August 15, 2005

Part I: Into the Sahara

Thursday right after class we trekked to the louage station and caught a van for the eight-hour ride south. A "louage" is the local term for a sort of small-scale inter-city public transport system: vans with room for about eight passengers run routes between the major towns, with fixed tariffs. Oh, and no air-conditioning.

My traveling companions are Cari (see the link to her travelogue to the right) and Nicolas, a good guy from the Maltese army whose job is to keep the two of us safe from harm, and do the talking when we run into sketchy men whom Cari and I would rather not interact with. This, actually, goes quite well over the course of the trip. (Moreover, I learned quite a lot about Malta, and in Nic's honor I will at some point in the future condense this into its own point.)

This is what it feels like to ride into the Sahara:

First, you're hot. Then you get hotter. Then your body starts to pour sweat. You reach for your water bottle to take a sip, and realize that it matches the temperature at which you normally prefer to take your morning tea.

Then you reach the point at which the desert is so hot, that you no longer feel hot. You think you have stopped sweating, but actually it is so hot and dry that the sweat is evaporating instantaneously, so all you notice is the smell and prickly feeling of the steadily accrueing salt and acid on your skin. I had actually read about this in geography textbooks as a child, and it was kind of neat to experience it first-hand.

At a rest stop I bought a bar of chocolate, but the last bit of it had to be drunk rather than eaten. Also, in the course of 12 hours, I drank about 7.5 liters (almost two gallons) of water, and only needed to make one pit stop. Eventually, however, my body did acclimatize, and I only drank about one gallon per day.

Our first day's journey brought us into Touzer, a good-sized town built around an oasis in the desert. The picture of me (above, left) was taken there. Oh, and the town's name means "scorpions" in Arabic. Fortunately, we did not meet any of the town's namesakes. Tomorrow I'll describe the oasis gardens, and getting our car stuck in a sandstorm.

Here's a picture of the city, courtesy of Nora...

3 Comments:

Anonymous jmarie said...

You are so brave to undertake such a journey in such dramatic weather. Even with air conditioning I would still have serious reservations! I look forward to more of your blogging, and I want to thank you so much for your entertaining and informative writings-- I am an american who will be in tunisia next year, and I very much appreciate your perspective and shared experiences on the country.

August 16, 2005  
Blogger Emina said...

lol! I love your writing! I haven't been to the south for 5 years or so, and I did it in spring! So, that must have been a 'hot' experience ;)

August 16, 2005  
Anonymous MMM said...

I too only visited the south in Spring time, and it was already a bit hot, so I can imagine how hot it is this time of year.

btw, nice blog :)
keep up the great work.
I found that Pakistani restaurant through your blog, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks :)

August 17, 2005  

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