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Chad: Guelta d'Archeï

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Guelta d'Archeï | Chad | Africa

[Visited: November 2016]

After meeting a local family the day before, and a great night under the stars in a secluded spot under a rock formation, we set out in the morning for a hike to the Guelta d'Archeï. We scramble up a rocky path, reach a pass, and from then on, we descend in the shadow of the high vertical walls of the canyon we walk into. The floor of the canyon consists of sand and rocks, some of them big outcrops which are perfect viewpoints. We see several small animals dart away upon our approach. At one point, our guide gestures to be quiet. Then, we hear that strange sound for the first time, amplified by the vast walls of the canyon, coming to us in stereo: the wailing of camels. The closer we get, the louder it becomes. Then, when we climb another outcrop of rocks, we reach a fantastic viewpoint, and our jaws drop.

Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Camels in the Guelta d'Archeï

Beneath our feet, we see a herd of camels, standing on a narrow strip of sand, at the foot of the high walls of the guelta. The water in the guelta is dark, making for an incredible contrast with the light-coloured camels. Some of us sit to watch, others, like me, stay on our feet. The scene below is not static, the camels move, wash themselves, drink: there is plenty to see all the time. This is also one of the few spots where a small colony of crocodiles lives, but no matter how hard we look, we do not see them. On our left, we see the rest of the guelta: curving canyon walls with the dark line of water on the shady floor. When a camel driver comes through the canyon, it brings an idea to most of the others, and a camel ride through the canyon is quickly arranged. I decide to walk through the water, just for the experience, which results in a lot of laughter from my fellow travellers when I wade through the stinking water in which many a camel poop floats.

Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Herd of camels in the Guelta d'Archeï

Once on the other side, we walk on the muddy land, and see another herd of camels at the other side of the guelta. There are also donkeys here, looking particularly small at the foot of the steep walls of the canyon. It turns out we have to cross the stream again, even though here, the water is very shallow. We find more nomads here, tending their animals. This is one of the great sources of water, safely stored between the protective walls of the canyon, in the middle of the big, dry Ennedi region of the Sahara desert. Trains of camels are led into the canyon to stock up on water. A little further, we have lunch under a big tree, and discover some rock paintings in a huge cave a little higher up. It makes me wonder: how much water did this guelta hold in ancient times, when artists made these paintings of animals that lasted for thousands of years? How many centuries did the weeping of the camels resonate in the impressive Guelta d'Archeï?

Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Camels in the water of the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Overview of the Guelta d'Archeï with herd of camels
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Enormous walls with camels in the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Camels at the foot of the high walls of the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Camel and reflection in the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Reflection of the walls of the canyon in the dark waters of the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): View of the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Green vegetation at the foot of the walls of the canyon
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): View of the canyon leading to the Guelta d'Archeï
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Camels contrasting against the dark water of the stream of the guelta
Picture of Guelta d'Archeï (Chad): Reflection of camels in water with donkey drinking

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