Sunday, March 06, 2005

Desert Trip

Desert Trip
We were invited on a trip into the desert to visit a site known for its whale skeletons coming through the sand and rock in the site of an Eocene Sea.

It was led by Roger (pronounced Roget and perhaps even spelt that way) who runs these trips regularly for anyone interested. He has a large group of followers, and I think I wish to be one of his very best friends. He has an extraordinary knowledge and love of the desert.

He also cooked a superb lunch - whole marinated barbecue filets of beef, tender and succulent and done on small round portable pans.

Breakfast, where we met the travellers for the day, was on an outcrop just before we dropped down into the desert. Croissants, pastries, strawberries, coffee and orange juice were all laid out on the bonnet of a car while we stood and chatted and ate.

I have to do this in reverse - as the first email (this one) has to be sent last and the last one first so they line up in the blog as I want them to. It is a little complicated, so forgive any discrepancies. I have a blog fairy - my wonderful webmaster, Kate Andrews, who will
flitter in and make it all look like one email instead of lots, so it doesn't push everything else off the front page. (Done now! - Kt)

Breakfast view
The view, in the direction we had to go.

We had to cross large areas covered in stones, and a crust on the underlyng sand and gravel like creme brulee, firm enough to look at, but likely to break through to the softer sand below.
Here every track ever made by a vehicle remains like a ghost. Tyres push the gibbers aside, and the white sand is left gleaming through.

Desert outcrops on the way

Outcrops in the desert
Desert as far as the eye can see, sand and gravel, and occasional areas of gibbers - strange stones that look as if they have each been melted and spun into weird smooth shapes. These areas looked firm, but the gibbers float on softer sand under the surface crust, and it is easy to bog even here.

Through the desert
We followed the tracks of our leaders. Though they scar the desert now, a few good winds will remove them, and you would not find this place without compasses and a global positioning system.
The glitter you see to the sides of the small escarpment is all shells, from a long ago ocean floor. Oyster shells were bigger than two of my hands, mussles, bivalves I didn't recognise, great sheets of shining fossilised mother of pearl and smallet turret shells. All in amazingly perfect condition, and spilling in profusion down every hillock of sand.
The trip was astonishingly, breathtakingly beautiful.

No roads
No roads, and no tracks, and just the desert spread out before us. We drove down steep inclines to get down from the plateau, some of it hair-raising, and had to roar up sand dunes to get over them before we ran out of speed.

Waves rearing overhead
I thought it very appropriate that the area that was an Eocene Ocean should have great rearing waves, with beautiful water patterns on their sides.

Spectacular outcrops along the way

Fossilised mangrove roots at the whalebone site.

The laid out backbone, and the most solid fence.

Whale bones
I was fascinated by long lines of whale bones, left in the sand for people to look at. The bones are from an Eocene whale who swam in this ocean forty million years ago,but was able to come up to land as well. They are not a precursor of our modern whales.
I couldn't believe that the bones were just left for people to look at in the absolute understanding that they would not be stolen - how long would they last in Australia before they were souvenired? This area is a long way from towns, but is visited regularly, and the sites of skeletons are surrounded by a 'fence' of small sticks in the ground - about a metre apart.
I should have given you a scale - the big bones here are about eighteen inches long (for patchworkers who work imperial).

I thought this was a funny sign - motor boats was the last thing on our minds!

The lake in the desert
The drive home took us by a different route. We ran up sand dunes - fast, as even slowing down would have bogged us - we followed a long flat wadi to Fayoum, then after about an hour of desert driving hooked around on a very busy highway to Cairo. We passed this lake on the way - and it felt almost surreal lying there quietly in the desert. It is artificial, fed by the Nile via canal (like most of Egypt) and already had very large fish.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I feel like i'm in the seat next to you.
Wendy P, Sth. Aust.

11:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wendy couldn't have said it better. Your dialogue is amazing! Your photos wonderful! Just like being there with you. You are making me want to visit Egypt more and more!

Terri U, Northam WA

12:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenny, Perhaps the sign is a standardised sign that they post at all protected areas (including ones with water). It's just funny to think about motor boats in the middle of a desert!
Janet in New York State, US (Thank you, Terri U, for sharing this blog site!)

2:28 am  
Anonymous Fiona Hammond said...

Dear Jenny,

As always your photos are incredible! I wonder how long it will be before these amazing-looking scenes creep/seep into your quilts... The textures and shapes are just crying out for your quilting talents to incorporate them in some creative way, as is your wont!
Fiona Hammond, Lake Bathurst, NSW

9:42 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
I have never previously thought about travelling to Egypt but having viewed your photos and read your comments I can't help but wonder what I have missed out on. It's a glotious autumn day in Canberra today about 22o at midday.
Regards Helen

3:28 pm  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
I have never previously thought about travelling to Egypt but having viewed your photos and read your comments I can't help but wonder what I have missed out on. It's a glotious autumn day in Canberra today about 22o at midday.
Regards Helen

3:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jenny for sharing your experiences. We can pretend that we have been there too The colours/textures are so sharp

9:46 pm  
Anonymous Aussie in Montevideo said...

I totally related to workpractices which would not be seen in Aus...breathtaking. What spectacular desert scenery, I too wondered how long it might be for some influence to appear in your work ... the eastern tile and tessellations influences are already there, of course. Aren't quilts a wonderful instant home away from home decorator item.... they look wonderful.
Cheers !

12:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog, I am thoroughly enjoying reading about your activities, you have the knack of bringing it all alive. I can see a lot of quilts happening in the future:O)

Pam in Alexandra

10:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a vicarious traveller from way back and gain so much pleasure from your posts. We not only get to see the sights from your postings, but also a taste of the culture which is fascinating. You must be getting so much inspiration for more quilts.
Pam (Bacchus Marsh, Vic - scquilter)

11:06 am  

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