We are in Africa!

We zijn in Afrika!After our night in the bunk bed on the ferry, we wake up well rested the next morning. Freshly showered, we go out to look for a cup of coffee. When we leave our cabin and go to the front desk we immediately notice how busy it already is. Even though the ferry will only arrive in Tunis in a couple of hours, dozens of people have already come to the front desk ready to leave the ferry.

As we walk further, we find people sleeping everywhere. Men and women of all ages and even families with young children, everyone is in the corridors of the ferry, on chairs and benches, on the floor in the elevator and even in the ball room of the children’s paradise. The one on a mattress with a blanket, but the other just under a coat. When we go up the stairs we have to step over people sleeping to go out.

After a tour on the boat and a cup of coffee, we go back to our cabin. At the reception it is even more crowded with waiting passengers now. All of them with at least three large bags, too heavy to lift.

If after a while we have to leave our cabin, the area at the front desk is so full of people and suitcases that we can not even go there. We put our stuff in the hallway and wait patiently until we can get off the boat. Given the expected arrival time this could still take another hour. Passengers leaving the huts around us seem to be mostly wealthy Tunisians. We were clearly on the better part of the boat.

We zijn in Afrika!From the area at the front desk a staircase and an escalator go down to the exit. The escalator is not moving yet, they are awaiting the moment when the boat has stopped. One passenger after another tries to skip the line and find a good place on the stairs or the escalator.  A hilarious sight because they also want to take their too heavy bags with them. People are crawling over each other and handing each other the bags over the heads of others. All this while we are still not able to get off the boat.

The number of people in the reception area is still growing. The Italian staff of the boat, led by the only blond guy on the ferry, tries to make people wait in line to end the chaos. That seems to work out OK, until the moment when the escalator starts moving in the wrong direction! The escalator runs smoothly upwards, taking all the passengers who were already on the escalator with their suitcases upstairs, to the already crowded front desk. Everyone falls over each other, suitcases are piling up, babies are crying, men are screaming, the chaos is complete.

After a while, when the crowd finally moves towards the exit, we join them to the lower deck of the ferry. The doors of the ferry are already open and the bikes have already been loosened. If we have tied all the stuff on the bikes we can ride off the boat first, before al the cars. We zigzag between the passengers that leave the boat by foot.

We zijn in Afrika!We drive into a large empty hall, with several booths at the front. Next to one of the booths are two men in a uniform. They point out where we can park the bikes and ask for our papers. Everything is in French, which I can luckily understand. We hand in the document that we had filled out on the ferry. They ask us about our route, stamp our papers and send us through. We pass the police and drive into another large hall. In this hall are even more men in uniform, telling us where to park.

A man, without an uniform, gives us a document we have to fill out. He is giving instructions and says he will arrange it for us. We have seen that before, at the border in Morocco. These “helpers” or “fixers” help you with the formalities and make sure you get the right stamps. They do ask a fee for their services. This time we do not want to use their services. As everyone speaks French, and I can make myself understood clearly in French, we will first try it ourselves. We will be using fixers in other countries, especially where we do not speak the language.

When we have completed the documents we give them to one of the men in uniform. He looks at our passports and papers and wants to see where the serial number on the bike is. Then he asks Peter to open his bags. The man rummages through one of the bags roughly and says it is OK. He did not even look into the other bags. He scribbles something on one of the papers and sends me to a ticket window. Once there, the lady sends me to another ticket window because we are still missing one important stamp. I find the right office, get the stamps and am back at her ticket window. She is very helpful and explains exactly what documents we need.

In accordance with her instruction we give a number of documents to the officials at customs, another document to the police and we keep one document in our pocket. An hour after we got off the ferry, we drive away from the compound, into Tunisia. We are in Africa!

We zijn in Afrika!On the way to the center of Tunis, we are warmly welcomed by people who drive up in their car next to us, honking their horn, giving us thumbs up or shouting out of the window. The hotel we booked is in the middle of the city on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, one of the main shopping streets. It looks like Paris, a wide street with a green strip in the middle and along the entire route a sidewalk with cafes. All terraces are full, it is very crowded. This while it is half three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, it could have been a Saturday. We immediately notice how fashionable everyone is dressed. The one is even more beautiful than the other. It gives us even more the idea that we are in Paris.

