Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Would You Rather: Two Deserts or Two Desserts?

When I was learning to spell in first grade, my teacher asked us if we would rather have two deserts or two deserts. Of course we all replied "two desserts!" and that was how we remembered that 'dessert' had two 'S's. Well this weekend I visited two deserts, and I am here to tell you that the experience could probably hold a candle to two heaping bowls of ice cream with chocolate sauce and cherries.

Initially a few of my friends and I talked about going to the Black and White Desert this weekend, so we made a facebook group. However, the moderator of the group decided to make it open, and soon everyone started inviting all their friends. We ended up with a group of fifty people that wanted to go on the trip. But hey, the more the merrier, right? The best part was that Brittany was coming to visit from Paris (yay!), and I was excited for her to meet everyone and go on the trip with us.

We left Friday morning at 7:30. Because Tim is wiley and/or mean, he told us we HAD to be there at 7:00, knowing that the buses were not going to show up til 7:30...ish. Yaani, it's Egypt time. Anyway, we all went to AUC and piled into several microbuses, which drove us for four hours out to a small town at the beginning of the Black Desert, where we switched to 4 X 4s. The 4 X 4s took us for awhile over completely paved road, and we were all getting very hot and feeling a little let down that we were not off-roading, when suddenly all the 4 X 4s turned off the road and drove us through rolling hills and open land, aka Mars. The Black Desert does not actually have black sand like the kind you would find on volcanic beaches in Hawaii. Rather it has regular sand dusted on top with black rock. We stopped to take some awesome pictures, climbed some small mountains, and drank a ridiculous amount of water.

Near the end of the first day, we started seeing small drifts of what looked like snow/talcum powder appearing on the ground. This, we learned, was the beginning of the white desert. We drove until we were completely on white sand among these really odd rock formations that kind of looked like Salvador Dali's version of a mushroom would look like. All our drivers quickly set up camp and a fire, and we sat around telling stories...and getting really, really hungry until they served a delicious meal of chicken, rice and potatoes. Then we brought out the "fun", as Helene dubbed it, and had a lovely time drinking sketchy wine and rum with pineapple juice. Then we all curled under our blankets and fell asleep under the clearest sky and most stars I have ever seen. Note: I can now point out Cassiopeia and the three sisters...which may or may not be a skill that will come in handy one day.

The second day we saw more of the White Desert, climbed more mountains, stopped at a hot spring (where all our guides took a bath...lucky them) and um, oh yeah, discovered that our guide probably engages in sex trafficking. He told us that he had two wives, one of whom was Canadian and spent every other month with him. We asked if she was originally from Egypt and was now a Canadian citizen, and he said no, she was born in Canada. Well...if they were actually married then he probably would have moved to Canada by now, but we all decided that she is probably a sex worker. That or a Canadian Muslim convert? Dunno, a mystery still yet to be solved. Aside from being weirded out/intrigued by our driver's marriage(s), the whole trip was really amazing, and I was so glad Brittany came to see it with all of us. After the weekend I can say I have a new appreciation for water and trees...and I really want to learn how to drive a 4 X 4. Stay tuned for new pictures to be posted on facebook.