Sunday, July 5, 2009

Exursion part 3: Day Two part 2: A whole new world?

After our lunch we began slowly making our way across Tunisia towards the eastern coast. Our first stop was at Sidi bou Hlel, a stunning mosque perched on a mountain cliff overlooking "Star Wars Canyon," so called for the numerous scenes filmed there. Besides the canyon, it had a stunning view looking out towards the salt lake, which you can see in the horizon.

Just before dropping down into the salt lake we stopped at the top of a mountain range for a great panoramic view of Tamerza - one of the oldest villages in the area with a gorgeous backdrop of a mountain. From the view one could see the 1000 year-old abandoned houses that formed the original tiny village, with the newer houses (though still centuries old) surrounding it.

We then crossed the Chott el-Jerid: an immense salt lake covering 5000 sq km (one liter of water gets you a KILO of salt) that was for me probably the most other-worldly location I've ever been to (which says a lot to me). No wonder it was the scene in the first Star Wars where Luke Skywalker contemplated two moons in the first movie - I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd seen five moons! All the petty things in life seem so trivial in that environment, both in a spiritual and survival sense. The mirages were crazy and the heat and sun somehow different from anything I've experienced.

On the other side of the salt lake we stopped at a an amazing little are in the town of Blidet where the sand had blown and harden into incredible shapes, some like mini sand dunes and others like termite mounds. In the middle of it all was a small traditional thatched building that acted as a cafe and souvenir shop. The man was very friendly and had a gorgeous falcon named Jorge with whom I quickly became close with (I think Jorge pooping while perched on my arm must mean he really felt comfortable around me...). The man actually sells gorgeous postcards of him dressed in traditional desert garb with his falcon.

Then we were off to our final destination of the day: a camel ride to a tent camp in the middle of the sand dunes!

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