|Co-ords||N 36 48 30.5
E 10 18 11.2
We were very lucky on the boat. We were parked right in front of the exit so that meant we would be first out when we landed or docked or whatever itís called. I donít think the boat was full anyway. We had tickets for seats in one of the lounges, which could perhaps sit 100 people, and I think there were between 15 and 20 passengers for it so we had loads of room.
We left Marseilles on time and sat around reading, eating, drinking and playing Rummikub. When night came it was very hard to go to sleep because 2 TVís were on and so were the lights. I went to find cabins for us and we were lucky again because we got a 4-berth cabin just for the two of us at a very discounted price. We paid what they normally charge for sleeper couches Ė 50 Francs each. A good bargain and worth it.
During the day we wrote a Web update and will fax it in Tunis.
Finding the campsite was not too easy. The guidebook directions are terrible but we did find it eventually and we are the only people here. Itís quite nice and right on the seashore. I think that it will get busy in summer because there are lots of facilities. I did my own map (have a look here) on the way here for future reference.
We were very lucky getting out of customs this morning, as I said we were first off the boat and within twenty minutes were out. Tunisians returning from France come very heavily loaded and they are all searched thoroughly. If you are unlucky enough to be in the crowd then you can be stuck for hours.
After setting up camp we went back into Tunis to have a look around. Unfortunately it was all closed so we will go in tomorrow. We did a general car service this afternoon and I noticed that fluid is leaking out of the power steering reservoir. I will keep an eye on it. Itís a lot hotter, 31oC in the car, than in France so itís important to keep the truck going well.
It started raining during supper preparation so we had to eat in the
tent. We also put up the flysheet against the rain. Tomorrow we head North,
yes thatís right North !!!!!!!
3rd May 1999
|Co-ords||N 36 42 44.9
E 10 24 26.1
|Fuel||44.53 L 41 113.7km|
Disaster struck. The car just stopped going. We were turning left into town across a busy intersection and it just died. I got it going and limped over the road and it stopped again. What now. Well, I had a look under the bonnet, that always helps, and decided it was fuel. I loosened the filter and manually pumped the lever on the fuel pump and nothing. OK at least I was right about the fuel. I looked again at the fuel sediment filter and noticed it was leaking. I tightened the plug, which is very stiff, and looked under the bonnet again. I removed the fuel filter (first use of the new filter removal tool) and noticed it was full. I re-pumped and got Renee to just turn the motor so the pump lever would work, and there you go all fine. I think I left the fuel lift pump manual pump lever in the wrong position. But what a shock hey. Anyway all seems OK.
So now on a nice double bed watching TV with Renee. We have pushed our schedule a bit and headed south this afternoon. No possibility of camping tonight though.
We had a look around the Souks (markets) in the Medina of Tunis. Very narrow alleys in which we never got found, that is we were lost all the time. Guides are on offer but we had a map and thought we could do it ourselves. Anyway it was good fun. They sell tons of stuff, one guy invited us up to his terrace for a view over the city. It is a worthwhile experience, but we knew we would be pressured into buying. We gave the terrace guard a tip, under advice of the manager, of 5 dinars. The manager thought that we were so generous that he did not try to sell us even a small thing. Renee wanted to buy postcards but he gave them to her. A nice experience all round. I think that the tip was way over the top but we had nothing smaller. In the end our generosity was cheap.
We also visited Carthage today. A really old city that has been occupied since 800BC and has been conquered by all who counted. There is not much left of the Roman occupation but we went into the museum and enjoyed it. It is amazing to be in a city that is part of so many legends. We had lunch outside a de-consecrated cathedral that is now used for concerts.
As I said yesterday, we go North and North we went. We went to Cap Blanc The northern most point in Africa. How far to the Southern most? I donít want to think about it. This place doesnít have much to say for it. It is a wind swept point, like most on extremities of continents, with the obligatory military base. Of course we took the photo.
Because it was early we decided to head south towards the Sahara. We drove another 120km to the town of Beja. The countryside is really green, this is where Tunisia grows all its crops. The road was OK, the tar part (first 60km) was full of potholes, the rest was gravel and quite bumpy. I pushed a bit to see if anything would fall off, I donít think anything did.
So thatís how we find ourselves in a hotel and not a bad one either. Itís a bit expensive, 40 dinar, but has safe parking. We are going to get some food here too because we went into town and Renee must have been the only woman. Certainly the coffee shops and restaurants are men only places. Renee must feel a bit odd because everyone stares at her.
One thing. We are always lost. Whenever we arrive in a town itís a major mission to find the route we need out. We always drive around like idiots and these are usually busy and very narrow streets. Itís bloody frustrating. Of course the maps we have are not to a scale that shows streets in a town.
We have just returned from dinner, and had spaghetti with tomato sauce, or so it was called on the menu. Ended up with spaghetti with red sauce which had some tomato, some beef (big bits actually) and tons of chili. Handstands in the shower tomorrow.
Goodnight, off to soak in the bath.
4th May 1999
|Co-ords||N 36 43 33.7
E 9 11 19.2
All I can hear are drums banging. There is a Bedouin festival on at the campsite we are staying at. Itís quite good actually but itís nearly bedtime so I hope they go away soon.
