Saturday, June 14, 2008


Day 1 - Arrival at Monastir
My flight got in at around 0200, through passport control at around 0300(they're not incredibly efficient down there). Had to fill out a form with lots of different details, felt kinda weird but nothing very special.

After I'd found an ATM and caught a cab to my hotel I crashed in the, kinda weird smelling, bed, I was glad i actually booked the first night before, looking for a hotel at 4 in the morning wouldn't have been fun. I paid the cab 40 dinar(one dinar,1 TD, is about 6 SEK) for a ride that in daylight i could have walked in about...oh, 3 minutes or so. good start.

Day 2 - To Sousse and onwards to Douz
After about four hours of sleep i wasn't exactly runnig out of bed, but hey. You can sleep at home, at this being the first day of my trip I was quite excited so it wasn't very difficult :)

I thought about taking a swim but the water turned out to be quite cold and the weather was cloudy so I skipped it and took the train to Sousse. When I read "Sousse.SUD" on the sign I got off the the middle of nowhere, turned out to be a suburb-station. But I met some nice old men that tought be some basic arabic :)

At this point I hadn't really decided on how my trip would go but when I got to Sousse i caught a taxi to the bus station to see when the busses left, which was really lucky since the bus to Douz only left 2 times a day and it was supposed to leave, a very different time than when it actually leaves in tunisia, was just 5 minutes later. So I decided to start in the south.

The cab ride to the bus stop was a quite interesting experience. If you have ever ridden a cab in Thailand or a similar blood-curling, life-flashes-before-your-eyes ride you know the kind I'm talking about. Once when our lane was blocked he simply crossed over into the opposite lane and I think we were like 2m from the car going in the other direction when he had got past the queue and got back into the right lane. A...memorable...experience.

It was quite noticable that most turists that come to Tunisia do not take the bus, it was just me and alot of Tunisians. A little girl in the seat in front of my stared wide-eyed at me for quite a while until her mother probably told her to stop bother the weird white guy ;)

At one of the stops during the 7 hour bus ride to Douz I decided to try their Mint-tea they serve almost everywhere. It was very good, one of the best i had during the entire journey. Not like any other tea i've tried anywhere else in the world. It was murkier with a much smoother taste, and always served in very small glasses which if you wanted to you could probably gulp down the entire serving in one or two mouthfulls, but that didn't really matter, when they cost 300m (about 2 SEK) they can be small as long as they taste great :)

They journey south continued in a not very timely fashion with stops for tea and a smoke for the rest, almost everybody in Tunisia smokes, very annoying.

Once I arrived in Douz I walked about for a bit until I found a place to grab something to eat. While I sat there eating my first, of later to be a large number, harissa, a guy walked up and said I should take a look at his hotel, I took a look at what The Book (my lonely planet-guide, wouldn't have gotten 5 meters without it...) said and since the hotel sounded alright I walked with the owner once i had finished my dinner. Now, for those of you who has never tried harissa. It's chili, ground down and mixed with oil and some other things to make a paste that can start a minor firestorm in anybodys mouth. I'm not weak when it comes to hot food but a few times I got a little much and..well, i started sweating a bit, more :) Back to why I started the rant about the hotel, the room looked alright so I took it and after a short while the owner came back and asked if I wanted to take a trip into the desert. Since seeing the desert was kinda the reason I got over there in the first place I wasn't too hard to convince.

After that I went to a local café, ordered a glass of tea and settled down to watch a football game from the european championship. Since I got on the bus in Sousse I have yet to see another westerner, a quite nice feeling but at the sime time a bit weird.

Day 3 - Shopping in Douz and Ksar-Ghalein
The car to didn't leave until noon so I had some time to walk around and see at least a bit of Douz. I went to the market (souq) and bought a few things. After my first round of haggling I walked away a turban richer and 5 TD poorer, haggled the price down from 12 to 5 TD which was fun :) Also bought some spices, 100g of saffron costs about 18SEK down here although then you just get the leaves raw dried leaves. One of the shop owners told me about a swedish Marie/Maria that apparently arranges trips into the desert. Shame I didn't have time to find her, might have been able to arrange a better trip.

Then it was time for the trip out to Ksar-Ghalein, an oasis about 150km south of Douz, so it's on the edge of the real desert, dunes as far as the eye can see and the whole deal. My guide was a tunisian that hardly spoke any english so we had some trouble keeping the conversation alive. The hotel could have got me an english-speaking guide...

On the way out to Ksar-Ghalein we saw a nice sign, "Danger: Dromedaries crossing" :) (Once I find my camera again i'll put up a picture). And the Tarzan-café. In the middle of nowhere there was a café consisting of two simple single-room circular houses. The guy living there probably got quite lonely, but he apparently had an internet connection ;)

Conversation was a general problem in Tunisia, generally I had to rely on the five english words they knew, the five french words i know, the ten german words we both knew and general sounds and body language. Didn't really bother me at first but it got old quite fast. My next country will be one where the population speaks english, i think one would get alot more out of Tunisia if you speak french.

Once I get arrived at the oasis I walked out in the desert for a while and got completely sandblasted. After a while I gave up and walked back to the tent to get my turban, it's worth its (very light) weight in gold when you'r walking about in a mild sandstorm. After about half an hour of getting less sandblasted it was time to ride dromedary which was an interesting experience. When they rise up from lying down the begin with the hind legs so you sit slanting forward at a quite steep angle until they decide it's time to get level again.

