National Geographic : 1965 Aug
wheel-drive vehicle, and it was not the first time we had ventured into remote areas. And if the border officials turned us back, there was still time to catch one of the regular pas senger and freight boats up the Nile to the Sudan border station at Wadi Halfa.* For a while the road hugged the coast, curving between the sea and salt-white sand dunes. Blue crabs specked with yellow scut tled like huge spiders before the waves. At noon, little black-and-white larks hopped brazenly about the Land-Rover, quarreling over crumbs from our canned pumpernickel. Desert Road Simply Disappears Near the end of the pavement we turned away from the sea, toward the mountains that jutted from the desert like dorsal fins on some stranded sea monster. The road degenerat ed into a trail-then into a senseless doodle of tire prints wandering over the desert. It 284 crossed sand-filled gullies where we used four wheel drive and the lowest gear. It followed scarred river beds that seemed to have known no water since the Great Flood of the Bible. The air was parched, oppressive. The wind caught the sand clouds churning in our wake and hurled them after us. Even with the windows closed, dust fogged the air inside and perspiration cut vertical stripes of white through the brown film on our faces. On the second day out of Quseir, the trail disappeared entirely at the edge of a stretch of desert as endless, lonely, and featureless as the sea. Like hounds on a scent, we drove in circles trying to find a mark, a tire print that would lead us to Halaib. Nothing. Wind blown sands had completely erased the trail. *Wadi Halfa, long the Sudan's northern gate, began going under water in April, 1965, as a vast new lake of the Nile backed up behind the Aswan High Dam. For the story of this project, see NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, October, 1963.