Today was a drive day. We left the hotel, and quite comfortable it was too, and headed even further South towards the desert. Here we are in the middle of an oasis listening to the nomads do their thing.
We were stopped by police five times today. This was at all the intersections that led to Algeria. I do not think they want anyone straying onto the wrong side of the border. Anyway they were all very friendly and some even spoke English. The driving was OK, 90km/h maximum speed limit, but the road was good a tarred all the way. We got into a routine of sharing the driving.
The oases are very impressive and are actually huge. The one we are at has 2 million palm trees, thatís not counting the others. We are on the edge of a huge salt sea called a chot, in a town called Tozour. Tomorrow we go west towards Algeria and will stay in this campsite two nights.
There are a few, 8 or 10, Germans also camping here. All of them travelling on motorbikes for a few weeks around Tunisia. I also made 4 new girlfriends, pretty schoolgirls who wanted their picture taken with the camera they had. They are called Mejdi Saunech, Dirgeu Hajer, Dirgeu Saemaya and Bonaleg Gazala. Notice that two have the same first name, well actually thatís their family name, they are cousins.
We had a look around Tozour and the oasis this afternoon. Itís quite amazing with flowers growing in the desert. Hopefully the pictures work out.
Itís a real pain writing this damn diary. Just canít get comfortable
and the handwriting is a mess but I will persevere.
OK tomorrow is another day. Billions of bloody mozzies around, I have been bitten dozens of times.
5th May 1999
|Co-ords||N 33 58 34.6
E 8 13 02
|Fuel||63 L 41 671km|
A hell of a hot day, up to 45oC in the car without the airconditioner on, luckily we can put it on. Still we are drinking lots but not enough and are feeling very dry.
Today we hit the tourist route. From Tozour there are a few oases on the Western border with Algeria. There is a loop of about 200km that starts and ends here and is goodish road all the way. The surface is tar but full of small potholes so taking it easy is no problems. We set off at about 7am and went in a counter clockwise direction.
The first interesting place is Medes, 3km away from Algeria but you cannot go near the border post. It is built on a very narrow canyon and has been occupied since Roman times. Interesting as well is the old town. This is of mud and wood construction which is now in ruins. It is built right on the edge of the canyon and overlooks the oasis. Most tourists give this town a miss but it is very nice just to stroll through catching occasional glimpses of the palm trees.
When I said we hit the tourist route, I really mean it. When we were in Mides we must of seen 50 or more tour companies in 4x4 all full of guests. At some places there were traffic jams on the single-track roads. Anyhow it gave the touts someone else to prey on besides us.
Next step was Tamerza, another oasis town in the hills. In fact this town was actually washed away by flash floods and you can see the skeleton of the old town poking out of the sands. There is quite an interesting waterfall here which is formed as water emerges from the sand to fall over a rock barrier into a canyon. It disappears again in a few kilometres. We encountered our first Spanish-speaking touts at these places, they were asking us to trade for Spanish beer and wine. What is really amazing are the desert roses. They are so big that itís unbelievable, some are over half a meter tall, and we saw one even bigger than that. The touts are also selling rocks with crystals, the type you split in half and see amazing colours and shapes, in them. They are very nice but we only have room for Albert, a pebble we collected with Bronwyn and Colin on our trip to Galicia.
We then passed through Chebika and over our first salt lake, Chott el Rharsa. Tomorrow we will cross the biggest in Tunisia, the Chott el Jerid. We went back to Tozour for lunch, which we had at a fly infested place called Restaurant De La Republique, where we had couscous. It was OK but not much to write about so I wonít, then back to the campsite for a rest and a cold shower. We are the only campers so far today which makes a change from yesterday.
I am taking the opportunity to write in the diary sitting at the table.
That way there is none of the hand cramps that occur while writing on my
knee in the tent. I am going to invite Renee to buy me a beer at the bar.
See you later.
6th May 1999
|Co-ords||N 33 58 34.6
E 8 13 02
|Fuel||37.37 L 42 003.7km|
Today we found out that our Swiss army spade works well. We used it a few times.
No one else arrived at the campsite. We saw our second Bedouin show last night, which is quite popular with the tour groups and it is quite good. The campsite owners make their money out of these but they do not look after the camping facilities too well, though they are not too bad.
Oh my beer has just arrived. We are sitting in a boma, though I am sure they are not called that here, writing our diaries. We ordered some drinks, mine as you have guessed was a beer, one litre bottle, and Renee a cold mineral water, 1.5 litres. Even though Reneeís was bigger I still won.
We left around 8am and headed towards Douz on the far side of Chott El Jerid to Tozour. The road crosses the northern edge and is on a raised bed. Some people have actually driven on the salt lake but itís quite muddy and I think itís a bit risky. The road across is dead straight and when you get to the middle of the Chott it feels as if the earth really is flat. We took a few pictures where the slat had formed crystals. There are water puddles in the salt where the salt is actually extracted from.
