On Wednesday we headed down to the tourist office to see if we could track down a campsite.  We were told there were none locally, but there should be some in Tozeur, to the west.  We needed some money, so we managed to track down a cash machine in New Matmata (too many people for the original Matmata, so they built a new town a few miles up the road)

1 Women in New Matmata

We headed on to Tozeur via some back roads and were stopped by a pretty fierce sounding member of the Guard National (boy, was I glad to have the passports with us!).   The route was beautiful, however

2 Road to Tozeur

3 Road to Tozeur 2

Despite the dangers

4 Road to Tozeur 3

It was well worth the trip just to drive across the wonderful salt plane of Chott el Jerid.

9 Salt flats road

5 Salt flats 1

Camel felt right at home

7 Camel at home

It is a lake on the map, but there is hardly ever any water in it.

8 Stranded boat

11 Salt flats 3

The sun was out and the mirage effects were quite something.

10 Mirage 1

12 Mirage 2

13 Mirage 3

We drove into Tozeur and obtained a tourist map that showed 3 campsites! (yeh!) One was so tiny that we couldn’t get the car in, one was closed and one was long gone.  (Boo!)  We had passed one place a few km outside of Tozeur, so we went back there to give it a try.  The campsite initially looked quite hopeful; there was a nice cafe and it did have a facilities block.  We were allowed to put the tent anywhere we wanted and we found a nice big patch where we could set up properly (after moving bits of wood with nails in and other interesting artefacts). (I think it was the car park, but it was all sand, anyway.)

14 Camping at last 2

 It was lovely to get our own space back and to be able to cook ourselves a meal.  The owner’s dog seemed to take offence at our being there as it kept on barking at us.  We then went to the cafe to use the (pretty good) free wi fi.   The cafe was really pleasant and friendly and, although there was no beer, of course, they served very nice coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juice.  By the end of the evening it was heaving with young men, who, like a lot of Tunisians, smoked as if their lives depended on it (some irony there!) or were using hookahs.  We paid the manager of the place for our pitch, and Tim thought he was on the take, as the price seemed to go up from £5 to £10.  There were two very glamorous young women serving in the bar, some of the first girls we had seen without head scarves and the manager seemed chuffed to have us there, as he insisted on having his photo taken with us.  I returned the compliment…

15 Bar staff

I think this photo says a lot about the place

It was pitch black as we went back to the tent and the stars were fantastic but there were about 8 mangy dogs prowling around, which gave me the heebie-jeebies, so I wanted to be in the tent. (I not saying who refused to go to the loo on their own, but it wasn’t Tim)  The dogs barked ALL night long, interspersed by the owners car alarm, followed closely by cockerels crowing and the usual call to prayer at 5 30 am.   The owner came to ask for his money in the morning and when we told him that we had paid the bar manager the previous night.  He said ‘Oh no!’ and took off at lightning speed in his old white Mercedes (which he had left blocking the road in case we did a bunk)(for £10!)(I suspect he thought it was £5).  He came back presently, looking satisfied, but I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during THAT conversation.  It’s a shame, the campsite could have been perfect; the toilet was OK, if a bit smelly, but the shower was horrible. I am afraid that one night was enough for us so we headed back to Tozeur to find an hotel.  Tim thinks the place was pretty bent, because they did not ask us to fill in the usual registration forms.

Hotels again then!  We went back into Tozeur after checking in and were walking into town when I found this bit of pavement the hard way.

21 Janet's nemesis

Ouch- bloody knee, bruised elbow and damaged Rohan trousers (probably the most painful bit, as they are not cheap).   Tozeur is quite an attractive town with some great monuments

16 Tozeur 1

17 Tozeur 2

19 Tozeur 3

We stopped for a nice lunch, walked around the souk in the Medinine

23 Souk

24 Souk 2

20 Medenine Tozeur

and met up with hoards of delightfully friendly schoolgirls, who had obviously been told to talk to tourists to practice their French.  Once we had worked out that they weren’t actually begging, we enjoyed the experience.  The school entrance nearby reminded me of my Junior school (boys were NOT allowed to play with the girls there, anyway)

18 Tozeur school

We wanted to stay two nights at the same hotel (which was very nice)

22 View from tozeur hotel

but they were fully booked, so we thought we would move or to Djerba.