Sunday, 28 October 2012

Into the sand dunes!

February 5 1953 (Thursday) Land Mileage 1195
After the usual morning routine, breakfast, washing and packing, we were on the road by 07h00.    
Packing up in the morning
The dust was quite appalling, and the first sand dunes appeared in front of us.   Cameras had to be brought out and we made a short stop to record this part of the journey.   
While we were doing this, the trucks from the previous night had pulled up close by and filmed us with large cine cameras as we went on our way.   What they were up to, none of us knew; maybe we would hit the big time film studios yet!    We passed several signs marking small wells along the way, but we had already planned to carry on to El Goléa where we could top up with fuel and water.   
Dad adjusting the stays that held up the water tank plus extras at El Goléa.

It did not take long after 14h00 for the locals to see what were up to!
We arrived here just on 13h00, to find the place was literally asleep, until 14h00.   At that time, a little Arab boy appeared from nowhere and with considerable sign language explained where we could find petrol, sold us two eggs and then, sitting on the front of the Land Rover, he guided us into the "market square".    Here we bought twelve oranges and managed to find another egg; three between the four of us, quite a feast!!
David and Dad negotiating the cost of some food for us.
In El Goléa, we had to report to the Military Commandant; they took our names and address, not that the latter existed at this stage; the Land Rover was in fact the only address we had. Whether he ever understood anything we said, we can only surmise!
We had a cleanup with some 'wet towels' which we were carrying with us, watched intently by the little Arab guide, who was very fascinated.   We gave him one and much to our surprise, his towel was spotless after a clean around the face; ours were certainly not after the dust we had travelled through.   He, riding on the front of the Land Rover yet again, then took us to where we could fill up the water tank.    Somehow or other, the hose slipped and the little Arab drenched everyone within a short distance, which included David.  Screams of mirth carried through the air and it was a generally amusing time to all who had witnessed it.    While this was going on, an Arab with a badly infected arm approached - he obviously hoped Dad could deal with it.    The medical aid kit came out and Dad did his best at cleaning it up and putting a bandage on, to try to keep it clean.   The next "patient" to approach in hope of treatment was a one-legged  elderly man; he just pointed to the missing one; to this day we still wonder if he thought my father was going to miraculously produce a new leg for him!     It was only at 15h00 that the petrol station opened, and here the two trucks that had been filming us earlier, also appeared for fuel. 

We were soon on our way after this, not wishing to waste more time and we managed to put another 46 miles on the clock before deciding that we should stop for the night.   We had travelled over a hard lake bed which was characterised by small dunes and boulders.    It was wonderful being able to stop at any stage.   All one needed was a small area of firm ground and that was the stopping point for the night!   It was all fairly barren and camping anywhere did not prove to be a problem.
Breakfast and wash-time using a small bowl and sharing the precious drop of water!
February 6 1953 (Friday) Land Mileage 1359
On the road again by 07h20; the sun was already shining and the weather at this stage seemed very pleasant.     The trucks appeared again and waved us down to let us know that we should pick up water at Fort Miribel, as the water there was excellent.  Fort Miribel was built in 1894, after the capture of El Goléa in 1891 by French troops. It was an advance look-out post, intended to protect El Goléa against incursions.

We followed them to the Fort, which we discovered to be occupied by the Foreign Legion; their transport was by Land Rover -  where were all the story-book horses?   The directions which we had for this part of the trip were to pass a white cairn, where there was a new well and thence we were to ascend to a plateau.   
After 16 miles, we were to pass a ruin on the right and then 6 miles further on there would be a small hut on the right.    Following the trucks had made this part pretty easy.
Fort Miribel
We picked up water and topped up again with fuel and discovered that the trucks belonged to a French film crew, who had done the trip on several occasions!   
Waiting for Dad to fill the water tank up again.

