We drove southwards from Sfax, past many dirty little towns strewn with rubbish, and along the little highway with frequent 4WD forays off the edge of the road due to road works (travaux).
There were lots of little stands by the road with piles of plastic containers filled with something-or-other, funny men standing beside them waving at us frantically. Turns out they were selling fuel — Katherine spotted a car pulled over, being filled up with a pipe. We found out later that the fuel is brought from Libya, where it’s dramatically cheaper, and sold here by the road!
We were racing the clock a little, wanting to drive the 100km to Gabès and be safely tucked into a caravan park before dark — and we wanted to have the following day ‘off’ to do things like blogging, without having to muck about finding somewhere to stay. It was dusk by the time we arrived on the outskirts of Gabès, but we made it! Katherine navigated us to the place, Fella Parc, while I concentrated on not running into anything. We weren’t sure we’d found the caravan park when we did — the sign was broken and it was kinda dark; we wandered around and decided it must be it, so we poked our heads into the restaurant and found a guy who led us to the camping pitches, amidst a construction zone.
We settled in, and there was a knock at the door later by the manager who’d come out to greet us and point out the facilities, somewhat excitedly — it was a new ‘parc ecologie’, he told me proudly after pointing out the big cage for some poor future inhabitant. Right.
We stayed two nights, I did some blogging and lots of catching up on reading others’ blogs, which I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly Katherine’s blog; kinda nice doing something that isn’t programming for a change. While we were still in bed in the morning, the manager or someone knocked on the door — a little over-keen still, I think — and I managed to make myself understood that they should come back later. The manager dude eagerly showed me around, then somehow roped me into typing up some English translation of the website when he found out I was a programmer. Then he was on my case every time I saw him later about putting up an advertisement with an Australian motorhoming club! He wouldn’t let up! Just… weird and uncomfortable.
In return for the typing, he invited us to lunch at the restaurant, with what I originally thought he meant was his family (ma famille), which would’ve been interesting, but I think he actually said “your wife” (ta/votre femme), so it was just Katherine and I — eh, that works too, we’re not particularly social people. Lunch was fun, some Tunisian soup, a frittata-like slice thing, and lots of tasty, cinnamon-y couscous. Plus wine, ah, red wine, it’s been so long!
We set off with some relief from Gabès, headed for Medenine. The scenery got very deserty and interesting. There were more 4WD roadworks, and some hilarious bad-truck-driver shenanigans — big truck overtaking another big truck on a crest of a hill with zero-visibility of oncoming traffic, always a recipe for awesomeness. And, there was a whole lot of empty space.
We arrived in Medenine, had a little trouble finding our destination, but made it after asking someone; we were there to have a look at the Medenine ksar, a Berber construction: A series of mud-brick granaries built all together making a continuous collection of cave-like alcoves. It was all a bit disappointing — probably, a Google image search would’ve been sufficient to see what there was to see — and the aforementioned alcoves were chock full of pushy souvenir vendors. Still, Katherine managed to score some bits that she genuinely liked, so not a total loss! The town itself was fairly unpleasant, so we were happy to drive out again soon after.
We were hoping to make it all the way to Tataouine and stay there for the night, but we know of no caravan parks anywhere near it, and we remain a little skittish about wildcamping still. We decided to stay in a caravan park/hotel in the little nearby village of Metameur, Hotel les Gorfas.
We had read that the place was converted from a ksar, but when we got there we realised we’d done a lot better than we’d imagined: The place was beautiful, the mud-brick hut things all piled up on top of each other whimsically. It was a vastly more awesome ksar than the one we’d actually come to the area to see. It was also very peaceful and quiet, something we hadn’t really had yet in Tunisia.
What was even cooler was the reception we had. A young man and older woman, both incredibly sweet, showed us in and pointed us to the facilities, then the adorable older woman offered us some mint tea and showed us around the impressive ksar.
Then, just after we thought we might take a walk through the village, a friendly guy around our age said hello to us and took us on a tour through the village!
He showed us several ancient Berber residences, part of the ksar, and pointed out the house (now abandoned) where his grandmother once lived.
He introduced us to someone who I assume was a family member (we spoke in French, and most of it’s guesswork for us!), in a yard with two frolicking horses. He was working on a stall, and discovered a scorpion in the process, picking it up in his hand, then offered it to me. Jibbley-jibbley a real live scorpion in my hand, but not killing me apparently cos here I am still alive. Also I may be overstating things slightly.
He pointed out the village graveyard, and the area where some of his family members are buried, and he asked if Katherine and I come from the same village, which hurt my head a little trying to think of our home towns as villages.
Then he showed us how the Tunisian scarves are worn:
Awesome! This place and its people are the greatest!