Tunisia Trip Report 27.3.1998 - 13.4.1998

7:45 o'clock: My door-bell rings. It is Manfred, with whom I will depart to Tunisia today. Mane´s face looks like a big question mark, because I am still in jeans and sweaters. I leave no doubt at my intent to throw me within 15 minutes into the complete driving wear.  
After a few minutes, I almost would have forgotten my backpack, in which lies a good half kilo of first-class smoked bacon among other things, so to say the "Bavarian first-care food kit" for the journey to Genova and further to Tunis.  
The trip from Straubing crossing the Alps and further until to the Gardalake proceeds without considerable incidents. We cover our camp at the shore of the lake Garda behind a small bar, because most of the Campingsites of the area are still closed and nobody of the few already opened sites allows motorcycles within the campsite. Seemingly, people here at the South-shore of the lake can afford themselves such discriminations against the Motorcycle-drivers without profit-loss...  
As a small thanks for the free overnight stay, we sit later at the host at the bar and drink a few beers before we go to sleep.  
At the next morning, the waves beat against the shore and wake us against 6 o'clock.  Breakfast and packing up our things delays the departure till 8 o'clock. Approximately 250km later we reach the harbour in Genoa. We drive since the morning with two other bikers along the Italian highway. Helge and Christine on a BMW R100GS has affiliated us. They also drive for almost 14 days to Tunisia. Many totally overcrowded private Tunisian cars are waiting in front of the ferry, that should depart at 16:30 o'clock. Between the much Africa Twins and BMW boxers we two with our 600ccm " strong " XR Hondas feel us somehow small. However, our odds not to fall behind too far at the offroad-passages already climb again as we see  the luggage-mountains that many many of the two cylinder-drivers do carry. Particularly the tyres of the Big-Enduros let us recognised that their drivers do probably plan no bigger trips away from the asphalt-ribbons. We however have planned again to drive the most kilometres in Tunisia on gravel's and sand, only using GPS data or compass.  
After unending 24 hours, we finally reach Tunis and put us the entry-formalities. Shortly before 20 o'clock we leave the harbour-terrain and set off in direction to Tunis city and further after Nabuel to the hotel Jasmine, where it i allowed to camp in the garden. Agreeable 21° Celsius invite us to drink another beer in front of the tent, before we crawl into the sleeping bags.  
After an extensive breakfast, we start our Single-Cylinders and leave the place Nabuel in direction south, the whole day on the escape of the bad weather, that follows us from north. Unfortunately not always successful, now and then a few smaller shivers catches up with us. Below Bir Ali Ben Khelifa we leave the street in order to cross from Mazzouna the " Sebkhet en Nouals ", a Chott-plain, across country. Again and again, deep furrows proceed crosswise to the direction, that we don't always recognise in time. Sometimes, only a Full-stop helps in order to fall not in the sometimes over one meter deep dried up creeks. The many street-kilometres of the last days let our attention dwindle something for such terrain. However after the first two almost-fallings with punctures of the shock absorber-elements we manage to concentrate us more on the track. Approximately 25km later finally  we reach an asphalt street again and we do navigate at first.  
We follow the street Nr.15 up to the turn-off to Kebili, that is shown in our card as a gravel-way. On the way, we help an old man to repair the flat at his rear wheel of his Peugeot moped. Quite unselfishly what this opportunity he puts his valve at a new place into the hose as well and would still like to have three tire-patches as substitute. His hose anyway already looks like an artwork, studs with patches. Since I only have four patches left, I must refuse the request and we proceed.  
Soon after that, we must determine that since the edition-date of our card (1992) something has been done in Tunisia. The complete route is tarred through all the way to Kebili. We are not unfortunately surprised over this circumstance, because wide parts of the Chott El Fedjaj practically would have been impassable .  
South from Kebili, we open our tent on a dune, surrounded by palms. We left the bad weather behind since the Chott El Fedjaj. With a good mood, we cook ourselves the dinner and crawl into the sleeping bags.  
