North Africa – Tunisia – Stars Wars and Sand People

January 23, 2013 / Tunisia / 0 Comments /

Today our aims were to travel to film sets for the wastelands and Luke Skywalkers home in Star Wars!  Unloaded, we were able to glide through the local villages with ease although this newly found freedom of no gear made for a completely different ride!  Pull off power = doubled meaning a few “wheeeee”s and unintentional skids to entertain passerbys! ;)

The ride to the wastelands saw us through a number of villages where we had our first odd reactions off locals.  Where we were getting used to all the waving and cheering it was now changing to the odd finger, fist shakes and also kids pretending to shoot us!  Niiiiice!  The road was being resurfaced (or dug up? We couldn’t figure) meaning another encounter of sand for me.  Being sleepy and still adjusting to the lightness of our unloaded bikes I was a bit narky at myself for being all over the shot on the sand and nearly catapulting myself off a few times.  My ansy-ness was all resolved though with a mahoosive chicken kebab bap with cold fries which is an in thing here (all for absolute pennies too)!

When we arrived at the wastelands it was quite literally what it says on the box… wastelands!  With our bikes being kitted out for off roading (big thank you KTM Basel for our awesome KTM 690 Enduro R 2012 Quest bike kits!) we managed to scoot around the rocky and sandy climbs to see more, something we feel would only be achievable on foot otherwise or perhaps in a well equipped landy!  Quite weirdly we were in the middle of no where and these kiddies appeared, initially asking for money, then sweets and then for Sam and I to kiss!  The little buggers even asked Sam if they could kiss me!  So funny and strange!  We pelted up a really steep hill in hope to get some photos of the bikes and scenery but once we reached the top we stopped and turned… only to see the kids next to us!??! How the bloody hell they managed to get up so quickly I have no idea!

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Realising they were not planning on leaving our sides we decided to head towards Luke house and as carefully as possible made our way down the slope.  This scared the living daylights out of me because the kiddies wouldn’t leave my side and I was petrified of squashing the little muppets!  After they witnessed me hitting a patch of sand and going sideways (saying a few choice words) they hung back a bit though ;)

Back on the road we notice that the wind was picking up.  After a while we noticed that the palm trees were starting to lean sideways and upon taking a cursory glance behind us we double took a massive glow of orange heading our way… sandstorm time!  Being 20clicks off our campsite we opened up a bit in hope to escape through the now ghost town villages where locals had locked up and retreated for protection.  Nipping at our heels, we ended up being caught in the start of it and were sand blasted to bits, grains beating their way into all orifices, prickling away like hot oil spitting despite the neck scarfs and goggles.

Back on the campsite we took shelter in our tent and then without realising it awoke a few hours later… we had been sleepy!  As the night drew in we ventured again to our new found friends Julie, Jason and Charlie to spend an evening of chinwagging, consumption of ginormous berber pizzes and plotting routes!  Good times!

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North Africa – Trip to Tozeur

January 22, 2013 / Tunisia / 0 Comments /

Tunisia-Sfax-Leaving

We arrived in Touzer as the sun set and as usual we followed the GPS which navigated us to some wee village on the outskirts surrounded by desert.  Slightly confused as this did not look like the palm tree campsite we were in search of we stopped and asked for directions.  Within minutes the local villager had leapt in his car and had us following him through the sands back to the main city!  The hospitality and desire to help people here is just overwhelming!

Sandy Swimming!…

This was my first time riding in sand.  Weighed down with all our gear I could feel my lovely bike sinking and slithering as I wobbled with giggles and shrieks along the soft sand.   It wasn’t far to go but in the dark and having never experienced a swimming sensation on the bike I was a bundle of nerves and laughter!  It’s so weird… I cannot wait to try it again but perhaps within daylight hours and not whilst lost at nightfall ;)

After a few roads we arrive at our destination, Camping Les Beauxreves (33° 32′ 15,25 N – 8° 49′ 23,48 E) and are waved off by our local friend!  So kind of him!  The campsite owner appears and proceeds to show us an area to set up camp just beyond some shower blocks under some palms… this is a lap of luxury camping wise!  As soon as we dismount we are immediately greeted by a rather excited Jason, a fellow British traveller in his camper van (affectionately named Dave) accompanied by his wife Julie and pooch Charlie!  Parked up just the otherside of the shower block, we are invited over for some grub so with that in mind we bosh up the tent and join them!  Before long we are telling tales, drinking wine and enjoying some delicious grub including left over Italian Christmas Cake! Om tastic!

