the world's smartest travel social network
I visited Tunisia before the disturbances which resulted in the overthrow of the government. However, I believe the country is now safe for tourists, as several tour companies are now advertising trips there again. I would, however, advise consulting your Foreign Office or equivalent to check the current situation.
We’d come here by way of the Roman amphitheatre at El Djem and the cave dwellings at Matmata … they told us that a similar dwelling had been used in the filming of the Star Wars series; in fact, the one which represented Luke Skywalker’s house was still preserved as such. Tozeur had been used in the same series, to represent the Mos Eisley spaceport. But, this morning, we’d already seen the old Roman amphitheatre at El Djem, and had a ride into the desert on a camel. So, by this time, all we wanted to do was check into our hotel, grab a quick bite of dinner and fall into bed.
We had to get up at 4.15 am because the Land Cruisers were calling for us at 5.15 to take us on the 4WD Safari. It’s debatable whether or not the 4WD was necessary, for I don't think we ever left the blacktop, although we did have some fairly serious mountain roads to deal with.
Notwithstanding the early start, we were able to catch up on some sleep as we crossed the bed of another dried-up salt lake called the Chott Gharsa. Like most salt pans, it’s flat, with not much to be seen … or done, apart from plugging in the MP3 player, and inspecting the back of your eyelids for an hour or so.
Presently, at the foot of the mountains, we came to a village called Chebika, at the mouth of a little gorge. The original village had been destroyed by heavy rainstorms in 1969, and completely rebuilt about half a mile away. To commemorate this, a statue of a mountain sheep stood on the skyline, gazing down on both villages from his lofty perch on the ridge. From the viewpoint just below, we could see the remnants of old village, as well as the buildings of the new.
'And, over there' said the local lad who showed us around, pointing to the cliff face opposite 'is the cave where they filmed 'The English Patient''. It would seem, if you want to put anywhere in Tunisia on the map, what you have to do is make a film there!
Then, he led us down into the gorge to see the spring from which pure, fresh water flowed. By this time, you could have made tea with the water in our bottles, so most of us refilled them here. Nobody reported any ill effects. In my opinion, it was much cooler and sweeter than the stuff you buy in a bottle, anyway.
Downstream from the spring, the stream gave a little hiccup as it descended a few inches. Was this the 'petite cascade' we'd been promised? But, the 'little waterfall' … about fifteen feet high … was actually a short way further on.
The people of Chebika are proud of their 'little waterfall' ... it's a sight you don't often see in the desert. And, of course, they take advantage of the visitors they get by setting out their stalls … quite a lot of them sell genuine native crafts, and demonstrate their making.
Having seen the ‘little waterfall’, we then drove over the mountains to the 'big waterfall', just south of the village of Tamerza. Here, the waterfall, higher than the 'petite cascade', but narrower, plunges over a cliff into a U-shaped gully. Niagara it's not, but it's the best they have.
There's little to do here, though, apart from admiring the falls, taking your pictures (trying not to get too many 'beer bellies and baseball caps' in) and maybe buying a souvenir from the inevitable stallholders. But, you can get something to eat and drink here, too … breakfast seemed an age ago!