An eerie world of nothingness at Chott El Jerid

The longest. straightest road I've ever seen

Dave the motorhome has finally moved! He’s now sitting next to a German wohnmobile (the first motorhome we’ve seen since the ferry!) at Les Amis du Camping Kebili (N33.69485 E8.96301). There is no Orange mobile network signal here so we have no internet connection, the campsite owner has kindly turned on his wifi so we can use that this morning, so this is a little bit later than normal – sorry!

This morning we woke around 9.30 and set about getting ready to move. Waving good-bye to Amar we turned left and set off towards Nefta in search of Luke Skywalker’s house on the salt flats. We reached a police roadblock and they didn’t look too perplexed when in response to asking where we were going Jay answered ‘to find Star Wars’. We pulled over at the roadside and got out our binoculars, searching the horizon as if we were looking for Tuscan Raiders I finally spotted it off in the distance. Of course the place ins’t signposted and there are no roads to it, so we looked for the track heading in that direction. On seeing it we decided that a photo from the roadside would be the best we could do, as I wasn’t up for trying to push Dave out of the sand if he got stuck!

It's miles away, but it is Luke Skywalker's house!
It’s miles away, but it is Luke Skywalker’s house!
The road to Luke's house, Dave wasn't going to venture on there!
The road to Luke’s house, Dave wasn’t going to venture on there!

We turned around in the road and set off, just as two women were heading our way waving what looked like toy stuffed camels, a lucky escape as Charlie would have no doubt demanded one! Retracing our steps we headed back through Tozeur then turned right at El Mahassen – not really much need for satnav around here as there is usually only one main road in and out of these towns.

Bread delivery, local dress and a Libyan petrol station - all in one photo, not bad!
Bread delivery, local dress and a Libyan petrol station – all in one photo, not bad!
It takes a certain type of person to bike out here, a well wrapped up one!
It takes a certain type of person to bike out here, a well wrapped up one!

As we drove along the land around us transformed from palm trees and reed sand defences to a vast open plain of – well nothing. On closer inspection is was a thin crust of sandy salt with a layer of mud under it. We were driving across the Chott El Jerid – a huge dry lake.

The longest. straightest road I've ever seen
The longest. straightest road I’ve ever seen
Dave gets a hug for getting us here
Dave gets a hug for getting us here
On the Chott El Jerid with Dave on the built up road behind
On the Chott El Jerid with Dave on the built up road behind

Pulling over we nipped out and took far too many photographs of this otherworldly landscape, passing lorries past beeped and waved as they hurtled past. Carrying on along the road the earth either side of it developed a crust and broke up, looking like ripples in the sea it called for another stop and more photographs.

Dave in the desert
Dave in the desert
Dave by the chott
Dave by the chott
The broken crust on the chott
The broken crust on the chott

Eventually the crust was replaced with sand, which in turn was replaced with palm trees and towns. Soon we reached Kebili and found the campsite. Arafat, the owner, greeted us and showed us around to the back of his house where there is a huge camping area next to a palmerie. He showed us all the facilities and introduced us to his family. Some friends had just arrived who were French ex-pats and we all sat in the sunshine and drank the local tea with orange blossom – it was sweet, warm and good.

Feeling sorry for Charlie who had been cooped up in Dave most of the day we headed off for a walk around the palmerie. Charlie remembered his love of dates and scoffed as many as he could from the floor, before we headed off into the new town of Kelibi. The old town was abandoned in the 1980’s as it had no gas or electricity, but we’re not sure why the minaret at in the old town still blares out the call to prayer five times a day to nobody.

Camel or beef for tea, you can tell their fresh by what's hung up outside!
Camel or beef for tea, you can tell they’re fresh by what’s hung up outside!
Relaxing in the winter sunshine
Relaxing in the winter sunshine
Jay wonders why his lorry won't go!
Jay wonders why his lorry won’t go!

Walking around the town most of the population stared in the direction of Charlie – as usual. This time no hugs and kisses though, just the odd stroke and a few smiles. Passing the general store I could sense Jay fancied a look around, so while I waited outside with Charlie he dived in and picked up some ‘supplies’. Emerging with a bag of items that would probably stump even the best chef on Ready, Stead, Cook, he was happy with his finds. Fortunately here most the food items are printed in Arabic on one side and French on the other, so we know what most of them are!

Jay with his supplies - almond cordial, cake, biccies, tuna, nuts and some firey paste.
Jay with his supplies – almond cordial, cake, biccies, tuna, nuts and some firey paste.

Arafat had invited us for dinner, when we asked what time he laughed and smiled ‘Insh’Allah’ (God willing), following up by saying around 7.30 – 8pm. At 7pm he knocked on the door, dinner was ready. We thought we were eating in the restaurant, but no his wife had cooked a meal for us. Along with their French friend we all sat down in their living room and ate very well. Salad, cous cous with chicken and spicy sauce and tagine (which is like a Spanish omelette), followed by yoghurt and fruit. It was all lovely and we sat around chatting about life in Tunisia. The conversation varied from very political to very silly – Ben Ali to strange phrases and hand gestures – we wanted to check we weren’t offending people when we thought we were thanking them. By 9.30 I was flagging and the conversation was becoming increasingly French, so I waved my new Tunisian hand gesture for I’m tired and with a ‘Night night sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite’ Jay and I headed back to Dave.

Araft and his family invite us for dinner

Tomorrow is Arafat’s birthday, we were planning on leaving but we might stay and explore the old town – we’re not in a rush and this place is so very relaxed and welcoming.

Ju x

We thought this might help with our Arabic, but as we're not sure what half of the images are it really doesn't!
We thought this might help with our Arabic, but as we’re not sure what half of the images are it really doesn’t!

1 Comment

  1. Ju you’re right, worth the wait and love those pics of The Chott. (Can you take alot of shots of The Chott on the trot?)

    Best,

    Simon

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