At the break during the ride the berber-guide leading us out into the desert walked to a dune that look like 300 other dunes within sight, but when he had dug in only a decimeter the sand was all wet. Impressive.

After the ride we stood and watched the sun set, it's an incredibly beautiful view. One feels incredibly...temporary. The desert is probably one of the few places mankind would have to try to screw up.

Day 4 - Berbers and Matmata
After waking up covered in a fine layer of sand and the usual worthless breakfast we left for Matmata. On the way there we stopped in Tamizret, a berber village up in the mountains of south-east Tunisia. The berbers lived kind of like Luke's father in the first Star Wars, houses holed out into the hills themselves.

Out here in the nowhere of nowhere hardly anybody means even fewer people speak any english at all. Once I had managed to get a room without speaking any of the language i bought my souvernier from this trip. A little bottle of sand with different colours shaped like a camel, for only 6SEK it was quite good value :)

Later at the hotel I met an american and we started talking, it felt great to actually talk to somebody again. "conversation! wohoo!". He had also been travelling around alone for a while and felt the same so it wasn't really any long silences :)

Day 5 - Sfax
After a morning of talking to the american it was time to leave for Gabés and then Sfax. The bus was supposed to leave at 1400 so I walked up to the stop around 1330...and saw the bus leave. The busses here didn't really seem to run on any real schedule. The driver left when he got bored, which could be an hour early or an hour late. When you wait for the bus, after five they can say "5 minutes". Five minutes later it's "oh, it's here in half an hour", "It's probably here in an hour or so". It get's you relaxed but I have no idea how people there keep schedules.

I took a shared cab, a "louage", to Gabés and then the train to Sfax. I hadn't really decided where to go next when I got on the train but when the it arrived the plan was set. Sfax, Tunis, Kairouan and then directly the airport and home.

After arriving in Sfax and finding a hotel I walked about the medina(market) for a while and then sat in a café to grab a glass of tea, it was quite good and then a local boy that looked about 14-ish waved me over and asked if I wanted to share his waterpipe, sheesha. The usual language complications was present but after a while he started talking about sex...but later he started talking about sex, so I left but he followed and asked me for money. After alot of questions and denials later I figured he thought he had sold himself to me when I left. I got quite shocked and walked away, he started bothering me when he figured out I wasn't interested but after completely ignoring him for a while he gave up. A quite shocking experience, he looked normal, if he had walked around in rags it would have been less of a shock. That took quite a while to shake off but I managed and walked away to get dinner.

After having a good pizza I found a café and saw the game Sweden - Greece at a bar. I was probably the only guy watching the game, the rest was busy drinking the local beer, and alot of it. The bar had a guy that seemed to have replacing empty bottles with full and keeping tabs as his sole job, was probably a big money maker since the customers didn't have to get up from their tables to keep drinking.

Day 6 - Tunis
After hardly sleeping at all I got up and walked to the train station and got to Tunis. The environment clearly changed when I got further north, aloot greener. There was actually quite alot of plants beside the tracks, got a bit shocked after almost seeing none in the south. After finding a hotel it was shopping time. I have been looking for a good chess game and found one made out of olive wood. After haggling the price down from 52 to 30 I bought it. I also got a new pair of sunglasses, he started at 45 so I said 5, we ended at 10 so I was quite pleased, haggling was fun :) Something less fun was a technique some of the sellers used. They put their hand out as if to greet you, but doesn't let go if you don't get into their shop. Which I didn't out of general principle.

Alot of eye shopping later I found this really nice café deep into the medina that had one of the best teas i drank during the entire journey.

More window-shopping later I walked around town for a bit, grabbed dinner and then found a really great café with I spent the rest of the evening reading and people watching.

Day 7 - Kairouan
After alot of walking around being confused I found the bus to Kairouan, leaving 1½ hour later than specified, a classic case of the phenomena I quite quickly named "tunisian time".

The plan was to walk around Kairouan, see the mosque and the town. But that didn't work out, at all. When I got to Kairouan I first met a couple that when I asked for the way to the medina they offered to show the way, nice. Turned out to work at a hotel, so I thought they would expect me to live at their hotel later, and then they dragged me into some kind of stuffy hotel that had higher entrance fee than some of the hotels I stayed at. Later they thought we should get a cab to the next place but I didn't really think comfortable with them any more so I said I didn't have any money for the cab and then they quickly lost all interest.

The next guy I asked to point the way also offered to show the way, now I had the general direction we should be walking in and when he turned into an empty side street I didn't want to follow and said thanks and goodbye, then he tried to kiss me after licking my shin. I had some trouble not punching him.

Third guy later actually showed me the right way but then came the empty alley and at this point I didn't trust anybody. Well, I didn't trust anybody from the start but now I was quite unfriendly in general to people. He tried something about "No mafia here", riiiight.

When I arrived at the medina at around 15 I found out the mosque closed at 14 and the medina at 16, at this point I was mostly pissed at the place in general so i grabbed lunch and then started walking toward the bus stop to get away. On the way there two other guys started walking with me, they spoke incredibly good english for tunisians, which is to say a bit below average. But after a while came "We're all brothers and sisters, I help you you help me." and similar things. After that it was mostly a question of time and later the very expected "we have a problem, we have no money"...being a cash cow for people gets old really fast.

So I went back to Sousse, had dinner and then on to Monastir and a hotel close to the airport.

No comments: