Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tunisia Trip Day 7

(10/12/2014: updated with photos)

Do the Tunisians have something against air conditioning? We've checked into another hotel and once again the AC does not work. At least the fan is working, otherwise it would be a lot worse because the room is basically a cave with no ventilation whatsoever. Who designed this craziness? Right now I have both windows (bathroom and entry) open but they open out into the hallway so I'm a bit worried about security. All that work and I'm still sweating in bed. Either the hotels in this country suck or our travel agent is ripping us off. So far, the trip is good but not worth the $1600 for land only; I paid another $1700 for airfare. Could of had a luxurious week in Hawaii or Japan (ok, maybe not Japan) or anywhere, but instead I'm slumming it in North Africa.


Anyhow, since I'm typing already, I'll summarize today. We left the desert oasis at 8am. Breakfast was more sand baked bread: good but gritty. I had actually got up at 4am to take some night sky photos. We were hoping that the moon would set, and it did, giving us about 60 minutes before the rising sun obscured all the stars. We weren't disappointed... the stars were awesome. I don't think I've seen so many stars in the sky since the Navajo STM trip out to Shiprock, NM many years ago. I took several shots with my Sony RX-100 using manual mode at f/1.8 and 30 second exposures. It was only later that I upped the ISO to 800 and got more dramatic but grainier photos.

Big Dipper


Jupiter at top center

Desert sunrise

On the way to somewhere after breakfast, we stopped to check out a traditional Berber house. The family still lived there on the side of the road. I know it's their "culture" but it seemed like a dreadful way to live, huddling in literally holes-in-the-wall. It was unclear if the chose to live that way, or the can't afford to move to one of the nouvelle settlements. I don't think I can live like that. We then stopped by our hotel for the night in Matmata to drop off our luggage, then headed off to Chenini. Our driver thought our itinerary was a bit crazy, driving back and forth across the country.

Traditional Berber house

Grinding for couscous

Entrails drying in the sun... yummy!

Cave kitchen with some modern amenities

After hours in the road, with the sun on my side of the van, we arrived at Chenini, which is a large Berber village set into the hillside. We ate lunch at a restaurant at the bottom of the village. The meal was pretty good but relatively expensive at 20 dinars per person, and sodas were 2 dinars for a can, which is more expensive then the US. After lunch, with one for the local village children (so he says) as a guide, we climbed to the top of the village. The sun was out most of the way so lots of good pics but I was sweating profusely again, and barely made it back down in one piece. Our driver told us that while we were gone, VIP visitors from Beijing arrived with a police escort, and the special family was touring the same site.

Traditional Tunisian brik with egg and parsley

View up the hill from restaurant; we ended up climbing all the way to the top

Hey, can you give me a ride up?

Really old Berber woman

According to our young guide, the town was built in three tiers with newer construction at the bottom; most of the families have moved out to a new town several km away

View back towards restaurant

View from rooftop of highest house; the white building is a mosque about 400m up; we were about 600m or ~2,000ft up

Since we spent so long climbing up and down, we didn't have time to visit some Star Wars shooting sites. George Lucas shot some desert scenes around Chenini and Tataouine, which became Tatooine in the movies. We then drove back to our hotel in Matmata, choosing a different but "shorter" route. It began as a paved road but as the sky grew darker, the road conditions switched randomly between pavement and dirt as we drove over the Matmata Hills. It was a bit nerve-wracking driving in the dark. Finally arriving at out hotel, we had a poor buffet dinner, then found wifi access in the lobby, so I uploaded prior posts to this blog and also some pics from my phone to Facebook for an hour.

Excuse me... is there a cantina nearby?

Out in the countryside, you see the oldest pieces of French junk still driving around on the roads

I read in Lonely Planet that our hotel, Hotel Diar el-Berber, was a high-end hotel. Sigh... no AC and I've hit my head twice on the ceiling already.

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