LA GRANDE DUNE
HEADLINE: Wife braves camel

Ten kilometres west of the oasis town of Nefta is a group of large sand dunes. Here you will feel that you are standing in the middle of the Sahara desert, but only one kilometre away is a small Berber hut selling cold 7-Up and Coke. From another perspective you could also be standing in the Dune Sea looking at the escape pod R2-D2 and C-3PO fled the Tantive IV on, an Imperial Stormtrooper patrol with their dewback mounts, a Krayt dragon skeleton or even watching C-3PO hail a Jawa sandcrawler. Bet you never thought the Dune Sea was so small, huh?

ESCAPE POD CRASH SITE

When the droids made planetfall it was here, at the base of this sand dune, that they first set foot on Tatooine. Though there is no sign of their passage a large spring, presumably a shock absorber from a dune buggy, atests to the fact the someone other than Star Wars headcases troop all the way out here. Having spent 15 minutes trekking through loose sand to this spot I can sympathise with Anthony Daniels. It was hard enough in bare feet and rolled up trousers (see my mugshot at the bottom of this page). I really couldn't have coped if I was clad in a gold body suit. A round of applause for Tony, if you don't mind.

You're not entirely convinced are you? I can hear you asking "how can he be so sure where a sand dune was 20 years ago?" And it's a fair question. My answer to this is that I had an excellent guide. Plus he brought a folder full of photographs that people have given him over the years. It's an excellent folder - with pictures from numerous Star Wars source books and donations of photographs taken by visiting fans. If this fails to assure you, then compare the base of the dune where the Stormtroopers are standing, and the line of the ridge of the top of the dune with the picture above. It is a pretty clear cut comparision, yah? I knew I could convince you.

SANDCRAWLER RESCUE

As you can see from the composite photograph below this is almost the exact same spot from which C-3PO saw "a transport" on the horizon. It is difficult to spot the similarities because the sand has shifted over the past 20 odd years, but a small cleft in the dune on the far right of the lefthand picture, and to the left of the photo below line up closely. The strangest thing about La Grande Dune is the abundance of shrubs. It makes me wonder if Lucas had them removed during the principal photography of A New Hope.

IMPERIAL PATROL & DRAGON BONES


In the photo on the left and the still below you can see that here lied the Krayt dragon. If you compare the hummocks on the flank of the dune you'll see that they are more or less the same. I stumbled upon this spot purely by accident whilst I was on a perambulation. It was only once I'd got home and had time to review the video footage I'd taken I realised my luck.

Unbelievably pieces of the krayt dragon are still available at the dune. You don't need a degree in archaeology like Dr Reynolds did - just ask the camel owners. They'll bring some from their hut for you. (That's how I got mine anyway.)

Ignore the silly tit on the right (yes, it's me). If you look closely at the background you'll notice that it is the same ground sand that the "original" Imperial Dewback Patrol was filmed on. I say "original" because they only appeared in the pre-Special Editions of A New Hope. Afterwards they were CGI'd in on some sand dunes in California.

Are you still ignoring me? Good. The dune is covered in a large number of shrubs and tufty grasses introduced by the Tunisian government to stabilise La Grande Dune and protect it from careless offroad vehicle users. Because it is one of the largest dunes in the country, and also in a region of developing tourism the idea is that it can be made into an attraction. Hence the drinks stall and camel rides. The dune will be remain here for hundreds of years and in all likelihood there will be little difference between my first visit and the next.

And that, sadly was the end of our tour. All that remained for us to do was to drop Hamida back off at the ONTT office in Tozeur (passing a local Berber wearing the same traditional brown robes that Ben appeared in when he saved Luke from the Sandpeople - weird!), have a shower at the hotel and check out. There then followed yet another mammoth drive back up to Sousse, passing through Metlaoui, Gafsa and Kairouan, and nearly running out of petrol. But that, as they say, is another story.

Our little motor at the end of 1762 miles

Have you got enough time to read the Conclusion? Good.

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