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On that fateful trip to Oulata where I was served goat turd along with goat intestine (both the inner and outer parts, as it were), we also saw wind-carved rock formations in fantastic shapes, an ancient city where finger-painted fertility symbols covered the walls of the houses, and a live crocodile sleeping just a few feet away from Elliot, who was excitedly calling and pointing at it. Fortunately it either didn’t wake up, or it was just as scared of us, etc.

It’s that time of year again—the desert is calling. After a week of unseasonably high temps (in the low 100s), we are (thankfully) back again to cold nights and hot afternoons. It’s the excitingly-named “Vacation of February.” So, in a literal cloud of dust but without a hearty heigh-ho Silver, we are loading up the tents and sleeping bags and mosquito repellent, packing an extra packet of coffee just in case, buying long-life cheese, baking cookies, and heading inland. We are planning to spend 2 nights near the crocodile pits and 2 in a dry riverbed near a city situated along an ancient caravan route.

The crocodiles are interesting indications that this vast desert is indeed man-made. Left behind in tiny pools when the grasslands receded, they have continued to survive over the centuries while surrounded by sands for hundreds of miles. I hope we see them but that they don’t come too near. I’m really not very brave; I have a morbid, over-active imagination.

Always, before a trip, something happens to keep you from forgetting that this world isn’t perfect. Usually, something happens with your plumbing or electricity. Last year, the electricity went out the night before, so we couldn’t pack and got a late start. One year, the water was out, so I had to leave for a week unshowered and with dirty dishes in the sink. (Do you have a pathological fear of boredom? This might be the place for you!) This year, it’s the plumbing. The whole city is having water problems—we haven’t had a full reservoir for over 2 weeks now, which means I’m behind on laundry and the garden’s going a bit brown. Tonight, a kid accidentally bumped an outdoor pipe which burst and starting spewing our last bit of water over the shells (not even the green part!). Donn’s spent all evening trying to fix it. Darn; can’t do dishes.

I’ll tell you all about it when we get back. In the meantime, you can read my first long post, detailing last year’s camping trip to Boumdaid and the Valley of the Barking Baboons, should you feel so inclined (i.e. bored).

I’ve never been to this part of Mauritania before, but Donn has twice gone on trips there while I stayed home to keep the kids in school. Here’s a picture he took of a man making tea in the dry river-bed near Rasheed, where we’ll camp after leaving the crocodiles.riverbed-tea.jpg


February 2007

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