Waiting in the queue for fresh water
We left ahead of them, after taking a few photographs, but as everything around was such a brilliant white, we wondered if they would ever come out!   The trucks passed us yet again a few miles out of Fort Miribel, and after this the drive became very boring.   We were crossing the Tademait Plateau, the true Sahara, and there were literally miles and miles of nothing but hard little black stones; not a heap or a bump in sight.   It seemed to go on and on and we were all becoming very restless and bored when finally out of the blue, a beautiful view unfolded in front of us and we had a very steep winding descent from the plateau.    
Sahara after the Plateau
We could see for some considerable distance and the trucks were again in view, parked at the bottom.   We stopped at the top to record the view on film and to appreciate the change in scenery.    After the descent, the ground remained hard for a short distance, but suddenly we found ourselves in heavy sand; this was how we imagined the Sahara Desert would be!   The track was quite good and, with low tyre pressures, we managed to make our way forward without any problems.

After passing a landing strip, we pulled into In Salah.    We were by now 851 miles from Algiers and having gone over the mountains, we had dropped to 900 feet above sea level.   This was the first time we had a serious language problem, trying to explain that we needed fuel.   Suddenly we realised that the problem was in fact that the garage fuel pump was not working, and we had no choice but to fill our tank with the spare jerry cans of fuel; there for just this sort of emergency!    They kindly gave us a bucket of water to wash in; obviously by this time we looked (and probably smelt) as if we needed one!   We found that the sand really stuck to one's skin and it was very refreshing to get rid of some of it.   We had a very interesting chat to a French soldier who appeared, to find that he had been serving with the forces in England in 1942.  How nice to speak to someone who understood us!   We only got away at about 17h00, so after a 2 mile trip found a spot to settle down and really have a good clean up.   The sand had seeped into every nook and cranny and the Land Rover was in need of a good sweep out.    We then tried to rid ourselves of as much sand as possible before having a meal and going off to ‘bed’.

To be continued :-) 

I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. Your narration is becoming more and more interesting.
    The protos, besides, are helping us to feel the deepest of those days of You.
    Take care and all good wishes.

    1. Pille thanks for the kind comment and I am glad that you feel as if you are enjoying the trip with us. Take care and have a good day. Diane

  2. There's a great phrase here: "The Land Rover was our only address". Great! I will remember it.
    I love the small horse in front of your car. It seems the one from Ferrari.

    1. Andrea, the land rover was our only address was literal, we had sold up everything in the UK, our caravan was somewhere on a ship, and we owned no property where we were going LOL. I still have the horse mascot from the Land Rover, it is quite similar to the Ferrari one except the horse has a blanket thrown over it. Enjoy your day and thanks for the comments, I appreciate them. Diane

  3. What an amazing adventure. I would imagine it was comforting to see the film trucks every now and then.

    1. Diane the advantage of seeing the trucks around meant that at least we were on the right track. No obvious roads and if the wind blew hard what was visible soon was obliterated. Dad was more than glad that we had a compass! Diane

  4. Film trucks? Ah, you were not alone for a while on this treck, and that must have been comforting to a young family in foreign territory. Looking for water and food all the time must have been so frustrating.

    1. roasaria the trucks appeared for time to time then disappeared for a few days. Water was always a problem and we had to fill up whenever we could. Food was not so bad as we had army rations that would have taken us through. We did though like to get fresh food when we could. Diane

  5. Hi Diane,

    This is again a really interesting chapter of your trip. I am enjoying reading about it. It sounds like even though you had long drives and lack of comfort, you still enjoyed every minute of it. I love seeing your photos.

    Take care.

    1. Awena thanks for the comment and I am glad that you are still enjoying the trip. We did enjoy the journey and I don't remember any harsh words anywhere along the way. We all just pulled our weight and did what we could and it ran pretty smoothly. Keep well Diane

  6. You really are a world traveler Diane! Have you ever been to Asian countries?

    1. Chubskulit Rose, We have been to Singapore, Phuket, Hong Kong and New Territories. Phuket was our favourite, one of the best weeks of my life. Keep well Diane

  7. The photos are an excellent accompaniment to your writing Diane. I particularly like the one of you crouched by the hamper whilst your father & brother wash. Real adventure stories! Until next time X Dolly

    1. Dolly it is good to have you back reading when you are so busy. Glad that you are enjoying the story though. Diane xx


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