We quickly find the hotel. We can park the bikes in the garage under the hotel. The hotel is close to the “medina” of Tunis, which is the old part of town that consists of a maze of small streets with shops. We decide to go there before it is dark. If we are on the way there, we are approached by a guy who claims to know us from our hotel. (Strange for we had not seen him there). He happily tells us all about Tunisia, Tunis, and the history of the medina. He also tells us that today is a holiday, which explains why it was so crowded in the street. He is on his way home, but can bring us to a lookout point in the medina. Fine, why not.

He leads us deeper and deeper into the medina. We are led to a souvenir shop where we would have a stunning view over Tunis.  Once we are on the roof after climbing five flights of stairs, we are indeed rewarded with a magnificent view of Tunis. The sun is down and the sound of the muezzin calling for prayer sounds from the minarets. We zijn in Afrika!Back in the shop, the sellers directly approach us with all sorts of goods. Before we know it, Peter is sitting on the bed of the sultan. Just before we get a demonstration of carpets, we managed to leave the store. Behind us we hear: “Look , look , no buy.” We again honour our reputation as Dutchies.

The guy, Ahmed, leads us further through the medina. We are not surprised if he leads us into the perfume shop of his ’father’. As a professional salesman he begins a story about how the perfume is extracted from the flowers. After some time we manage to leave the shop, again without buying any perfume. Ahmed walks with us to the beginning of the street and then points in the direction we need to go. Let’s hope that we can find our way back in the maze of streets.

In the beginning the streets and shops are still familiar to us, but after some time we do not recognize anything anymore. We walk a bit further, trusting our internal compass, but then decide to ask directions. It appears we are not really close to our hotel and have to walk a great distance to get there. When we finally arrive at the hotel, we sit down for diner in a small restaurant that is clearly not set up for tourists. Tunisian cuisine is great. We first get a plate with olives, olive oil and harissa. The latter is a Tunisian hot red sauce of peppers, tomatoes, cumin, coriander and garlic. The pasta and couscous we then eat is also full of peppers. It is delicious!

Now we are in Tunisia, we would like to camp. It should be warm enough to sleep in a sleeping bag and it would lower our expenses.The next day we find a campsite in Nabeul, a small 100km (62 miles) from Tunis. For the first time this trip, we put up our tent underneath the orange trees on the property. A beautiful spot. We arrived early, so we have enough time for a walk on the nearby beach. It ‘s quite windy and chilly, but delicious. We are amazed by the large amount of trash on the beach. There is not just trash that has washed up, the beach is clearly used as a landfill.

We zijn in Afrika!That night we eat a delicious, home-cooked pasta and we crawl into our trusting sleeping bags. We hope to be able to camp a lot more the coming days. On the internet we find the addresses of two campsites a little further south near Sousse. We pack up the next morning and head south. We drive along the coast for a long time. The beach is not wide and right next to a marshy land with vegetation and stagnant water. The road runs right next to it. Again there is a lot of garbage next to the road. Sometimes neatly in piles as sheared from the tailgate of the pickup. The orchards of olive trees are strewn with plastic bags, which are spread by the wind.

We take a tour through the inlands, away from the sea. The landscape changes immediately. It is gentler and dryer. We drive along olive groves, where a row of cactuses serves as a fence. Here and there sheep are grazing, always with a sheep herder dressed in brown. We pass several villages where the most beautiful building is the mosque, with a high minaret that you can see from far away.

At the beginning of the afternoon we arrive in Sousse, a city where many tourists stay in the summer. It’s crowded in the city. The skills we have gained in the Italian traffic are of much use now. It is a game of giving way and taking it. After we have driven through the busy city for half an hour, we find the spot where a campsite should be. We only find a very crowded hostel. We decide to drive to Monastir where another campsite should be.

