I-n-Belbel Off The Beaten Path

  • Kel-Hoggar Tuareg woman
    Kel-Hoggar Tuareg woman
    by JLBG
  • A Tuareg in Djanet
    A Tuareg in Djanet
    by JLBG
  • Tassili, Tuareg with takouba and camel
    Tassili, Tuareg with takouba and camel
    by JLBG

Best Rated Off The Beaten Path in I-n-Belbel

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    Why did I went to the Sahara?

    by JLBG Updated Mar 13, 2007

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    My travels to the Sahara
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    Since I was a kid, I have read books on the Sahara. One told the unlikely story of a French boy "stolen" by gypsies (the old myth of kids stolen by gypsies!), found by his "oncle d'Amérique" (the old myth of the uncle that made big money in America!). The uncle collects together with his nephew a "stolen" girl that became his friend during their kidnapping. He brings them back in his own plane but has to land in the Sahara to fix a mechanical problem. When they take off, they forget the girl. She is taken in by Tuaregs and the whole book is about her life in a Tuareg band living in the Hoggar. Of course in the end, her friend and his uncle found her, they go and live in America, the boy and the girl marry and have a lot of children, etc.

    Later, I read several books from Roger FRISON-ROCHE, a French mountain guide that wrote a lot of books on the Alps, the Sahara and the Arctic. Altogether, he wrote about 10 books on the Sahara, situated in the Tassili. All were bestsellers translated in different languages. Reading the books of Frison-Roche was one of the reasons for my interest for the Sahara and the Tassili.

    "L’Atlantide" is a novel in which Pierre BENOIT borrowed to BERIOZ, a very serious geographer, the idea of locating Atlantis in the middle of the desert. He used his knowledge of the Sahara to locate it in a secret city, hidden in the middle of the Tassili with a mysterious queen, Antinea, at its head. The book was immediately a bestseller and the theme was borrowed by theater, music hall and film. There are half a dozen different cinema adaptations.

    These readings made me dream to visit this special land. I have now been a dozen times to the Sahara or on its borders. Some were self-guided, driving all the way from the Mediterranean to the desert, others were flying directly into the middle of the Sahara for a trek with a guide. Each was different and gave a different feeling of the desert. I will give in the following tips a brief summary of each travel and links to the pages, when already built.

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    1973, my first travel to the Sahara

    by JLBG Updated Feb 28, 2007

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    My first travel into the Sahara was for 1973 Easter vacations. Friends that had a previous small experience on the fringes of the desert as they had already been as far as the M'zab, had planned a travel to the Hoggar and bought a second hand Land Rover. We were a party of 6, four in the Land Rover and two in a 2cv Citroën with a 72 years old driver and a 76 years old passenger.

    It is a long way from Algiers to Tamanrasset. The road passes first the windy Hauts Plateaux to reach Laghouat. In 1974, the road was paved until El Goléa. From El Goléa to In Salah, on the Plateau du Tademaït, the paved road was almost finished to build but it was forbidden to use it. We could use it on the way back, one week later. From In Salah to Tamanrasset, there was only the sand and gravel trail (pages to come).

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    1974, my second travel to the Sahara, a camel trek

    by JLBG Updated Feb 21, 2007

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    Flight from algiers to Djanet
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    This trek in the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park was organized by a small travel agency managed by several French mountain guides that lived half of the year in the Sahara (Hoggar and Tassili) with the Tuaregs.

    This trek was in 1974 but almost everything is still valid. I have updated the few information that were outdated.

    On our arrival , we were lucky to watch a big feast in Djanet.

    We were 6 friends in a group of 9 travelers, lead by Pierre, our French guide, fed by Ali, the local cook. Each of the 4 cameleers were in charge of the transport his own camels. There were 20 camels.

    Each evening the camels were unloaded and we got our bag (limited to 10 kg). Bags were arranged as a circle to make the “dining room”. During dinner, we sat on the sand and the half empty bags were used as backs to lean against.

    While Ali cooked dinner, each of us took one 2.5 cm mattress (only one!) and chose where to sleep. Some stayed close to the “dining room", other went further, trying to stay away from snoozers!

    At dinner, though only 7-8 PM, the night was already dark and a 9 PM, everybody was in his sleeping bag, sleeping or watching the stars.

    Tassili N'Ajjer is a mountain range in the Sahara desert in southeast Algeria. Erosion has carved it deeply, giving birth to a special type of landscape with narrow canyons and pinnacles and needles standing among sand, looking as ruins of an ancient city. This has fed the legend of lost cities hidden in this labyrinth, such as the famous novel “l’Atlantide”, written by Pierre BENOIT.

    Tuaregs of the Kel Ajjer band inhabit the massif. Thousands of rock paintings and rock carvings dating from the Neolithic have been discovered under rock shelters. In order to protect these jewels of mankind from improper behavior and theft it is now a National Park, the "Parc National du Tassili".

