We awoke in our Ksar home, to the very loud and rather grating call to prayer coming from the mosque right beside us. Whew! We’ve definitely heard some nicer voices. We dozed for a while and got up, waved to the friendly hotel attendant guy, squinted at our maps for a moment, and headed off, bound for Tataouine.
A little detour through Medanine due to a road closure, through one of the many “road blocks” with a big STOP sign and a couple of police standing around — I always slow right down at these and look over at the police, and they invariably smile and wave us though, along with everyone else. By “Stop”, of course, they mean “Whatever, it’s all good!”
As we headed away from Medanine the wind was getting quite strong, conveniently counteracting the gentle rightwards steering drift that Nettle has had since bumping into a couple of kerbs on some of Italy’s insanely narrow streets (we’re thinking we’ll get her aligned again once we’re in France!).
The countryside became very desert-like and the sand became so fine that it was pouring across the road, driven by the wind, looking like tendrils of mist. It was quite hypnotic, streaming along in front of us as I fought the steering wheel against the wind. We thought sympathetically of Tara and Tyler riding through this.
We arrived in Tataouine after about 45 minutes; I was a little surprised to find it quite a big, modern-looking town, not quite the sandy collection of huts-filled-with-techno-junk than George Lucas would have you believe. That guy makes terrible documentaries.
We drove on, headed for Ksar Ouled Soltane south of Tatouine, another ksar (the Berber mud-brick huts/storage facilities that look so cool) which sounded promising. The drive there was fascinating, getting ever-more deserty. We passed through a few towns, men, women and children waving cheerfully as we drove past.
We parked by the road and hopped out to wander around the Ksar, which was indeed impressive. There were lots of whimsical little alcoves and organic-looking stairways.
We met a friendly local who attended the site, ran a little mini-café inside one of the little rooms (ghorfas) and made and sold watercolor paintings. We chatted for a little while (he spoke English), and we bought one of his paintings that we liked.
We drove onwards, to the ancient village of Chenini, a Berber hilltop village perched high above the surrounding landscape. When we entered the new village, we were flagged down by several young guys making somewhat inscrutable gestures. After a little incomprehension, it become clear they were offering tours. We conferred and then agreed, and we welcomed aboard a youngster who would accompany us to the old village.
After winding our way along the mountain with some amazing views, we stopped first at a cool ancient mosque that kinda looked like a miniature of itself, all organic and handmade-looking. We were invited inside for a look around, and our guide explained many very interesting things, in French, that we made the appropriate noises in response to but understood not a word of. Oh, well. The mosque was awesome though, as was the view from the hillside behind it.
Back to Nettle and happy she hadn’t been blown off the cliff yet, we drove back around the corner to the village proper, parked, and struggled on foot up the road, battling the grit-filled wind that became a gale at the top of the hill, making it hard to stand.
Our guide flitted us around, us fighting the wind the whole time, popping in and out of some abandoned cave-like rooms with tiny little doorways; he took us into the home of a very old woman with tattoos over her face (we are kicking ourselves that we didn’t take her picture), again, like a cave — funny to see a stove and fridge there.
At this point we would’ve loved to just roam around the village at our own pace, and afterwards we really regretted accepting a tour, but instead we headed back to Nettle for the last part of the tour.
As Katherine was getting back into Nettle, the wind caught the door with enormous force and slammed it right into the side of her head — Shit! I jumped out and found her crouched over in pain. Very luckily, she swiftly recovered and was fine — a bit of a lump, but okay. Writing about it makes me realise how poorly I handled the incident — I should’ve had her sit down and just be still for a while, at least, followed by close monitoring. I need to brush up on my first aid. This time, anyway, everything was fine. We now have a healthy caution of the door on windy days!
Shortly after, we drove on down the road a little, following our guide’s directions — a copse of palms, with a well, the significance of which was lost on us due to the language barrier.
So alas, we’d run out of time — it was time to start heading back to Metameur before it got dark. We feel like we sorta wasted the opportunity to see Chenini, and if we had a second chance would avoid the tour. Damn. We drove back through the amazing countryside, and settled in for the night back at the ksar in Metameur.