Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Spiekermann Travel and Tours’

They were in front of us from the airport and we didn’t even notice. Several days went by and we still didn’t notice but finally we realized they were there. And it continued even more times. Plus, no one anywhere informed us that they would be in front of us.  Finally a clue surfaced that made us suspect what was going on because it didn’t look normal.

We were following a plain car in front of us and when it turned right, we turned right. And when it turned left, we turned left. And this happened over and over and that’s when we started asking questions of our first guide SiDi. “Is that car leading us around Algiers,” we asked and he replied, “Yes. And then I asked, “Why?” And he replied “They want to make sure you are safe during this brief presidential situation and to get us through traffic jams.
So with that knowledge, we learned we would be escorted around Algiers, Algeria everywhere we went from daylight to dark. And we were. And we began to like it and to enjoy the good looking Algerian policemen who were protecting us for our visit as a tourist everywhere we went in Algeria. Each time they began to escort us, they came and told us “Hello.”
Plus they would start out each day discussing with Yazid, our driver, where we were going and what route we would take because the policemen sometimes had a different route than Yazid did because of traffic safety. So we followed them where they took us and we thanked every one of them for their service several times each day.
If we wanted to buy a souvenir of Algeria, Billel, our second guide, told the police. The next thing we knew, we were at a souvenir shop and the policemen even came in the shop and helped us find just the turbo head wrap and began to show us how to wrap it around the head until the shop keeper, Smati, finished the wrap on our guide’s head. It fit Billel just right so I bought it as my first souvenir.

If our tour called for a visit to the outstanding Mosaic Museum or Archeological Museum or ancient ruins from the Phoenicians, Romans, Turkey, Byzantine, Arab, Spain, French and Berber periods that have occupied Algeria since B.C. times, our police escort was there ready to lead us through the city. And then the police escort waited for us until we left the exhibit and then escorted us to the next place on our itinerary.

When we stopped for lunch, the police escort stopped for lunch in the same restaurant where we were eating. We ate at our own table with our guide, Billel. Sometimes, the police escort changed shifts at lunch time so we had different police escorts after lunch. And when we went from city to city, the escort policemen changed. Each Algerian state we were in or passed through provided us a police or military escort in their state.
A customer showed me the 18″ high wooded “V” shaped container from which they eat a traditional food called Zviti. It is called a Mehraz. The police are at the table behind us.

So we drove through several states, from Cherchell, Tipaza, Annaba, Constantine, Timgad, Lambaesis, to Batna, and Bou Saada and we pulled over to the side of the road and there was a policemen  or a military policeman waiting to take us on our journey through their state. We had policemen on motorcycle, in an SUV for police or a olive-colored pick-up that the military police used to guard us. Some vehicles were marked police and some were unmarked.

Several times in our escorted journey, the police escort encountered traffic jams and some vehicles traveling in convoy formation. So when the police escort saw there was no way to get us through the bottle neck, they put on the flashing lights and the siren to tell motorists we were coming through.

And the drivers moved to the side of the road, allowing our van to proceed. And every time, a policeman in the passenger side had his arm out the window to direct traffic as we passed through.  It told the drivers something else was following him.

This was our van the police escorted for the entire time we were in Algeria. This is our van that the police escorted for the 10 days we were in Algeria.

And several times, we had a police escort at the front and back of us when there was a lot of congestion. One time, a stretch of 2-lane highway was so clogged with traffic that we had 2 police cars leading us and one following. Watching them maneuver around the traffic was the work of artists and professionals. One police car was 5-6 cars ahead of us and our police escort. When it was time to do the pass maneuver and the way was clear, the lead car would pull out into the opposing lane with lights flashing and siren sounding. Then our police escort would follow with our van and the rear escort following. They performed this maneuver when there was room enough for vehicles to move to the side of the road.

