February 3 (Tuesday) 1953 Land mileage 0715
The first big day of African travel was upon us, and the Sahara ahead! We had a healthy breakfast in the hotel, and David and Dad packed all the last bits into the Land Rover. All was securely fastened down; we could not afford to lose anything off the vehicle! We then had a bit of a delay; Dad had decided that we should cash some more travellers’ cheques and the bank only opened at 09h30. (I wonder if they still use travellers' cheques nowadays, considering that we all have bank cards?) The small desert outposts, where we were hoping to top up fuel and water, would surely take only cash!
Finally we were on our way and we drove out of Algiers on the road towards the Atlas Mountains and Blida, the first village on the route, only 32 miles from Algiers. This was an excellent road and after Blida, we drove through the incredibly lovely Chiffa Gorge, towards the hilly village of Médéa. The area between Bida and Médéa is the Chréa National Park.
Descending the other side of the Altas mountain range, we passed through several tiny villages, all of which looked very clean and tidy, in comparison with some of the earlier ones we had seen. There were also several railway crossings and we did have to wait for a train at one point. The road crossed a pine-covered plateau and then down the Mellah Valley, onwards to the village of Djelfa. We had a stop here and stretched our legs; David and Dad came back with some tinned beans, biscuits and some lovely fresh oranges. We then drove on to a spot some miles north of Laghouat, which we decided was a good place to stay the night, before we got into the town itself. The back of the Land Rover was dropped, for Mum to make up their bed. Dad put up the camp bed for David, while David took on the job as chef. We had a picnic case with us and everything was laid out in some style. Sausages and beans tasted delicious after our first day of travel and we even had a choice of tea or coffee to follow. As the sun started to drop and twilight came rapidly upon us, we hurriedly washed up and got ready for bed. David slept as planned under the vehicle, my parents in the concertina bed and I slept across the front seats. It was not a particularly good night; we had obviously stopped at a very busy interchange and heavy lorries trundled noisily in and out of Laghouat, in later times the provincial capital, for most of the night!
|Main Street Laghouat.|
February 4 1953 (Wednesday) Land Mileage 0964
We got up at 06h15, to find several Arabs around us tending their sheep/goats. (Some definitely not identifiable as either!) Mum was still hoping to see her Sheik on his 'whitecharger' but maybe this was still to come; on the other hand, maybe this only happened at the cinema! We had some breakfast and packed up and we were on the road again by 07h15. We stopped at Laghouat, 21 miles from our camp, about 270 miles from Algiers and at a height of 2460 feet.
We filled up with fuel and Dad decided to find a garage, where we could have a couple of extra supports added to the roof carrier. The water tank, now full, was very heavy and was of some concern, being affected by the vibrations from the road. The numerous heavy trucks had caused the road surface to become very corrugated and the Land Rover was already being shaken around! The garage where we had the job done was something which had to be seen to be believed! It really was something out of this world. Tethered in and around were a selection of donkeys and camels, plus a few dilapidated cars; none of the latter would probably ever move from the spot they were resting in! Most importantly, they did have a welding plant and some metal that could be used to do the necessary work! The power cables looked a bit the worse for wear and had several bare patches on them, but they did the job and left us feeling more confident that we were not suddenly going to have a water tank crash onto our heads! We took a couple of photographs of the garage and left around 09h30, feeling that the time had been well spent!
|The garage in Laghouat.|
We travelled on to Berriane, a small village which was built around a beautiful oasis. It was just like one would see in picture books! The green was really indescribable, a dark bluey green, quite remarkable and very, very pretty. From there we carried onto Ghardaia, where we arrived around 13h30. We were able to top up again with fuel and this was where we had to see the Algerian Customs. We had been told that, under no circumstances were we to pass through Ghardaia without getting our Customs papers stamped and reporting to the Military commandant. All this thankfully went very smoothly and we were soon on our way again; the shock arrived 14 kilometres out of Ghardaia, where the tarmac suddenly came to an abrupt halt, amid a huge cloud of dust. The track, as it could only now be called, was well and truly corrugated, dusty and dirty and suddenly we all knew this was what we could expect from now on! We continued until 16h45 and then stopped ready to set up camp for the night. Two trucks passed us while we were preparing for the night ahead, but other than this, everything around was very quiet and desolate.
|Sand castles in the Sahara!|
|Land Rover still in 'sleep mode' with the back down.|
To be continued :-)
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