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OURTOUR.CO.UK …

Jason, Julie and Charlie are just an awesome trio!  They have been travelling now for nearly 14months around Europe and just happened to stumble their way into North Africa on their tour!  Just listening to their trip up to now we were laughing away!  They both have a very relaxed and chilled out persona which managed to brush off on us that evening, making us reconsider our mad run around over the next few days and adapt it to chillax a bit and see the local sites!  Thanks guys!  Their method of travel is very dreamy too… Sam and I have since been discussing about getting a camper van upon our return to do some tours and trips in when we have kiddies and pooches about!  It just all looks wicked! They are also making loads of notes on where they’re heading to and plonking helpful hints on their website – for all eager travellers be it camper vanners or whatever form of transport we can only encourage you to visit their site and get a copy of their book! www.ourtour.co.uk!

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North Africa – Sfax – Family Fun and Chickens the size of Children

January 20, 2013 / Tunisia / 0 Comments /

Sam woke up feeling a bit more fresh this morning and less land leggy – always a good thing!  Whilst waking up we made a conscious decision to try and sort out how to cross Libya and get up to date with the on goings.  At breakky and during packing up the bike we made a few calls and manage to speak to a family friend based in Tripoli.  The news seemed fairly grim from Benghazi onwards but they were confident that we could easily enter Tripoli without any issues and then perhaps conceive a plan from there.  We also discovered that our friend has a cousin (Nabil) based in Sfax and we were told to hang fire as he would come meet with us.

We meet with Nabil (an incredibly jolly taxi driver) and a few hours later find ourselves in his home with his wife (Hazar) and family, in their traditional arabic seating room eating arabic and tunisian sweets and fresh fruit from their garden.  Nabil speaks limited English but is fluent in both Arabic and French, meaning Sam and I managed to communicate with not too much problem!  Nabil’s family live on the outskirts of the main city within a beautiful one story Mediterranean home.  We were shown outside their garden full of fruit trees, jasmine bushes, chickens (all the way from Germany… they were GIGANTIC and came up to my waist! No joking!), canaries and a stunning American Mastiff guard dog.  With the sun beaming it was absolutely gorgeous. Next door is his Brother and family, a pet shop owner in town, and within half a mile is his other immediate family (Sister and Mother).  As the afternoon drew in and the schools emptied we met more and more of his family (nieces, nephews, Brothers and sons) until the house was bustling with family all chatting, joking and eating!

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Come evening time we were kindly taken to a restaurant in town where we were treated to a traditional beef tomato dish and mutton chops as well as a Tunisian beer or two!  It was all delicious!  We chatted and laughed all evening, particularly cracking up when it was explained to us in a rather hilarious form of charades that Nabil’s niece (Fatma) and her husband (Saleem) wanted me to have a white baby for them! Haha!  The funny thing too is that Saleem has seen us the day before riding around with the police and had wondered who we were and what we were doing!  It seems we made quite an impact!

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The next day Sam and I prepared ourselves for a trip to Tozeur.   Sam filled up the bikes and to do so took one of Nabil’s motorbike crazy sons (Monji) on the back of the bike as a personal guide to the bank and petrol station. Naturally, this meant a detour round the whole city to many of Monji’s friends who all had rides and also his Uncles pet shop!  Comically, we dressed Monji in all my motorbike gear so he was safe but he looked like a mini incredible hulk!  So sweet!  Hazar kindly gave me a beautiful headscarf for Libya and Nabil took me on a mini tour of Sfax when going to pick up his son!  Such a loving and generous family!

