Through Tunesia with the Dirtbikes, Travel-Report from 1997

With the GPS Data of " Douz to Ksar Ghilane"

White beach and yellow dunes, black silt on salt-seas,  Oases full of green - Tunisia is much more than only a desolate waste-state. 


Rather helplessly, we sit in the Emergency-reception of the hospital in Metlaoui. Gert is being examined now. His husquvarna (motorbike) threw him off caused by a too wild start at a loose gravel road after the sightseeing of the Seldja-Canyon , and through the fall, he injured himself at the knee evilly.  Everything had started with it so well. In Straubing, we had set off to third: Wolfgang with his Africa Twin, Gert with the Husqvarna 610 TE and I with my XR 600 R. In Lindau at the Lake Constance we  picked up Markus  with a BMW R80 G/S. Freely, we crossed the Alps in order to reach the ferry in Genoa to Tunis.  After the arrival next day in the afternoon in North-Africa, we immediately had start, not quite voluntary our first part of the tour. Because in whole Tunis was no campsite to find. Finally in Nabuel arrived, we crawled into our sleeping bags wearily. However the night was already about five o'clock to end in the morning, as the reputation of the muezzin awakened us from the close opportune mosque. Therefore, we used the early morning hours in order to pull open my XR a new back-tire. Our route first led us into direction to Huareb southward and further to Gafsa. After some first Off-road passages over partially muddy tracks, the first repair became due: The Throttle cable the husky was crafty. A half hour later, the trip was continued until behind Gafsa, where we opened our tents in the middle of the landscape. Here, we experienced the much described and sung of loneliness and silence of the desert for the first time. It was a feeling, that probably stirs each human being, with the very first sight of the mountains or the sea comparably.  On the next day, no time remained for silence and thoughtfulness, and for Gert, it became a very black in his Enduro Life. It was the day of his fall, that finally led us into the hospital in Metlaoui. Several teared ligaments were diagnosed. 
Through the help of the friendly x-ray-doctor, we found a driver with pickup-truck, that brought Gert and the husky to Tunis. From there he began with the airplane the return trip. We should take back the motorcycle to Genoa approximately ten days later. What of the day remained, we used in order to reach the city Tozeur before sunset.    We happened to the "Chott  El Djerid", a dried out salt lake. The overcrossing is only saveon the dam-street, which crosses this salt-lake. Nevertheless, the numerous tracks lead us on the dried up surface into leaving of the dam. With speed 100 (Km/h) we drive on the relatively hard ground. Before we notice it, the tracks become few and the underground spongier. Going back on the dam? As we brake in order to come back on the embankment, the surface rips, and the BMW buries itself up to the cylinders in the black silt. Only with united strengths, we succeed to pull the GS out of the salt-bog again. And then the following quarter of an hour passes with cleaning the totally "baked out" cool-ribs. 




After few kilometers, we finally reach Douz, where we replenish our water supplies. Since the route after Ksar Ghilane amounts to be only approximately 90 kilometers and we still have relatively full tanks, we don't consider it necessary to replenish our gas-supplies. The track to the oasis shows us a helpful Tunesian, who is driving in front of us. With his Peugeot-Moped, he maneuvers visible easier than we on the way, that surprises us with first soft-sand-passages. With a box of native cigarettes, we thank him, and he wishes us good luck for the track lying before us. After approximately 40 kilometers, we reach the " cafe de desert ", a small from palm-fly whisks erected resting place in the nowhere the waste-landscape. We are not amazed badly, because the calling cards and stickers of Rallye-Drivers and their teams are at the walls.  So, somtimes confidance is located in the foreign. 

The host thinks that it is difficult for strangers, to get the bearings without the Satellite-Navigation GPS on the route lying before us, is. To the security, he sketches us a card on a sheet of paper, so that we don't get lost. So, we drive the rest of the afternoon up to the break-in of the dark in the suspected direction. Unfortunately the card is only a coarse clue, so that we spend the night somewhere between Douz and Ksar Ghilane in a dune-field.  Also here, this odd feeling, that probably only this ocean from sand can mediate, attacks us again. No light, no sound. Over us a clear firmament, and it seems so, as we are the only creatures in an universe, destroyed in year-millions to sand-grains planets. 
Very early on the following day, we leave in order to use the coolness of the morning. We hope to reach the oasis against midday. But again and again dune-combs obstruct us the view, and again and again we must dig out the remained down motorcycles, which are sometimes burried until over the axes in the sand. We have slipped up with the navigation. But how should we navigate here to what? At the next dune, that looks so, like that beside it or like the horizon-line, that is also nothing more than this mild hill-landscape, that opens right and left?  We need a beaten half day in order to find at least again a point, that we have already reached the day before.  And so we finally land at the frond-cafe again, only, in order to leave to a renewed wandering, that leads us back again to Douz, where we started yesterday. 

