Tunisia‘s new face
Text and Photos: Dirk Schäfer
It‘s like the classical Christmas episodes of every known series: no one wants to watch it because it‘s always the same. But finally, people still watch it and afterwards, everyone had a nice time. It‘s the same thing with many trips to Tunisia. Ferry boat to Tunis, quick ride through the sandy South, 10 days fun and then quickly home again. But after the Arab Spring, Tunisia is now different. This year, it‘s time to change the tradition.
It was not Jochen, and not Andy either. Surely not Johannes. Only Guido or I were left. And I was quite sure it hadn‘t been me. Anyway, I should have been more careful. But well, we rolled our enduros through the narrow entrance of the charming and oriental hotel Sidi Bou Fares out to the cobblestones of the old town of Sidi Bou Said. The entrance of our inn was so narrow that I had to take the cases off my 690 to be able to pass through. Then, Guido and I were screwing the cases on again when we heard behind us the unmistakable slang of visitors coming from West America. „Amazing!“ „What an adventure!“„Absolutely fantastic!“ We felt like we were about to start the Dakar Rally. Hours later, I would remember this sweet small talk.
Ist das wirklich Nordafrika?
Is it really North Africa? The soft undulating hills are bursting with fruity Mediterranean green. It‘s no wonder: after all, we still are at the same latitude as Sicily. While the four friends are droning in front of me, I‘m already dreaming of our first track. And suddenly I hear this noise!
It‘s immediately there. Loud buzzing metallic drum. A moment later, the front wheel of the 690 slips to the left. With an incredible luck, I manage to control the bike. The buzzing noise stops at that moment. What was that? Did I roll over something? Is it gravel that lashed again the motor protection? I look in the rear mirror. Nothing to see. I can‘t help but thinking again and again about this incident. I turn over while my friends ride further without noticing that I‘m missing.
It wasn‘t gravel: the asphalt is as perfect as the surface of a space telescope. Then, what was it? Well, no matter. I forget the incident and spur my KTM in order to catch up with the others. They‘re waiting at the junction where our track turns off from the road, see me coming and could already drive off. But they don‘t.
„Hey, what‘s up with your case?“ I look left and can‘t see anything special. „The other side!“ Oh dear! The case is no longer there! I just need half a second until I understand: the metallic rattle was the case that was getting apart from the bike and probably still was in contact with the chain before going lost into the endless vastness of the Tunisian spring. And with it laptop, camera accessories, apartment key and some junk. I‘m still petrified with horror but Guido is already starting off to a race against time to get laptop and case back.
Thirty kilometers. It must have been thirty kilometers since I lost the case. How could it get lost? Now, I suddenly remember: today morning at the inn. The small talk with the Americans! Thirty kilometers! Such a treasure chest at the side of the road... it surely already vanished long ago! Then I see Guido before me. He has reduced his speed and scans the scenery, searching for a silver case. But I now exactly where it must have been. Therefore, I fly by Guido, nearly feverish. And then on the left, there is a sparkle in the sun. Yes, there it is!
In the distance, a mesa stands out against the uneven scenery near to the Algerian frontier. My thoughts return to my case. How lucky can a man be? It is intact, the aluminium is merely a bit scratched. I wouldn‘t look better if I would fall at 80 km/h. I can‘t help but wondering if I did not already used all my luck quota for the whole holiday up.
Stop in Kasserine. During the Arab Spring, a freighter full of pizza ovens must have lost itself in here. Everywhere you get pizzas. Margherita, Funghi, Quattro Formaggi and Tonno. Students from the university of Kasserine live over our terrace restaurant. Since the bikes stand on the terrace of the pizzeria, the girls are standing at their window. Mischievous smile, shy wave. Tunisia has become different.
From Redeyef on, we get down to business.
The descent to the plane of the chotts, the salt lakes, is difficult but we master it quickly. The deep blue sky suggests that crossing the Chott el Djerid will be easy. Shall we really cross it on a straight line instead of bypassing it? 50 kilometers over the treacherous salt crust?
The last years, we never dared it, but now, despite our caution, we rush over it. The air shimmers like over an Easter bonfire. We left the feeling for space and speed in Tozeur at the shore of the chott. Look on the speedometer. 90 km/h. Definitely too quick. Where are the others? Like cranes on the sky, they‘re floating here just over the dried lake. My heart could burst from happiness like a full balloon.
We want to try once again an old well-known track: riding to the erg of the sand roses had always been for us a dead end. A few time, we tried to climb the dunes, but we always ended with turning over. But now, everything is different. We manage one ascent after another until we are at the very top. Now, we can fly through to Douz, nothing more stands in our way. We even are able to ride to the legendary oasis Ksar Ghilane.
Zurück zur Küste, nach Mahdia.
Let‘s get again to the coast, at Mahdia. The Mediterranean Sea splashes gentle against the cliffs of the old city. The fire of the lighthouse of Mahdia circles over hundreds of tombs from long past days. 1,000 years ago, Mahdia was the mighty capital of the Fatimid rulers. Until they moved to Egypt to found an even bigger empire. Tunisia won‘t get bigger, it‘s sure. But perhaps the country will become a new identity after the revolution. Anyway, it already has become a new face.