A few opening words. I will try to write as much text as possible, English is not my native language, so you are warned. :wink:
Linza (also AdvRider member and author of lot of photos in this report) and I got idea for the trip while talking with our friend Bojan from Slovenia on Hvar Island (Croatia) in autumn last year. He said that he had great time in Tunisia in 2001. so that was enough to get us started. I always wanted to see Sahara.
Month before the trip the ferry was booked (return ticket for person and bike – 200 Euro), we also visited our Slovenian friends, who gave us lots of very useful info, especially about border procedures.
Help also came from AdvRider members, especially heikkil and TunisianRider.
We planned to travel all the way trough Italy, from Zagreb to Palermo on Italian motorways, probably not the smartest move in the world, but we prefer driving, not sailing, then catch the ferry from Palermo to Tunis, drive approx 2000 km trough Tunisia, starting from eastern part of the country, head to Sahara, reach Ksar Ghilane oasis (in fact, Ksar means oasis) and head back to Tunis trough western part of country, spend day on Sicily, and at the end cross Adriatic from Bari to Bar (Montenegro) and drive to Zagreb.
Let’s get started.
Day one, 27.04.07
Nothing specially interesting, quick ride through Croatia, and Slovenia, entering motorway near Trieste, big traffic jams around big cities, lot of trucks from all over Europe. Boring, dangerous and expensive. :D
Near Florence, we met couple from Slovenia on Kawasaki Versys traveling to Sicily. We found out that we “know” each other by our nicknames on Slovenian motorcycle forum.
Pepe and Tadeja from Slovenian forum
After entering Lazio province, traffic is much less intense, landscape is beautiful, and we're starting to relax.
All roads lead to…
We drove trough few showers, stopped once to put raingear on. Near Napoli we decided that it is time to stop. We were about 200 km short of our plan, which was around 1300 km for first day, but we were confident that we will reach Palermo in time to catch the ferry. Out of the motorway, towards Sorrento, where we rented bungalow in camp.
Day two, 28.04.07, visa day :huh
We woke up early, there is still around 600 km to go, ferry departs at 20:00, and we are supposed to be there at least three hours before, because of border procedures. We’re making good progress, after few hours we arrive at the end of Italian “boot”, catch a ferry, wave goodbye to the mainland, and off to the Sicily.
We arrive at Palermo around 4 o’clock. My Zumo decided that best route towards harbor is trough center of the city, and to make it more interesting streets are completely wet. At first I thought that I will not survive first few seconds. It is strange, but after some time I started to enjoy, really unique experience, no rules, very chaotic, but with some strange order in all that mess. After some time we arrive in port.
There are no problems in ticket office, our reservations are OK, Italian custom officials are very quick and after few minutes I got my passport stamped. We settled in nearby bar because we still got one hour before embarkation. At least, we are in the ship, passports are checked once again, bikes are strapped. Yesss, we are on our way, now we feel that adventure really begins.
Than shock, ship officer approached us and asked: “Are you Croatian citizens?” We nodded. He said that he checked with his agent in Tunisia, and we are not allowed to enter without visa. No way, I replied, we don’t need visa even my green card is valid there. Then he handed me his mobile phone and said, tell that to my agent. On the other side there is woman voice speaking Italian. Very helpful indeed. He said that we must disembark, we started to argue with idiot, police officer arrived, we were doomed, and at least we try to get our money back. Even that is not possible. Then, unexpected stroke of good luck. There is guy holding Croatian passport and speaking Italian with officer. We realized that his wife is also Croatian citizen, and that they have same problem. He also spoke fluent English, so we stick with him. He was trying to convince officer that he checked with Tunisian consulate in Palermo, and that Croatians DO NOT need visas. I don’t know how he managed to find some Tunisian consulate official who was at the same ferry, and convince him to guarantee that we DON’T NEED VISAS. After that, idiot reluctantly allowed us to stay on the ship. We found our seats, left our things, went to bar to get some coffee. There we met our savior with his wife, we chatted for few minutes. We were very grateful, of course. There was only one thing to do, fill some forms required by Tunisian border officials. Problem is that forms are on Arabic and French. With some help of friendly guy from Libya, we managed to fill the forms. It was time for deserved sleep, after shocking last few hours.
