Through Tunisia to Algeria
31.01.1965 - 03.02.1965
Sunday 31-1-65 to Tuesday 2-2-65
From Tripoli we were given a lift by two Canadians in a Kombi Van. We thought perhaps they could take us all the way to Morocco, but we left them after two days. We went with them to Djerba, a pleasant resort island off the coast of Tunisia, accessible by a very long causeway. There they joined up with five friends in another Volkswagen, so with seven of them already we could not really join the party, and I did not want to anyway. They gave us dinner, and we slept among the sand dunes, as it was quite warm.
On the second night there we moved into the local Youth Hostel, changed some money with a most nervous bank manager in his car, and early next morning walked into town to catch the first bus out at 6.15 am. This took us down to a rather primitive ferry, and as the sun rose we crossed the shallow stretch of water to the mainland of Tunisia. Another bus took us on to Sfax, to connect with a train to Tunis. Tunisian towns seem to be very clean and French looking, with shady trees and quaint old French style buildings. Villages are all painted white, with bright blue doors and window frames. We got the Autorail to Tunis and stayed the night in the Youth Hostel at Bordj Cedria, about 22 kms south of the main station at Tunis Ville. We had to walk about half a mile to the Hostel, in pitch dark, and it poured with rain just before we arrived. It is rather an isolated place.
In the morning we hitchhiked back to Tunis Ville and just before entering the station saw the President of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, drive by in a motorcade, sirens blaring. That makes three Heads of State we have seen so far, all by accident. On the train we travelled through very fertile fields to the border at Ghardimaou, where again we went through customs without trouble, though our visas had expired the previous day and we had changed no money ‘officially’. An incident happened in our small compartment during the journey - a man collapsed and spewed up everything all over everything. He remained semi-comatose on the floor for the next two hours and was finally helped off by his friends when it came to their stop. From the border we then caught an Algerian train to the city of Bone. These Algerian trains are very smart, like in Iran. We arrived in Bone at about 9.00 pm and did not have anywhere to go, so we sat at a sidewalk café and had coffee with some students we had met on the train. Bone is extremely French and very pleasant on the surface. An Englishman, Mike, introduced himself, said he was teaching in Bone on a British aid program, and when he heard of our predicament, said he could do something for us. We subsequently had quite a little intrigue, as he decided to smuggle us into the high school where he taught, which was highly illegal. We went in through the back entrance and he led us to the prefects’ dormitory; he then brought us some food and talked for a while, mostly about his ten days in the Sahara. He was quite a nice chap. We slept until 5.45 am, rising before dawn so that we could leave early to avoid detection, but found the back gate was locked. We hid behind a hedge for an hour, until it was light. No one opened the gate. We finally decided to leave our packs to be picked up later, and walked out through the main entrance as if we had every right to be there. After changing money officially for once, in the Central Bank of Algeria, where everyone has to queue up outside and only five are let in at a time, we had breakfast and then collected our gear, without trouble, before walking out onto the main road to hitch to Algiers.