And the policeman in the passenger seat had his right arm out the window directing traffic and signaling someone was following him. Vehicles moved to the shoulder and everything each time went perfect with no problems.  It was so artistic watching the maneuver like a well rehearsed dance, but watching it also was nerve racking and suspenseful for we had never seen or experienced anything like it.

Our guide SiDi told us that the policemen escorting us are educated and trained to be escorts and they certainly have learned their training well for their excellent performance for the 10 days we were in Algeria. So when we went back to the airport to catch our next flight to Mauritania, there was the police escort for our final ride and a salute to us. And we saluted them and the Algerian government in each state for all the great work they did for us. This time, we knew they were leading and following us.

Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

As we went from Algerian city to city, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape and different colored and types of flowers.
We also saw the storks in their nests all along the northern part of Algeria. Every year the male and female meet in nests all over Africa and then fly to the northern countries in Europe to hatch their babies in their nests there. In all locations, places for the storks to nest are provided for them because it is believed that they bring good luck.
On our last day in Algeria, we saw this scenery and thought it was a peaceful and wonderful end to an awesome visit in Algeria, a country loaded with antiquities from BC time.

Read Full Post »

The first indication we had of what was to come was driving down the highway and noticing sand being blown on the road in stripes and then a white out. And it continued and continued making us realize we couldn’t do anything outside or we would be bombarded by sand in a strong wind. And we were.

In one hotel, June just couldn’t stand the sand anymore because the floor and bathroom were covered in sand. So she requested a broom, mop and dustpan from the hotel and began to clean. But When Mohamed saw her cleaning, he took the broom from her hands and started sweeping the entire room. She asked him where he placed the pile of sand he got from the room and he replied “behind the toilet.” We both died laughing.

Mohamed showed we how to wrap the turban so sand won’t get into any holes or crevices.

We had sand in every crevice or crack or bend or hole in our body. Everywhere we walked, we walked on sand and sat on sand and ate sand and any other thing you could do with sand. It made us respect the camel more because it had eyes, a nose and ears that could be closed in a sand storm. Closing ours didn’t help. They still had sand in them.

We had sand everywhere. And it lasted for the 4 days June and I were in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania following a caravan route in a pickup truck.

In that truck was our guide and driver, Mohamed, our cook, Mounir (Moo-near) and June and I. We were following a caravan route in northern Mauritania because I could not walk for the 44 days that a normal walking caravan takes with camels. Instead of camels carrying supplies, our truck was packed with food, water and our luggage and any other thing we needed for 4 days for the mini caravan. Our custom designed mini-caravan had us staying in the best available hotels possible in the villages closest to the caravan route instead of staying with nomads and in tents.

These hotels did not serve food or provide anything except a plain room with toilet facilities. They were basic and they worked for us. But they didn’t provide any food so Mounir and Mohamed unloaded our food supplies from the truck and spread a fabric cover on the floor of our room and provided us a meal, picnic style. We had mixed vegetables from cans sometimes with tuna fish and olives and dates and a long loaf of uncovered bread from the market that he bought out of a wheelbarrow that probably was covered with sand.

So half way to our final destination, we stopped at a hotel of bungalows with a bed and natural toilet inside. And inside that room, Mounir fixed our first meal. Mounir wanted to cook meat inside our room but I told him I could not breathe smoke or any pollutants. She he cooked outside on a small portable cooker and bought a chicken for us at the local market. It was meaty and delicious and so were the mixed vegetables from cans.

On this day, we were going to see the Oasis in the desert. So, I figured it would be a short ride to get to it. I had seen one oasis city in the desert in United Arab Emirates so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

Mohamed found a little path and turned onto it from the paved highway into the Sahara Desert and headed toward the Oasis. We were following a caravan trail and the ride was smooth, bumpy, enjoyable and adventurous. We were amazed that trees and bushes and shrubs were in the desert and they were living. Mohamed and Mounir both agreed it was normal for a desert to have some greenery.