The time is pressing. Therefore, we start after replenishing of the gas - and water-supplies, to Ksar Ghilane in a new direction. This time, we try our luck over along the longer track-connection, the crude oil-pipeline, which leads from the south until to Tunis. Wearily and smashed we arrive after 130 kilometers in the dark in Ksar Ghilane. A green place in the tawny sea of the sand. A 33 Celsius hot thermal-source, keeps the Oasis alife. Some other motorcyclists are already here, because this waste-island is now " in ", since the "Rallye Optic 2000" leads in the year of our trip 2000 to this place. The next day promises pure Driving Fun in the sand, because we have left behind our luggage. We steer pleasure-full  our now light-footed Offroad-bikes through the dunes. Also the one or other fall belongs to this recuperation-trip, but fortunately everything finishes without harm for man and machine. 
Finally, we decide to head for a fort from the days of the colonial-time. However, again and again our Bikes dig themselves into the soft sand, and so we finally give up. 
So hotly the days are, it becomes so cool in the evening. Exactly five degrees prevail, as we climb under the stars of the south in the literal bath-warm waters of the oasis.  The way back to north leads us to Kebili. There, we surprisely meet the "KTM" - work-team with Heinz Kinigadner and Giovanni Sala. They test motorcycles for the coming Tunesia-Rallye "Optic 2000". That gives a memory-photo, logical. 
Along the Algerian border, we return over the offshoots of the atlas-mountain to the coast to the city of Tabarka.  Although we had brought our machines at our stay in the oasis to a good technical condition, a new breakdown brakes is stopping us again. This time, the clutch-train tears at the Africa Twin. With a substitute-rope and Lead-supply, the repair is done quickly, and so we finally reach the Cap Serrat in the late afternoon. Here, a beach opens, as you know it from folders, that you never properly believes. More finely white sand like in the Caribbean. Far and wide no vacationers. No question, here, we must simple remain and stay for the night. 
Technical problems already tarnish the idyllic mood on the next day again. The rear wheel-bearing is broken of the Honda Africa Twin. Fifty kilometers before Bizerte, we stand on free waste-open field therefore and try to put off the behind-wheel of the Honda. However the Wheel nut is pulled so solidly that two keys immediately go to break. Only as a truck holds, we can solve the problem with his gigantic tool-set. His driver immediately volunteers to take the unhappy rider together with his wheel to Bizerte for the repair. Four hours and three liters of soda later a taxi stops, and Wolfgang gets out with the repaired back-wheel, so that we can continue our tour in direction Tunis. 
There, we now stand after the many kilometers through sand and gravel at the rail of the ferry. We look back on a country in North-Africa, that lies before Europe's front door and offers virtually exotic offroad-adventure for German circumstances. 

Christian Frankl 


GPS data for the part "Douz to Ksar Ghilane"

 Taken during our Tour 1998.

Ksar Ghilane - Douz over the "large dunefield"

Camp in Ksar Ghilane

32 59´21.4"

9 38´22.0"

Abzweigung Piste nach Links

33 02´52.7"

9 33´19.4"

Dünenfeld 1

33 04´08.3"9 26´06.6"

Dünenfeld 2

33 04´07.3"9 25´30.4"

Wegpunkt 1

33 05´22.9"9 23´16.3"

Wegpunkt 2

33 06´09.0"9 22´25.4"

Wegpunkt 3

33 07´23.3"9 20´48.2"

Bunker mit Brunnen

33 09´09.7"9 19´44.5"

Alter Brunnen am Wegrand

33 14´28.3"9 15´50.8"

Wasserstelle mit Tränke

33 15´19.8"9 15´14.0"

Cafe "la port du Desert"

33 15´34.6"9 14´42.3"


33 27´44.0"9 01´45.0"

 For more GPS data information about Tunisia´s south and the closed southern part: click here!