Its moonrise in the Sahara and I’m doing my best to untangle my emotions. Behind me is a towering turreted sandstone ridge, gloriously sculptured by wind and time. Perhaps by the hand of God himself.
The Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve is located in NE Chad deep into the expanses of the Sahara, and its been a mission to get here. 40 000 kms2 of endless jaw-dropping landscapes are dominated by outcrops and arches that are crazy-beautifully-odd-shaped. Masterpieces of natural art.
Everything about this place suggests that we shouldn’t be here; the remoteness is arresting, the logistics are daunting and the conditions unknown. Even the grass has attitude … known as ‘crum-crum’ that happily deposits stinging barbs on you as you walk by, almost in protest of being here.
We are camping in a secluded wadi (dry riverbed) to avoid the merciless crum-crum and the sand is soft and pink. This is a wild spot. The vast plains and dunes support a surprising amount of extreme desert adapted animal and birdlife; only the wily survive here. Everything seems to say: “you may enter on my conditions, and my conditions only.” There are no half measures. No free lunches or favours. Yet there is a primeval fascination here, an understanding of peace and belonging, which despite the ancient foreboding landscape, makes all the sense in the world. The landscape here is sublime, other-worldly. The nights are deafeningly quiet. Tiny Fennec foxes canter over the dunes in search of their staple meal, the spring heeled desert jerboa, a curios rodent resembling a mix of hamster, springhare and cricket. We would also find Ruppels fox, one of Africa’s rarest and secretive carnivores. But the desert hedgehog did it for me... I needed to sit down after that one to let it soak in all over again. This delicate, sensitive and precious ecosystem is under the competent care of The Africa Parks network.
Recognized by some as a place to escape, and by others as a place to discover. Perhaps the same thing? Regardless of your take of remote, desolate but beautifully essential wildlands they represent one thing: a primeval sense of appreciation and wonder for nature and its Creator.
There needs to be a desert within us all.