Cycling to the Sahara: Farmyard Animals

Yesterday was supposed to be a short day. Starting early from Sousse, I should have arrived at my destination by about lunchtime with plenty of time to mosey around the Roman amphitheatre at El Jem.

The amphitheatre at El Jem. From below.

But given the nature of this trip so far, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I only arrived at my destination at 22.30, 70km from where I expected to be.

On the plus side, I did get a guided tour around a Tunisian farm, near Ghanada.

This is me and Ali. He insisted I take photographs of all his animals. So I did.

There were sheep. And peacocks.

And geese.

And a cow (mother). And a calf. Indulging in some light petting.

These chaps were fricking awesome. Hamdi picked me up of the side of the road and near dragged me in for a cup of tea. He introduced me to Ali (above, with his seven month old calf, his ‘marriage’) and Khaled, a young fella who worked for the Garde Nationale and drove a tractor.

They fed me yoghurt fresh from their cow (above), bread fresh from their oven and an enormous egg fresh from one of their geese (above) and we all watched the National Geographic channel together. Then we went on a tour with the camera around their thousand tree olive grove and inspected all the animals. Love this place!

Anyway, I apologise for the somewhat episodic nature of this post, but here is the news in brief:

Hammamet

Disasterous room. The shower instantly floods its feeble curtain, flows merrily into the bathroom, seeps under the door frame and out into the wider bedroom beyond. This seems to come as standard in Tunisian hotels, but this particular shower comes with a cold tap that you can’t turn off. It turns ON all right, but not off. So I had to switch off at the mains, which means that I can’t flush the toilet – unless I’m also having a shower.

Furthermore, the TV when switched on makes a whirring noise, gives off a sparking flash and then nothing. And only two lights work. Otherwise it’s great. Oh and there are no windows, except onto a closed-in courtyard. And the muezzin sounds at about 5.30am. And I wake up freezing cold at midnight. Otherwise…

Traffic

There is an immense amount of heavy goods traffic in Tunisia. I don’t understand it, but they seem to be building vast cities at every turn. However, I have found it is possible to enjoy choking in the dust of a truck or lorry – my favourite are the ones carrying huge bubls of fennel. The air is most delightfully fragrant in their wake. My least favourite has to be the ones stacked with crates of chickens. The stench of poultry excrement lingers most persistantly.

Cheering Crowds

I love cycling in Tunisia. People honk horns joyfully and give me the thumbs up or wave. One driver leapt out of his seat and started blowing kisses at me. Too many people stare sometimes, but there is a wonderful reflex in Tunisian people that, once greeted, they must reciprocate. So all I do is wave or salaam and they return with a smile.

The Saha-who?!

In Haouria, I first told a Tunisian of my evil plan to cycle to the Sahara. A waiter asked me where I was going on my tour. I told him around the Cap Bon. He nodded. Then I added: ‘I hope to cycle to the Sahara as well.’ ‘The Sahara?’ he queried. ‘Yes!’ I replied. He just slapped his forehead and brought me a free plate of French fries.

Next time, I promise to introduce some characters, including Yasser the drunk from Gabes, Wa’el the drunk from Lebanon and Mohammed the drug-dealer from Sousse. Lovely chaps, all.

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