The border gate between Algeria and Tunisia is pretty crowded. It would be wise to use early hours of morning to pass the border. There was still one km to the gate where the vehicle line already started. Of course I won’t talk about this long vehicle line. Hooooopp to the front. Wuhuuuu! What a crowd! I’m not exaggerating, there are at least 500 people. There are tollgates at the border gate. As I asked the policeman where to go, he shows me the building. If the border procedure is carried here, I’m screwed. That line would never end.
Hummm, let’s do it as if I’m not aware of anything and try to pass right through this gate. I saluted the policemen. They immediately recognized me. As I already mentioned in my previous reports, I interviewed on televisions and newspapers in Algeria. Needless to say, the ceremony of taking photos has begun. One of them was speaking English. He wanted my passport and saw that I don’t have an exit stamp and said, – Let your bicycle stand there and follow me. Yes, that was what I’ve been looking for. If I was going in and leave my bicycle outside, at least I prefer to leave it in a secure place.
Just as I thought, it is bursting at the seams inside. The policeman told me to wait for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, the place I’m waiting in is the room for police officers. Some of them were wondering who the hell I’m, I handed them the newspaper that I carry in my bag which includes an article about me. After that they realize the situation. To them, I was a maniac who is traveling around the world by bicycle. I generally get it from the way they look at me. Not surprisingly they asked me to take photos. -Yes, of course. Taking position for a photo.. Afterwards while we were chatting, a policewoman entered the room. She also read the article and said: “Mashallah, mashallah”… Just at that moment the policeman came back with my passport in his hand.
“Gurkan, sorry, but you have to line up” : ) .. I tried to pull some strings but didn’t work. Well, nothing to do. At least my bicycle is in good hands. The policewoman asked her friend in French and turned to me:
– Gurkan are you married?
I didn’t understand what was going on since she asked this question while examining my passport. After my answer, she left the room and came back in two minutes talking again to his colleague. He started to laugh:
– Gurkan here is your exit stamp. She said that you are at the age to marry. She could marry you.
– Beg me pardon? : )
I’m on a world tour (hahaha), impossible, (hehehe) and traveling by bike. Twice impossible :)))).. Listening to me she really got disappointed. The biggest devastation for her came after I told her that I would return to Turkey not before 2019. Nevertheless, I had the exit stamp on my passport, I thanked to all of them and left the building. Honestly, she really was a pretty woman. When I give a little smile to those women police officers and soldiers, things get really creepy and I can’t handle the situation.
I passed Algerian side of the border and came to the Tunisian check point. There is no queue on this side and the process ended in a short time. Just at the exit, there is Oredoo the GSM operator opened by Qatari. At the stand of Oredoo there are young people. They all recognized and came next to me and we took a selfie. Amira one of the Oredoo employees makes me the second proposal of the day. “Will you marry me?” – I really want to go on such a tour. I can quit my job right now and join you.” Dude, what the hell is going on? There are one to two other proposals I didn’t mention (!) in my Algeria report. The course is no good, what am I supposed to do, to say I’m married? : D
When you Google Tunisia and the neighboring countries, they look mainly occupied by desert. But this coastal strip is pretty green. Not only green, there are pine forest and pine nuts in cones. What I like most. Even, it is possible to see peddlers along the streets selling pine nut in nylon bags.
The delicious sweet dessert made with pine nut that I ate in Bergama comes to my mind sold under the name rocket. Dude, I wish I had some! (Hey! This is a message. Let’s see who would respond). While talking about Bergama, they are on a project which would be welcomed by the medicine community. I wanted to let you know as a one admiring Bergama: “Asclepius Golden Snake Medicine Awards”
The first big city I enter in Tunisia is Tabarka. I arrived this city in an early hour. First, I strolled around the coastal line. It is easy to see from the city that you are in a touristic country. All the cheap hotels in the city are occupied. I stayed one night in “Mimoza Hotel” which is built in 19th century a midrange hotel. There is no salad, cheese nor olives on the open buffet for breakfast. One expects a better breakfast for the price. I anyway lack such breakfast while on the road. Well, staying at a place, somewhat luxury to me, expectance increases. I stroll around in the city during day time. The first thing that caught my attention was the men still wearing fez (tarboosh). I had never seen before that this hat model created in Fes city of Morocco was used in the towns and cities of Morocco or Algeria (During my short travel in Tunisia I witnessed men wearing fez in the villages). Aside this, the cities are really dirty. As I mentioned this to the girl at the hotel reception:
– The city is pretty but doesn’t the municipality work? The streets are dirty.
-Yes, I know but it wasn’t so before revolution.
I heard this sentence many times during conversations with citizens and Turks during my stay in Tunisia. But, reading the road memories of foreign travelers before the revolution, I must say that the situation hasn’t change, even got worse. The streets of this country were always dirty. Well, why? Actually there are a couple of main reasons. But initially I want to travel further in the world of Arabs. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Amman, Yemen. After observing the reasons of this dirtiness in all these countries I’ll make my comment about this issue.
I travelled through the north coast line of Tunisia by my bicycle and afterwards turned downward to the capital. In this region one or two attractive spots caught my attention as a bicycle tourer. One of them was Cap Serrat on the northwest side of the country. I was told by nobody about this place, I just considered this site as a settlement on a foreland on the GPS that’s it. Actually, I didn’t know what it looked like till I arrived this place. It is 16 km aside the main road. I left my bike slide down the hill on the forested road. Tunisian people didn’t burn out the forest just because there are terrorists hiding in forests. I mentioned in my Algeria memories, they were burning their forests to prevent the terrorists take shelter. In the capital I learned that if someone from the embassy would like to go there it wouldn’t be possible without being body guarded. Our ambassador Mr Omer Gucuk told me: “Gurkan, I was following you from GPS and got flurried. That region was really not safe”. I want to say if I had known I wouldn’t enter that place but travelers as me may sometimes can’t be able to make out what is ahead.
