This is my goodbye Tunisia hello Italy moment. I am excited to be here and wanted to share my first day or two on the island of Sardinia.
We arrived at Port Villasimius, which is a large old port that has in recent years had a very modern upgrade. A perfect place for us to arrive as it was the closest point to Tunisia and we were desperate to get to a safe harbour as you all know from our previous post. The weather was so bleak and grey, plus wet and cold I wasn’t too concerned about the view, just interested in getting hooked up to shore and having a hot shower and food. I was starving. It was only after the basic needs of comfort where met did we pop our heads out and have a good look at our surroundings.
Boy what a view!
Late in the afternoon we organised ourselves and got our (barely used in Tunisia) push bikes out and rode into the local town of Villasimius, which was only 5 km away. About 2 kms into the trip I lamented my failure to pack drink bottles. “Never fear” said the in an instant Bear Grylls Captain “I will provide for you”. I wasn’t confident but in He I Must Trust.
As we arrived in the town, I was experiencing reverse culture shock. We were surrounded by modern, clean, and colourful surroundings. The houses had gutters and gardens, there were work crews trimming trees and maintaining pavements. We had stepped back into modern society. Absent from my view was wild hungry cats, white boxy houses and litter on a mass scale. Everything was so neat and tidy in comparison to Tunisia. I will say, not better just different. Like Tunisia the Australian gum tree is popular here and along with the hills and mountains it felt very much like a scene from home. Minus the two palm trees on the right. Missing was sunshine and warmth it was chilly.
The town itself was mostly quiet as it was poor weather, plus we had arrived in the off season, in what is obviously a very popular tourist destination. We looked like typical tourists, camera at the ready, swivel heads looking at all the sights. The locals could pick us easily, first wearing a camera and then taking photos of what is probably mundane to them.
Survial Bike Ride
The Captain is always keen on cycling off to see where this road may lead him. Over our years together this has had mixed results. Going the same route each time is not a good option he tells me and if we end up going the long way round I’m told it’s always good excercise so hard to argue against that.
As part of the cycle trip, we took a random road towards the hills and came across an almond tree on the side of the road. The Captain now in survival mode was delighted. I might be thirsty but I would not go hungry whilst I travelled with him. Then on the return alternate route we came across public spring water taps. Each of the taps had different spring water, so you could try each one and taste the difference. How lucky can a Bear Captain be? Then to really top of his keeping me alive skills, at the spring taps he produced a handful of yet to ripen Olives. Unlike the almonds, these tasted yuck but I needed to view as though I was starving…
Food, water and a great bike ride how could complain?
You can tell from the photo that my Captain was revelling in this moment of survival glory. He did say he could have got me fresh mandarins. I pointed out that jumping a fence to harvest someone elses fruit trees was called stealing and channeling Bear Grylls would be a difficult case to explain to the trees owner.
We then went shopping and I was delighted to find a supermarket full of goodies as one would see at home. Special delight was found in huge cheese varieties, local cheap wine and strange but true I was thrilled to find rice crackers. The next morning we dined on a special treat of bacon, eggs and delicious crusty bread. As you can imagine bacon is not a hot deli item in Tunisia.
I was content to be in this place and exploring a new neighbourhood.
The Best Beer EVER
My only disappointment, I wanted to try pizza, in Italy a definite bucket list. Sad but true all local pizzerias were closed until the weekend or closed period as the summer season was over. For now my Italian bucket list pizza item remains unticked. We did have lunch at a small restaurant and had some fresh pasta. The highlight of this meal was the best beer I had ever drunk in my entire life.
I’ve never been a big beer drinker but now I know why. I have been drinking the wrong brew. The local Sardinian beer was sensational. It was quite flat with very little fizz and the flavour was heavenly. I now understand the term liquid amber bliss. Before we left town we purchased a can each to save for a special moment of beer drinking. Beer however will never replace my evening glass of red.
It was a good first day off the boat.
Oh I Forgot That
I had forgotten that things close down in the middle of the day here as in France. This is one aspect of European life that always caught me out. It must play hell with productivity? As with all travel there are bits you are happy to leave and others you know you will miss for a long time. Leaving Tunisia I will miss the welcoming and friendly natures of the locals. What I won’t miss is the litter and rubbish, nor the crack of dawn, your’ve got to be joking early morning call to prayer. The mosques have competing sound systems as they “knock it out for Allah” and at 4.30 am most mornings I failed to appreciate. It was only in the final weeks before leaving did I no longer wake to the call as it had become part of the background noises my subconscious allowed me to sleep through.
