Two tours of the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park - out of Djanet, southern Algeria with Bachir Touareg, Travel Guide of Djanet
After hearing rave reviews about trekking in the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park (Tassili n'Ajjer, means ‘Plateau of the Rivers’ a mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert and a UNESCO World Heritage Park) we decided to try and organise a private tour.
Finding an English speaking guide was quite a problem as naturally the languages spoken in this part of Algeria are Tamasheq, French and Arabic, but eventually we found Bachir Hafach (www.touaregbachir.blogspot.com/) and organised two two-week tours in late February – early March 2012. We had a choice of walking with donkeys, walking with camels or 4X4 (and walking) tours.
Bachir is well organised and a good communicator and organised essential visa documents efficiently through regular emails. When we finally arrived at Djanet airport at 2am in the morning, we were very pleased and relieved to see that Bachir was there to meet us. He then took us straight out to a camp site where a tent was ready for us. We slept until the morning when we started on our first trip.
The first seven day tour was a ‘walking with donkeys’ tour from Djanet to Tamrit, Sefar and Jabberen – a distance of about 90 kilometres. This tour involved walking the stony plateau region of the Tassili n’Ajjer National Park just out of Djanet. The features of this tour were dramatic weathered sandstone scenery, ancient trees – the rare Saharan cypress - Cupressus dupreziana, of which there are only 233 specimens left in the world arches and best of all, the most amazing ancient rock art.
The second seven day tour was a 4X4 tour of the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park north of Djanet. This tour featured dramatic landscapes, ergs (sand dunes) and the most beautiful oases, bedecked with wildflowers including the lovely lavendula. We drove from place to place and walked between two and four hours a day. We visited Ihirir - a beautiful date palm oasis and village along a river gorge, Dider to see the rock engravings, the guelta (oasis) of Essendilen which, as it was spring, had a stunning profusion of wildflowers, followed by a visit to the sand dune at Admer, to Tikobawen which featured a very striking arch, then Tilallen and on the last night, we camped at Tehramiwen where there was a stunning sunset
These treks are the best holiday we have ever had. The walking, while requiring a reasonable level of fitness, was not too onerous. The team was a happy one, made us very welcome and treated us with respect, good humour and with incredible hospitality.
The food consisted of breakfast (bread, jam, cheese, honey, tea or coffee), lunch (salad, bread, tinned fish or a cooked dish, followed by fruit), late afternoon tea of biscuits, peanuts and tea and dinner (a cooked dish, salad, bread, dates and tea and coffee). It was very nicely cooked and presented and there was plenty of it.
At night, we slept in rock ‘bedrooms’ or alcoves, on foam mattresses in our sleeping bags. A tent was provided, but we preferred sleeping under the stars and moon which were incredibly beautiful.
The combination of the astoundingly beautiful scenery, being in the desert, enjoying the intense quiet and the peace, the desert climate (warm and dry), the superb rock art, the wildflowers, the ancient trees, the excellent company and the good food and exercise combined to make this a superb experience. I adored everything and would highly recommend it.
The best way to discover the dramatic landscape and awe-inspiring beauty of Sahara and the Hoggar. They run unsophisticated trips, you will sleep rough but enjoy the eerie silence of the desert so much that you will be under its spell for the rest of your life. They are French and have put little effort into an English version, but do check them, they also happen to be the cheapest in the street. It's worth the effort.
We used a company based in Algiers to do a tour of the gardens - yes, gardens! - of the Sahara. It was very tiring but brilliant fun. We had the idea when we were flying from Algiers to El Oued (in the Sahara) and we saw these great green circles in the desert when looking
out of the airplane window. They weren't crop circles but circular "fields" of potatoes! We then visited an English garden in a palace in El Oued before touring plantations and gardens in the furthest parts of the south - Tam and Djanet - before ending back in the beautiful private gardens of the Hotel St George in Algiers and the nearby botanic gardens. What a great time - and it gives a great theme to a desert holiday.
We had already been to the Algerian Sahara, to Tamanrasset and Djanet, but this time we took our office staff with us - partly as a reward for all their hard work but also because I am interested in how groups function under pressure and as a team. So we went on a five day circuit, by camel and on foot, with a professional group consultant who helped us make sense of our fears - and joys - about being in such an exceptional landscape. We learned a lot about independence and mutual dependency, about sharing, about "the circle of support" - great fun, too!
We've just done our second trip to Algeria with Expert Algeria and this time went down into the south. It's not complicated to organise - and they're about the only agency that ever bothers to reply to emails. The Algerian Sahara in this region is very similar to the Akakus in Libya, just more vast and more remote.
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