Desert Camels 4727miles
So, the Algerians said 'no', but the Libyans said 'maybe'. In five days. I went south to see the desert and there it was right enough. Hot and silent. I thought of camping in the middle of a dry salt lake, but was beaten off by flies, low(ish) water supply and the 'what if . . .' factor, which is really just fear.
Eating was still a major problem, especially in the southern rural areas where almost everyone eats at home during Ramadan so the vast majority of restaurants and fast food outlets are closed except to sell sticky cakes. More tuna and bread. Cooking on a petrol stove isn't the thing in hotel rooms!
It was hot though. VERY hot. And that's just the northern part of the desert, the shores of the Grand Erg Oriental. An Erg is a sand sea. Camels crossing - wild ones. Troglodyte homes and even a troglodyte hotel for the tourists. All very practical. And the silence. Deafening would be about it! The sand sooks up all the noise so there is nothing, except the occasional wisp of wind. I wish I'd camped in it. Clear blue skies, nothing for miles . . . but there were camel footprints in the sand and my expert Shoshone tracking skills don't extend as far as to decide whether or not they had people on top of them. Not much call for reading camel tracks in Shoshone country. If there had been one other person there, even a stranger . . . Sadly I found no organised campsites. And it really is easy to disappear in the desert. And I am remembering all of those who think I'm foolhardy at times. Must prove them wrong by getting back in just the one piece.
I returned dry, dusty and parched, to the same welcoming hotel in Tunis, to wait for the Libyans to make up their minds. In a moment of foolish undernourishment I decided the next day to take the bike into the crowded 38°C heat of the city. Of course it wasn't too long before I abandoned the bike and jumped in a taxi, feeling very aggrieved with the world. I would never have found the Consulate anyway, even though I'd been there four times. I'd never been the same way twice.
Adel the taxi driver had an infectious optimism, for which I was grateful. He was very excited by my 'aventure' having travelled through the Indonesian islands and sneaked into Australia without a visa. He was so happy to have done it but was now happily settled, having fully scratched his itchy feet. He asked how I found Tunisia and I said I loved it and wished only for a decent restaurant so I could stop eating cold food! He said he didn't know any good restaurants that were open but that his wife was an excellent cook and that I must come and meet his 18month old daughter! I tried in my imprinted Scottish way to gently refuse but he could see that the rumbly in my tumbly made my attempts half-hearted.
I met him outside the bank near his house and enjoyed perhaps the most delicious meal of my life! Everything from breakfast and lunch to dinner was eaten in several tasty courses. I had hardly any room for dessert! His wife really was a superior chef and we got along very well, I in my broken French, which really does improve with practice.
They insisted I went back tonight, which I'll gladly do. This time I'll take my kilt. I saw some shortbread in the supermarket and I'll take my camera too. 19hrs00 and not to be late - they've been fasting all day! Last night's sustenance has given me the strength to try it myself and so far, at 13hrs00, I'm managing.
And the great news is, the Libyans will let me through! I leave tomorrow for Libya, so thanks to Mo and Paula for all your help in arranging Plan B, but it won't be necessary. Keep standing by though, you never know. Next thing could be boats from South Africa to South America? I'm off to Cairo - probably for another wait at the Sudanese Embassy. Keep your fingers crossed!
I'll be in Cairo probably for the October holidays, should anyone care to join me there, you'll be more than welcome. I haven't had an English conversation in a fortnight!