The caravan route was not straight, and we turned right and left many times. And every turn was a different and beautiful scene. One turn we made, we came upon the oasis. There was a pond of water in the middle of nowhere that was about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide. And sitting beside it were 6 cows. I was shocked and amazed that a desert would have cows deep inside it. We also saw several camels as we progressed along the way.

But to my amazement, this was not the oasis we were going to see. So we continued on the trail and on and on. We saw huts and little villages as we proceeded deeper into the Sahara Desert. People actually lived in the desert and seem to be surviving just fine. I never dreamed people could live in the desert. But now I know they can.

We were into the Sahara Desert for almost an hour and a half now and finally we began to ask “Are we there yet?” And finally, Mohamed indicated we were near. But we kept driving and driving through villages and trees. Finally we parked after 2 hours of driving in the sand and we walked up to the oasis. And we walked and we climbed up the hill and the terrain was natural and not a smooth sidewalk. I was so tired from the day before that I could barely make the climb.

But with the help of Mohamed and Mounir, I finally made it to the oasis. It was a wall of different layers of dirt/rock/sand with water drops falling down into the stream below. It was a silent beauty. A large fabric cover was on the ground for us to rest on and to have a picnic. So Mohamed and Mounir brought up our food supplies from the truck and prepared our dish of mixed vegetables from various cans. It tasted good as we rested from the long bumpy ride through the Sahara Desert.

It was so relaxing to watch the drops of water quietly fall into the stream below and to wonder in amazement how this could exist in the middle of a dry desert. And it was refreshing to just see water and learn that this can and does exist in the Sahara Desert. But the enjoyment and rest soon ended.

We made it back down the hill to the truck and continued driving/riding further into the desert. I was getting real thirsty after another long drive so I took a bottle of water and began to drink it.  And just then, Mohamed stopped the truck that was bumping, and rocking and rolling along the desert path so I could drink without spilling the water or cutting my lip on the container. Oh, the water tasted so good and I finally finished so we could proceed further into the Sahara Desert.

But there was one problem.  The truck wouldn’t move because it was stuck in the sand. And we were in the middle of nowhere. And I didn’t know if anyone knew where we were. I quietly became worried if we would ever be found as Mohamed and Mounir tried to get us unstuck.  First, they tried digging out the sand from the front wheels. That didn’t work. Then they tried putting bark and limbs from nearby trees under the tires and that didn’t work. Then they tried letting air out of the tires and that didn’t work. Then they tried digging out more sand and rocking the vehicle back and forth. Nothing worked. Thirty minutes had passed as they tried endlessly to get the truck unstuck.

Then, they tried everything they tried before and added Mounir‘s pushing power and the truck slowly began to move and we slowly became unstuck and moving again. June and I thanked them and thanked them for successfully getting us unstuck. So then we headed straight to a car repair shop in a small village in the desert where we could get air to refill the tires. It was a glorious moment when we were back safe and sound and moving again.

 

Mounir went to local markets when they were available several times to buy meat for our meals. He wore his bou-bou (boo-boo) men’s traditional attire.

 

These 2 girls watched us the entire time we were having air put back in our tires at the auto repair shop in the desert.

And we were back on the paved highway on the way to our hotel nearby and the wind was blowing and streaks of sand blew again. And we were reliving the unbelievable experience we just had at an oasis and getting stuck in the Sahara Desert as we followed a caravan route. We never had food poisoning or any problems. And Mohamed and Mounir never spoke a word of our language and we never spoke a word of their language. We used the charade method until I remembered the Translate app on my iPhone. And when Mohamed heard our question in his language, he celebrated with joy. And we did also. Priceless.

For A Caravan in the Sahara Desert contact La Phare Du Desert, Mauritanie assistance, Mauritanie-Maroc-Senegal-Mali, +222 46 44 24 21 http://www.desertmauritanie.com  email info@desertmauritanie.com

Photo Copy © 2019 carolyntravels.com

     

Read Full Post »