[Author's Note: I arrived in Tunis on September 10th, 2010 and left two months later. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on December 18th, 2010, a day after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. I missed the festivities by about a month or so. Some would say I dodged a bullet but I cannot help feeling like I missed the boat. How often do you have the chance to watch history unfold from the front row? It is interesting for me to go back and read about my experiences at the time. Yes, I could almost taste repression in the air but if you told me the powder keg was about to ignite I would have been incredulous in the extreme. Yet, there it was boiling just beneath the surface. Keep this in mind when reading my Tunisia posts. It makes for a fascinating subtext.]
One police dude executed a pointless check of our trunk. Another asked me about soccer. Close to the Table we had to stop and register in the town of Kaalat es-Senan. On the way out the town right below the Table we were tailed to the edge of town and then stopped about 15 minutes later at a checkpoint.
Why the hubbub? We assume it is related to area's proximity to the Algerian border and to illicit smuggling operations that are known to exist. This coupled with a 'tourist safety priority' seems to explain Big Brother. My sense is the local authorities (national guard and police) may have been a bit wary of two Americans wandering around the area alone. If I was a secret agent I have to admit that a cute red-head and a Fiat Punto make for one hell of a disguise.
We read that the hike up to the Table would take around two hours from the small village nearby (Ain Senan) but as it turns out we drove all the way to the stairway leading up the cliff face. The road became a little rugged but the ole Punto performed admirably. On the way up we were stopped by local children and held for ransom. Reluctantly, we handed over a few precious Tic-Tacs but slipped away without doling out dinars. Not that we are couple of Scrooges but handing out cash is a precedent I do not wish to set and, in my most humble opinion, does more harm than good.
When we arrived at the parking area just below the staircase I noticed that the only other vehicles present were 4WDs. Yeah, Punto!!! Don't underestimate Punto Power. Don't fucking do it. It'll rock your world. From the car it was only a 5-minute walk to the top. Leslie and I had the place to ourselves for almost the entire time and spent it leisurely saunteering around the edge of the plateau. The top was much larger than anticipated. If I had to guess I would say the circumference is probably around two to four kilometers. The plateau was the historical last stand against Roman rule by a Numidian king from 112-105 BC. King Jugurtha used the impenetrable fortress as a base from which to conduct operations. You can probably guess how that worked out for him. However, he did give it the ole college try. If only he had a Fiat, Punto.
If you ever visit Tunisia it would be a shame to miss the Table. The views are outstanding and the vibe one of end-of-the-earth desolation. It would probably be a bit like hell during the summer but in October the winds (at least on that day) were borderline chilly. It would also be an perfect place to escape the undead or just about anything you might want to escape. And anyone looking for a great camping destination would be hard-pressed to locate a more ideal location.
After a couple hours wandering around Jugurtha's pseudo-apocalyptic theme park we remounted the Punto and moved on but not before slipping the local 'guardians' a couple dinar for watching the vehicle. I think said guardian instructed us to sign out at the National Guard post but I cannot be sure. I saw this step as unnecessary as I informed the office that we would be there for only a couple of hours. Besides, we appeared to have a 4WD police escort to the edge of the village to ensure our departure/safety.
Our next destination was the city of Tozeur in the southern portion of Tunisia, just above the start of the Sahara. This involved a day long drive through Gafsa province and some seemingly Allah-forsaken territory. It makes sense that the Tunisian government would choose the region as a place to build a prison or two (Remember Fahem Boukadous?).
|One of these things is not like the other. Punto Power: Catch the fever!|
|Photo by Leslie|
|Photo by Leslie|
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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim