It took us another hour driving from El Akabat to White Desert. It’s dark already but the driver didn’t turn on the light in order to save the battery for the night. The area we were going to camp was far off the road. Although rangers put stones to mark the direction, it was totally dark and I could only see some huge rocks here and there around us. It’s certainly not an issue for our driver – he was driving fast! The guide said that they could remember the direction by the shape of these rocks, but to us, they all looked similar.
We met other tour groups at the camping site. We didn’t camp together but we kept each other in sight. Once we found the pivot spot, the driver and guide started setting up the camp. They put the cushion on the ground, used the jeep as the support to setup two sides of wall with blanket. The car had two batteries to power the light. When the camp was all set, they started cooking – the driver was cooking Egyptian spiced rice and veggi stew, while our guide lit the fire to cook BBQ chicken.
We were lucky that there were no moon at the night and the only light source was from our camp. I hadn’t seen these many stars for long time, maybe the last time was at inner Mongolian grassland. I could clearly see the milky way and watch stars rising and setting over the horizon. This was the wonder we came here for. At the moment, the only thing I wanted to do was watching them … besides taking pictures. I tried to shoot star trails for several times, but my tripod was not heave enough, so after half-an-hour exposure, the star trails always got derailed. The pictures of the Milky Way were quite successful.
After taking some photos, our dinner was ready. It was the best dinner we had since we came to Egypt. The salt and spices were perfectly balanced in the rice and chickens. It’s not because we were hungry, they were delicious.
We had a choice to either sleep in the tent or under the sky. We were not that adventurous so we chose the tent. Our guide and driver did not need the tent, they got used to sleep openly in the desert, the blanket wall was enough for shielding them from the wind. At about midnight, we were woken up by the squeaky sound around the tent – we were visited by fennec foxes. In fact, they had shown up during the dinner. These animals are only a little bigger than cats. They survive in the desert by searching food at night and eating everything that are eatable. There were really not many eatable things here without human visitors.
It’s 5am in the morning when I woke up the next day. I forced myself to get up to take more photos. When the dawn broke, we for the first time saw this land and the bizarre rocks shaped by wind erosion.
After a quick breakfast, we set off at 6:30am. We stopped at several White Desert’s signature spots. One down side to go with the tour is that you have to follow their schedule not yours. We only had a few minutes to take several snaps at each place. But without the help of the dedicated driver and guide, it is impossible for average travelers to access this spectacular area – we had no idea about this place before we planned the trip. Although this place deserves more promotion, we feel lucky that we could get here before it is spoiled by tourism.
In Bahariya, we were impressed by a hot spring in the desert, then we were picked up by a minivan back to Cairo.
We had Hot Dogs at a gas station near Cairo. The roller coaster and other familiar amusement park facilities could be seen afar. It’s a new suburban district and an expensive one according to our guide. We thought about going to Citadel if we had time, but the traffic again was bad and we didn’t have energy to walk another 2 hours anymore. We directly headed to the airport for the flight to Luxor at the night.