Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apr/May: My shipment/ Yung and Mai visit the Sahara

Right after Suli and Mina left Douz, Mounir and I, along with 4 other Bedouin men, left for Tunis, as my shipment from Vancouver had finally arrived.

We drove all night with the two pick up trucks. To help make the journey shorter, Mohammed (an amazing singer) sang to us on his cel phone from the other truck!

We arrived in Tunis in the morning. Going back and forth from the port, to various customs offices took all day, in the heat. We were exhausted.

The last customs man was unbelievable, his extremely personal questions made it clear that he wanted to take me out. When that didn't work, he told me that I would have to pay $800 in taxes. When my mouth dropped open and I said that was unacceptable (I was told it would maybe be $100). I went and got Mounir from the next room. The customs man kept telling me I was a rich Canadian and could afford it. Finally, he said, 'Okay, $150!!! Wow...

By then it was the end of the day, and we had 30 minutes to get to the port to get my things. After getting lost a few times, we finally found the place just before it closed. After loading my shipment onto the trucks, we drove to the apartment where we were spending the night, and the guys took everything off the trucks and put it inside the apartment.

Early the next morning, after feeding a stray kitten that had decided it wanted to be a stowaway on the truck tire, the guys repacked it all and we drove the long journey back to Douz. We stopped for dinner at a roadside barbeque place, where you pick out your carcass of sheep that is hanging in the doorway (with skin and wool still attached), and they cut it and barbeque it for you. Delicious!

Now I had only two days to unpack my things to prepare for the arrival of my dear friend from Vancouver, Yung, and her sister, Mai.

When Yung and Mai arrived, I showed them around Douz, shopping and exploring.

The next day we rented a car and I took them on a daytrip to Tozeur. After the last experience with the driver, I decided I'd better drive. But the physical and emotions of the past 3 months finally caught up with me (I spent March in Vancouver, sorting and packing up my things in storage, and having a fundraiser!) I was starting to feel sick, and driving all day did not help. Still, in spite of being very very tired, and not feeling well, we had an amazing time! We saw 'the chott', (miles and miles of the salt lake), went through the ancient village of Tamerza, saw Mides, the gorge near the Algerian border, the tiny village of Toujane, that seems to be frozen in another time. We also went through the medina of Tozeur.

The next morning we we set out on the trek, I was feeling a lot better. Our destination was Hwidhat Erriched (a lake - well, pond - in the middle of the Sahara with a beautiful hot spring).

We drove with 4 x 4 to awesome Mount Timbaine, where we climbed to the top, overlooking the endless Sahara. (see photo) Unfortunately, now Mai was feeling sick, and we wondered if we would be able to continue. We stayed at Timbaine that day and night, so Mai could rest.

WHAT IS WITH MY FRIENDS AND THEIR FEET???? We were sitting around the campfire, Mounir had brought a cake to celebrate my birthday. Yung got up to pass me the sparkler she brought along, and stepped right onto the red coals of the fire. It was so lucky she was wearing socks, Mounir ripped the sock off her foot, where the coals had stuck. She had one quite large blister on her toe, but it would have been much much worse without socks. After soaking her foot (see photo!), I put moleskin around the blister to protect it and to allow the air to heal the blister.

By the next morning, Mai was feeling somewhat better. Yung and Mai decided to push on that day, and see how they would feel the next night. Then we would either continue or return back.

The short story is, Mai got better, and Yung's foot was healing nicely, so they decided to continue on to the hot springs of the lake, our destination. The dunes were incredible, the weather beautiful.

When we got to the lake, under a perfect full moon, the three of us giggled, while we splashed and soaked under the moon with the sands of the Sahara all around us.

Yung and Mai (as well as Suli) fell in love with Lasfar (of course!)

On the way back, I was so glad that we met with a family of Algerian Bedouins and spent the night camped near them, so Yung and Mai could have that experience. Yung, Mai and I spent time with the women and children, dancing with them. Yung even danced the traditional 'hair dance' with me and one of the Bedouin women!

Over the six day trek, we ate well, listened to Mekki and Mohammed sing and play beautiful music and danced.

After the trek, Yung and Mai hired a car and driver (an amazing one this time) and took a daytrip to Tatouine and the area. I stayed behind and tidied up, did our laundry and prepared catfood because I was going to Djerba with them the next day.

The 3 of us spent a few days on the island of Djerba (Greek mythical island of the lotus eaters), where we rested, swam in the mediterranean, shopped in the souk, visited the spanish kasbah... It was the perfect thing to do after the trek!

After they left, I visited La Griba, the oldest synagogue in Aftrica (some say the world), 586 BC. The next morning I took the louage back to Douz.

Now I have less than two weeks to do the paperwork for my Tunisian residency card, as my visitors visa is up. Then I go to Vancouver for two weeks to dance at my dear friend, Joanna's CD release show.

Inshallah, when I get back to Douz, we can start to build my home and b & b....

Treks are over now until the end of September, as it is already getting very hot. The last few days it has been 35 degrees in the shade... The summer is beginning in the Sahara.
Love, Juanita

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