To be continued…
Oh HELL YEAH.
Good starting, thanks to share
Just one things Ksar means Castle or fortress in fact, there is a castle near the oasis of Ksar ghilane. I didn't see it when I was there.
Nice start...can't wait to see more.:thumb
From there just leave the oasis to the north, it's just a few meters. When you stumble upon one of the dromedaray guides waiting for customers,
turn left, let your eyes follow the trails in the sand and in about 3km distance you see the leftovers of the french fort.
Yes I have, I was not alone,
Ksar ghilane is became a touristic attraction with lot of tourist
[quote=Mandarax]You've been to the pool?
You got on the ferry, you survived the immigration ordeal, and now show us all the pretty pictures of exotic places, motorcycles, and food. :wink:
I'll be waiting. :lurk
Super! Don’t worry about the English, you’re doing great. It’s the ride that counts and this sounds like a great one.:rayof
Excellent! Thanks for the ride report and photos. And thanks for making the extra effort to write in in English - your English is just fine.
Thank you all. :thumb
ERIC DN, thanks for explaining Ksar thing. :thumb
Day three, 29.04.07, Tunisia at last
We’re cheap bastards, so we haven’t pay for cabin, instead we were sleeping in our seats. I managed to get some good sleep. We snapped few pictures while nearing Africa.
Around 8 o’clock ship docked, we lost some time reorganizing our baggage, so we were at the end of the line for passport control. Our Libyan friend was in front of us, he was driving some giant 4x4 pickup and towing KTM 525 on the trailer. Passport check was quick, some forms were stamped, and we were allowed to proceed towards customs. No one asked for visa this time. Before custom offices, “helpers” were waiting, they are locals who are offering their help with forms, and demanding money in return. We were warned by our friends to politely refuse their services, which we did. Our Libyan friend was in fact showing us way around offices, so we were advancing nicely. Officials were very polite and helpful, some of them were girls.
Then I suffered minor setback. In fact, officer was preparing to let me go, and then he spotted GPS on my bike. He told me that I must visit CERT office, to get extra permission for my Zumo. I managed to find the office, but guess what, there is no one there. I tried to ask some officials who were passing by, but no one knew anything. I was little nervous, because of hopelessness of the situation. Than two guys of Arab origin appeared, they also had some business with CERT. They raised their voices, went to the nearest officials, and after some time we got explanation. CERT guy suffered minor traffic accident and he will soon be in his office. I started chatting with guys, they knew few English words, but were fluent in Italian. I know few Italian words, so we were able to communicate. They were Algerian citizens working in Italy traveling home for holidays. They were friendly, offered me some cigarettes, and they were very confused when I told them that I don’t smoke. We were talking about motorcycles, about Valentino Rossi, in fact we didn’t understand each other very well, but it was very nice conversation. Finally CERT guy arrived, inspected my Zumo, filled and stamped few forms. One last check and we were free to go.
First picture after leaving the ship
Our plan was to bypass Tunis, head to Bizerte, visit Cap Blanc, and then head towards Beja. Traffic was OK, and after few minutes we arrived at toll station. We meet police patrol, and decided to stop and ask for directions. They were extremely friendly, we chatted for half of hour. In fact they were Garde Nationale (National Guard), Tunisian equivalent of French gendarmerie, as I understand it.
Linza had some problems with his chain, so we stopped at the “shop” in suburbs of Bizerte. There was bunch of kids, who helped us and even refused to accept some money, so we explained them that our custom is to left some money for drinks to people who helped us. Then they arranged little photo session for us. Very cool!
Because of my error in navigation, we were unable to find Cap Blanc, so we headed into open country. I was surprised by the landscape, just look at the pictures.
Late afternoon we arrived at Dougga, to visit Roman ruins. Rain started to fall, so we decided to find accommodation in Le Kef.
Hotel bar was full of locals, they were serving beer, so we got few cold ones, and some grilled lamb. There is local brand of beer called Celtia, and it is not bad at all. End of the first day in Tunisia, we had very nice time, country is beautiful and everybody is very friendly.
To be continued...
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