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La Sebala du Mornag, Tunisia

About that 4mm allen wrench: its crucial, and I left it in Sidi Bou Said. It is sitting on a low wall on the terrace of the hotel where I locked my bike and where noone will see it for the next 2 years. Next time you need one, you know where to look.

John and Larry at Pedal Power: the first time my bike fell, the weight of it caused one of the Profile bottle cages (selected for its flexibility to hold wide Nalgene bottles) to shear right off. The bike world needs a metal version of that design. Of course, to get rid of the shorn remains, I needed a 4mm allen wrench.

I stopped at a motorcycle repair shop in Mornag to ask about a 4mm allen wrench, but could only get the guy to unscrew the broken bottle cage with his wrench. Charge: 50 cents. At the next shop I could get the guy to understand I wanted the wrench and not the screwing, and he handed me his to keep. Charge: Free.

Back to those possibly inadequate maps. I'm relying on Michelin maps at 1:1000000 and printouts from Google Earth with placenames for my route only imported. Unfortunately, the roadsigns and the placenames don't match. I admit to the following idiocy, and don't tell anyone:

Michelin says take a right in the middle of Mornag. I saw the turn and decided it wouldn't get me where I wanted to go. I went straight, saw a left to get to the freeway, and thought that going straight might be what Michelin meant by taking a right. (OK, this explanation gets no easier from here: skip ahead with the knowledge that I'm an idiot if I've lost you already). I kept going straight, saw no recognizable placenames, and decided finally that I was on a different road that was less scenic but would also get me where I wanted to go. Rain began to fall. I thought that the road was awfully narrow to be the road I now thought I was on, but kept going anyway. All day. Buckets of rain. I decided what I really needed was one of those tourist hotels in Hammamet, on the coast. If I was on the road I thought I was on, then I had only 10 km to go. Night fell: I was so completely miserable that those hotels were now irresistable (ever try to set up a tent in the dark in the rain?) and I kept going by sense of smell and weak headlights. I met some police and asked them if the next left would get me to Hammamet. Oui. How far? 30 km. I thought: "They don't know what they're talking about". Off I went in the dark. 10 km. Mountains ahead. Something was wrong. I found a lonely cafe, walked in to see George Clooney selling Nespresso on French TV, and was instantly adopted by the owner. We reviewed the maps: my instincts in Mornag were correct and I had been on the originally intended road all along and Hammamet was another 20 km. away and I had been completely wrong all day. You promised not to tell.

Cafe Ranim

Skipped all that? Pick up the narrative here: The cafe owner bundled me off to the local natural hot spring public bath for 2 hours of soaking and detox with Hammam Salah, the local electrician. Turns out Hamam Salah is his cousin and also sleeps on a mattress on the floor as a kind of night watchman, but mostly because he is not getting along with his wife.

I am put up for the night: on another mattress on the floor right next to Hammam Salah. I admit to some anxiety around the sleeping arrangement, what may have been the difficulty betwen the electrician and his wife, and what he might be expecting of me. Those of you who have heard one of my stories from Morrocco will be following this, and the rest of you will have to use your imagination. All went well, and nothing transpired except that it was very cold, the cafe was unheated, and neither of us slept well at all. Shame on me for thinking anything else.

Talking to the electrician was like being at an American construction site, only in French: cashflow is always an issue and the architect thinks he has all the answers but doesn't.

That's Hammam Salah on the left, one of his card-playing cronies in the middle, and the son of the cafe owner to the right. The little guy got one of those four knit hats I'm carrying (and now you know why I'm carrying them).

Hammam Salah's father fought with everyone, lived apart from his wife, but visited once every 9 months from the time she was 16. The electrician has 14 siblings and his mother is my age.

permalink written by  roel krabbendam on December 23, 2006 from La Sebala du Mornag, Tunisia
from the travel blog: Harmattan
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roel krabbendam roel krabbendam
7 Trips
687 Photos

Here's a synopsis of my trips to date (click on the trip names to the right to get all the postings in order):

Harmattan: Planned as a bicycle trip through the Sahara Desert, from Tunis, Tunisia to Cotonou, Benin, things didn't work out quite as expected.

Himalayas: No trip at all, just...

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