Barely 10 minutes after leaving Agadez in a 4WD, we plunge into another
world: the Ténéré Desert spreads it barren wilderness
before our eyes. The Tiguidit Cliffs bear rock paintings from prehistoric cultures who
vanished several thousand years ago; with the pre-islamic tombs and petrified
tree trunks discovered in the same area, they powerfully evoke a very
To avoid sinking into the soft sand, drivers let air out of the vehicles
tires as soon as the ridges of the Ténéré Erg are
in sight, long before you reach Arbre du Ténéré.
The first giant dunes raise their proud profile against the sky just beyond
this historic site.
Arbre du Ténéré
- Bilma :
Crossing of the Ténéré and Bilma ergs
This is the winter route of the famous salt caravans going
to Bilma. Meeting a train of camels plowing majestically through the soft sand
is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Driving becomes more arduous for there is
no road in this maze, not even the shadow of a track: as the 4WDs wind their
way around the huge sand ridges, leaving faint tire marks that vanish with the
first breeze, travellers feel as lost as if they were in the middle of an uncharted
sea. The Fachi and Bilma Oasis provide exquisitely green havens in this boundless
sea of sand.
Dirkou - Seguedine - Djado - Orida : la falaise
Aney, Seguedine and Chirfa palmtree plantations bloom deliciously
green in the shadow of the forbidding Kaouar Cliff. From the proud fortified
cities of Djado and Djaba, only ruins remain, silently guarding the memory of
their unknown builders. At Orida, stone pillars eroded by blowing sand create
a fantastic, almost surreal landscape.
Dissalak Cliff and Ténéré
Over centuries, the merciless Saharan wind has turned Dissalak
Cliff into a sculpture gallery: eagle heads, human bodies and abstract figures
flower all over the eroded rock. This is where you enter the real Ténéré
Desert, the Tafassâsset, a flat expanse as boundless, empty and pure as
infinity. Nothing to catch the eye, not a sign of life in this kingdom of silence
and stillness. To cross this utter wilderness between sky and sand is a deeply
humbling experience. Adrar Bous - Temet
The Adrar Bous area retains traces of very ancient human
life. Its rich trove of Neolithic artifacts arrow heads, grindstones,
fishbones witness to a climate and level of activity very different from
what we can observe today: indeed, the Neolithic communities lived in a Ténéré
dotted with lakes. To discover one of those millenia-old relics is one of the
most moving experiences a traveller can have. The Temet Oued (intermittent river)
meanders through steep sand dunes, some 300 meters high, at the foot of a 1,000-meter
mountain, the Gréboun.
Tezirzek - Chiriet
Near Tezirzek Well, a hill covered with rock paintings
evokes the rich fauna that roamed the Ténéré when the desert
still bloomed. All those species have disappeared, along with the cultures whose
life depended on them.
The multicolored Ifiniyane Dunes rush up against Adrar Chiriet, a dark
volcanic outcrop fantastically eroded by blowing sand.
Illekane - Arakao
Nowhere in the Sahara are contrasts starker as in this area. In every
direction, sand waves roll toward the horizon, sometimes crashing against
islands of blue and white marble. Gold, silver and pink dunes nurture
delicate flowers and capture light tracks that hint of a secret life amazingly
well adapted to its harsh environment.
Arakao, a ten-kilometer-wide crater shaped like a crab claw, gathers the
Ténéré sand through a large breach in its high walls,
forming a gigantic sand buttress against the Takolokouzet.
Zagado valley- Assodé - Timia
The Zagado River leads us deep into the heart
of the magnificent Massif de lAïr. Gazelles roam its tree-lined banks.
Tales of the flourishing past of'Assodé abound. The ancient capital of
the Aïr is now a ghost town where only a few walls still stand, but pottery
shards strewn all over the site testify to its once thriving economy. Bright
green against the ochre expanse of sand, the Timia Oasis offers a striking contrast
to the somber lava range that surrounds it. Kel Oui farmers still water their
gardens with the wooden pulleys used by their ancestors. They raise corn, wheat,
a wide variety of vegetables, even grapes. Downstream from Timia, a lovely waterfall
cascades through a series of basins toward the guelta.
Elméki - Dabaga - Azel - Agadez
Arid moonscapes and emerald-green oasis, volcanic pillars
and well-tended gardens, light-footed gazelles and flowering acacia trees: on
this stretch of track, contrasts and surprises abound, to the unending delight
of the traveller. In Elméki, Tuaregs still extract tin from ancient cassiterite
mines. The road to Agadez goes through Azel, a charming village of settled Tuareg
farmers and herdsmen.
PRICE per person for a party of 7 or more starting from
- 14 days = 1100 Euros per person (7.200 FF)
- 13 days = 1030 Euros " (6.780 FF)
- 12 days = 970 Euros " (6.360 FF)
* 4WD vehicles and fuel
* drivers, guide and cook
* full board, cookware, tableware and one foam mattress per person
* local taxes and route approval (required for desert travel)
Prices do not include:
* drinks and personal expenses
* plane tickets and airport taxes
* food and lodging in Agadez
* travel insurance (trip cancellation, lost luggage, emergency return for health
NOTE: these prices apply to the 2002/2003 season, save for an abnormal rise in local prices.
DESERT TRAVEL IS NEVER DULL. EXPECT