After leaving Chinguetti, we took a taxi back to Atar which is the main travel hub for the Adrar region. We parked ourselves at one of the street-side restaurants so we could get a meal before we proceeded. Here we learned the critical phrase sans viand (without meat), a phrase that would serve us well during our remaining travels in the mostly French Northwest Africa.
We were on our way to Terjit, a verdant oasis about 40km south. But we needed to plan our onward travel to Nouakchott here and get tickets on the next day's bus that would pass by Terjit. If we did not reserve our spots in advance and the bus turned up full in Terjit, we could be stranded there. (or may have to pay an exorbitant fare).
With full stomachs and tickets in hand, a taxi was engaged to take us to Terjit. The sealed asphalt road takes you most of the way but once you are off the highway, the final 10 kms or so is on an unpaved gravel road. On this stretch, we passed through a convoy of Mauritanian military vehicles that were engaged in military exercises. The vehicles had large guns propped up on the top and we were immediately asked by our driver to put away our cameras.
At the end of the bumpy road, you suddenly come upon Terjit village which is a small campament fronting the main oasis. Vehicles navigate the rutted and sand filled road with some difficulty and we were dropped off near the main entrance to the oasis. From the barren and arid desert, we had entered a narrow canyon of dense palm trees.
A 10 minute walk on a cool and shaded trail through this wonderland brought us to the small auberge at the very end of the canyon. It was surprisingly lush with water dripping off the canyon walls forming stalactites. A gentle stream ran through the middle of it completing the idyllic picture. We immediately dropped our bags and enjoyed standing in the middle of the stream dipping our feet in its cool waters. While we could have spent hours doing nothing else, we were goaded into climbing up the side of the canyon for a panoramic view of the entire oasis. So we made our way up the boulder strewn canyon wall, climbing up dilapidated stairs and fording tiny streams along the way.
Terjit is a popular getaway for Mauritanian seeking refuge from searing hot desert temperatures in the summer. But in December, there were few people here other than some passing tourists who were visiting for a few hours. So we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves.
Later in the evening, we hiked a few kilometers back to the entrance of the village. We were invited to dinner at the house of an acquaintance of S. The lady of the house had cooked dinner for all of us and we were looking forward to meeting a local family. After being introduced, we were treated to another elaborate tea ritual, this time completely managed by a young nine year old girl. Despite her young age, she was dressed in a melafah. (We were told that since we were guests and this was considered a formal occasion, she wanted to dress formally). She very ably played the role of an adult and expertly went through all brewing, heating, pouring steps and we were served thee rounds of very satisfying tea. Since we could not participate in the conversation, we watched her actions, spellbound by the endless repetitive pouring between glasses.
While there was a special mutton dish for S, the vegetarians in the group got couscous with vegetables accompanied by a delectable specialty of the region - mashed sweetened dates with home made butter. Dessert does not get any better! We hiked back to our auberge in total darkness. We deliberately did not turn on our flashlights or headlamps so we could enjoy the star filled sky. That night we slept in a tent under palm trees rustling in the wind.
Google Maps Link
An oasis in the midst of a desert in more ways than one ???
The 9 year old looks adorable. And a night under the starlit sky --- Priceless. From , on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:27AM