1988 Turkey, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco

1988 Turkey, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco

It’s April 1988, and our travels start out in Istanbul with a bang; in fact, a bunch of bangs! Staying at the Yucelt hostel, the night is shattered when we are jolted awake by drummers circulating the ancient cobbled streets, awakening the faithful to eat before sunrise. Unknowingly, we have arrived at the end of the Holy Month called Ramazan; a time when devout Muslims let nothing pass their lips during daylight hours.

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is where the waters of the Black Sea mingle with the Sea of Marmara and the famous Golden Horn, and is the world’s only city straddling two continents. On our first morning, just because we can, we walk from the Asia shores to the European side over the floating Galata Bridge.

The bridge’s lower level offers petite tea shops and hookah joints, along with shops serving fish straight from the murky depths below. On the upper level, we thread our way through the hordes; eluding a tangle of fishing poles, flopping fish, and hawkers flogging an eclectic mix of wares ranging from snakes to potato-peelers to underwear! We are finding Istanbul an enigma; mysterious, exotic, and unknown.

Beneath a striking skyline of domes and minarets, this former capital of the Ottoman Empire is vividly alive with striking panoramas and scenes from daily Turkish life. Settling into the city’s rhythm, we experience the magnificent architecture of Sancta Sophia and the Blue Mosque; the maze of 4000 shops in the Grand Bazaar; legless beggars dragging themselves about with old shoes over their hands; donkeys pulling wooden carts; carpet shops offering a toke of hashish from a bubbling hookah pipe or a tiny glass of Turkish tea; horse-drawn carts clopping along cobbled streets; rag-clad shoeshine boys; sellers flogging perfume, postcards, spice, and phot copied books; broom makers; cold showers; Asian toilets; mosque’s tortured calls to prayer; ships chugging through the mighty Bosphorous; centuries-old minarets, weather beaten fishermen on weather beaten boats; and a peculiar experience at a nude Turkish bath constructed out of solid marble by an Ottoman sultan centuries ago.  On this last one, I feel it pertinent to elaborate.

The impressive Cagaloglu Hamami bath house, built in 1741, has separate bathing areas for men and for women, and I’m told to remove all my clothes before being shepherded into a cavernous steamy chamber with droplets of condensation dripping from the domed ceilings high above.

Sitting completely naked on a massive heated marble slab, my dreams of being rubbed and caressed by some erotically dressed, honeyed skin beauty are rapidly dashed when I see the formidable diameter of a Turkish version of Attila The Hun awkwardly lumbering towards me. He is called a ‘Kesci’ which, apparently means an individual skilled in the combination of washing, massage, and torture.

Dressed in merely a loin cloth and scowl, he has the physique of a well fed walrus, and is carpeted in a hairy landscaping worthy of Planet of the Apes. His unibrow is of such bushiness it requires the services of a well-sharpened lawnmower, and atop his upper lip a heavy moustache resembles the pelt of a dead animal. Sadly, what Atilla lacks in curb appeal is equally matched by his lack of congeniality. I contemplate escape!

With a gruff demeanor, he begins a dry massage with an abrasive mitt, to exfoliate my skin from head to toe. I clench my teeth, readying my knee for his gonads should his hands come anywhere close to mine! Next, the human mastodon flails at me while squeezing a large soapy sponge; spewing suds everywhere including my eyes. With brute force the lummox then begins attacking my muscles, attempting to dislocate my various body parts. This is followed by a full body slapping, all in the name of well-being.

I try not to scream, knowing the sounds will echo along the arched recesses of this ancient edifice. After what feels like just slightly less time than it took to build Angkor Wat, the Turkish Sasquatch douses me with a pail of warm water and exclaims ‘Feeneeesh’!  Like a crippled insect, I crawl my way back to where my clothes are hiding, sincerely hoping Christine’s experience has been nowhere near as traumatic as mine!

Good old Istanbul; it truly awakens the senses, and our six compelling days here seem to have passed in a blink. Today we’re confined aboard a bus many decades on the wrong side of middle-age, for a twelve hour stamina test to central Turkey, to reach the whimsical fairy-tale Cappadocia area and magical village of Goreme. The area feels as if we’ve been transported back a few centuries in time. Muslim people toil in dusty soil, and the transport is mostly hooved, in the form of horse drawn carts or camels.

The area is a stunning geological oddity where, over centuries, spectacular phallus-headed rocks known as ‘fairy chimneys’ have been painstakingly carved by M. Nature herself. Our lodging is extraordinary, as we’ve become cave-dwellers! Carved in one of the rock picturesque pinnacles, the cave is a little cool at night, but living as troglodytes is a funky, once in a lifetime way to hibernate for a few days. Next, we use the ‘power of the thumb’ to catch a lift to the village of Zelve; also known for unique phallic rock protrusions.

Another day means another bus; which by now has us convinced is an acronym for ‘Boring Uncomfortable Stretch’. While an economic means of travel, being forced to endure thick Turkish cigarette smoke and the shake-out-the-earwax  volume of a tragic excuse for music are about as welcome as a scrotal graft! The one tolerable custom is a rag-tag kid shuffling down the aisle every few hours with a bottle of scented lemon oil, which he squirts into out-stretched palms to help remove grime and refresh lethargic passengers.

After yet another long 12 1/2 zombified hours on an overnight bus, we reach an industrial dump called Denizli, followed by another 20 km to Pamukkale, shoe-horned into a contraption called a ‘dolmus’ which offers insufficient legroom for even Rocky the flying squirrel! The name Pamukkale means Cotton Candy, and comes from the surreal landscape of blindingly white terraced calcite basins and petrified waterfalls; a remarkable phenomenon that helps make the arduous journey worth our while.

Atop the cliffs we enjoy an intriguing swim among the old Roman ruins of the ancient Byzantine city of Hieropolis. Floating on our backs like a couple of otters in the warm effervescent thermal springs over the ancient sunken columns, our eyeballs dwell on an unimpeded view of Pamukkale and the valley far below.

After a few days in Pamukkale we’re off to the south coast. How will we get there? A trio of tedious bus trips of course! Bedraggled by buses, we arrive in the amiable fishing village of Kas; nestled at the base of the Taurus Mountains and hemmed in on three sides by the turquoise sheen of the Mediterranean Sea. After so much travel through parched lands, we’re euphoric to once again see the sea!

A couple not speaking a word of English offers to rent us a room in their humble house. The location is fabulous and we gratefully accept. Communication is rudimentary for sure, but in the mornings the kind woman makes us Turkish tea on her hot-plate, and serves a breakfast of an egg, sweet tomatoes, goat’s cheese, and steamy-hot fresh bread. This certainly puts a little extra oomph in our day, and ensconced on the small balcony overlooking the peacock blue water, we’re as jolly as a couple of germs in a Jacuzzi!

We travel by yacht out to Kekova Island and then on to Tersane Island where we drop anchor. Wading near the shore near the old remains of a church with only an archway still standing, Christine has the misfortune of stepping on a sea urchin. She returns to the boat to try digging out the painful broken off spines with a safety pin. Having read that urine can help reduce the pain, and being a prince among men, I offer to pee on her foot. But ‘she-of-the-spines’ immediately dismisses the offer of my whiz-dom by shouting something unladylike at me; and I’m pretty sure the second word is ‘off’! But Honey, I’m only trying to help?

From charming Kas we travel north, again contorted into a dreaded dolmus, concerned about an impending spinal deformity. The intriguing town of Fethiye’s dominating hill is crowned by the ruins of a fortress, and a vertical rock cliff riddled with breathtaking Lycian rock tombs from the 4th century BC. Climbing up to explore the tombs and actually having hands on this amazing history is nothing short of exhilarating.

Here we go again; back on another beastly bus as a necessary evil to reach the beach of Oludeniz. The name translates to ‘Dead Sea’, yet unlike its namesake in Israel, the sea is not at all dead, but rather a peacefully sheltered turquoise lagoon with a background of pine-covered mountains. From the bus stop, we snare a ride in an elderly Chevy convertible that struggles over a cratered road and keeps our heads in a constant north-south nod; much like bobble-head dolls taped to the handle of a jackhammer!

The spectacular beach is in a tranquil setting where the sun always shines, and is a place where we can frugally frolic for a few bucks a day. We find rudimentary lodging in a campground near the beach, and while the location is great, our bare-bones room is less than idyllic due to a surplus of vocal local ‘wildlife’.

At night we’re awakened by either the persistent pestering of pipsqueak Turkish owls or snarling dogfights. One day, a humongous insect, just slightly smaller than a pterodactyl, flies into our abode, so I grab a book and land a mighty wallop on the intruder. Gaining instant insect respect, the boisterous beast not only survives, but amazingly makes an additional lap around the room before finally buzzing off outside!

Oh yes, we can’t forget one other form of ‘wildlife’; as our daily chores include ‘rat-proofing’ our food to defend it against a naked-tailed vermin known as ‘Rattus Horribilis’. The nocturnal roaming rodent, who we’ve nicknamed Otto, is about the size of a dachshund, and when the night is as black as it gets he gnaws on our nerves with the patter of his rat feet scurrying across the rustic wooden beams above our heads!

During our stay in the campground, we’ve befriended a German couple who have driven their Volkswagen van here all the way from Germany. Sitting around camp one afternoon with her binoculars, Eva notices a small fire outside what appears to be a cave near the top of a nearby mountain. With gung-ho optimism I suggest to her husband Heiner that tomorrow he and I attempt to satisfy our curiosity.

At dawn we begin our thigh-burning climb, and after a couple of hours find a path leading to the abode of a head-scarfed old woman dressed in rags. As we offer a wave, she squints at us through enormously thick glasses that lend her the look of a hungover owl. She seems totally bewildered by our presence. As a gesture of friendship I attach a Canadian pin to her tattered rags and am rewarded with a captivating gummy smile; as years of solitude have apparently reduced her inventory of teeth down to a total of three.

Her primitive dwelling has a dirt floor, and a roof made from animal skins. For company or food, she has a couple of satanic-faced goats and chickens loitering about. Though obviously poor, with possessions few, her serene and lofty perch provides million lira views of the flawlessly composed countryside, and I will always fondly remember this climb and my encounter with a lovely old woman in the Turkish mountains.

Research by our German friends has revealed the intriguing village of Kaya is not far away. Built by Greeks, this once thriving town of 10,000 is now totally abandoned, and the surrounding hills are eerily silent. The sprawling ruins are rumored to contain a stash of human bones, and while exploring the area, we’re astonished to actually find them, stashed inside a stone crypt. Driving back to the campground we sit in the silent absorption of the day, speculating on the story behind the bones.

Christine and I are sitting beneath a gently swaying Casuarina tree sharing a bottle of wine as the last light of day dies in the treetops, when adding to our enchanting night, one of our favorite songs called ‘Lady in Red’ starts to play. Our intended stay of a couple of days in Oludeniz has now stretched into ten, as we have absolutely loved sinking our teeth into this true Turkish delight. But with much to see, it’s time to move on.

Bussing to the port town of Marmaris, we spend the night, before bidding farewell to alluring Turkey. After the ferry bumps to a halt against the landing on the Greek island of Rhodos, we err in accepting a lift from a guy in a rusty van wanting to show us his pension. Sadly, it’s miles town, making it as useless as a chocolate teapot, and we now have the hassle of hiking all the way back, burdened with our heavy backpacks.

Seeking shelter within the medieval walls of ‘Old Town’, we stumble across a windowless room added above an apartment. It is only accessible by a ladder, and the décor gives new meaning to the term atrocious with a weird patchwork of paint; a Dracula-red ceiling, and four walls painted in black, green, blue, and purple! When it comes to harmony, this oddity is a bad job well done; the ultimate Feng Shui fail!

Setting our quibbles aside about the rooms full on assault on good taste, the location is excellent. As an unexpected bonus we have the luxury of our first hot water shower in over a month; making the task of sluicing away the grime of travel actually pleasurable for a change. While on Rhodos we rent a motorbike and explore any and all places looking of interest, including the tiny acropolis town of Lindos.

Our next sojourn is the picturesque white-washed island of Santorini, with blue-domed churches crowning its sheer 1200’ cliffs. Arriving in Thira by boat, there’s an option to rent a donkey to climb the 566 stairs cut into the face of the cliff, but we decide to pass on an ass and use our own four feet instead of eight.

We have a bit of a lapse in choosing lodging, as we later learn that in addition to boarding people, the owners also board foghorn-worthy donkeys. Sleep is sporadic at best, with the demented donks epic nasal honks ass-ailing our ears throughout the night. Making matters worse, I’m not exactly hee-hawing over the fact my wallet has been put through a wash in error, turning all its contents into one big soggy mess.