We zijn in Afrika!When we enter Monastir we are immediately pleasantly surprised by the view. It is a much smaller city than Sousse, along a slightly elevated rocky coast. If the GPS indicates that have arrived at the campsite, we only see a dirty beach and a playground. No camping. It now is too late to search for another campsite, so we check into a hotel. We are very warmly welcomed at Hotel Mezri. The receptionist immediately comes out to open the garage to do so we can park the bikes inside. We decide to stay two nights and visit the village and the mausoleum of the first president of Tunisia the next day.

After two relaxed days in Monastir, we once again attempt to find a campsite. On the Internet we have read enthusiastic stories about Camping El Kahena near Sfax. We drive on a fairly busy main road to the south. Although we drive relatively fast, we are regularly overtaken by even faster cars.  Some cars remain next to us for a while, to get a closer look. Others overtake us so tightly that we have to brake not to touch them. We have to pay attention constantly. We catch up with most fast cars each time we enter a village and have to slow down for the many steep thresholds.

By noon we see a man with three baguettes come out of a building. We have not eaten yet and stop to buy bread and water. On the outside of the building you cannot see there is a shop. We only see a door with a blue awning with on the concrete sidewalk some plastic baskets and coiled garden hoses. When I enter, I look at the friendly face of a lady and a girl that could be her daughter. It is definitely a shop. On the floor in front of the counter are sacks of rice and spices. We zijn in Afrika!On the shelves behind the counter is all kinds of stuff; detergent, toothpaste, pasta sauce, jam, etc. On the counter there are jars with candies and a calculator that serves as a cash register. I ask for a loaf of bread and a bottle of water. If I want to pay, the lady put a pack of juice on the counter. I can take it for free for on the road. When I have paid, she gives me too much change back and says it is OK. After I have thanked her warmly and all stuffed the juice, water and bread in my bags, they wave us goodbye as we drive away. Another special meeting.

At the end of the afternoon, the GPS indicates that we should leave the main road to the left, towards the sea. The road is getting smaller and changes into a sandy path. It has clearly been raining that day because there are deep puddles of water everywhere. We stop to ask directions to the campsite. A group of construction workers tell us to ride further to the sea. When we arrive, we see no camping. We again ask directions. A guy point to the rights and tells us to look out for a high building. Not much later we drive onto the compound of camping El Kahena. The owner and his wife are already awaiting us. We suspect that they had been informed of our arrival by telephone by the people in the village. The garage is opened and just before it starts raining very hard we park the bikes.

We zijn in Afrika!The owner shows us that he also has rooms with sea view for a good price. With the rain pouring now, the choice is easy: the tent stays in our bags again. That evening we enjoy a truly delicious meal, cooked by the wife of the owner. Dinner is served in a huge dining room where one table is covered especially for us, the only guests in the hotel. After dinner, we are invited for tea and talk with the owner about Tunisia, its customs and habits. He advises us to drive to the island of Djerba just off the coast of Tunisia.

The next morning we start the bikes a little earlier than the last days, so we can make it to Djerba before dusk. It is about 300 km (186 miles) on a busy road. Even now, we are often overtaken and have to be very careful. It is a very strenuous ride. At some point we pass dozens of stalls selling souvenirs on the side of the road. Each stall is numbered and sells about the same: shells, stuffed camels for kids, dates and wicker baskets. We suspect that tourist buses stop here during the summer for necessary purchases. Now, the stalls are visited by Tunisians.

We zijn in Afrika!A bit further there suddenly is a great number of dead sheep along the side of the road. For over a kilometre, we pass restaurant after restaurant with on their terraces dead sheep hung on their hind legs with a red spot on the ground. The sheep are ready to be roasted on the barbecue that is smoking just next to them. If we stop to take a picture, one of the guys lifts a dead sheep over his head. Then he wants have his picture taken with Peter. It is a remarkable sight, BBQ street .

The remainder of the day we drive along groves filled with olive trees. The landscape is changing the further we drive south. We are seeing more and more palm trees, sandy plains covered with low bushes. This is especially so when we get off the main road to go to the island of Djerba.

