Terjit Oasis: Greenery in the Heart of the Desert
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Ampara at the foot of the cliff

Lunch is in the form of a platter of spaghetti: tomato and onion and the usual tough meat. Afterwards, we lounge on mattresses, picking soft sweet tree-ripened dates from a bowl and sipping beautiful cold clear clean water taken straight from a bucket placed beneath the cliff’s overhang to catch the drips. There is no need to sterilize it, and we can drink as much as we can be bothered to fetch. And that’s a lot. Bliss.

Ampara returns from a stroll upstream to report that the stream issues from a seam in the rock, and blockheads do their laundry there, contaminating the water for all downstream, not that it matters much as immediately down from the spring are the swimming pools. Near our tent, someone has dug a small pit in the sand about a yard from the stream as a well. I’ll be sticking to the water that drips down from the cliff into a plastic bucket though, even though idiots toss the drinking cup into the tub when done.

Where the water oozes out, the cliff is encrusted in lime deposits covered by a thin layer of green slime and moss but so long as you do not disturb it, the water drips off clean, splashing deep holes into the sandbank below. Plock… Plock… I’m not the only person assuaging deep thirst, as the waiting tubs are kept nearly empty by the visitors.

Around three-thirty I set out upstream for myself. Once beyond the spring and swimming pond (where splashings are at once replaced by cries of “Cadeau!” and “Bic!” from the brats). There is no more flowing water although the gully obviously delivers the occasional

The catchment area above the canyon head containing the oasis

Then a fork, so I take neither branch, ascending on to a small plateau, a sandy area with some small trees and a herdsman’s shelter, though no stock just now. I go across this and up over rock screes to the level of the main plateau. Here there stretches out a view of sun-baked bare rock, gritty sand, and an occasional shrub. Desolation. It is clear that the catchment area for the spring is about as uncontaminated as you could hope to find. Enough of the sun. Back to the oasis, thirsty.

Most of the drip water has been drunk and is being drunk, so patience. I place my trusty canteen beneath a good dripper, adjusting the rock somewhat so as to stabilize the drip point. By dusk, everyone else has left, including the boss, so the only sound is the drip and chuckle of water, the rustle of foliage, and a few insects flitting about. A battery-powered fluorescent tube didn’t work, so we’ve been issued a large lantern “made in China.” Being an optimiser I cleaned and polished its glass and trimmed the wick to allow the largest possible flame without smoking. As for letter writing though, gnats make things difficult.

Ampara notices glow-worms by the water’s edge. Actually they are fireflies, and sometimes they can be seen drifting amongst the trees. By pools in the stream it looks as if you are staring at stars in the sky through gaps in dark clouds. A peaceful sleep at last. Not too hot, not windy, and quiet, though the mattress is a bit thin. There is little to do besides laze about, as transport is thin, not that we’re in a hurry to return to the desert. Parties that come here in their own vehicle typically cram it as full as possible already.

As the morning progresses, the sun rises enough to illuminate the cliff and its greenery. We are in Lotus Land, or rather, Date Land. Ampara returns from a visit to the village where she wanted to photograph the brats, and reports that six p.m. is a possible departure time. Well, maybe. Lunch is on rice and etc. My choice had been rice yesterday, but we both have to have the same so it is Turn About. Another batch of soft sweet dates are chomped as time passes quietly.