Yoa and Katam lakes. The debris from Chad / Libya war
February 21st/22nd, 2018
Today we visit Toa and Katam, two huge lakes in the heart of Sahara desert, before crossing an area full of debris coming from the war between Chad and Libya. We will also see more rock art and archaeological finds from ancient people living in the Sahara.
The day begins with a nice hike among this wild and unspoiled Saharan landscape
. The best times to walk in the desert are early in the morning and late in the evening, when long shadows enhance the shapes of rocks and sand dunes.
This region of Sahara desert, close to the lake system of Ounianga, may once have been completely flooded: evidence of this is the pebbly soil with fossils of diatom algae
(the gray scales).
On the track again aboard our 4x4s, from time to time we come across oases
with their typical palm groves
We then get to Lake Katam
, known also as the "lake of two colors
" and at Lake Yoa
, the largest of this entire Saharan region. These water reservoirs are nothing but the remains of much larger Saharan lakes
, which during the wettest times, between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago, flooded a huge area, as shown by the many fossils we have seen during the last days.
Not far from Yoa lake
, the village of Ounianga Kebir
offers the opportunity to refuel the cars before continuing the expedition through the Sahara desert. The fuel station
consists in a series of barrels from which the fuel is transferred manually into the car's tank through a pipe and a funnel.
In the middle of a barren expanse of sand, we find remains of fossilized wood
perhaps coming from an ancient forest.
We then get to a series of dunes where there are oddly shaped sandstone slates
, so bizarre to almost look like the track of an old railway.
We then camp in a beautiful place, under the pink light of the sunset.
The following morning, a pleasant walk around the camp reveals a Sahara desert full of sand dunes mixed with sandstone rocks.
Although rocks shaped like a pipe
are usually of volcanic origin, in this region of Sahara desert, they are made of pure sandstone shaped by just water and wind.
The Cerbalus spider
) is an arachnid of a few centimeters in size and this specimen has just captured a small beetle that holds, still alive, between its claws. At the sight of humans, the spider takes a threatening attitude by raising the front legs, but then, when it understands that its behavior does not scare the possible enemy, with a lightning leap, leaves the prey, turns upside down and simulates to be dead in hopes that the alleged aggressor loses interest in it.
This desert lizard
, on the other hand, leaves very characteristic imprints on the sand.
Scattered everywhere, we can see archaeological finds
probably belonging to the Paleolithic
, such as remains of a millstone, pestles of various sizes and arrowheads. Many of the stones that are scattered randomly on the ground, have not been placed there by natural events, but probably have been left by ancient populations.
These abandoned war material
are instead much more modern and come from the war between Libya and Chad
fought from 1978 to 1987, whose main theater was the central-northern Chad. The attempted invasion of Chad from Libya was meditated by the dictator Gaddafi, with the aim of taking possession of the deposits of uranium of which northern Chad (in correspondence of the Strip of Aozou) would seem rich, as well as turning the country into a satellite state of Libya. The conflict was later won by Chad and the International Court of Justice decided that the Aozou Strip was to remain in Chad.
Another beautiful oasis
between the Saharan dunes...
...among the desolate desert landscapes that continue to unveil at every turn.
We get to a well
to fill-up the water tanks, a watering point also used by shepherds who bring the dromedaries there to let them drink.
Then we arrive at Bichagara
, the southern gateway to the Ennedi massif, where large sandstone cathedrals rise among endless flat expanse of sand. We have now started to retrace our steps back to N'Djamena, but along a different track from that used for the going trip, to see even more things.
We give a last look at the beautiful rock formations typical of the Ennedi massif, yet more sandstone shaped by wind and water.
A narrow cave at the base of an impressive sandstone wall, was an excellent location for an hut that housed primitive populations, who left on the walls lot of cave paintings
, like these white dromedaries.
The beautiful rock art
showing human shapes with very elaborate features, farm animals and dromedaries. With these last wonderful images we say goodbye to the Sahara desert and continue our journey heading south to N'Djamena, back to the civilization.
Before entering the Sahel again, we camp not far from Kalait city, near these nice granite boulders.