In the subsequent morning, we already leave the campsite against 8Uhr and replenish our water - and gas-supplies in Douz. Once again, the search for the right track to Ksar Ghilane doesn't come easy for us. Finally, we leave the native people in Douz after different attempts to describe us the right way, in direction west to Matmata. Then we drive a few kilometres outside Douz southward across country. The luggage and the coarse underground hardly admit more than 20km/h. Little later we come upon an old track and follow it, until we finally reach the palm-frond-cafe. From here, we had left one year ago to a wandering around with the compass. This year, after all we already have a GPS with us, even if we have only two GPS points: Douz and Ksar Ghilane.  
After the obligatory refreshment and installing our "Stammtisch sticker" as well as a calling card at one of the wood-blackboards of the cafe, we leave and try our luck again. This time, it looks well. We follow the track to south-east. Again and again, tracks leave our route to the left. We however remains on the track straight on, that leads exactly into the wished direction. Finally, sand-dunes obstruct the view to the further course of the way. Our GPS shows a distance of approximately 40km to Ksar Ghilane. Approximately 20km long we plow through the dune-field, presumably lengthways, because the host of the cafe spoke only about a few kilometres. Sometimes, the sand is so soft that even our only slightly packed motorcycles sink down to the axis with the rear-wheel. Then, only common pushing helps. Through the partially extreme rises and the abrupt transition of the sand-hills back to the even ground, the luggage pulls at the motorcycle so hard, that one of Manfred's saddlebags gives up after a fall. A fist-big hole is at a corner of the bag. During the constant swing, it was worn down by the tire presumably. Two of our dry-meals already have distributed themselves into the bag and remain now in the sand-desert. We immediately cook the third bag, that was just now ripped open, at the place we stopped minutes ago. Since it is  lunchtime now, this meal reaches us exactly at the right time. In order to get some shadow, we stretch our tissue-tarpaulin over the motorcycles and do some Siesta. Manfred mends his saddlebag with fat shoemaker-thread and I cook the menu.  
 
Full and optimistically about the remaining route, we proceed. Finally the dunes become smaller and a level with low grass and shrubbery follows. The GPS only shows 10km removals to Ksar Ghilane. Once again, a dune-belt comes in view. However it is this time somewhat higher than the last one. The height-difference between the level and the highest position of the dunes amounts to something more than 60m. Up to the horizon no oasis in view. Doubts at the correctness of the navigation are arising. The steep dunes force us into higher speed. The forks of the XRs come through vigorously with the departures of the comb of the dunes, because the dunes change directly in flat ground in order to ascend after 2-3m renewed steeply. Finally the dunes become smaller and another flat plain follows. Only 4km to the oasis -says the GPS - and nothing in view besides a new  high dune-field. We climb always higher and as we stand at the highest point, Ksar Ghilane is finally sight. Surprise determines me, as I assume, that we arrive from the North-side instead of  from southwards. No matter, because the sight inspires us and few minutes later we are in the shadow of the oasis and refresh us with a coke.  
In the thermal-water of the oasis, approximately 20 tourists loll about, approximately 30 - 50 more ride around on camels outside the oasis. Meanwhile, this oasis must have turned into a real Tourist-magnet. As we both sit down in the warm spring, also the last of this group vanishes from the water. Presumably, the people fear a sudden deterioration of the water-quality.  
At the subsequent morning, we use finally the opportunity in order to drive without luggage. We start in direction of the fortress, the "Ksar". The route is approximately 3km long and not very spectacular. The fortress itself only insists from wall-rests on a rise. From there we see the actual track, that is good recognisable up at the dune-belt. If we would have come along here yesterday,  we would have had to cross actually only a few sand-hills.  
We still drill around on the different sand-dunes of the oasis for the rest of the morning . At this fun, Manfred was something too quickly on his bike and this enabled him a three meters wide flight down the dune, with almost vertically sloping on the other side, with his XR. Fortunately he injured himself only negligibly and until on his broken off signaller and a postponed fork, also his motorcycle remained in good condition.  