Besides the best beer the highlight of this trip was what I signed up for. Sailing to a destination to have a few days to look around, appreciate and then move on to the next point. Even though we are racing the bad weather to get back to Catana and feel pressed for time this was a pleasant break away from our last stop. In France we were held by long delays and then in Tunisia I never quite got into the touristy swing of things. This was because I never got to feel totally comfortable with a culture of contraction and the constant security edge that filters across all of life. However what really got up my goat was for the first time in my life I got to experience the heavy hand of censorship.
Life for a female in a Muslim country is tough, as you would expect and the constant inequities annoyed me on a constant level. I am being nice, I will be honest. Life for women as I witnessed it used to shit me to tears. The fact that half the population are treated as second rate citizens and this in one of the most progressive forwarding thinking Muslim countries in the world drove me nuts.
There was many a post I wrote while in Tunisia that I then trashed as I was too uncomfortable to post as I might offend. I would edit savagely because I was a guest in there country and who am I to judge. OK I am not being honest again, I had a constant thought of don’t offend as a reader might be a crazy nut job who thinks terrorism is ok. I think my experience with the Algerian week one started me off badly. Plus I don’t have a right to judge either.
I Never Thought About Censorship Before
I try to write from the heart and tell it as I see it. If you as the reader don’t like it you can tell me so, I will listen. Or the ultimate censorship you can ignore me and not read.
You have a choice just like me. Choice is a luxury I have taken for granted until now.
For instance while in Tunisia I could never write that I thought it was not ok that a girl can be married when still a young teenager 15 just because the future husband has money and social status. Yes this still happens, not as much, but for some girls it still happens!
I couldn’t write of my rage after meeting a woman who at 14 years of age was forced to marry her rapist by her family. Her family did not want the rapist to go to jail and his family to be disgraced so better to sacrifice their now soiled daughter. To be betrayed by your family is unforgivable. The fact that this woman now in her 40’s has forgiven her family is proof that humans are remarkable. Grace Rocks.
I couldn’t write how crazy on a hot 40 degrees day at the beach, women are dressed from tip to toe in multiple layers for modesty. Apparently, a females skin can cause the man to lose control of his thoughts and god forbid even his actions. The men in contrast are at the beach in their shorts only because although the law states they too should be modest in this country it is one rule for him and a very different one for her. These are religious rules I might add and time after time it was the men with wives or daughters in full dress who wore shorts.
I didn’t write about watching the anguish and pain of a man in his early thirties losing his bride as he was not judged worthy by her father as his income was not enough. That he still lived at home and handed over his wage to his family as he was still in many respects treated as a child until he could marry. It made me angry that he thought this system was ok and he would defend it when I should question how this was acceptable. I must add that I probably irritated the hell out of him and he thought I was a bad wife because I refused to cook.
I hated that I was told I was too friendly, that I smiled too much and engaged on too familiar a level by meeting all with a handshake and eye to eye contact. This was by no means a standard view but the fact that I had this conversation several times with different people means something.
All This And I Still Loved It
The sad thing is I loved the place on so many levels. I loved the weather, the history, the landscape, the buildings. Most I loved the people that I met. To say they were generous and warm just isn’t enough to convey how lovely and genuine the people of Tunisia were. There was little barrier to welcome even if we differed on view. I loved the energy and excitement you could feel in this new society that is trying to grow from its extreme past. While we were there the Islamic party were thrashed at the national elections, and the people spoke saying they wanted a modern Tunisia. This young country is a happening place where good things are on the way.
There is much to celebrate in Tunisia and I for one are pleased to have gone there. Important I think the greatest gift Tunisia gave it made me appreciate the freedoms and liberties I have taken for granted as just part of my life.
I do have a post on the way of life in Tunisia which is much more fun that this little rant, but hey, if you’re down here it means you’re still reading and you haven’t decided to censor me out of your life just yet! Truth is I would still like to go back to Tunisia and I feel like I am leaving too early.
The sooner we get our boat back to Canet and away again the better.
PS One of our first bike rides in Tabarka a car with about 4 men in the car slowly followed us for a while and then stopped up ahead waiting for us to catch them. As we were out on the highway we turned around and went back to our boat. Call me paranoid but I stopped riding my bike after that.
PPS The Captain said I should mention all the things you can do in Tunisia. Like ride a motorbike without a helmet at the age of 16. No test required. Or no fines for littering.