Sun 16 Mar 08
Ksar Ghilane - Gabes
The campsite at Ksar Ghilane is set on the edge of an oasis and surrounded by a sea of sand dunes that stretch for as far as the eye can see. Awesome! The guys that pass through here are real desert rats that love following tracks through the dunes on bikes and in 4x4s. The campsite itself is sandy and there is a natural spring that feeds a pond about 30mx20m surrounded by small restaurants and curio shops all set amongst palm trees. Quite commercial but rustic at the same time. We camped on the edge of the campsite near the dunes.
During yesterdays drive Andy's power steering pump steadily got worse until he lost it all together. When we investigated the vehicle this morning we found the steering pump had disintegrated. So they decided to get to the nearest big town to source another pump. Se and I pottered around the camp until 10ish and spoke to a German biker about Libya and Tunisia - really nice guy. I was starting to get a cold and starting to feel worse as the morning wore on. We decided to pack up and head for Tatourine, on route to Jerba, an island we wanted to visit on the way to Libya. Checking the GPS there was a road/track to Chenini and then to Tatourine. We headed off after a late breakfast of cold couscous and coffee with condensed milk. Se drove as I was not feeling well. We hit the track (we were expecting a road!) and headed off down it. The stony track turned to sand as we approached some small dunes across our path. We reduced the tire pressure and Se guided me through like a pro. Coming to a tricky section I took over but eventually we came to a dune hill that neither of us felt safe about climbing. So we turned around. Since it was now 4pm we decided to change plans and head to Gabes to camp and head to Jerba tomorrow. On the way we called Andy to find out where he was and he was on his way back up to Tunis for the part. After speaking to Hadi in Tripoli we decided to get the part sorted in Libya so Andy and Noeleen met us at the Gabes campsite. We had a great dinner at our poshest restaurant yet, recommended on the GPS. Had rump steak and Se had succulent lamb skewers with lemon! Great fro 20TD!
Mon 17 Mar 08
Gabes - Aghir (Jerba Island)
The boy scouts we camped next to just never went to sleep and we had Arabic songs around the campfire shouted to us all night. We headed for Jerba Island in convoy, and after a short 15min pleasant ferry ride we were on Jerba Island. Already it looked more touristy with western faces around. Apparently packaged tourists love it in the summer but today it was very quiet. The island is about 50km long and the house's doors are painted blue and white here. I believe the municipality supplies the blue paint free, hence why everyone's doors are blue but it provides a great island feel.
Travelling in the off season again let us down as we arrived at the GPS coordinates for hotel Sidi Slim, only to find the entire hotel is closed until 2010! No wonder we had to let ourselves in the front gate! So it was off to find another campsite which luckily was just down the road on a sandy beach. The toilets were disgusting but the sea view and laid back campsite, with lots of retired German couples in mobile homes, made up for it. Together the 4 of us cooked a veggie curry and rice and huddled in Andy and Noeleen's shelter as the wind gusted about.
Tues 18 Mar 08
Aghir, Jerba Island
Finally we had a full day to relax and not drive anywhere. The sun was gloriously hot and Noeleen and I went for a short run past camels grazing and donkey carts, before the heat of the day. The rest of the day was spent bent over a bucket doing vast amounts of washing. So far travelling has been hard work and completely different to a 2 week holiday break. All my free time is spent doing household chores and putting things away, back in their allocated spot in the Landy.
Bruce meanwhile was dismantling the dashboard trying to fix the spot lights, and in so doing blew the whole circuit so we now have no lights at all! He literally spent the entire day testing every wire and finally found the blown fuse somewhere where he never even knew a fuse existed - at least we have lights now and spots! Well done Bruce.
Noeleen and I enjoyed a swim in semi clean water with a lot of debris and Andy finished off his MBA, poor chap. In late afternoon I finally put my feet up for a little reading of 'The Long Way Down' (thanks Robert and Jo), an appropriate book I thought.
With a beautiful still evening I whipped up a pasta with mushroom soup as the old faithful sauce. Bruce is even enjoying all the veggies. Since we haven't seen any decent meat for sale, that's all we are eating. Oh and Bruce's cold is getting better.
Wed 19 Mar 08
Aghir, Jerba Island
Today we went into the main town, Homout Souk, to stock up on supplies and to find some BEER! We found the supermarket but they did not sell beer so after shopping tried to find the beer place. After much searching we crossed paths with a beer truck and in desperation decided to follow it so that it would lead us to the beer. Cunning plan indeed! In the end all it led us to was a motor spares place where I found the replacement fuse that I needed. But we did flag the beer truck down and I asked the driver in sign language where we could buy beers, even offering to lighten his load of beer! He gave us some vague directions to a shop but alas he was not going there himself.
We got lost so asked a staunch Muslim policeman where we could buy beer. Following the policeman's equally vague directions we crossed paths again with the beer truck! The despairing driver then signalled for us to follow him and he would lead us to the beer. Thank goodness we had someone to follow because we would never have found the place tucked away down a dark and smelly side street. We bought 2 cases of beer and 2 bottles of the finest Tunisian red wine and took delivery through the cage that separated the seller from us. All came to 56TD, which was a big whack, but at least we have provisions for Libya where alcohol is illegal - a bridge we would have to cross when we came to it! When we got back to the campsite we stashed a case of beer under the water jerries and the rest in the roof tent with the bottle of wine stuffed into the sleeping bag and another under the drivers seat with my tools. Good smugglers!
Had great dinner of veggie curry and rice. Off to Libya tomorrow which is very exciting. Tunisia has been great but it is time to move on.
HIGHLIGHTS OF TUNISIA
Sidi Bou Said
Exhilaration of desert driving to Ksar Ghilane
Sfax Medina and spice smells
El Gem Coliseum
Eating sweet roadside oranges
Great people - really friendly
Kebabs near Libyan embassy
LOWLIGHTS OF TUNISIA
7 day Tunisian visa and all the trouble it caused
Difficulty with our Libyan visa
Bad, wet cold weather