We pack our matters around midday and leave the oasis in direction east. After 17km, we come upon the pipeline, that we only cross this time, in order to follow further on in direction east on an old track. First it goes straight on, the way is well visible. As the track gets along at a downs,  Manfred overlooks, pampered from the so long good route, three consecutively coming cross-grooving in the way and the first one pushes him so high off the saddle, that I reckon with the worst. I immediately brake in order to master the cross-grooves. In the meantime, Mane fights with his landing and subsequent crossing of the two following ditches. We stop in order to keep an eye on his motorcycle. The scare still suits him in the face. He had recognised the ditches simply too late. The stern of the XR, that we had even still reinforced at home, has been bent by the weight of the pack-sack with the landing downward, so that the fender now chafes at the muffler.  
We drive somewhat more slowly and with bigger attention now. But already soon we must leave the track, because this turns northward. We drive a few kilometres in a dried up brook-bed and over a downs until we discover a track eastward again. We don't find the palm-garden at Chenini, but the mosque is to be recognised from far. 
In Tatouine, we fill up our petrol tanks and buy bread for the dinner. Here, we meet two motorcyclists, who were already with us on the ferry over to Tunis. An unequal pair: One drives a BMW R1100GS, the other an old Kawasaki Enduro. Now, the two are looking for unleaded gas for the BMW - good luck!  
We follow the street 115, that is fortunately not yet tarred and drive over a steppe, that studs from small bushes on sand-hills. Far away from the last settlement, we cover our night-camp in the middle of the nowhere. 
 
Against 10 o'clock in the morning, we start our engines and get going to Djerba. The track now becomes very fast, but also dusty. We fly with over 100km/h along the way, must only brake, if  counter-traffic or narrower curves are in the way. Three times, we cross brackish water plains, over  the dried up salt-surfaces. However, it is sometimes only few meters, that separate the mud of the passable way. We drive the last 40 kilometres on tarred streets again. We cover our camp at the beach of Djerba at a former hotel. Fortunately the neighbour-hotel is in better condition, so that we first grant ourselves some beers at this bar, after all the dusty kilometres a true party. Some of the present guests amuses our presence somewhat. Which maniac drives with the motorcycle at barely 40 Celsius (in the shadow) around Tunisia? And they bloody right...  
Also on the next morning, we hit tourists during an island-round-trip, which even comes from our home-area. They can hardly grasp it that we have driven with the motorcycles until here. But we are simply here and drive at the beach along up to the most northern top of Djerba. Of course, the most beautiful beach-sections are always closed " from pompous hotels quasi ". Outside these attractive beaches, the alluvial junk occurs increasingly often and also in the inner part of the island, garbage heaps are to be found again and again, that the mass-tourism amasses here. 
 
Already in the next morning we leave the island, immediately turn right after the dam, that connects it with the mainland, and leave the street on it shortly after in order to drive to Medenine on an older, parallel proceeding gravel-street. Until 20 km before we reach Medenine, we  drive mostly on sandy underground, and approximately 5 km behind the city we turn left in direction to Matmata/Metameur. We drive many kilometres on the fast gravel-streets to Southeast. It is still approximately 18km (airline) to Ksar Ghilane, as we leave also the gravel-track in order to proceed the rest in the direction across country. And we apparently are not the only ones, that drive so over the country  here. Again and again jeep-tracks appear from the nothingness and proceed exactly into our direction. Finally, the pipeline comes in view again. We cross the track anew and meet Helge and Christine in the oasis again somewhat later. We are not intend to stay long, we buy only a few bottles of drinking waters and leave the oasis against 3 o'clock in direction fortress. We want to follow the tracks of a 4x4 Military-truck, that has driven the route to Douz approximately one day ago. Immediately behind the fortress, the track actually proceeds to Douz and we follows it a big  piece. Slowly high dunes become visible. But the driven track turns shortly previously left and leaves the dunes right. The old track was leading straight away, because the route was swallowed by the sand downright. Again we come well in front, until dunes, which has to be crossed this time, appear in front of us. Fortunately the tracks of the truck are still visible, so that we simply follow the grooves. A good 4x4 vehicle must have been that, because the dunes are not from cardboard. It was probably driven with very little air in the tyre, the tracks in the sand are very wide. Although it is already after 16 o'clock, my IMO-Speedometer shows an outside-temperature of almost 40° Ç. Good to know that we have enough water with us. We do pause at a small fastened well. 
