The Africa Tour
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1.Stage (March 1990): Bad Soden - Tunis
It is already noticeably warmer in the sun now. Overly self-assured and just as loudly, a taxi driver changes lanes on the intersection of two three-and-a-half-laned streets; and in the midst of the chaos stands a traffic warden, waving composedly in this direction and that. From the minaret of a nearby mosque a wailing song calls everyone to noon-prayer. As I am writing this, I am sitting in a café on the Boulevard of Tunis watching my bike like a hawk. A veiled lady in flip-flops a child on her hip is trying, for the third, time to appeal to the guilty conscience of all-present, in search of a few dinars.
It's been 16 days since I left Bad-Soden and I have done
2700 kmsso far. Blue skies and beautiful weather conditions turned the crossing of the Alps into an unforgettable experience, even though I had only one pass to chose from; the 2300 meter high Julier pass, being the only one that was not closed for the winter season. Descending on seemingly endless serpentines of the Maloja pass into Italy, and enjoying the gentle warmth of early spring along the shores of the Come Lake, I entered Milan. Here a three-hour search left me with what seemed to be, the last room available in the entire city and after 5 cold nights in a tent I didn't mind sharing a bathroom. No time for sightseeing unfortunately, as my tight schedule prompted me across the Apenin down to the Reviera di Levante and into Pisa. Striking is the green heart of this city, with its cathedral and tower. It must be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. My next stop was Rome. Hardly could anything new be added to the countless descriptions of the eternal city. Personally, I was captured particular by the life and constant bustle in and surrounding the cafes and bars, which in the Via Veneto do not even slow down at night. The Via Appia, an avenue lined on both sides by old Stone-Pines, landed me directly in the loud and polluted center of Neapel, the city I'll remember for the best espresso ever, in the Bar Mexico, on the Piazza Dante. Only with Salerno though, did I leave the noise and offensive stink behind me. An attempt, to evade the battlefield of the ever-present potholes, screeching children, faulty road-signs and washing-lines spun across the alleys, failed sadly, on reaching the first tollgate at the entrance to the freeway. There was no escaping. But it all paid off when I arrived at the scenic Calabrian and later Sicilian coastlines between Messina and Palermo with breathtaking views of cliffs, beaches and the renowned Italian coastal villages. Hard going, nevertheless, was my advance along this hilly stretch. Despite the season it rained only once and I had been doubly blessed as it was also out of season for tourists.
After stocking up on spare bicycle chains in Palermo, which are not easily come by in Africa, I needed to do a 24-hour shift and cover
350 kmto reach the ferry that leaves Trapini for Tunis once a week. Also, this was where I was to meet up with Jens, a young man I had met coincidentally in Frankfurt at the clinic where I was receiving the compulsory inoculations. We decided to team up for the next stage: the Algerian Sahara, for which we had been fattening ourselves up, for almost a week now, with irresistible and amazingly inexpensive croissants, pizzas and cakes. Our hotel is situated in the center of the Medina where a room costs 6 EUR, an absolute bargain, even though it resembles a prison cell, and toilet and shower share a drain. Culturally though, Tunis does not have much to offer. The destruction of the once flourishing harbor city by the Romans was so thorough that, nowadays, tourists find themselves scampering through very few unattractive remnants. An old amphitheatre, that lies further inland, really consists more of cement than the original building material and is, all in all, very shabby and neglected.
From the mosque now sounds the next call for prayer, time for another cafe au lait.
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