We left Tozeur a hair after 8 in the morning, but the sun was already blazing down on us. We were headed through the Chott el Djerid, Douz, Matmata, then finally arriving in the Sahara at Ksar Ghilaine where we'd spend the night in what was called a "first class tent" in the Sahara.
The Chott el Djerid is a huge salt lake of over 7,000 kilometers and stretches into Algeria. I've heard folks saying that it's not much to see....but the Missus and I were mesmerized by the stark, seemingly endlessness of it all.
There's a causeway about 6 feet over the salt. Ben told us that before the causeway was built, you basically drove on the sand and sometimes took your chances through the water that fills the lake during the short wet season. Ben found a ramp down to the sand and drove out into the salt.
We stopped and got out to take photos....but it's really hard to capture the great, vast, wide, nothingness......
Details really stand out when you have a backdrop like this. Like the little camper parked on the salt 50 meters or so away from us. A French woman peeked out the back when we stopped, then opened the door and gave us a wave. This really isn't the place I'd like to spend a couple of days if you ask me...but the desolation must be attractive to some.
If this place looks a tad familiar, it's where Luke Skywalker contemplated the two suns in Star Wars. Yes, folks, we were on Tatooine. Actually, we visited the Tunisian city of Tataouine a bit further during the trip.
The salt can actually be peeled off in layers...and is quite salty. The little remaining water from the wet season was slowly evaporating in the lower areas leaving a red oxidized residue. All od this, combined with the fata morgana made this quite memorable.
From there we headed through Kebili and then Douz, the gateway to the Sahara. Ben stopped at the outskirtsof town at what looked like a cafe....but was a tourist stop for all things like driving ATVs to flying in an ultra lite, to riding camels. Guess which we picked?
Even though it's a very touristy thing to do, we really enjoyed riding the camels. Once you get used to the way the camel rises up and sits down and the gait, it a pretty easy and enjoyable ride. We also noticed that the camels have some very distinct personalities...they also make sounds that would probably not be real great in the general public. It was indeed much better to ride a camel than to eat one!
This was our first taste of the desert and we were just plain fascinated by the fine sand and the endless dunes.
As we drove off to lunch, Ben told us the desert around Ksar Ghilaine, the Grand Erg Oriental is totally different from here.
We stopped for lunch at a little mom and pop restaurant right outside of Douz.
These restaurants usually serve a complete meal, comprised of brik, soup, couscous, finished with mint tea....which is what we had. It was a pretty hefty meal!
As we were finishing up with our mint tea, a young man walked in with what looked like a giant rodent in his hand......after doing a double take, we realized it was something else....a fox perhaps? I suddenly realized it was a baby Fennec Fox. I tried to take a photo, but it was too darn fast, this is the best shot I got.
After lunch we headed East....... here we saw tons of camels hanging out along the road. Those camel crossing signs were there for a reason!
There are no wild camels in Tunisia. All the camels we saw belonged to someone and seemed totally unfazed by traffic....in fact, there would be a camel lying right in the middle of the road, refusing to budge. All the cars had to go around it! I was told that one had to drive carefully during the night since camels loved the warmth of the asphalt and would sometimes sleep in the middle of the road. So how did the camels get back to their owners? We were told that camels always return to the same watering hole when in need for water.....the owners would usually find them there.
There you go...more than you ever wanted to know about camels I'm sure! Thanks for reading!