 
The hole in the ground of the cottage is covered with a metal-plate. Curiously we open the shaft and drop a stone into the hole. It lasts almost 4 seconds until we hear the dull lapel , no more water in there. The daily kilometre counter stands on 220km. Three-fourths of it were Offroad kilometres. We proceed, already some exhausted, but the remaining 12 km up to the frond-cafe still extend the way into the length. We stop a few hundred meters before the cafe in order to chill us down the head with the water of a solar-driven water-pumpstation. After the already obligatory coke in the cafe, I give the host the GPS-Co-ordinates of his location, just as the route, that lies behind us. Maybe, drivers, who ask about the way, visit once again. They can certainly drive with our co-ordinates more accurate, as with the hand-drawn card of the host. 30km later in Douz on the campsite " Desert club camping " the route is already almost forgotten. With a cool beer in the hand, I give the co-ordinates to a few drivers of the "Enduro-Stammtisch Sonthofen", who want to get started tomorrow with the route, with two BMW´s among other bikes. We wish the boys much success with it.  
At the next morning, it is Sunday, we want to drive only a relatively short route: From Douz to Kebili, over the Chott El Djerid, further to Tozeur and up to Tamerza. There, a special-examination of the OPTIC 2000 should finish here tomorrow. A 40° C warm breeze blows us again into the face as we drive over the chott plain. The Oil temperature of the two singlecylinders falls no longer under 130° C. In of the middle of the Chotts, we turn to an excursion to the old bus wreck, that stands away from the dam. We see also two trucks of the PRO-LOG team, and stops shortly in order to experience news respecting the Rally. On a pass-height near Tamerza, nothing of the Rally is seen. Immediately behind the pass in a small canyon a thief uses the opportunity to steal Manfred's gloves, that he has lain for a moment at the motorcycle. I still see the alleged thief, but in the crucial moment, I look exactly into the canyon down and do a photo. Of course, no one of the present dealers, that offers all kinds of trash, has seen something. As we goes on our own fist to a truck with teenagers in order to keep there an eye on the thief we become little abused by swearing and so we must proceed our tour without getting the gloves back.  
We camp in Mides beside an old Roman-settlement at a double-canyon. A very modest campsite with a nice owner is to be found here.  
In the morning, we leave and exactly as we cross a riverbed, I notice a jeep with a few people, that hastily hurry around. As we come closer, a flag is already build up with the OPTIC 2000 strokes.  Here, we are right! That is the goal of the present-day speciale, that first one in Tunisia. Approximately 1 ½ hours later dust-flags at the horizon announces the first motorcycle-pilots. The fastest drivers required for the 280km Offroad barely 3 hours. A crazy time! The first three places go to KTM. Surprised I determine that many private-drivers are with XRs on the way. However, involving with this bike in the the first places is not possible, since this motorcycle simply has too little power in the comparison to the superior KTMs. But already shortly on it the first jeeps arrive. We still pursue the arriving of the drivers until approximately 14:30 o'clock. Even the television comes approached with a helicopter. 
I manage to grab another unwound roadbook that a motorcyclist wanted to throw away, as souvenir of the present-day.  
We depart and try to find a camping-possibility around Kasserine. There is nowhere an official campsite and the many farmsteads give us no possibility, to camp unseen around here. In that case, only the escape forwards helps. We stop at an estate and simply ask a boy of approximately 16 years, whether we could sleep here. He is happy to have us as guests here today, as he says. As his uncle comes home later, they even bring us home-made oil and bread.  
