Cape to cape and further

Richard is on the road for his major trip.

Destination: all the way..........


Tunisia and the Sahara.

Week 41 - 43, monday 30 September - sunday 26 October  2013.

After I had driven almost 5000km in Italy I had taken the ferry to Tunisia. First I wanted to take the ferry from Trapani, but it turned out that the company didn’t offer the service from Trapani anymore. I continued for Palermo which is only 90 km away from Trapani. The company who offered services to Tunisia is called Germaldi and they had an office across the main entrance of the port in Palermo. It took me only ten minutes to have myself and J.Lo booked into the next ferry. For € 120,-- I would be in Tunis in 11 hours. Getting out of Italy was again well organized. First the passport check and then the vehicle check for the engine number. No checks of the baggage or the contents of my cases. The ferry left a bit later than planned but finally at 03.30 in the morning we were on our way. I was able to sleep a bit since I had booked a bed in a shared cabin, but still I was awake at 08.00 and went outside to get some fresh sea air.

Exactly on schedule we arrived in Tunis at 14.30. I was one of the first vehicles who could leave the ferry, one of the advantages of riding a motorbike. To my surprise the passport and the customs check were quite easy and fast. A Stamp from the immigration office was done in five minutes. There were the usual questions of where I would stay and for how long. There was a little confusion of the fact that I didn’t have a return ticket but after explaining that I wanted to try to get into Algeria I also got the second stamp  from the traffic police. Once again I had to use my limited knowledge of the Dutch football players to break the ice and after 30 minutes I was allowed to continue to Tunis.

Before I came to Tunisia I had checked the internet for a cheap hotel in Tunis and found one named Saint George Hotel. I had also downloaded the maps for Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara from the internet. With those maps I found may way into Tunis, but unfortunately there was no address for Saint George Hotel  from the internet. I had no other choice but to go to another hotel and ended up in the Tunis Tulip hotel. A cold shower helped me to wake up a bit and I went into the city by foot. I ended up at a local street market where I was the only foreigner. I pretended to be familiar with the area, but still had to use my GPS sometimes to figure out where I was. I was in an area with all small alleys and streets without names. Halfway I ended up at a little square where I bought myself a smoke from a water pipe. The last time I smoked a water pipe was in Egypt. Since I’m not used to smoking I got high quite quickly and had to head back to the hotel.

After checking the internet for campings in Tunisia I headed further towards Sfax about 300km south of Tunis. Here I found camping El Kahena a lovely little hotel and camping just 40 kilometer north of Sfax. Instead of pitching up my tent the owner offered me a room inclusive breakfast for 20 DN. The local snacks here are mostly bread with meat of fish and they cost only 1 DN. I loved to eat the local stuff and it brought me also in contact with the locals as well. In El Jem I found the equivalent of the amphitheater in Rome but much more preserved. It was great to go inside, look around and sit on the benches. It is so amazing that it was possible to build such an impressive building such a long time ago. This amphitheater is listed on the Unesco World Heritage list.  Another camping I had found was in Douz another 300km south and I drove there also in one day. During the ride I drove through Matmati and there I saw the most awesome desert in my live. After arriving in Douz I found the camping Desert Club easily because of the GPS coordinates they had sent me. This camping ground is owned by a French woman and two locals. It is nice to be in a nice and clean place because just as all other Arabic people, the Tunisian people don’t care that much about the environment. Douz is located on the edge of the Sahara dessert and therefore a point of interest for tourism in Tunisia. There are many activities, like camel riding, horse riding, ATV riding and many more. I went for one and a half hour of ATV riding in the Sahara with a guide. For me it was the first time riding an ATV and I had so much fun. One time I realized too late that a sand dune dropped, the ATV stopped and I flew through the air and landed in the sand. It was so great because the landing was very soft because of the sand and I was completely covered with sand. Back on the ATV I took the next sand dunes a bit more carefully. I had a great time and definitely planning to do it again. The 15th of October is the Islamic new year and then all the shops would be closed so I bought food for the next three days. On new year I went to Ksar Ghilane, an oases in the Tunisian Sahara. With only 150 km to go it promised to be an easy day. The 150km were all asphalt kilometers and therefore easy to do. If you want you can also do it the difficult / fun way by going through the dunes of the Sahara. When I arrived at the oases it turned out that the entry road was blocked by a huge water hole. There was a bypass but after walking it first I had doubts that I was able to do it with the motorbike. I just decided to take a rest and during this rest many cars went through the bypass but some of them had a bit of difficulties. After about an hour a car stopped and I had a chat with the driver who convinced me to give it a try, he would be there to help me out if I was not able to get through. Haha of course I didn’t make it and got stuck up to the axle of my rear wheel and the car had to tow me out and that wasn’t that easy after all. The car got stuck itself and we needed another car to get the first one going again. After an hour we had made it with the help of three more guys who had stopped, we all had great fun. The temperature was around 40 degrees and we were busy for almost an hour and I was wearing my motor suit. After arriving at the campground of the oases I showed symptoms of a heatstroke, stopped sweating and started shivering. I took of my motor suit went into the shadow and drunk water and after a while I started to feel better again. During diving we always have to keep an eye on people to prevent them from getting a heat stroke and now I know exactly how it feels. The oasis has also a warm water spring and is quite a tourist attraction and therefore I had later in the day many chats. A group of Italian motor riders invited me later on for dinner with the usual amount of wine with it. Being in an oasis in the middle of the Sahara is an amazing experience. As far as you can look there is only sand, sand, and more sand and there in the middle is a green spot with running water, electricity, beer and restaurants. I met a group of Dutch people who where doing a tour with there own 4 x 4 cars through the Sahara. They invited me to join them for lunch which I accepted. Next to my camp spot there was a group of Italian motor bikers and we had dinner together and telling stories about our adventures. After this amazing experience I went back to Douze for one more day to spend with the group of Italians at the camping Dessert club. From Douze I rode east to Tozeur. To reach Tozeur I had to cross a salt lake ‘chote’ and that was another great experience. There was a road that allowed you to drive through the lake with both sides of the road as white as white can be. So far I have no regrets at all that I crossed the Mediterranean once more to experience another Muslim country. During my way up north I tried to get into Algeria at the Bouchebka, but unfortunately they didn’t let me in because I did not have a visa. Further north is Le Kef and went over there to apply for a visa, here they told me that I can only apply for an Algerian visa in my home country. A big red cross for my travel to Algeria. There was not much choice but for me to go back to Europe and see from there. I booked the ferry for the next Friday back to Italy. During the check-in procedure I met   the group of Dutch people who I had met in Ksar Ghilane and the invited me again to join them for dinner. Later two of them, Olaf and Jan-Evert offered me a bed in there cabin. It is amazing the hospitality I experience of the people I meet on my way.

In my next update you can read my experience to reach Morocco and my experience in another country at the Mediterranean.

Smoking a water pipe in Tunis.
The amphitheater in El Jem.
Sunset view from my hotelroom.
The dessert at Matmati.
Me on the ATV in the Sahara.
The Oasis Ksar Ghilane in the Sahara
The Sahara.
The group of Italians I met in Ksar Ghilane.
The salt lake near Tozeur.

Countries I have visited: