The Shangri-La of Tofatat


THE SHANGRI-LA OF TOFATAT: The next thing Aubine and I did was to climb high into the boulders, through indescribably twisted passageways where we repeatedly had to help one another. At the summit of Tofatat we discovered a natural marvel whose existence still baffles me to this day: there was a small limpid pond surrounded by an earthen sward where a few flowering acacias and tender shoots of grass grew.

In our travels we had occasionally chanced upon pools of water in rocky Saharan environments. Called “gueltas” in Arabic, they were usually fed by rain but sometimes by springs. However, we never before had encountered such an anomaly at the highest spot in a citadel of stones — especially during the dry season! Because of the vegetation we decided that our guelta must be fed by an underground source. But where could spring water come from, here at Tofatat; and how did it rise to this level?

Aubine and I were enthralled at finding this unexpected Shangri-La. We danced and hugged each other, and splashed rapturously in the water. Grateful that the life growing inside Aubine could experience our euphoria, we felt more blessed than ever by Creation. Together with our child-to-be, our growing “family” became like a vessel for the energy flowing from the boulders, the guelta, the trees, and the deep blue sky.

Text: by Michael and Aubine Kirtley, excerpt from “An Invitation to Tofatat” published in “The Walkabout Chronicles, Epic Journeys by Foot”, recounting their first trip to this mystical land of dreams.

Photo: by me… upon my return as an adult to the one place on this earth that I can truly call home. Here a lone donkey enjoys the grasses of Tofatat’s plains.