It was all very British getting back on the train. Everybody went to their own place even in the standing sections. The journey continued as far as Seldja, which is only 16km from Metlaoui. It had taken us over an hour, including stops, to get there. The journey back was along the same route. We had only one stop, to pick up the people at the second stop on the way out, who had not got back on at that point. I can understand why. Once again I missed pictres of the views between tunnels. You'll need a camera with a fast shutter speed. The trip back really began to drag and I was glad when we made it back.
So on we went. We went through a few more tunnels. I'd have liked if the stops between them had been longer as the gaps were very preety but they just whizzed past. We followed the river for quite a distance through a very scenic section. I would imagine the views from the top were amazing. Our next stop was between two tunnels in a large open section. The views and scenery here were good but not amazing. We got out this time and took a few pictures. When you see it from afar the train is very pretty. It's a little difficult to appreciate, however, when there are hundreds of fellow tourists there with you.
When we emerged from the tunnel the train stopped and everyone climbed down to take pictures. There was such a rush to get off the train that one of the Italians beside us went a little too fast and almost broke his camera. I had seen this view on VT or elsewhere before but it was still very special. The scenery was great though not any better than what we had seen on previous days. We were in a valley with large mountians on either side. To our left was a narrow slit in the rocks with large peaks on each side. In front we had the long section of the valley and a small stream. A group of locals were working on the land.
Finally at about 10.25 we were off. The train crawled out of the station for the first few hundred metres and the scenery here wasn't too impressive. all the guys working waved as we left as did the locals whom we passed on the streets. The train has been going 5 days a week for the last 10 years or so or so but they still seemed to find it quite a spectacle. We passed through the town then past a factory before going out into open country. The scenery still wasn't too good but at least we were picking up pace. The track was very curvy too which made for some nice pictures of the carriages in front and behind me. Beside us were an English couple from up North, another young English couple from the same area, 2 Italian guys, the French, another couple opposite and a few others who I didn't hear much from.
The English had let early that morning from their hotel and were way for the whole day. No idea where this was but I know I'm glad I missed this. They were on 2-week holidays. One of them asked where it was they were again today. Honestly.....
For the first section we definitely were on the wrong side in terms of taking pictures as the mountains were to the right and we were looking left. The trip got more interesting when we approached the mountains and then went through some dug out passages where everything went dark.
Water in Oued Metlaoui is not crystal clear as it carries phosphate from the quarries and sand. Along its bank, the bushes do not grow better than everywhere else, though they have plenty of fertilizer [phosphate is a fertilizer}. May be they have too much !
Oued Seldja is running through this gorge. Instead of taking the Red Lizzard, you can walk to visit the gorge but it is always very hot, even in March... Anyway, there was a group that did the trip one way and came back with the Red Lizzard.
On both sides, the cliffs are high. A few shrubs are growing, enough to feed a whole flock of local sheep ! The sheep found in the desert are tall and slim, almost looking like goats. They graze on thorny weeds, and sometimes on old news papers when they find one ! I am not kidding ! I must look in my files if I can find an old dia of a sheep eating the news !
As now the Red Lizzard is only for tourists, it makes a stop at every beautiful place worth a picture. After it has began to climb towards Moularès phosphate mines, the first stop is in front of a gap in the mountain that makes a breathtaking view towards the plain we left a few minutes ago.
We are in the Sahara !
Where is the sand ?
This is the northern part of the Sahara. The desert is by far not covered everywhere by sand as many people think ! The mountain parts of the desert are always very spectacular. This one has the advantage to be easily reached by everyone.