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Hi there. I have spent much of the past few years walking (strictly on foot, no other transport) with my own camels through Morocco, the Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Mali - over 7000km currently. I was stopped in Niger last year this time due to the civil war. My goal is to make a West to East crossing of the Sahara on foot - I travel without backup but use local guides.
Currently I am restricted to only Libya and Egypt, as Niger is out of the picture. But I have recently been looking - since the border crossing has opened - at walking from Tindouf in Algeria through to the crossing at Dbada. Obviously I need to have long discussions with tour agencies there, but just before I get into the whole process of governments, planning, etc, I wondered if anyone on this forum has contacts in Algeria who are reliable to deal with on advice; especially Saharawi contacts in the East, or Tuareg in the South West? I need to buy new camels, as mine remain trapped in Niger, and also find an agency who can help me organise local guides to walk the various regions between the East and West of the COuntry. I usually use local nomads. You can look at my website to see where I have been at constanttrek » Home. I just thought that this is a good place to get a general overview before making official overtures....
Which border crossing is that?
I've never heard of Dbada - do you mean Deb Deb into Libya? That was another Libyan rumour that came and went.
Organising a long camel trek in Algeria would be no great drama but a desert crossing from Alg into Libya would be. John Hare and the runners got into southern Libya from Niger against the odds but not sure even that is possible now.
I've never been there - and one hears the west of Alg is closed to tourism these days - but I suspect the Saharawi around Tindouf are more refugees with a few goats than camels owners leading the nomad life as some Chaamba and Tuaregs do in the east (not really the SW, I think you mixed them up).
There was some Swiss?? guy coming up through Taoudenni heading for Mk via a corner of Algeria a few months ago doing the '52 jours' thing . I wonder what happened to him.
the tricky points had allready be mentioned in the above postings.
- no leagal entry into Libya frm Algeria for Tourists, but may be arrangeable with Libyan Agency and/or Administration
- Western Algeria Tindouf - Touat (Erg Cheche) closed for tourism - normally.
>There was some Swiss?? guy coming up through Taoudenni heading for Mk via a corner of Algeria a few months ago doing the '52 jours' thing
He crossed Erg Chech with official permit (I will meet him in 3 weeks)! So there is a chance to obtain permission but that certainly requires some preparational work and official contacts
Because you will be filming, you might need a press visa in Algeria.
Crossing from Touat to Djanet in Algeria I don't see severe problems. But I suppose you have to stay in the south, the direct way to DebDeb/Ghadamis is closed for tourists.
>What was his www again Yves? Orion-Tour :: Grenzgang durch die Sahara but the map is not correct, from abput Trahaza he went straight to Bordj Fly St. Marie solo, w/o camels. On Algerian side a stock with food and water was prepared for him. Later he joined a caravan towards Tabelbala.
> Did he get into Maroc?
yes, but not as intended overland. The border remained closed, he had to take the plane.
Thanks to Chris and Yves for your responses. Chris, the information I had regarding Dbada ( or Deb Deb as you say) is straight from the Australian consul in Libya, as is the spelling, so I apologise if it is incorrect! His vie was that this border is possible with help from tour agencies on both sides. I am very interested if you think this is impossible, as I do not particularly want to walk all the way across Algeria and find myself turned away at the border. I have just made some official contact and so will keep you updated on their response.
Whilst the Saharawi in Tindouf are indeed refugees, they retain an excellent local knowledge of their particular part of the desert according to their Moroccan based relatives, and have at the least contacts regarding camel sales. However, I wondered if there was any actual agency operating in the area, and from your comments, I imagine not. I will have to explore further.
I checked back at the section I was referring to when saying 'South West' and you are quite right, I stand corrected, I was referring to the border triangle of Mali, Niger and Algeria, which is obviously due south or East in relation to Mali.
I do not have any knowledge of Algeria, as when I initially planned my desert walk I was going through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania etc; I am totally ignorant about the best routes through, what is well travelled and not, and how possible it is to cross out of the country. I am getting some really good information from Yves and the rest of you, and hastily reading as much as I can before I make a final decision. I have to say that I am far more enthusiastic about the option than I have been about the walk since getting booted out of Niger - Algeria seems a wonderful option, and I am very excited about actually walking through there. I just need to cover my legal butt (as much as is humanly possible in the region) with crossings and visas, and I will hopefully have more information in the next days.
If there is any advice or suggestions you may have in regards to routes that you feel would be suitable on foot, I'd love to hear them.
Thankyou all once again for your time and interest.
... according to their Moroccan based relatives...
I have to say that does not sound so convincing to me. Do people from Tindouf actually travel for long distances across the region with camels between known wells? I doubt it and even in the good old days it was hard enough in that part of the Sahara which is why camelling by Monod and Asher and all the rest occurred further south in Mauritania (plenty of grass there...).
In Morocco I got the impression nomadism has become goat herding and camels are owned by entrepreneurs and reared for short tourists trips out of Mhamid, etc.
... I wondered if there was any actual agency operating in the area, and from your comments, I imagine not.
I think you are right as there has never been any conventional tourism in Tindouf.
For the best chance of success you're best bet would be to visit both Tindouf and Deb Deb in advance and make some face to face contacts before coming back and doing it. For Tindouf locate many of the Saharawi/Polisario support groups on the web to organise an invitation. It used to be not so hard to do - don't know about now.