To reach the island, we have to take the ferry. We are waved through by the police, who indicate we should pass the cars that are already wanting for the boat. We park in front of the row. On the ferry we attract a lot of attention. Young guys with scooters come to have a chat about the engine size and the tires. A group of children and their mother and grandmother are looking at the helmet with the microphones. Especially when Peter walks away and we keep talking to each other through to headset they laugh heartily. The grandmother, a beautiful woman with very pretty gowns and black Henna hands, comes to look at the GPS and then reports to her grandchildren. Very cool.

In Djerba we have spend a few days in a hotel to spend Christmas. A break in our journey. At first is was raining all day, but the storm is going down and the sun has emerged again. Meanwhile, we hear the first planes arrive with tourists who spend the holidays here in the sun.

We zijn in Afrika!From Djerba we wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy, loving and healthy 2014!

Distance travelled to Djerba: km

Click here for the pictures.

PS We will make sure the latest story about Italy is translated soon. Sorry for the delay!

| Leonie | AFRICA, Tunisia

15 Reacties (Comments) - We are in Africa!

  1. Martin


  2. Robert

    Mooi verhaal, look forward to the Libya story and border crossings

    Robert en Clary Van Den Hoven (Fearless on the Hubb)

  3. Frederike

    Dank voor de coole kamelen, wat attent 😉
    Ik geniet volop van de verhalen.

  4. Lorenz (from Mamora camping in August 2013)

    Hi Leonie and Peter,

    all the best wishes for 2014 – everytimes a safe ride, health and fun! Enjoy your time!

    It’s very exciting to read your story about the tour. I like it very much. You get a lot of impressions and experiences, great. I’m waiting for the announced translations and the next stories.

    Take care,

  5. Mip

    Hee lieve luitjes,

    Hopelijk hebben jullie een fijne kerst gehad! En ik ben benieuwd waar jullie het nietuwe jaar gaan inluiden :-).

    Over die fixers; die heb je echt alleen nodig in Egypte en als je met de boot naar Wadi Halfa gaat. Verder lekker zelf doen; de grenzen in Afrika zijn echt heel goed te doen.

    Heel veel plezier!
    x Mip

  6. erik

    Lieve schatjes jullie ook een super 2014

    Heel veel liefs XXX

  7. Sofie De Lille

    Ik moest luidop lachen toen ik de foto zag met jullie gezellig gedekte tafeltje in het nog gezelligere restaurant. Hilarisch!

  8. Enrico

    Peter en Leonie,

    Leuk die verslagen, grappig om te lezen en voor ons hier en daar herkenningspunten van plaatsen waar wij ook met een van onze vakanties zijn geweest. (Frankrijk, Italië en Tunesië)

    Fijne feest dagen en benieuwd waar jullie elkaar Nieuwjaar wensen 😉

  9. Ben en Anja

    Hallo Peter en Leonie.
    Jullie ook fijne kerstdagen. We genieten van jullie verslagen en leven met jullie mee. Een goede reis verder. Ben en Anja scheltens

  10. Jeff

    Hoi Peter en Leonie, wat een avonturen beleven jullie zeg, dat er nog veel mogen volgen. Fijne kerstdagen en alvast een gelukkig nieuwjaar!
    Gr Jeff

  11. Jan en Mariët

    Lekker dat jullie vooraan in de rij mochten.Heerlijk om weer een blog te lezen. Dikke kus!!

  12. Mieke Sinnige

    Na een gezellige 1e kerstdag met ons gezin, Dick en oma Nijssen wensen we jullie bijzondere kerstdagen in Djerba. Geniet er van. Gert en Mieke

  13. Klarinda

    Jullie ook fijne dagen gewenst. Wat een fantastische verhalen schrijf je leonie! We lezen ze met veel plezier. Goede reis verder.

  14. jan fokkes

    Jullie ook een fijne kerst . Wij genieten van jullie verhalen.

  15. Michiel Pas

    Leonie en Peter,

    Met heel veel plezier lees ik jullie verhalen. Ik reis met jullie mee. Fijn dat alles lekker loopt.

    Fijne feestdagen en mooie reis nog!!

    Groet Michiel