a tale of companionship in the Bayuda desert

Searing heat, miles of unrelenting desolation ahead, and only your deepest, darkest thoughts for counsel – extended time in the desert is enough to break even the hardiest characters. Famed for their surly temperaments and a bad spitting habit, for some, being lumped with a camel is the substance of nightmare, for others in this perpetual state of exhaustion, they’ll savour the companionship.

A formidable constituent of the Sahara desert, the Bayuda desert is characterised partly by its people’s modern-day reliance on their camels. At the start of the year, a team of nine joined Secret Compass to traverse the seemingly eternal sand. Upon their return, we caught up with competitive rower Lukasz Sawicki from Poland to hear how it went.

camels in the Bayuda desert

So you’ve not long returned from the Bayuda desert, how is it being home?

Change is always a good thing. It was refreshing to get out of Warsaw but it was also really nice to get back to civilisation and all the comforts of normal life with good coffee!

What first lead you to the Sudan expedition?

I’ve always liked deserts. They’re clean, remote, they offer unobstructed view over the horizon and you always feel like you’re the first person ever to cross it. The harshness of the climate also adds flavour to the whole experience. I crossed the Lut desert in Iran with SC so Sudan seemed like a good follow-up.

Did you need to train much for the crossing prior to departure, how did you prepare?

I’m a competitive rower so I just kept to my normal, daily routine. I didn’t have to train additionally for the trip, it wasn’t very physically challenging. I think any person with good fitness could do it without any major problems.

Nine days is a long time to spend with a camel, did you connect with the animal at all while you walked beside it?

I tamed my camel quite well I think. I called him Szymon. Finally there was somebody I could speak Polish to. I miss the beast.

How did you find sleeping at night under the stars?

It was one of the highlight moments of the trip. The sky in the desert is beyond description and since the evenings were quite warm, we could sleep without a tent. Falling asleep looking at billions of stars – it’s something I really miss.

And this was your third Secret Compass including the Lut desert in 2016 expedition how did it compare?

Every trip has been so different, it’s so hard to compare.  I enjoy trips with SC both for the atmosphere in the team and for the remote, unconventional places that we visit.

The temperatures were pretty extreme on the trip, how did you find the heat?

I enjoy the hot climate, I much prefer +45ºC than -10ºC. The heat wasn’t such a big issue for me – I think I was actually the only one to sunbathe in the middle of the desert. The cold would have been much more painful for me. Maybe that’s because I’m a skinny guy. It’s a matter of personal adjustment to the conditions out there.

Sand is notorious for creating blisters, how did your feet hold up?

I had the same boots that took me through the Lut desert in Iran. No blisters whatsoever.

So with this and the Lut desert trip, you’ve seen more desert than most city dwellers, more to come? What’s the next adventure?

I haven’t decided yet. I want to do one more expedition with SC this year. I find these trips very refreshing mentally. Maybe Bhutan?

camel stroking in the Bayuda desert
Camels in the Bayuda
An unfortunate victim of the desert's harsh climates.
Camels in the Bayuda
Camel and goat in the Bayuda
Camel herders in the Bayuda
Camels crossing the Bayuda