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rock the kasbah (rose)

TUNISIA | Wednesday, 2 June 2010 | Views [604]

Sorry. This is a bit of a ‘we went here and did this, then we went here and did that’ account, exactly what we wanted to avoid. But we've got a lot of catching up to do. Here is what got up to as we meandered our way down the Tunisian coast.

Hergla - A whitewashed little village on a hill. Every house had turquoise doors and window shutters, and most were engulfed in bougainvillea in magenta, puce, cerise, or one of any number of other interestingly-named colours. We slept at the port just metres from the fishing boats, having made friends with Slim and Slim, (it's true) the friendly local coppers.

Sousse – We stayed for a week at the youth centre where I volunteered in the English class, and took a ladies-only tae kwon do class. Huw got his overalls well and truly dirty and attracted a male admirer. Definitely the two were related. I made lemonade. We made some great friends in Tawfik (the caretaker who certainly took care of us) and Abdessattar who fixed our radiator and invited us to a stunning homecooked lunch. I tried to sort some work in a school and after much ado ended up having an impromptu interview - in French - with the big scary Regional Director in his big scary air-conned office. Not one of my greatest successes.

Monasir – We stopped just long enough for me to indulge my Monty Python love by climbing (and taking far too many photos of) the tower that Brian sprinted up and fell off when escaping the Romans.

Mahdia – We came for a day and stayed for four. Definitely a pattern emerging here. It was enchanting, an old pirate haunt on a thin peninsula, jutting out into the azure sea. Our truck became a seaside office (thanks to free wifi from Nej and the boys in the scuba diving centre) and we got a load of work done to pay for the next few loads of petrol. Huw translated their website so we got cheap dives, but (as you may have read) there was a disturbing lack of life down there. I did however hold a baby starfish, just 5mm across, which was probably one of the coolest things I've ever done.

El Jem – We liked the amphitheatre, almost as large as Rome's Colosseum it conjured up wild imaginings of the roar of lions, emperors turning their thumbs up or down according to their mood of the moment, and gladiators ripped limb from limb as a result. What sticks in my mind was the old grafitti we found, carved deep into its walls from the late 1800s and lots from wartime. That gave us real pause for thought. The museum, with its breathtaking mosaics covering every wall and floor was also very impressive, even for a non-museum type person like me.

Sfax – Another day, another medina. Sfax was interesting: Tunisia's second largest city but it felt far from it, especially within the medina walls. The tiny twisting alleyways were truly not used to tourist feet. We picked our way over fish guts and faeces (possibly even human). Every home and shop was listening to the Sfax vs Beja football match - far more interesting and important than us, so we pottered through the streets largely unnoticed. Finally we found ourselves in the souk where we stocked up on spicy merguez sausages and veg for dinner, and Huw had a shave.

Mahres – I’d read somewhere about a modern sculpture park here so (perhaps because we were missing the Brighton Festival so damn much) we had a brief lunch stop. The sculpture park was weee-erd. Most bizarre were a huge jasmine seller with ladders up his legs and benches in his belly, and what looked like a rotting corpse, cunningly sculpted from scrap metal, hanging by its feet. Shortly after leaving Mahres we watched the odometer click over to 29017 which meant we’d travelled exactly 5,500km since leaving Brighton. Not that we're counting.

Gabes – We didn't stop here for long - just long enough to recharge our batteries (our own bodily ones, and those for the GPS, mobiles, laptops etc), wash all our clothes, and ascertain that the rumbling we'd been feeling was not the UJ but a dodgy propshaft.

And from there we headed west, into the desert. But that's another story.

Route, photos and more at www.thelongandwinding.co.uk

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