Photo by Wolfgang of Water Trough
Slightly smelly but clean and free from dust and sand

Water trough in the sahara


We found a water trough in the Sahara

Algeria 20/02/1979 to 9/3/1979 

23 February 1979

 The truth is that the Sahara desert is not quite as devoid of water as it might seem. There are of course the big oasis with small permanent communities, and the isolated ponds, some of which are now recognised by UNESCO. Looking at the Michelin map, which shows potable water locations, gives even more indication of water. Some of the dry river beds have wells to get down to the the river still flowing beneath. If you are a Touareg  sat on the back of a camel crossing the desert, it is essential that you know where the source of the next potable water is. Not all of the water is drinkable though, some is brackish or contaminated, and some sulfurous hot springs. That sulfurous rotten egg sort of Hot Springs smell is actually H2S, hydrogen sulfide. Not all hot springs have it to the same extent.

 On our general meanderings around the Sahara desert we occasionally came across hot springs of one sort or another, with varying degrees of smell.

One day, just driving along as you do, we saw a stone or concrete water trough in the Sahara. As with most days there was nobody else about. It could be days between seeing somebody outside the group. It is not the M25 where it is a cause for celebration if there is a single moment without another vehicle in sight. Stopped to investigate. Hot springs fed the water trough, not too smelly, overflowed from the trough and spread around it, in all directions, for a short distance before disappearing back into the ground. Or did it just evaporate, it was hot enough.

We had been in the desert a while now. We were all dirty, and knew it. Here was an opportunity placed right in front of us. Off course, later in the trip, this level of dirty was almost clean.

To the back of the truck, drop the tailgate and say that here is somewhere to wash. Suggested that it could be girls first, then mixed, then boys. This was met with enthusiasm. The truck was a but a short distance from the trough, enough to avoid the wet sand, you certainly did not need binoculars. The girls were at the trough like a shot. An opportunity to lose that caked on sand and dirt, even for a short while. I should point out that, as a generalisation, European women have a more flexible approach to their bodies and nakedness than the British. With that in mind it was probably them that got there first, checked the water temperature, and that was that, decision made, it was bath time. No hesitation, stripped naked, and into the bath together. This of course set the scene for the more restrained, and  allowed them to follow suite. The trip had been going long enough, and the dirt had ground in enough to reduce inhibitions. The girls did get a while on their own. Some had got out of the warm bath, clean and gleaming, and stood and dried quickly in the sun. Naked was no longer an issue. The boys decided that they did not want to wait any longer and joined the remaining girls without any complaint. I did hear a "you won't find the soap there" but even that had a laugh in the voice as it was said. Soap is after all slippery, it is bound to escape hands and need recovering. Flesh against flesh was inevitable, it was not a big space.

Eventually everybody was clean and dry. A wash had become a bath. All had seen more of everybody than before, and everybody was happy. Surprising how interactions change over time and circumstance, and how having a bath, communal or not, can make you feel good. 

No other photos for this article for obvious reasons.

Further investigations reveal a possible name and location for this well in the desert. Michelin Map 153 shows a  well called Hassi Touareg saumâtre (brackish) There are other wells in the area shown as potable and good water. Hassi Touareg is located at Latitude: 30°32'60" Longitude: 6°25'59.99". The name is now used for a gas field which does confuse things. There is a fort nearby. 'Bordj Hassi Tartrat is 220 km south of Hassi Messaoud.
This fort, not at all traditional, is hardly a shelter to monitor the Gassi Touil during the drilling of water wells in this region, during the slow penetration in the lands Touareg' (Translation).

Photo of the 'boys session' at the top of the article is by Wolfgang, one of the EMs.


Map of North Africa with approximate route zoomed in to the location of the water trough.


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