A Mountain/Desert Oasis Bonanza!

Trip Start May 13, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Tunisia  ,
Friday, April 3, 2009

Heading further and further west we were getting perilously close to the Algerian border. In fact at our next stop, Chebika, we could see it in the distance as we were quite high up. At Chebika was a mountain oasis, with some craggy sandstone terrain that masked a water source running through the oasis. This is the oasis on one side of us, and the view across to Algeria on the other...

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

We climbed quite high up initially, so we had great views of the long flat desert plains that we had just travelled over. Towards the top of the climb, it was clear that much of the housing lay ruined and long since abandoned. Looking down you could see how this was once a typical Berber village, with stone houses stacked on top of one another into the hillside.

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

We clambered over rocks and through a tight passageway to reach the pathway down to the inside of the mountain oasis. The rocky scenery was pretty fantastic. The colours were beautiful, and the erosion had made some great patterns, but above all it just seemed so untouched and a real product of nature's hand. Plus I really enjoyed the little climbing part!

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

What goes up, must come down. Into the oasis we went, welcomed by the shrill chirruping of dozens of miniature frogs. I got quite close to a couple of them down by the little rock pool, but they were so tiny I thought they were going to hop it everytime I moved so I didn't want to try and take a picture. Anyway, there were three sections that I suppose can be referred to as water features. The first was this beautifully coloured rock pool, which fed into a waterfall down below. Finally there was a less attractive pool of water which had been built over to create a tiny dam of sorts.

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

On the way out little kids tried to hang necklaces over us in a desperate attempt to make us buy them. There were so many stalls there, all selling virtually the same things, and all supposedly for "one dinar only"... as if they ever made any money! Mum gave them some pens to play with instead... I hope they had some paper!

The mountain oasis bonanza didn't end at Chebika! Into our "land-cruiser" vehicles we popped, and soon we were whirling around chicane bends heading onwards and upwards into Tamerza gorge, on our way to Tamerza mountain oasis. This oasis was pretty similar to Chebika (how different can they be?!) but we appreciated the scenic drive up to see it.

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

This was practically on the Algerian border, and the mountain range visible to our left as we went in marked the border. Well I guess this is as close as we're gonna get for now... ah well :(

Algeria! Algeria!

So that was it for mountain oases at least! The next stop was in Tozeur, noted for two things; its desert oasis, and its remarkable brickwork that characterises virtually all of its buildings. Here we were taking horse and carriage rides into the oasis. This was quite slow going, but along the way the driver pointed out some of the various fruits that were growing within the oasis - figs, lemons, oranges, pomegranates, bananas etc. Once inside we were given a bit of a guided tour, and shown the fruits close up. We also watched as a young boy climbed barefoot up a date palm and showed us how the workers pollenated the dates, and then tied them all up, so as they could be harvested within having to rely on luck and the wind. This is bananas, figs, and date palm pollenating...

Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis Mountain Oasis

I found this all semi-interesting (apart from when we were offered free dates, that was amazing), but it wasn't exactly the highlight of the excursion. Especially when Mum noticed that our horse wasn't being properly looked after and was being whipped and driven too fast on the roads... so she gave the horse and carriage man a piece of her mind and shopped him in to his boss to make them get the vet in, which didn't go down too well... good work dear!

Besides, I thought the brickwork of Tozeur was far more impressive than its oasis. It gave the buildings a touch of class and a touch of life that seemed so often missing from many of the bland white Tunisian buildings we had seen in other towns. Plus some really nice and unique patterns had been made using this architecture.

Tozeur Mountain Oasis

Tozeur pretty much spelled the end of our galavanting in the South of Tunisia. It was a shame it ended on a bit of a sour note with the horse scenario, but ultimately we'd seen so many amazing things that it didn't end up clouding anything. It was a bit of a come-down when we got back on the bus and knew we had hours and hours of driving ahead of us, when we'd got so used to stopping every hour or so and exploring something completely novel and exciting. Plus we were starving... this was all before lunch, and we'd now been up about 8 hours!!
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