Oualata was our first off road
destination and almost put us off the whole thing. We had naively
assumed that a piste was somewhat like a farm track or a Scandinavian
country road, gravel surface, reasonably graded and clearly defined.
We had also assumed that it would be where the map showed it to be, rather
than 10 km to the West! It took about 3 hours to
do the 100km or so from the main road at Nema. We arrived just as
darkness was falling which it does at an alarming rate that far South.
There were street lights, a recent addition, but sadly no electricity to
power them, so we suddenly found ourselves at the end of a track, on a
rubbish tip and no idea where the supposed hotel (as found on internet)
Instantly surrounded by
inquisitive children, and shortly thereafter by a guide who showed us to the
Hotel de la Ville, a former Oualata town house; very romantic with
traditional furnishings and dinner in the courtyard by moonlight. We had the choice of any room, being the only guests.
With the door open staring at the stars, it was a pleasant temperature, heat
stored in the thick brick walls. All night long the goats were
bleating and we were woken by the cock crowing and the clanking bells of the
goats wandering off to find pasture. For breakfast, instant coffee and fresh bread with
honey...again in the courtyard. Our guide returned early
as agreed to show us around. First stop the gendarmerie!
A very small town where everyone knows everybody else,
so his sister runs the museum, his cousin the library...Probably one of the most
interesting places I have ever been. The desert is slowly filling the
streets giving it a slightly surreal atmosphere, quite timeless. As we had hoped, the buildings
are fascinating, with highly decorated doorways. There are a number of
preserved buildings with original artefacts and furnishings and it is
stunningly photogenic. For further details on where it is and how to
get there see itinerary page of