This was a day of so much magic that I am not going to give it a number or a date. Woke at dawn, all quiet, sun just about to bounce above the horizon, and take myself to the top of the highest dune in sight of camp.
Salute the sun with the world at my feet. I have not taken a camera as photos do not do justice to what I can see and I am determined to make the effort to remember – the photos are in my mind’s eye.
The dunes change colour as the sun rises, lilacs and greys giving way to pinks and whites. Sit down to be still, and as the noises of the camp start up, I allow the sudden breezes to blow the sounds away. I am not hot, nor cold, neither hungry nor thirsty, I have no needs other than to sit still and have no-one near. This is what I waited for and will come back for.
Right, back to reality. After breakfast it’s time to pack up the camp as we are moving further into the Sand Sea today. Just as we get ready to move one of us is really feeling very unwell. It’s amazing how quickly you can be overcome by heat, dehydration, stomach upset. We sit down and medicate, rehydrate, spray and cool, cool, cool. My secret weapon comes out – I brought a shade sail to tie between the cars.
As the sun gets higher the shade shrinks and we are increasingly crowded into a tiny area. I thought the hardy locals would sneer at my pathetic triangle sail, but this was what I brought it for, recalling how quickly people go down with the heat if you have to wait for something to happen. Anyway, they appear to be quite impressed – the sail is tied between the roof racks, and allows a breeze through.
Whilst waiting for recovery to start, we watch a dragonfly trying to catch a moth – there is always insect life nearby no matter how isolated you think you are. Once we are all fit enough to move, we drive to a huge salty lake, but there is no way down to the shore. Photo opportunities taken, we are warned not to walk into the bushes as the snakes are waking up from hibernation.
Brightly coloured swallows flit about, there are gerbil, fox and scarab beetle tracks everywhere. No swim, so off to try swimming in the sand sea. Dunes are getting bigger and weirder all the time – fantastical shapes. We went down one so steep that I felt the gear in the back of the truck move into my seat.
The heat continues intense as we play with the desert, heads completely wrapped in local scarves to protect us from the triple threat of sun, sand and wind – also saves on the suncream, only sunglasses on show.
As the day wears on the sand softens, losing moisture. Eventually Team A pulls it’s tried and tested stunt of getting stuck in a depression, so the usual procedure applies; everyone gathers around to watch them, and no help is offered unless asked for. We drive to another saltwater lake for lunch. The shore is soft and muddy, like quicksand, so we set up our picnic on higher ground.
There are flamingoes grazing in the shallows – we can see their pink legs and S necks through binoculars. Not to be outdone by my flimsy triangle of shade, a full dining pavilion with roof and carpets is constructed, and we partake of luncheon at our leisure. Most civilised. On a privy expedition I find a flamingo feather, which stops the arguing over whether or not they really are pink in the wild – the feather is half pink and half white – a magical find. Hurtle back across the desert as we have to find the next camping place.
Easiest way is to get back on the asphalt (that’s a road to you and me), drive south and get back off-road. GPSs and maps checked – where is the road from here? One of the experts cuts to the chase and gets his binoculars out – “it’s over there” – end of discussion. Zoom down road then back onto the sand. We are going to see some very special dunes, and this is the deepest we will get into the Great Sand Sea.
They call them “ice cream dunes” as they look like whipped ice cream, dunes piled on top of dunes. They are almost impossible to drive over and a route for the five cars is carefully picked out by the lead car.
Find a fabulous camping place deep inside, surrounded by creamy mounds of sand carved out by wind. A magical place. A yellow bird (maybe a wagtail) appears – we have see these everywhere – could it have followed us from the last camp?
Time for some training before dusk and setting up the tents. Plenty more grappling – now, 4th pattern here you go, now use 6th…..ouch……sorry……..don’t say sorry……oops…..don’t say oops…..use 3rd!
Tents and bedding set up, it is time for sundowners as dinner is taking a bit of time. It’s Team Z’s famed “Crocodile” – enormous fillet of beef, rolled and marinated in the cooler, then cooked on open fire. Takes a bit of time to cook, and so we sIt around having a taste test – Johnny Walker Gold vs Royal Salute vs Jameson’s.
Try running up sand dunes after that! It’s a kind of magic, especially controlling the descent. As we continue to wait for food Team A mull over what happens when you take on a member of Team Z in a transfer window.
Whilst we at Team Z have been enjoying the classics Team A have had to listen to their new player’s choices. “Bang Bang” has made a particularly deep impression – the David Guetta version, not the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band one – and they now know who Avicii is.
Well, that’s what happens when you try to lower your team’s average (age). Dinner over and world set to rights again, it’s time for bed, most electing to sleep out in the open air.