In the Footsteps of the Romans

After sorting the second new alternator, we headed south for our Tunisia ferry. The drive to Salerno was uneventful (making it somewhat eventful for us), and we enjoyed a delicious last (Italian) supper of pizza, gnocchi, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, limoncello, beer, and wine. It was a wonderful way to say “ciao” to Italia!

So, then there was the 24-hour ferry to Tunis, for which we hadn’t booked cabins to save a bit of money. We, inexperienced Tunisia ferry passengers that we were, didn’t realize that nearly all of the passengers without cabins would bring provisions to create makeshift beds and family areas in every nook and cranny on the boat–every nook and cranny. Fortunately after a bit of hunting, we found the secret reserved seating area in the “cinema” where only one passenger had reserved a seat (Joe had to move from her seat – ha). We claimed some cushy chairs that were perfect for sleeping. For entertainment, we read, wandered around, watched bits of racy Italian television, and enjoyed cappuccinos and croissants with the Honduran barista. Try as we might, we were unable to find the advertised casino or either of the two clubs. The advertised WIFI? The Italian crew just shrugged. We did get our first taste of Ramadan as various hallways converted to prayer rooms at sunset and families packed the dining room to break their fasts.

We arrived in Tunis around midnight and met couch-surfing friends Fab, Anissa, and Bethany at a house party near Place Pasteur. After a bit of revelry, Joe and I went to stay with our delightful hosts Anissa and Bethany and the Scotts stayed with the wonderful Fab. The next morning, we woke up and prepared for a fun beach day until we received a call from the Scotts–someone had smashed the rear passenger window of “Lefty” and stolen their packs–not the expensive tools, not the GPS or walkie-talkies–no, their packs (although they did get a few electronics in the mix). Worst. Thieves. Ever. Inconvenient? Yes. Trip ending? No. There was also the problem of fixing the broken window, but thanks to the help of Anissa and Bethany we were able to procure a suitable replacement: plexiglass. Nope, we can’t use the door anymore. No, the window doesn’t roll up or down. Yes, the plexiglass is held up by clear plastic tape.

The rest of our time in Tunis was incredible! We enjoyed an Iftar at a boutique hotel in the medina. As the city awoke for the late night, we smoked shisha and wandered through the winding souq passageways. Everyone agreed that the highlight was enjoying dinner with Anissa’s kind and generous family on our last night in Tunis.

Next, we headed south to the Libyan border, making a quick stop at the Roman coliseum of El-Jem. The El-Jem coliseum is spectacular, but the ruins were made especially memorable as the site of our second Shoebaru team injury. After quick trip to an emergency room in Sfax, Scott Campbell got a souvenir he hadn’t expected: an X-ray of a fractured foot. Single crutch in hand and a smile on his face, Scott was determined to carry on.

After our Sfax detour, we ventured to Matmata to see the sunken homes and hotels famous sets for various Star Wars films (we miss you, Ann!). We then enjoyed a delicious traditional Tunisian meal and later sipped tea in a Berber mountain village (Joe purchased a small rug, of course). That night we camped at the quasi-closed Libyan border…

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Anissa, Bethany, Fab, the glass shop owners and workers and everyone else we met in Tunisia–except the car thieves. Screw you, car thieves. Hopefully Scott Brills’ large Under Armor shirts are too big for you and look silly.

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