It was a very weird night at the Lar Homestead. A Chinese tour group turned up around 11:30 PM and seemingly filled the courtyard. They tried to enter my room as well, I guess they figured they had bought out the place. But that was the least of my problems sleeping. I fell down one step whilst trying to get out to the bathroom and hit the ground hard. I scraped my knee, my right hip and my back. I’m seriously sore this morning. On top of that, I got yelled at by owner who I think thought I was part of the Chinese contingent that had been karoaking themselves into the wee hours… only slowly did he realize I was another guest of the hotel and was simply waiting for breakfast. I ate as always way too much bread.
I wish I hadn’t hurt my back and hip. I was toying with going for a short run tomorrow to restart that exercise regime…. and to address the over indulgence in food and sloth I’ve been embracing. But even sitting in this 4×4 as we drive for 90 minutes on the N20 to Douz, I’m feel a bit of pain at every jostle. I try a range of motions to see what causes what pain. The arm movement inherent in my running stride is particularly painful. Swell.
As a general note on all the posts — I’m not sure any of the photos of me are working. I feel sick and bloated and my hair is a mess. It’s vanity mixed with reality I know. Hopefully the non-me shots are passably scrollable.
This is a bizarrely stream of consciousness post as I’m tapping things out on my phone and saving them for later. I sometimes (even oftentimes) do these on trips and then try and rewrite/synthesize the stray comments into some semblance of a coherent narrative on my laptop later in the day. But the WiFi I’m encountering at various hotels is nonexistent to perhaps even more frustrating spotty at best. Every time I think I have a connection and can send a photo or a note to myself to download onto my Surface tablet, well, things start going horribly, horribly wrong.
The rainy season has brought out Tunisian wildflowers and swaths of green on the rocky terrain. That all is expected to change as we head into the desert proper, an area marked by the gates at Douz.
We are now in the Southwest of Tunisia which explains why the dates look even better here – they’re exceedingly local. The SouthWest in fact produces over 100 varieties of dates. I only have a few.
Thursday is market day in Douz and it’s very crowded, the hustle and bustle of trading and deals being struck, of friends meeting up and exchanging news like high schoolers at the mall in the late 1980s, is an overwhelming experience. Everything is for sale here – from clothes and furniture to appliances and goats.
Douz is an oasis and as I said marks the the beginning of the desert and their dunes. Mondher asks if I’d be interested in riding a camel. Here’s a universal truth: When someone asks if you want to ride a camel in the Tunisian desert, you say yes.
Mondher dressed me in a scarf to protect against the sun and blowing sand. He says I look like Lawrence of Arabia. I wish that were true. But I do kinda like what’s happening here. I get to ride a white camel (“very lucky” I’m told repeatedly). His name is Sultan and is a young camel, only 4 years old.
It costs 30 dinars to ride a camel for 45 minutes. That’s a bargain. My guide was a young kid named Oufichawki, Chawki for short. He owns 17 camels and loves the Sahara. As we talk on the trip, he tells me I have to share my photos with him on facebook.
Oddly my back was mostly ok on the camel ride… but when getting off I could certainly feel it and as we drive out of Douz it is tender to say the least.
It’s a long drive. Mohammed and Mondher are chatting amongst themselves occasionally asking me if I’m okay. Ca va bien I reply, somewhat automatically. I’m lost in my own thoughts. The winds have kicked up the sand and it hovers in the air, gritty to the eyes and lungs. I’m cursing my stupidity for stumbling on that hotel step. I had been so careful clambering over Ksars with uneven steps, makeshift hand holds, collapsed chasms that would often require a bit of a leap of faith. But one wrong step late at night sends me tumbling to the ston floor, my hip and ribs bruised but hopefully not broken.
The same can be said of my heart and soul. I’ve been categorically wretched to be around of late… and perhaps far longer than that. I’ve tried to rejuvenate my good cheer through this incredibly self-indulgent present to myself. There have been several hiccups but I hope at least I come out of this better than when I started.
