844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Tozeur & Chott El Jerid (Tunisia)

[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.]

Nov 4th, 2010 - Our arrival in the southern city of Tozeur was met with a rather rigorous test of patience. We managed to complete a couple of full circuits through the center of town before finding our hotel of choice. Driving through any sizable city in Tunisia feels a little bit like a video game as much for the pure challenge as the surreality of the ordeal. Close your eyes and pretend you are playing Frogger

You're the frog. Now pretend you are afflicted with a unique form of 'traffic astigmatism' (inability to see moving vehicles) and have not even a cursory sense of situational awareness. Cross the road. Now you pretend you are the douchbag behind the wheel (i.e. me) and throw in a chaotic mass of frogs. The level of obliviousness is mind-boggling. The boggling of my mind has been a frequent occurrence. It's almost as if folks have taken the pedestrian's 'right of way' as some sort of immutable law of nature that drivers are compelled to obey. You truly have to experience it to fully appreciate the phenomenon.

One of our primary motivations for visiting the area was to experience Chott El Jerid, a seasonal salt lake that is dry for the majority of the year. Described in a recent ScienceDaily article as 'one of the most Mars-like places on Earth' it is pretty easy to see the attraction. My Mars flight does not depart until next year so I viewed this as a nice teaser. 

The road from Tozeur to Kebili passes right through the lake so the morning after our arrival we hopped into our space craft (i.e. the Punto) and blasted off. The sodium chloride encrusted, pancake-flat, and sun-scorched landscape is well worth a look. We touched down along the roadside and went for a stroll on the surface of this strange new world. Actually, I've seen an area similar to this during a trip to southern Bolivia (Salar de Uyni) although, admittedly, that felt a little more like central Venus.

Remember when Luke Skywalker was contemplating Tattouine's two moons in the Star Wars Episode IV? Guess where that was? An embarrassing period of time was spent conducting an other-worldly photoshoot but with a backdrop like that who could blame us? We were so taken with the region we returned again in the evening to experience the colors created in the dying sunlight.

Against my better judgment we opted for a 4WD excursion to Ong Jemal (Neck of the Camel) and th surrounding area. It was unavoidable as the Punto, though intrepid in the extreme, would probably find surmounting a sand dune a teensy problematic. We booked through a guy at our hotel that became increasingly shadowy as time progressed. First we were told the price was 30 dinar ($23) per person. Leslie was informed the following day that the price would be 35 dinar a piece. And, by the way, don't tell any of hotel staff (with the exception of a friend) about our booking. The day of our trip I was told I could pay after we returned but was requested to settle up prior to departure from the very man I believe Mr . Shady Acres was trying to avoid. Commission? Before we left he knocked on our door and asked us not to reveal the price of our trip with the father and son duo from Holland that would be joining us. Uuuuh-huuuuh. No reason to be suspicious there……

WTF?! (Photo by Leslie)

Photo by Leslie

Fun with sodium chloride.

Photo by Leslie

The man from Nowhere? (Photo by Leslie)

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim