The Ténéré Desert
March 2006

The Eclipse
The Eclipse Camp
Paris (before Niger)
The Desert and Dunes
Sights in Niger
Eclipse Chasers & Tuaregs
The Camping Scene

Photos by Ruth and Ed


Middle of the Desert Facing the Four Points of the Compass


As we approach a set of dunes 
The fine soft sand acts and feels like liquid 
Tuareg drivers crisscross desert
to try to avoid soft sand
Like a scene out of “Road Warrior” . . . sort of 
Bre selects a place to pitch the tent 
Climbing a dune and texture of the sand 
Ed & his shadow 
Ruth casts long shadow 
Bre making a sand-angel 
Desert grass near an oasis 

Sunset, the best time of day in the desert

The sand dunes were as gorgeous as any photo. The sand was strikingly clean, soft, often cool — even during the heat of day. Though the sand appeared to be a "classic" light tan in color, our chief Tuareg guide (Mukhtar) claimed it was the different colors of the sand (and "the hand of god"), which allowed him to find his way across a seemingly featureless desert whose shifting sand dunes couldn't be relied upon as permanent markers.

While driving, much of the "road" had compacted sand (that did look somewhat different), which permitted easy driving. But more often than not, soft sand would fool even the most experienced Tuareg drivers into getting stuck. Invariably, the vehicles were all four-by-four Toyota Landcruisers. Even with four-wheel drive, once on the desert the drivers let some air out of the tires to provide more traction. Nevertheless, once stuck, the wheels would have to be dug out, metal racks/ladders (one or two feet wide, four to five long) would be slipped under the tires. All this, plus a lot of pushing (by Tuaregs and a few of us "eclipse chasers") eventually freed the vehicles.

It was rare that we would drive over a dune because inevitably that sand was quite soft. But from time to time, we did cut across a dune as we made our way to Bilma, an anchor of the ancient camel salt caravan routes. It was amazing how skilled the experienced Tuareg drivers were in navigating over the dunes and racing through the desert, looking like a scene straight out of "Road Warrior."

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