The first town on the other side is called Kebili. The old town is supposed to be empty but it wasnít. The guide got it wrong again. In some things these guides are absolutely hopeless. We drove through and on to Zaafrane, we wanted to do a loop through the oasis. Zaafrane really does have a deserted old town which is being taken over by the desert. Unfortunately it is also being taken over by the town rubbish dump.
Then our first real desert driving. There is a route through the desert passing various oases back to Kebill. It was OK for awhile but after having to dig the car out 3 times we decided to turn back. Save the digging for when we really need it, like Egypt or Sudan. It was not really too bad, the digging was just to clear the wheels and in low range we could then move on. We decided to take a short cut to the main route across a pan but it became very muddy and needed even more digging. Thatís when we gave up on crossing the pan, we put the car into 4th gear in low range and got the fuck out of there (excuse the French).
Sitting at the bar are a few other people, mostly travelling on off road bikes, talking about their day's experience. Renee and I have so far to go and seem so inexperienced in it all that itís quite frightening. Anyway weíve got to take it easy if we want to reach our goal. These guys are just on a two-week vacation.
This afternoon we did our second Web update to Robin. We found an Internet café and sent email. It is far cheaper than faxes. We also went for a stroll in the desert and itís hard to believe weíve got to cross the huge sea of sand. The car seems to be going well. It is very hot and dusty so I will need to be doing some daily checks. I will start in earnest tomorrow night. We cross another desert track to Matmata, the site of the Troglodyte homes and also where some scenes from the first, or is it third, part of Star Wars was shot. I am looking forward to it.
Well my 1 litre beer is finished, the last call for prayer is being
broadcast, and I will have to continue tomorrow.
7th May 1999
|Co-ords||N 33 27 09.6
E 9 01 29.7
Did not write anything today but it turned out to be great.
8th May 1999
|Co-ords||N 33 31 46.6
E 11 06 46.2
|Fuel||70.67 L 42 620.9km|
So we did quite a bit yesterday and saw lots of interesting things. I was woken at 4:30am by the first call for prayer for the day yesterday but went back to sleep after a word or two with the Gods.
Hereís what we did yesterday.
Left Douz at around 7:30am heading due East for Matmata and the home of the Troglodytes. The road, supposed to be a desert track, was a good tar one. We had breakfast of cake and a coke en route. We actually try to find croissants but often donít so we buy any pastry, which is usually cake. Doesnít sound too good I know but it tastes OK.
On arrival to Matmata we decided to find a guide to show us the houses as they are still lived in by private families. The town has many new houses above ground now so itís not as impressive as it must have been say 50 years ago. We found a guide at the tourist office, his name was Hassen, but he spoke only Arabic and Italian. Anyway I think his Italian was not that good because we could follow him quite easily and answer him in Spanish.
It was well worth the price, 8 dinars, and the slight language hiccup, because he took us into a private home and had us shown around all the rooms. The people built these houses as protection against both he heat and invaders. The lady of the house invited us to a drink of fermented camel milk. It was very refreshing surprising enough, and she also showed us the way they grind corn, which to me is a whole lot of work. We gave her 56 dinars for letting us in and being so welcoming. The guide suggested that we do that as a ďtokenĒ of our appreciation. It was more than worth it.
Then we went to see the dwelling where the opening scenes of Star Wars were shot. The one where he, Luke, is with his Aunt and Uncle on a sort of farm. It is now a hotel and you can stay in the rooms for not too much. It is of course all freshly painted with a bar and restaurant so itís not as authentic as the house we visited.
After that we headed for Tataouine and the Ksars. We decided not to follow the main road east and then go south but to take a route directly South east through the hills. Well this time the road was a track and the highest gear we could achieve was third with that being impossible most of the time. Anyway the scenery was really good. We did end up going to Medenine but just really passed through.
A Ksar is a fortified place, normally on hilltops. They are largely used to store grain but have some homes in them too. I had seen a picture of one, which was supposed to be the best preserved, and off the tourist track called Ksar Oueld Soltang. It took some finding but when we did it was more than worth it.
We had seen a ruined one earlier in the day on our mountain track which was great but this one was just fantastic. It was well looked after though no longer used. The best was that none of the millions of tourists was visible. The guy who owned the café invited us in and he told us, in French, a bit about the place. He also was in charge of the visitorsí book and asked us to sign it. When he found out we were South Africans it was like long lost brothers. He then invited us to have tea and biscuits with him. I took some photos with the Polaroid camera and we were soul mates. That made his, and our, day. The Polaroid camera is a great idea. We finally left at about 4:30pm and drove 100-odd km to Zarzis in search of a campsite. After driving around for an hour we found the tourist info and were told that the campsite is closed. Bummer. Anyway, we found a nice hotel, 15 Dinar each, and decided to stay 2 nights.
Today was a relax day. We went to the market in town, bought stamps, changed money and phoned Betsy. We had our relax day - siesta, phoned the Libyan agent to make arrangements and did a general car service. Still going well. We had lunch on the beach and even a swim in the med. Just a good day relaxing.
Tomorrow a new country Ė Libya. New people, new language, no writing
in Roman letters. I predict we will get lost often.