Saturday, December 20, 2008

Siwa Oasis Part 2 - The Salt Marsh Debacle

At this point it was mid-afternoon, and I wanted to catch the sunset over the western lake of Siwa at the edge of town, so we headed out that way. Upon reaching the outskirts, it seemed like there were only 20-30 minutes left before the sunset and we were still a few kilometers away, so we were faced with a dilemma. We could either follow the roundabout road, or go straight ahead through the palm grove. Emboldened by our earlier success traipsing through the grove, we (rather unfortunately) chose the latter.

While our female companions returned to town to rent bikes, Corey, Andrew and I forged on ahead through the grove. The shortest distance between two points, after all, is a straight line. This straight line, however, consisted of miles of disorienting palm groves, streams, dried salt flats that seemed like alien landscapes, and some sort of irrigated field with planted crops (you can see the route we took as the line I made on the map of my trip in the previous post). Every time we saw a clearing in the grove, we were expecting to see the lake, but it would just end up being a salt flat. So we continued crunching across the strange terrain, in the direction of the next palm grove and hopefully eventually the lake. Once we even had to vault ourselves across a ten foot drop over a stream.

Alien terrain! Salt/mud flat


Finally, after an unbelievably long trek, we reached the final clearing and could see the lake a few hundred yards ahead. Relieved we had made it in time for sunset, we snapped some photos while laughing and joking about the journey we had taken to get there.

Although it doesn't look like it, this is an HDR - there was no way to capture the light on the ditch as well as the setting sun within the normal exposure limits.



As the sun slipped behind the hills in the distance, we realized we had to find a better way back, or we would end up lost in the grove.

We started to head south towards the road in the distance, but problems quickly arose. Corey’s right foot slipped beneath the surface, and was immediately drenched in mucky salt water. Profanity ensued.
“This ground is too soft, we should go this way” Andrew said, indicating another direction. But two minutes later his right leg sank into the muck up to his knee. He stepped forward with his left leg to push himself out and the following happened:



Corey and I couldn’t do anything but stand there dying of laughter. The hilarious part was that we knew it was going to happen to us as well – and it certainly did – so we took the opportunity to appreciate each others’ comic misfortune.

As you can see in this picture, I rolled up my jeans to my knees in anticipation of slipping into the mucky salt marsh, but three steps after this, it didn’t make any difference because I slid in almost up to my waist! At times we had to go on all fours to distribute the weight and move forward. It wasn’t quicksand or “quickmuck” so I’m almost positive we weren’t in any real danger. It was just one of those ridiculous situations that’s hilarious while you are with other people, but it would probably elicit panic if you were by yourself.

After a long time we made it to the road, where we bribed a man driving by in a three-wheeled pickup truck-type vehicle to bring us back to town. It felt a little bit like when Tom Hanks gets rescued in Castaway. On this day, Thanksgiving Day, we were quite thankful that this guy drove by, because it would have been a LONG walk back in the dark with heavy pants and shoes caked with mud.

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