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    1975, my third travel to the Sahara

    by JLBG Written Feb 4, 2007

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    Even with a 4x2 car, you can drive safely on most sand tracks. Until 4x4 became so popular, in the Sahara, only official cars were 4x4 (mainly Land Rovers) and few private citizens owned a 4x4. Given that you have a good strong car that it is not too low, that it is fitted with good tires: no tire with a lower aspect ratio, no tire with an aggressive design that would dig the sand. Most locals drove Peugeot 403, 404 or 504 (phonetically called ‘Peejoh’), often loaded with heavy loads of cattle, people or else! Worn out tires was not a problem, as they do not dig up the sand!

    As I owned a 504, I felt that it was not a problem to build a circuit with 1000 km of sand trail. We were 4 in the 504 and had two companions in a 2cv Citroën. (the same car and driver than in 1973 but a younger passenger). This circuit was interesting as it did not follow a main track as the north-south track from In Salah to Tamanrasset but a secondary track, east-west from Reggane to In Salah. Instead of 1 or 2 cars or trucks par hour, there were not more than half a dozen cars (almost no trucks) par day.

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    1977, my 5th travel to the Sahara

    by JLBG Updated Mar 13, 2007

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    I had a Land Rover and as I had already been to Tamanrasset, I knew that to drive from Alger to the Hoggar, there was no need to be two cars. Then we were four in a Land Rover and that’s all. I had proposed to my companions to drive as fast as possible from Algiers to Tamanrasset and not to visit anything on the way, in order to get as much time as possible in the Hoggar.

    The ferry landed in Alger at and as soon as we were out of the custom, we drove south and spread our mattresses around the “Col des Caravanes”.

    Day 2, we left early and I drove all day long until a few kilometers before In Salah and we spent the night on the Plateau, north to the oasis.

    Day 3, we again left early and headed to the south, now on the track, no paved road anymore!

    More to come!

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    1976 my 4th travel to the Sahara, Tunisia, Algeria

    by JLBG Written Feb 4, 2007

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    This circuit was with a single car, my Land Rover. We took the ferry to Tunis, drove to Tozeur and passed the Algerian border to Ouargla.

    We were lucky to have rain in Ouargla, which means that the next day, there were flowers everywhere in the dunes, the "acheb"!

    More to come!

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    1984, 8th travel to the Sahara, Immidir trek

    by JLBG Written Feb 4, 2007

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    Immidir 1(Trek)
    This was a trek in the Tassili N’Immidir, organized by “Homme et Montagnes du Sahara” , the small company created by Jean-Louis Bernezat, with which we had traveled in 1974 in the Tassili N’Ajjer. This time, our guide was Jean-Louis Bernezat himself. He had “discovered” the Tassili N’Immidir which had been very little explored and for 15 years, as he was a good friend for the Kel Immidir Touaregs, he has been the only one able to organize treks in that area.

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    1978, 6th travel to the Sahara, southern Tunisia

    by JLBG Written Feb 4, 2007

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    This travel was again with my Land Rover as a single car and we took the ferry from Marseilles to Tunis, drove along the coast to Djerba, Kebili, Douz, Chenini (VT Shanini), Douiret, Ksar Ouled Debbab, Ksar Rhilane, Bir Soltane, Chott El Fedjadj, Sbeitla and back to Tunis. I will not make a full report of this travel and the stuff will be scattered on various locations.

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    1982, 7th travel to Sahara, Central & West Algeria

    by JLBG Written Feb 4, 2007

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    Central and Western Algerian Sahara

    This time, we were a large party of 12 in three cars, our Land Rover, a Nissan and at the last moment a small 4x2 Renault 5 joined us. Each car brought 2 adults and two kids from 9 to 14. We decided that we would ‘release’ the Renault 5 (not the best car for the desert!) from its kids for the sandy parts. Altogether, the Land Rover never got stuck, the Nissan once (but very severely) and the Renault 5 dozens of time but as it is light, it was easily taken off. Half way, the Renault 5 got a major breakdown and I had to tow it for 500 km on the sand track.

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    2002, 10th travel to the Sahara: southern Tunisia

    by JLBG Written Mar 9, 2007

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    In 2002, we made another travel to the desert. This one was in Southern Tunisia. Though entirely on surfaced roads, it gave a nice scent of the desert. We flew to Djerba and drove to Gabés, Gafsa, Metlaoui and a ride on the little red train in the "Gorge du Seldja", Tamerza, a mountain oasis, Tozeur, Chott-El-Djerid, Kebili and Douz and then, by a soon-to-be-surfaced road to Matmata, Medenine and back to Djerba. I have built pages on these various places.

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    1987, 9th travel to the Sahara, Immidir trek

    by JLBG Written Feb 21, 2007

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    Immidir 2 (Trek)
    This was a trek in another part of the Tassili N’Immidir,again organized by “Homme et Montagnes du Sahara” , with Jean-Louis Bernezat.
    Each part of the Immidir is very different from one another.
    More to come!

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