 1990): Tunis - Tamanrasset (Algeria)
We are in Tamanrasset, 1400 meters above sea level where it is comfortably cool. We have put the largest part of the Algerian desert behind us now but the most difficult one still lies ahead. The odometer stands at
5650 kmsand it is another 400 kms to the border of Niger -gravel road!
Jens and I left Tunis at the end of March, heading for the desert. April is the month of Ramadan. For a practicing Muslim, a month of fasting until after the
19 o'clock prayer. Luckily, we were often invited-in by sympathetic Algerians, who fed us behind closed doors. A strange feeling that was, to be eagerly feasting on delicious meals in front of our fasting hosts. In the north we rode along the coast until we reached the not so inviting sea-resortAnnaba. Much more attractive in relation was Constantin, though almost inaccessible, even to us. It lies, surrounded by rugged gorges, high up on a mountain. Close to the 1800 meters mark along the mountain pass and over the Massive Aures, lies Timgad, one of Africa's most well-preserved roman settlements, easily comparable to Pompei. Where roman peddlers once haggled openly over their produce, our currency was now being exchanged at four times the normal rate and with much furtive scurrying. Like the little urchins who started throwing stones when their wishes weren't met, persistent money traders in their greed for foreign currency even pursued us by car.
We then passed through the deep Rhoufi Canyon, with the houses of 2 oasis protruding from its sides like balconies, and entered the desert at Biskra, before us lay boundless desert. Unfortunately April is not only the month of fasting but also one of countless sandstorms. After recovering from the obligatory diarrhea at the oasis El Meghain in the care of a very hospitable English teacher, one of these sandstorms hit us full force. The sand following us through every possible crevice, we shelter from the worst winds in an unfrequented guesthouse. The storm that followed hit us worse. Appropriately named, the 200 kms long, dark tableland, the Tademait-Plateau, "Garden of Satan", offered no refuge when suddenly day turned into night. But the spook didn't last long and we managed to recover our trail. During the following days, we experience the vicious sands on many more occasions. Worse, however, were the constant headwinds that drained us physically but more so, mentally. The early afternoons were now spent under scarce trees in the Queds (dry valleys) or under stationary trucks that were being used for road maintenance by the Algerian army. After EI Golea we were covering stretches of up to
200 kms,where the only freshwater and food available was that of compassionate passers-by, like truck drivers and tourists who would share their provisions with us.
Even a broken bicycle frame could be repaired in the middle of the desert! After half a day's wait for the power failure (which had been caused by yet another sandstorm) to pass, one of the locals welded the frame good and proper, in anticipation of expected foreign currency. Naturally the conditions on our 1800 kms through the desert were often pushing the limits and my tolerance was wearing thin but there were also many moments and unforgettable views that made it all worthwhile. With one of the many Germans who traffic in cars into Niger, I went on an adventurous outing into the neighboring Hoggar-Gebirge , up the
2700 mhigh Assekrem. Through vast erosion by sandstorms, rain and extreme temperatures, ancient volcanic rock lies exposed in the form of high towering rocks and needle -like basalt structures that mark this almost lifeless landscape. Jens and my ways part here, at Tamanrasset. We have each plotted out individual routes through the rest of Africa. One of the worlds hottest areas, the Sahel, awaits us both never the less, with average maximum temperatures of 50°C in the shade, where after the milder climate of the Gulf of Guinea awaits me and is bound to compensate for endured pains.
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