Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 8, Wadi Farag again and Fugini Cave

We left early on Day 8 to drive back to Gilf Kebir - the last few days we have been in Jebel Uweinat. Today was to be a fast run to Wadi Sura and the Fugini Cave. We have been very very close to Sudan and had to be careful on our return not to edge into Libya. We stopped for a photo at the border sign - and it does say Sudan.

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We found a small collection of Sudanese shoes - they are scattered around the Wadi Farag area as people-smugglers pack cars tightly with people to drive them illegally into Egypt. We passed one as we drove - and there were so many people inside it was just a solid mass of nervous smiles and lighter eyes. Sometimes extras can buy a place standing on the back - and if they fall off they are not always missed or picked up. Our guide told us he had buried three or four bodies over the years (twenty) that he has been visiting the Gilf. First he would see a small bag of possessions discarded by an exhausted walker, then one shoe, then another, then further on he would find the body.

The shoes were sad and endearing. They are all leather, and hand stitched and quite beautiful objects, curled and warped by sand and sun. They are small too - far too small for me even if they had not turned into convoluted sculptures and I could, like Cinderella, have tried them on.

I had started to pick them up but Hani was obviously not happy about possibly dead Sudanese shoes in the car so I put them back - and just took one - quietly.

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The collection

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We passed a couple of old vehicles left to the wind and sand - a truck and a car.

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Alberto was stuck only once today and chose a place that was beautiful - with firm sand covered with pebbles sand-blasted to a jeweled brilliance, clear and sparking and translucent. They were irresistible and we picked up a pocketful each.

We again crossed Wadi Farag - further towards Libya this time. It was clear and bright and all the colours washed to the palest of water colours. Yes, I know I have sand on my sensor - it is also refusing to move like the tree in my last posting.

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This time we approached Gilf Kebir on its other side - the western edge. I was almost photo-weary - and a back seat is not conducive to a lot of spectacular shots through the windows. I have taken a few that I think of as 'windscreen' shots and will show them occasionally - but the attempt to compromise between the dark of the interior of the car, and the excessive lightness outside the car is not kind to either. There were long lines of hills and ridges and occasionally a pure white edge of cliff or hill.

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We set up camp as the sun was dropping, gilding the tops of the hills around us. We were at Fugini Cave high on the West of Gilf Kebir and could see that there was a small group of people up at the cave so we wanted to wait till they had gone, but had our fingers crossed that there would still be light enough to see the paintings on the walls.

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The Cave is high on a slope of sand - but with enough rocks at the side to help do the climb. Dear kind Mahmoud said he would help me get up without slipping and led the way, insisting I put my hands on his shoulders to balance in the very steep bits. I felt as if I just might drive him into the ground - he is a small man and I am not small at all. In fact, it was reminiscent of the spike and the mallet in my tree posting.

One of the things that has been a disappointment - darn Hollywood - has been my mental image of the Cave of the Swimmers, thanks to the movie The English Patient. In that the cave was deep and full of clefts, and both the Bedouin who found it and the hero and heroine slid through gaps looking in awe at the paintings. I had expected the Fugini Cave to be like this as it is in the same stretch of hills of Gilf Kebir. In truth, it is a curve of shallow rock shelter with images covering the walls and ceiling. You can see it at the top of the photograph - and the sand fills it to the level you can see. My immediate assumption - since the sand seems to cut off some images - is that the images go down much much further and have been covered. However - they don't. The sand still sits pretty much where it did when the paintings were made.

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Our resident geologist pointed out that the flat area at the base of the hill was probably a lake, and the cave would be an ideal place to watch for game.

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Mahmoud in Fugini Cave

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Unknown French tourist in typical cave photography pose! I like the fact that you can see the start of the curve of the cave roof.

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The imagery in this cave was really different from Jebel Uweinat. There were almost no images of cows, or anything that implied husbandry. There were family images, and some animals, but mostly it was people. Even the animals seemed odd and different - the large image in the centre of this seems to be like a lion, but it could be headless. There were many images like this, some with a head, some clearly headless, and some that seemed to be eating a man - in one only his legs are left.

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This is a typical section of wall - see the lion image at the bottom.

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And a detail of the same image - note the fine yellow grid.

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Etiolated shapes of people, and an over-painted strong white image with a long neck - but not a giraffe.

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Yvonne thought this image showed the lake below the cave, animals and a family - maybe even with a pregnant wife.

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I thought this was a good example of the fact that imagery was added at different times. The stunted figures at the bottom are clearly a different batch of paint, and I love the way they are almost mirrored below the crack.

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I am curious about what seems to be tassels or a swinging skirt in the upside down figures in the bottom right. I would welcome comments, as there are few images that suggest any sort of clothing here or in Jebel Uweinat.

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Headless animals and swimmers?

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Deep cut images at the left side wall of the cave.

The cave was strange and mystical in comparison to those in Jebel Uweinat - and I am itching to talk them over with someone who really knows what the images are likely to be.

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I was coughing again - after being fine all day - when I climbed into my bed tonight and in desperation I dragged my bedding outside the tent. Since whatever was causing the cough was probably also right through my sleeping bag and mattress it was a bit of a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted! Mahmoud now brings me a hot lemon at night and I love it - both the lemon and the cosseting. I lay there for a while but coughed and felt I was not sleeping, so went to the car and climbed in without my sleeping bag, hoping to leave whatever allergen was getting me behind with the bedding. Ten minutes and I was frozen. I went back to the bag and shook and shook it - and while the cough got worse at first it seemed to ease a little.

However I watched one falling star after another until I had the light of the rising sun in my eyes - and I had obviously slept reasonably well.

3 Comments:

Blogger Robyn said...

The cave paintings are amazing. I feel as if I'm on the trip with you and am enjoying every minute of it. (Sorry about that distressing cough)

12:44 am  
Blogger KISHORE K. KOMORAVOLU said...

Brilliant post !

Even better pictures ... thanks to u sitting at my desk in India i had a tour of this place!

n yeah darn hollowood .... they do exaggerate things and increase ur expectations ! :)

Cheers,
-KK

2:58 am  
Blogger Wen Redmond said...

What a wonderful experience! Say a wish for me when next you see a falling star. Sleep well and thank you for sharing pix of cave ART.

9:49 pm  

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