In Algeria buying a camel and heading east as far as you like with a reliable crew would be much easier from anywhere east of the Tanezrouft piste (Reganne-Bordj Moktar) - ie not the western closed zone mentioned above - or easier still from places In Salah or Arak. You could do this without having to make a recce but i think it's always a good idea. I imagine the boss of Agence Tanezrouft would have camels to sell.
From Arak it would be hard to follow a boring route anywhere eastwards from well to well - ideally off the car pistes (see link below). The guiding and exact route is something you may have to take an interest in yourself as actual desert nomads from In Salah/Ahnet won't know the whole way to DebDeb (not an area of nomadism AFAIK) unless they simply stick close to car pistes. In this way a guide who knows the car routes and wells and knows how to/likes to camel would be best.
Not knowing Algeria myself (yet!?) I can only offer a link to an organistion which is operating in the saharawi region of your next project, they must have lots of local knowledge about the terrain and the logistic nightmares of arranging things, permits, visas, persons and transport. www.saharamarathon.org
Maybe the persons behind this can give you some more info about the region and probably bring you in contact with people which have some uptodate and inside info on the ground.
BTW. Paula, I really admire your determination, and liked reading your website as the journey went along.
Chris, I usually do all my own navigation, guides are there solely for support with the camels and to facillitate communication. Although I speak French and some Arabic, I find daily encounters far easier with a local nomad walking with me. It is also incredibly helpful when it comes to wells that may or may not be saline, and finding good grazing routes.
You are spot on regarding the state of nomadism in Morocco, although there are some substantial exceptions in the Western Sahara - many more herds of camels. Don't think there is much difference in feed - far harder in Mali than either Mauritania or Morocco. I have thus far traced Asher's route exactly - was stopped exactly where he was in Niger, a little place called Tillia.
I will do as you suggest in terms of contacting the Saharawi groups, but I take your points, and your advice. My last ditch effort has been to contact my official rep in Niger and enquire as to the (albeit vague) possibility that I may in fact be able to shift my camels up from Tillia and into Algeria, thus continuing my walk from the Algerian/Nigerienne border. I don't like my chances of this too much, but having walked over 4200km West to East, if I can find a way to carry on without having to start at the beginning again, I would be thrilled, even if it means missing a few hundred kilometres - although this hurts.
Is menaka and to the North possible? My old guide from Menaka told me there is endless violence in the region. I gather from this forum that people are getting through, and in my experience Mali is more laid back than Niger, but what are your feelings about being stopped on that border? Dicey?
I do not think the north of Mali is more dangerous then the area around Tilia. The route from Gao to Tessalit should be okay. But you should not travel too close to the border with Niger and Algeria, which is rebel area. The border at Tessalit is open. Try to contact some Tuareg-people that know the area well, for example travel-agency Timitrine (Mali Tour, Badi Faradji votre guide au Mali, votre agence de voyage au Mali)
but what are your feelings about being stopped on that border? Dicey?
If you mean Bordj Moktar - with all the right docs for Algeria (including a guide at the border) then no probs. The Algerians are very 'correct' unlike the Sahelian countries. The problem would be not getting nabbed in northern Mali. In lawless areas anything goes and it seems to have got a lot worse up there this year (tho that is more to the east in Kidal area). And of course the kidnapped Austrians are thought to be in that area.
I always got the feeling that the Menaka / Tilia region were centres for the Tuareg/Amazigh insurgency in the 90s (there was a big army massacre there that started the whole thing off?). Don't know about now but you did well to get that far.
It's a shame you can't nip up to In Guezzam and be on your way - or even get your camels brought up there if they're still around. I would say leave that 400kms for when things settle down and carry on from In Guezzam if close continuity is important. But I would not follow the Alg-Nig border - the wells are too far apart and there is nothing to eat (I recall reading an old camel book across that area where even the guide died, and that was just coming northbound from the Aïr which was more conventional). You want to go up from IGZ and then head NE before Tam and go round the right of the Hoggar, up alongside the Tefedest, NE under Erg Tiffernine and up towards Ain El Hadjadj and then Bordj Omar Driss, Ohanet and Deb Deb. Lots of wells and feed, some real camel nomads - I suspect it will be one of the best stages of your crossing at least as far as BoD. From there NE it's oil camps and dreary hamada.
Assuming you can get in to Ghadames, I think legitimately leaving the other side of Libya at anywhere other than Saloum on the coast is another matter... That side is a lot drier anyway.
I think legitimately leaving the other side of Libya at anywhere other than Saloum on the coast is another matter... That side is a lot drier anyway.
There have been some instances when the Libyan / Egyptian authorities allowed border crossing between Jaghbub and Siwa, but it takes a lot of effort and patience, and you need to have a strong 'push' on both sides. (Permission granted when the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the camel ... ).
As Chris said, further south it would be infeasible with camels anyway, unless there are pre-arranged dumps of water and fodder. Though there was a camel track between Kufra and Farafra, it was last used about 100 years ago, and it is very much on the limit of a camel's endurance. If you have not already done so, you may wish to contact Arita Baaijens, she is the one with the most experience on organising camel treks in the eastern part of the Sahara (not counting Carlo Bergmann, but that is taking things to the extreme...).
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