TASSILI DU HOGGAR
The only way to get to the Tassili du Hoggar is on a tour, and it is included on many of the longer itineraries, often as part of a trip from Tamanrasset to Djanet. All of the travel agencies in Tamanrasset and Djanet will be able to arrange a trip out here for you. If you’re driving your own car through the Algerian Sahara you’ll need to be accompanied by a guide anyway
Despite what you might imagine there’s plenty of animal life in the Sahara, although you’re not likely to encounter a great deal. If you’re lucky, in the Tassili du Hoggar you might see gazelle, tiny, big-eared desert mice, or fennec a desert fox. If you’re unlucky, you might come across a viper or a scorpion. This is not usually a problem in the cooler winter months but be aware that scorpions like to hide in rock crevasses and sometimes shoes; and vipers have been known to hide just beneath the surface of the sand, so don’t run around with bare feet.
Sights & Activities
Most trips to this part of the country are by 4WD and you’ll normally drive a few hours a day, in between which you’ll stop for walks, to climb up dunes, to look at rock paintings or to gather wood for that evening’s fire.
You’ll be assaulted by jaw-dropping beauty on a daily basis in the Tassili du Hoggar, making it difficult to pick favourites. But possible highlights of a trip here include El-Ghessant, whose rock formations look from a distance like a medieval fortress, and Tin Tarabine, with its cracked earth and impressive examples of rock engravings. Perhaps the most beautiful sight of all is Tinakachaker, which is dominated by a great stone cathedral. All around it are gnarled and twisted stone fingers forming a series of valleys and corridors; and there are massive dunes from whose heights you’ll appreciate the dreamlike splendeur of the landscape to the full. At night it takes on a different character; the wind murmurs through the valleys and dark stone figures loom from above like the monsters of childhood nightmares.
Sleeping & Eating
There are no camp sites or huts in the Tassili du Hoggar, and on any trip here you’ll almost certainly be bivouacking out in the open, but lying out in your sleeping bag under a starry sky is all part of the fun. If you’re on a trip with a travel agency, you’ll be accompanied by a cook as well as a guide, who’ll concoct three meals a day and provide plenty of tea breaks. If you’re lucky they might make a traditional Tuare bread made from semolina and then baked beneath hot coals in the sand.
Built in the red Sudanese style, In Salah would be a very pleasant place to stay were it not for the problem that gives the town its name: salty water. The water is disgusting, so bring as much water with you as you can from Tamanrasset or El-Goléa. Even the local soft drinks are made from it and bottled water is often unavailable.
The most interesting feature of the town is the presence of a creeping sand dune on the western edge by the Aoulef road. Behind the mosque you can see how the dune is gradually encroaching on the town. From the top of the dune it becomes apparent that In Salah has actually been cut in two. The dune moves at the rate of about 1m the Aoulef road is the palmeraie, with some 250,000 trees. Formerly a trading town dealing in gold, ivory and slaves from the south in exchange for European goods from the north, the town’s major occupation is now date growing.
Camping Tidikelt (per person DA500)
At the end of the move actually remains fairly constant, so while it is swallowing up a building on its the better of the two camping alternatives. There is a reasonable amount of shade and you can sleep in the tiny palm-frond huts if you want some privacy. It costs DA180 to sleep in the huts.
Hôtel Tidikelt (029 370393; fax 029 340799) on the outskirts of town, 10 minutes walk from the centre. It’s a two-story mud-red building with a (mostly empty) swimming pool. Rooms are air-conditioned and in the grand traditional of state-run hotels in Algeria, rather run down. There’s a half-decent restaurant and an airport shuttle for those who need it.
There are several basic cafés in the town where you can get cheap, filling meals for around DA300. For something a bit more upmarket, you’ll have to try the fancy restaurant at the Hôtel Tidikelt.
Getting There & Away
The Air Algérie (029 360239) office is on the main street, next to a bank. The airport is 8km to the northeast, to the right of the
El-Goléa road. There is a weekly flight to Algiers (DA9800, three hours) and one to Tamanrasset (DA5400, one hour).
The gare routière is out in the east on the main Tamanrasset to El-Goléa road, about 20 minutes’ walk from the centre. It is ac- tually just a shopping centre (most of it unoccupied), and the bus office is inside towards the back. There are buses to Adrar, Ghardaïa and Tamanrasset. The Ghardaïa buses leave at 4pm every day and it is essential that you book in advance as the buses come up from Tamanrasset. There are stops along the way (including a meal at Arak), but basically you need to be prepared with a bit of food and water.
There are 4WD taxis between In Salah and Tamanrasset costing DA2130. Taxis run regularly from In Salah to Reggane (DA600, three hours), 270km west along the road to Adrar, and from there you can catch a daily bus to Adrar.
There is a bank in the main street, and the post office is one block to the north. There is a big hospital out in the east of town near the Hôtel Tidikelt.
This agency has been organising trips into the Tassili d’Immidir since the late 1980s. It also runs good trips in the Hoggar as well as trips further afield to the M’zab.
Tanezrouft Voyages (029 360646; www.tanezrouft.com; Ksar el-Arab, In Salah)
Offers trekking, camel and 4WD expeditions into the Tassili d’Immidir and Ahnet regions.
AROUND IN SALAH
Part of the Ahaggar National Park, the Tassili d’Immidir is one of the least-explored areas of this region, despite its beauty and archaeological riches. Perhaps this is be- cause of its relative isolation it has to be accessed on foot and even then this is not a straightforward task but the difficulty in getting here adds to its appeal. The landscape is wild and mysterious and the gueltas pools of water found in the bottom of canyons produce sufficient vegetation to support a range of animal life: gazelles, mountain sheep, jackals and even leopard can be found here. The Tassili d’Immidir is also rich in archaeological findings arrowheads, shards of pottery and hundreds of ancient rock paintings all attest to a human presence from Neolithic times. There is no way of getting here independently so you’ll have to join a tour. There are several companies in Tamanrasset and in In Salah that organise tours here.
Although the gorges around Arak are quite spectacular, the little settlement itself is very humble. It doesn’t have the altitude of Tamanrasset, and subsequently is as hot as all hell. There is a camp site with zeribas (palm huts), a restaurant where you can get a reasonable meal and a fuel station. If you are on the bus, it will stop here for a meal break.
This town is 416km south of Tamanrasset and is the last place in Algeria before you cross into Niger. The Algerian border post is 10km south of In Guezzam, so there’s no need to stop here long. There’s not much to do anyway; there’s no bank and one restaurant. Border formalities happen here.
Sleeping & Eating
There is only one restaurant in In Guezzam which has OK food and also allows you to stay overnight for a couple of hundred dinars. In theory it’s open 24 hours although this is rarely the case in practice. If you have a tent it is possible to find places to pitch it and free-camp in the environs of town.
Getting There & Away
Daily 4WD shared taxis go between Tamanrasset and In Guezzam on a fill-up-and-go basis every morning at DA1500 a seat. Some people hitch a ride in a goods truck for a couple of hundred dinars. But if you’re going to Niger, you are far better off getting a group together in Tamanrasset and hiring a 4WD. From Tamanrasset it’s also possible to arrange a lift in a truck to Arlit or Agadez in Niger. Stock up with as much fuel as possible in Tamanrasset as there have been reports of fuel shortages in In Guezzam.