Houmt Souq: Sahara trip day 5 and the journey home

Stephen & Anne
Fri 15 Apr 2011 16:30

Today’s journey was much shorter so after a bit of a lie in we got up. We had a really good night’s sleep. The cave was really comfy and cosy, the only noise we heard was a donkey braying in the distance, much nicer than traffic!!


As we went for breakfast we met the donkey (and his friend) who had been making the noise. We asked the workmen if we could take a photo of the donkeys. The workmen then enquired (in French of course) if we were French or German, they were also surprised we were English. There must be many French and German tourists in this area!


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The donkeys admiring the view



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We went for a bit more of a wander round the village, it is spread along the ridge of the hillside for about one km.


Reluctantly we left Douiret. We had arranged to extend our trip by one day so we could visit the Island of Jerba; in hindsight we should have stayed in Douiret for another night instead.  As we prepared to leave the hotel owner, Raouf, asked if we were going to Tatouine and if so could he have a lift. So we set off to Tatouine with another hitchhiker. Raouf was telling us that there were a lot of refugees from Libya in Tatouine and he hoped the British and French would stop the troubles soon.


After we dropped Raouf off we carried on our way to Jerba. Stephen insisted on taking a detour to go close to the Libyan border – apparently the Algerian border was too boring!


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Why don’t they put the distance when you need it? How close is Libya?


We went through Ben Guardane which is close to the Libyan border. The only thing of note about the town was the stalls selling fuel by the side of the road.


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Petrol station Ben Guardane style (well OK the whole Sahara area really)


Once again we decided to take the scenic road up to Jerba. Unfortunately this route has been totally spoilt by large hotels being built by the beach. Instead of stunning views of clear blue water and sandy beaches we saw hotels!


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The one bit of beach we could see at Zarzis – looking out to Libya.


We crossed the roman causeway to Jerba. We’re sure it was wide enough for the Romans but it was a little narrow for today’s traffic. We took the road through the centre of Jerba which again was disappointing. The guide book said it was pretty, but we didn’t think much to it. We found our way to Houmt Souq, the main town on Jerba and found the hotel we wanted to stay at with alarming ease.  Stephen had fun driving like a Tunisian by reversing up a section of a one way road so he could get the car into the hotels garage.


We checked in to the hotel and to our surprise the room was cheaper than quoted in our 4 year old guide book. Not often that happens!! Mind you it might have been in recognition that the showers were useless, we had more power in the shower up the mountain in Douiret than we did here. It was then time to explore the town on foot. Our first stop was for something to eat. Just down from the hotel was a rather popular restaurant, that served fast food Tunisian style. We were the only non-Tunisians in and it was full. The food was good and was excellent value at £4 for drinks, pizza and a (bit too) spicy Tunisian wrap.


The town itself  was pretty much like Hammamet, with most of the shops catering for tourists, with the usual tourist tat. As we entered the souq we were asked by one shop owner why the English don’t like Tunisians. We pointed out this was not true, we just don’t like being hustled into shops. As the guy spoke good English we stopped and chatted for a while about the revolution and what may happen in the future. We then got hustled into his shop .. how did that happen? Anne saw an olive wood camel she rather liked so after a bit of bargaining she got it for 5td  - according to Stephen 4td too much!!


We then carried on down to the sea front.


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First we found the fort  - Borj Ghazi Mustapha …


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… then the port – overrun by tourist pirate ships …


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… and Octopus pots.


One thing that hasn’t changed over time is catching Octopus.  The post above are used by the local fishermen. The pots, which are linked together, sink to the seabed where the Octopus thinks it is a nice nook to sit in, they are then caught when the pots are raised. The technique is called gargoulette and has changed little since Phoenician times.


For our evening meal we found the local Italian and had delicious pasta.


The next day we headed home.


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This time we took the ferry as it took us further North than the causeway.


We stopped in Skhira. As it was market day we stocked up with some fresh vegetables for when we got home. We think the whole market was a bit stunned at seeing us walking around!


In Mahres we spotted some interesting sculptures in a park overlooking the beach


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One of the sculptures


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Once again we saw some interesting loads – we’re sure he could have got a few more on!!!


Here in Hammamet when you hire a car there is very little fuel in it the idea being you return it empty too. Trying to judge how much fuel we needed for the return journey was awkward. We passed one fuel station just as we got on the motorway at Sfax. Thinking there would be more should we need extra fuel we carried on. As the petrol gauge got closer and closer to empty we started driving more conservatively to save fuel as there was still no fuel station in sight. With the petrol gauge showing empty we were relieved to see a fuel station. Our relief was short lived, they had no fuel. We had no option but to carry on. Luckily the fuel we had got us home. We returned the car absolutely empty!