Once in a country as I was riding through an uninhabited area, a car stopped 200 m in front of me and a man with a crank in his hand got out the car. You need to decide immediately. What should you do when a car slows down in nowhere? You have to make him put his crank down on the front handlebar bag and shake hands. The pastor doesn’t eat rice all the time (a Turkish saying – meaning one gets bored keeping doing the same thing) and this also is a reality. It sometimes can be really hard to get enough information about the safety issues of places I’ll go. Generally, I’m getting pre-information about the safety issues in our embassies. I continue my way if I previously be able to get in dialogue with the natives and they let me feel safe.
The coast of Cap Serrat is covered with desert sand. There is a pine forest 25 m behind the shore. People from the neighboring villages put tents under the trees. It is pretty crowded. Also, there is a stylish storey building with a grass garden and a restaurant. I met the owner of the hotel immediately. Although it was quite cheap, the owner allowed me to set up my tent in the garden. There is a shower, electricity, food and lawn. You should exit the country road you are following towards Nefza to reach this place. You arrive in this place after a 20 km ride. Also let me already say that you have to climb back the road you came. But I would say the one traveling by bike shouldn’t miss this place. If you want to stay at the hotel, it would be wise to book in advance. If not, you also can set up your tent in the lawn. Dude, you want me tell the name of the hotel… : ) I forgot. Also lost the card of the hotel but if you Google the name of the village, I’m sure it will be the only hotel that appears in the search results.
Before riding down towards the capital there is one of the biggest cities on the north of the country along the road, Bizerte. I initially went to south but didn’t like the route then turned back to north. Generally no one salutes you or is interested in you in Tunisia. Village people doesn’t chat with you as if they are scared.
I stopped at a grocery store along the country road and bought 3 bottles of water. Meanwhile, another child came next to the child selling me those bottles talking in Arabic to him. While I was leaving he slapped the other on the head. It is obvious what they are talking about: “Fool you! Why didn’t you sell to a higher price!?”…
I saw a couple of young people sitting in front of another store. I stopped for a small talk in the hope of some of them might speak English.
– Salam-un Alaikum
Usually this works, but not in this case. Alright they didn’t know English but they weren’t also interested for a small talk. The result, they left.
Then I found a cafe on the road. Let me enter here.. Old men are playing cards. I took a chair and sat down the table next to them. I ordered a cup of coffee (it was awful but I drank it). When I wanted to pay, they didn’t let me which was a nice first step. Well, at the end. : ). There wasn’t anybody speaking English in the cafe. We tried to chat but they didn’t understand what I was asking them. So we continued to chat with gestures, hahaha. Body language, that’s it. Dude, somebody should take a photo of me chatting using body language. Enes saw me how well I managed body language. He watched me once from a 20 m distance and when I came back next to him:
– Dude, Gurkan I swear I understood from here what you were talking about.
-That guy also understood. We stay here this night.
Well, I’m not bad in body language. Also we understood each other pretty good, me and the old men. One of them kept saying follow the coast after Bizerte, there is a road. Dude, I check from the map but there isn’t. No road. I also looked at satellite map but there was no road, only forest. Let’s take the direction, old man probably knows what he is talking about.
I arrived in Bizerte the same day. There was still day light so I had time to stroll around in the city. Generally there is nothing worth to mention in this city. Aside 4 or 5 stars hotels along the shore and sand beach-sea, a water way and fortress rampart caught my attention but I had to find a cheap place to spend the night before it gets dark. A found a cheap hotel just outside the city. The building was newly painted and the rooms seem clean. The sheets weren’t washed, when I turned on the lights of the toilet, 6 cockroaches tried to escape, etc. etc. By the way, as I woke up in the morning there was a cockroach in my bed. It climbed on the bed and exactly that time I had turned and I had smashed the insect. As I woke up in the morning, it’s carcass was near my shoulder. : ) Anyway, I took the dead animal and put it on floor of the bathroom.
– Look, your friend is dead. Be aware of the border and do not exit the bathroom.
Each time I went to the toilet they were running around but I saw none of them after that day. On top of it they also took their dead friend with them. Honestly, I felt sorry afterwards. Must be pretty hard for them. But I didn’t kill their friend on purpose and I didn’t thought they would react this way.
The next day I got out early in the morning to take some photos of the city. Bizerte is the oldest city of Tunisia ruled by the Ottomans for 307 years. Then, it became a French colonial city. Yes, protection and colony. Some of Tunisian would get angry. Some say that also Ottoman empire had exploited us. My friends, if it would be so, first of all we would be speaking the same language. Not worth to mention the rest. Ottoman Empire had used to resources of the region but had never tyrannized natives. The ones that persecuted were the ones who were responsible for disturbances. This was put into words by the educated natives. France built the biggest port of Mediterranean during 1920s in this city. Well, since that time this port preserved its importance. Also presently one of the most favorite ports is in this city.
I mentioned above that the cities were dirty but while recording a video in this city I witnessed a happening . In Bizerte, a touristic city a shopkeeper took the garbage basket out form his shop and emptied it in the middle of sidewalk. He didn’t put in a nylon bag or something, just emptied. Emptying a hill of meal left over, packaging material not into the waste basket on street but to the centre of sidewalk was really a very interesting situation. Unbelievable!
There must be a couple of artifacts dated to Ottoman times among the street alleys but I didn’t take an interest. There is a canal leading sea water into the city which look fine but I think to myself, “It would be nice if you clean up this place.”
Anyway, that’s enough about this city. Let me take route following the coast line as those old men told me and see where it will lead me.