There’s an inherent sadness in traveling alone. And yet there’s a sadness in keeping company but unable to be together. This was an adventure that I could’ve postponed and rescheduled in the hopes of sharing with someone else. But like all attempts at schedule with anyone else, it’s subject to whims and fates outside of the self. That’s not a criticism per se but a recognition that one can wait a lifetime for two or more people’s schedules to align, and if you keep waiting you might miss out. So there are times, in great selfishness, that you just have to choose to go alone.
My biggest regret of this trip is not that I’m sick or hurt or occasionally struggling with good cheer. Those are obviously top tier but, no, my biggest regret is that I’m doing this Hanna Solo. I’m on this adventure without someone else to share and experience and talk it through while it’s happening. It’s a common thing for me as a single guy… and so as is so often the case with runkevinrun.com, I opt to share with you, Internet. You who are the cause of yet only partial solution to all of modern social problems. I don’t know how many if any read this thing but it is my best effort to share with someone or something else what’s happening.
I’m enjoying myself despite the regrets which is certainly not nothing.
But here’s where it kinda take a turn. My guides are very supportive and charming but there’s an undercurrent to it all, as they seem to feel sorry for me, and try and do things to make up for me traveling alone. I’m usually okay being alone and only get lonely or depressed about it when someone else calls it to my attention.
The last time I rode a camel I took my Mom to the Outback of Australia. Because of snafus and problems I didn’t run the Outback Marathon I was supposed to do in the Red Desert of “stralia, but I got to spend some time with Mom and it was great fun. I thought about that while pondering my solo camel ride. Yeah, I was having fun alone but, yeah, it would’ve been more fun with someone else. Maybe that’s true of it all. I don’t know. I find myself spiraling amidst a sore back, hip, and runny, stuffy nose into a bit of depression…
…so maybe it’s good that Mohammed and Mondher are taking pity on me. For lunch they buy sandwiches from Abdullah Haim (I think that’s how they spelled it). He’s famous for his sandwiches and they want to treat me to a special detour surprise… maybe they take everybody there and they just want me to think I was special. Regardless, it was nice of them to say and do it… though in my warped perspective it also was a little sad for me.
The surprise was a dune playground called Debabcha. It was nice but I wouldn’t say it was mind-blowing. Maybe I’m sand-jaded.
We jumped on to the N16 to take us through the desert and through the salt lake. Somewhere out here Queen Amidala’s Royal Spaceship landed and Quin Gon Jinn and Darth Maul dueled it out briefly. Where exactly? Could’ve been anywhere honestly. It was a large salt lake. The winds had been strong all morning and continued through the afternoon. Sand hung in the air and visibility was low… but hopefully you’ll get a sense of the scope of the salt lake. I didn’t take a Scarif-ian style shot of the salt en masse but rest assured I checked – the ground underneath was still brown and not red.
As we left the great Tunisian salt lake behind, we came to Sidi Bouhlel, the fabled Star Wars Canyon.
This is where R2-D2 was droid-napped by the scavenging Jawas. This is where Ben Kenobi rescued Luke from the marauding Sand People. This is where I geeked out a bit at a giant rock or two.
Quick Side Note: Mondher tells me the Raiders of the Lost Ark canyon and desert are also in Tunisia but it was too far to detour… and while I would’ve loved to see the faux hole that supposedly led to the Well of the Souls, this IS the Star Wars Tour and not the Indiana Jones Tour.
Both Mohammed and Mondher kept saying I seemed very tired. And I was. But I was having fun seeing sights and exploring. It’s just there was a lot of driving today and a lot of me stuck in my own head since I couldn’t follow the French/Arabic conversation they were having. Plus hurting physically takes a toll emotionally and vice versa.
I’ve checked into my hotel for the next two nights and the WiFi is barely usable in the reception. I’m trying to get things uploaded as best I can. I had over 300 photos earmarked for yesterday’s post and have been trying to make cuts and upload sections whilst working on today’s prose. Maybe it’s all for the best that I can’t upload en masse. The last thing you need is more photos of me looking goofy.
Although… here’s one for the road.