The island is swollen with vacationists which seems to rankle residents, as they possess all the emotion of a mannequin! After only a few days we’ve lost our willingness to endure the constipated looking faces, and combined with our noisy housemates with the four feet and long ears, the island quickly bottoms out on our care-meter. We formulate a plan to exit Santorini’s soil and the supreme surplus of snobbery.

By bus (shocking, I know) we gingerly descend a serpentine road with a 10% grade to the port of Athinos, for an overnight ferry trip to Piraeus, followed by another bus to Athens, and yet another to Patras. As if that isn’t enough, we also have to endure a 20 hour ferry trip across the Adriatic Sea to Brindisi in Italy. The cruel travel we’re putting up with has degenerated from a barrel of laughs into one big vat of vomit!

At the port of Brindisi, a group of us are taken into a customs room and lined up along a wall, with our backpacks placed in the center of the room while security marches in a dog that engages in a sniffathon. Finally, with no dope to tantalize the mongrel’s snout, we’re permitted to carry on without further ado.

After a night train from Brindisi to Rome, we’re approached by an old man touting a room, and decide to check it out. After trailing him for about a mile, we’re pleasantly surprised when he takes us into an Italian family’s apartment and shows us the extra room they have. The elderly Italian mamma speaks no English, but flirting with exhaustion, we’re just grateful for a place to get horizontal and dent a pillow.

During a quest for food we collect a bottle of wine, a box of cherries, and a whole cooked chicken for dinner in our room. Raising a glass to stepping off our self-imposed travel treadmill to recover from our frenzied travel of late, we keenly dismember and devour the delectable fowl using nothing but our fingers.

After indulging our inner gladiator at the Coliseum, we toss a few lira coins in Trevi Fountain. This is followed by a chance encounter with the Pope, standing on a balcony in the Vatican City giving his blessings to the tide of people below. Hmm, never been blessed by a Pope before; probably won’t help!

Recent terrorist attacks have led to heavy security throughout the city, and simply to enter a bank, we must go one at a time into a holding area inside the door to be questioned, and scanned for any metal objects. Any change, belt, cameras, etc. must be checked into a locker outside the bank, before a security guard in his bullet proof cage unlocks the inside door to the bank. Quite the irritating rigmarole just to cash a traveler’s check, but then again I suppose paranoia occasionally links up with reality. It’s time to move on.

Yippee ki-yay; Christine and I have now arrived on the continent of Africa!  Scrunched between the troubled countries of Libya and Algeria, Tunisia remains relatively quiet despite being in one of the Mediterranean’s hottest political spots. However, at the filthy airport in the capital of Tunis, we’re immediately taken aback by the general unfriendliness of the people, and already pondering our choice.

Despite an apathetic lack of help we locate a bus bound for town. However, being the only foreigners aboard and seen as infidels, we can feel the undisguised scorn radiating from Muslim faces looking about as friendly as a lynch mob. Standing on the packed bus, we struggle with our equilibrium management, trying to remain upright, guard our backpacks, and figure out where the Hell we are!

Endeavoring to get off, Canadian politeness is just not working, so I engage my elbows and knees to clear a path to the door. The sullen driver doesn’t even bother coming to a full stop, and laden with heavy packs, we have to awkwardly jump off the departing bus, and end up landing right beside a group of gibbering Muslim women dressed in full on black burqas and bearing a resemblance to a stack of collapsed patio umbrellas.

The Arab world of Tunis feels edgy and irritable. It is headquarters for the PLO, and with Ibu Jihad, Arafat’s second in command, recently assassinated by Israel; the streets are heavily armed with police. Deodorants are failing in the profuse heat as we exasperatingly forage for lodging so well hidden Lassie couldn’t find it wrapped in bacon! Tunis is a city that without doubt would present serious challenges for a tourism board!

After all our probing of the alleys for accommodation our stomachs crave attention. However, a decent ‘squat and gobble’ here is harder to pick than a broken nose, and miserably we end up settling for a stand-up Muslim eatery with doubtful hygiene, offering a greasy slop that should have remained in the pot!