In also the subsequent morning, an Islamic holiday, we receive a fresh baked big fritter-bread once again, and water with on the way. As small counter-gift, we give away lighters and ballpoint pens. We thank for the hospitality once again and start the engines. 300km later we reach Nabuel , from where we had started from 9 days ago. Here, we want to spend the remaining 2 days and want to do another trip.  
Today is our next to the last day in Tunisia. We do a small trip to Korbous, a thermal-water-source with baths. Korbous lies at the East coast of the Cap Bon. There, on the way, the rear-wheel slides   on one of the smooth single-track tar-streets so away that I can hardly prevent a Highsider and the subsequent involuntary Drift only with effort. Three people sitting on a bank watch me interested, so that they probably think, that my little turn belongs so. Unfortunately the thermal-place is not so interesting, therefore we already drive back against midday to Nabuel. Back at the campsite we  meet a neighbour of on of our Stammtisch-group with his camper, there we are surprised! Against evening, a sidecar-driver from Austria  joins us at the campsite and we agree to turn a round on the tomorrow's day with the three of us in his 300ccm strong MuZ.  
The driver, a pensioner, who has spent the whole winter here in Tunisia, earns our respect. With his not very HP-rich given vehicle, he has travelled big parts of Tunisia. Again and again, he refers to the reliability and the simple repair of his moped. Therefore, we climb in and on the bike and set off. The people are not amazed badly, when they see coming us down the way. Something like this doesn't come along very often at this area. I bet! We drive to a restaurant and Manfred and I order per coincidence for lunch, since we cannot read the in French written menu card, simply with the finger anything on the card. We are not surprised badly, as we receive, everyone of us two, a half sheep-top (head). Well then, enjoy your meal! That part looks not only disgusting but is extremely fat as well. Fortunately, 5 hungry cats, at whom we feed the inedible menu, are present. We eat only the supplements. Thanks God, that we have cooked the most time for ourselves here. We find the four Sonthofener Enduro-guys after the return to the campsite there again, which we gave the GPS data for Douz - Ksar Ghilane a few days ago. In the evening, we douse the successful vacation with much beer and put us the alarm clock on 5 o'clock early.  
It is virtually still dark, as we set off to Tunis. We make good speed on the highway. The traffic piles up on only the last kilometres in front of Tunis. But as one-purely-vehicles, we drive past beside the traffic-jam and match exactly to the ferry, that begins right now with putting in the cars. The departure-formalities are transacted quickly and so one more chapter of Tunisia is finished for us again.  
Approximately one day later we reach Genova, after a partially restless transit. Again, we had managed to use several seats in the Pullmann hall as a bed. The weather is all other than good. The gaze in direction sea-Alps let foresee us what at the Brenner-pass will expect us. With rain, we set off and stop only to filling up the petrol tanks on the way. Against evening, we reach Bozen and want to take a room from us. But it is the Easter-weekend, and all hotels until approximately 150.-DM per rooms and night are rented to weekend-tourists. Displeased over the room-emergency, we wring out our wet socks, empty the water from the boots and drive on the highway in direction Brenner-pass again. Already little later it snows so thick that I can hardly recognise the median of the street with the tarnished Enduro-glasses in the weak headlight-cone anymore. At the car-yard shortly underneath the Brenner pass we find at the end a empty room and sleep there. A giant-pizza and a Whead-beer let us forget the cold and wet quickly.  
7 o'clock early in the morning. It is overcast with approximately minus 3° degree Celsius. We kick our engines at with which we  also immediately becomes warm. Unfortunately, we have both only dry Moto-cross-gloves, that we combine with the rain-gloves. However, against the cold, that helps not much. Almost 5cm snow lies at the roadway shortly before the pass-height. But down to Innsbruck, it only rains again. Now and then we stop and warm us up our hands at the hot muffler.  
And approximately 180km later finally we reach Straubing, that we have left 17 days ago.  
After over 4500km finally at home again. And now for the rest of the day a beautiful hot bath... 

Christian Frankl