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Eventually though we had to get on our way and after many thanks and a wonderful lunch we hopped on our bikes and made our way.

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We would like to thank Nabil, Hazar and family for being such wonderful generous people!  We really hope they can one day visit us so we can repay their kindness but understand that a visa to UK for Tunisian people is almost impossible to get.  Still, we have our fingers crossed and hope to see them in England on our return!

 

 

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North Africa – Sfax – Insane riding and tramps in trees!

January 19, 2013 / Tunisia / 0 Comments /

Sfax has been a shocking introduction to insane riding skills!  I remember a time I used to be dubious to filter even without panniers but yeh… there’s no getting out of it here!!  The driving is absolutely mental beyond belief… people going down the wrong side of the road, motorcycles and scooters EVERY WHERE just magically appearing next to you.  Weirdly though it’s like being in the middle of a school of fish, swishing in every direction in what seems like an erratic manner but… it just works.  You have to grow a pair… a very big pair… rapidly!

When we arrived we thought we knew a location to a campsite but unfortunately it was no where to be seen.  We had dozens of people riding up to us on their bikes waving and eventually one chap riding alongside Sam asked us to follow him so we did (I mean… why not!).  He ended up pulling up and chatting to us in broken French/English.  Indicating to him “campsite”, he nodded and told us to follow again and so doing a U turn we travel back down the road (into on coming traffic on the wrong side of course) before crossing onto a roundabout and stopping in the middle of the lane to talk to a police officer.  After a few minutes of blocking the road, we are then directed to another officer… and another… and another… and after crossing the town left right and centre we eventually stop outside a main police station where we meet the chief of police.

Everyone is laughing and smiling but suggesting in charades and broken English that there is no camping in Sfax.  Bugger.  The police chief then seems to have an idea and asks us to follow him in his flashing police van so we weave our way round the town through red lights and muzzling through traffic, over pavements and between market stalls to eventually reach the French Embassy and Central Police Station.  Sam dismounts and follows the Police Chief on foot into a square where I can see him pointing to a flower bed with palm trees and then back at the bikes… he wants us to camp here?!?!  Sam comes back suppressing a grin and confirms to me that they want us to camp on the roundabout… there’s no where else for us to put a tent but it will apparently be safe because of the Police Station – I should go look!  Laughing, I follow the Police to this patch and then around the corner to another grassy knoll which is an alternative option!  Thinking of our skin tight budget, I momentarily consider this option until I take a look to the tree adjacent where nestled in its branches laid a dozing tramp, softly snoring with a man size poo directly below him on the grass.  Maaaaaaybe we will pass on this occasion!

So.  With no where to sleep and surrounded by a bunch of police officers and random people on bikes, sun setting and tramps awakening, we start indicating that perhaps we would like to stay in a hotel.  Again we are escorted around and eventually we pull round the back of some buildings and are told to park in an underground entrance to a cellar and kitchen area where the porters poke their heads out looking slightly confused.  The police wave and nod though and all is good!  We are then taken to a hotel reception above where the police insist that we have a good rate, knocking a good 50 dinars off the final price.  Ever so grateful we thank them and with smiles and handshakes they disappear and leave us to this French-influenced middle eastern hotel which is luxury for us!

It’s been amazing!!  For me, the riding has been a massive confidence booster.  I have been doing things and riding in ways I never thought I would be capable of but having been put in a situation where I have no choice you just kind of crack on with it.  It just… happens!  Sam was shattered when we crashed in the hotel room and suffering a wee bit with Land Legs after the ferry ended up conking out instantly.  We are very much relaxed, chilled out and happy :)

 

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On our way – Updates to come!

December 20, 2012 / Europe / 0 Comments /

Hey hey everyone!

So so sorry for the delays, the past few weeks have been unbelievably mental! We’re on our way now and have travelled down to KTM Basel in Switzerland in order to tweak the bikes for the rest of our trip!

All is good, we’re a bit like headless chickens but we’re getting there :)

Will update properly in next couple of days with the older blogs but thanks for hanging in there with us!

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