We then began our north-ward leg. First to Wadi Sura to see the Cave of the Swimmers, made famous in the English Patient film, then climbed up onto the Gilf Kebir plateau, a huge area high above the main desert. That night the camping was a little colder. We descended down a narrow wadi to the north, into red sand at Wadi Hamra. More rock art and sketching before setting off across the Great Sand Sea, the largest in the world with huge sand dunes running NNE to SSW for hundreds of kilometres. Travelling from east to west or vice-versa across the dunes is almost impossible and prevented Rommel from circumnavigating the 8th Army’s left flank in 1942-43 (together with the Quattara Depression further north). We however, were going north, so we’d drive so far and then have to ascend sand dunes, choosing as low ones as possible. Amazingly few wagons got stuck in soft sand, but when they did it was quite a sight to see the lads at work freeing them. Oddly enough, Saeed’s wooden splint held, even when we descended 300-foot 45-degree dunes with Jenny hanging on with white knuckles and wailing.
A dvd of the trip to the Gilf Kebir, depicting the scenery of the Western Desert and showing David and Jenny sketching is available at £12.99