Dave the motorhome is back at the scene of our midnight awakening a month or so ago, only this time we’re not in the free car park, we’re safely behind the walls of the marina at Sidi Bou Said (N36.86801 E10.35211). We didn’t plan to come back here, but as we have we’ve now completed a full circle of Tunisia and with a couple of days to spare. Tomorrow we’re off into Tunis on the TGM train that goes every 12 minutes according to our guide book.
Last night we watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian and were surprised just how much of it was filmed in the Ribat in Monastir that we visited a short while ago, it all looked very familiar. We slept like logs and woke this morning to find a new campervan on the already quite full site. Evie and Mickey were from Switzerland and touring Tunisia for two weeks with their two dogs. They’d caught the ferry over from Genova in Italy and had been told they could have their dogs in their cabins, but on arrival on the ferry they couldn’t. So they put them in kennels then when no one was around sneaked them out – looks like we won’t have to hide Charlie in a bag on Saturday night, he’ll just have to put up with a short spell in the clink, poor puppy.
It turned out that everyone on the site was getting the ferry back to Genova tonight and had all come to this place on their first night in Tunisia – so no wonder they all seemed to know each other. This morning the men stood around admiring and discussing adventure trucks, there were two parked next to us that had been taking bikers across the desert. Andreas and Marianne (the Austrians who we met in La Louza) were also catching the ferry so we bid them farewell and set off in convoy with Werner from Germany in his adventure truck.
We drove north towards Korbus with a plan to take a loop around the mountain behind the town. The only problem being the road which was under development when our Rough Guide was written (March 2009) is still under construction, well actually not, it’s just closed, no work is taking place. Spotting the diversion sign we drove around the back of the mountain and then turned towards the shore.
Stopping off just before the road dropped down to the town Jay and I had a bite to eat (we have too much food in the fridge which needs eating before the ferry on Saturday – it’ll be tough, but someone will have to scoff it all) before going for a walk up the rocks to see the view to La Goulette over the Gulf of Tunis. Werner went to drive around the town, but was back pretty quickly. Not fancying a walk he had his lunch as we walked then drove down into the town.
The guide book promised a hot spring shooting out from a pipe below the road and into a pool where you could sit and relax. We pulled up next to the shops and restaurant which had sprung up around it only to approached by a man on his mobile (it was tucked into his hood) asking for money to park. We didn’t fancy paying 1.400TD (about €0.70) just to go and look at the pipe for a couple of minutes – so we got back into Dave and carried on – the ticket wielding chap jabbering on that we’d need a ticket to park in the town as well, we suspected not. Reaching the town there was hardly anything there, a few decaying hotels wedged into a ravine in the mountain. Above the town sat a villa previously owned by the French civil engineer who redesigned the spa in the town which then became a favourite retreat of Bourguiba when his was president. With nothing much else to see and no need for a spa, we turned around and drove back up to Werner.
In convoy once again we set off to find the campsite at Hammamet Lif. After a few aborted attempts to find it by crossing the train line which runs down the side of the road, we hooked the laptop to the phone and used it to guide us to the GPS co-ordinates (we still can’t work out how to get Tom Tom to tell us the general direction of some GPS co-ordinates when it doesn’t have any maps – it must be possible, but won’t be a problem in a couple of days). Eventually we found it and pulled in to be very disappointed – the place was very dilapidated. Marching across the area we had parked in were two threads of Processionary Catapillars, as these fellas are not only tasty for dogs, but also fatal Charlie was locked in Dave as we sought out the site owner.
When Werner found out that they wanted to charge 15TD for him to stop there, and 25TD for us, he laughed and walked off. We quickly followed. We tried a few wild camping spots along the beach but one was too windy, another had Jay surrounded by a pack of wild dogs when he got out to walk Charlie – we’d had enough. The area around Tunis is sparse for overnight places to stop, as we found when we arrived in the country, so we made for somewhere we knew – Sidi Bou Said.
Tackling Tunis during rush hour would probably not be the best idea, but in fact it was remarkably quiet and the driving was no worse than elsewhere. Traffic lights were routinely ignored, roundabouts were a bit of a free for all, but at least here there were less donkeys and fewer people driving the wrong way up the road )(still some, but fewer!). As the light started to fade we crossed the causeway that separates Tunis Lake from the Gulf of Tunis – a strange sight as the area is full of water with several roads raised above it.
The familiar outline of La Goulette port came into view, and we followed the coast north finally reaching the car park we were so rudely awakened in all those days ago (it seems like ages). Driving on past we pulled up at the marina, two official looking chaps in uniform were stood outside and greeted us. Jay arranged spaces for us in the security of the car park, and they even showed us where we could hook in our electricity. Asking the price Jay was initially told it was free, then it went to 10TD then 20 – Jay took it all in his stride, some baksheesh was needed. He offered 20TD for two nights (€10) and it was accepted. We parked up with Werner a couple of spaces away.
Jay went for a walk later and bumped into a fella who asked him what he was doing here, he explained and then realised, he was now talking to the security guard. We don’t have a clue who the other chaps were, but they had a uniform on so they must be legit – right?! Anyway, we’re in and plugged in. Werner is watching TV in his van, Jay’s cooking up some of our fridge stash for tea and Charlie is snoring. We’re all feeling tired after a much longer than expected day of driving. Still we’ll be able to watch the ferry go past with Andreas, Marianne, Evie and Mickey on it at 10pm.