In a very few number of days we realize this place is a total sewer, and we’re tired of all the shit! Seriously questioning the mental defect that led to adding this wretchedness to our itinerary, it’s an easy decision to adjust our plans on the fly and give Morocco a try. Learning it’s unsafe to cross Algeria by land, we book the first available plane, however, our day is further darkened learning it won’t be available for another 5 days.

We turn our backs on the pandemic of unfriendliness and irreconcilable differences in Tunis and train to the cliff top village of Sidi Biou Said. It is awash in brightly painted blue doorways and wrought iron railings splashed across whitewashed buildings, and accidentally we stumble across lodging featuring a courtyard built around an enormous 800 year old fig tree. The brothers operating the place seem cool, so opt to stay, and later on the day end up playing backgammon with them under the grandly spreading tree.

In a nearby café we sip a refreshing cup of mint tea, seated next to turbaned Arabs squatting on giant cushions and smoking from a hookah pipe. Little lizards scamper about the walls, and a jam session on Congo drums is happening outside on the street. Children pass by selling nosegay made of jasmine buds, and an old woman flogs long crusty rolls of still warm bread out of a mangled metal wheelbarrow. The town is a good pit stop, despite the fact I’m suffering from acute sobriety in this alcohol-prohibited country!

Our flight to Morocco’s city of Casablanca is a bit dramatic. Just before landing, the pilot abruptly forces the plane’s nose upwards and circles in the sky again before a second landing attempt. This time the plane lands on the third bounce and passengers break into applause, praising Allah! It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand why Air Maroc’s choice of colour for their seat upholstery is varying shades of brown!

Casablanca turns into another travel fail. Unlike our misguided expectations of a romantic Bogart and Bergman movie, our wanderings suggest the only similarity is an ample cast of dodgy, Peter Lorre-esque characters lurking about. Wanting to move on, but ambivalent as to where, we make a spur of the moment decision to go to Marrakech; simply because it’s the destination of the first bus we happen to see. They say spontaneity, more often than not, makes for the best kind of adventure; we’re about to find out!

Arriving in darkness on the outskirts of Marrakech, a swarm of money-hungry hustlers instantly move in, appraising us like a lioness contemplating a crippled gazelle. Luckily, we’ve met a girl on the bus who speaks a little English and has kindly offered to take us, via a second bus, into the ‘old town’ area.

With lodging directly across from Djemma El Fna Square (Gathering of the Trespassers); we’re enthralled by this jaw-dropping medieval circus where the bizarre and unfathomable regularly shake hands. The air in the square resounds with flutes piping, drums pounding, and tambourines jangling. Also present are snake charmers hypnotizing flat-headed cobras and vipers; wailing religious windbags; a wizened old dentist with a gory array of brown molars extracted with a single blow of the hammer; impassioned storytellers recounting religious lore and folktales; leaping jugglers and tumblers; chipmunks, monkeys, foxes; kids getting wasted sniffing glue; tattooed Berber basket sellers; medicine men surrounded by colourful spices, gnarled roots, lizards, toads, bird beaks, and porcupine quills; a caravan of juice carts laden with pyramids of oranges; hash sellers and skulking hustlers; heavily veiled and henna-dyed bread sellers; and flamboyant water carriers wearing dingle-balled hats resembling a lampshade, who for a few dirhams will untether a silver cup from a necklace and pour you a cup of water out of a goat’s stomach.

I have a close call in the square when a pickpocket unbuttons my pant pocket and has my wallet almost out before I realize what’s happening. Luckily I thwart the theft, and he immediately vanishes into the crowd. Directly behind the square is the Medina; a centuries-old labyrinth of twisty alleyways, certain to confuse and disorient. In fact, we’re harassed by scaremongers telling us that without a guide we’ll never find our way out! Dismissing the attempted intimidation, we try to form a mental map of the maze and enter alone.

Inside this seething souk obnoxious merchants don’t like to take no for an answer, and when grabbed by a seller at a stall, my civility and cultural sensitivity vanish. I angrily slap away his arm and quite a shoving match ensues. However, drastically outnumbered I realize being this deep in the disorienting medina I need to dial back the testosterone. We stride away, going this way and that, and as forewarned, soon find ourselves hopelessly lost. After what feels like days of stumbling around in claustrophobic ‘burka-ville’, we somehow navigate our way out, ending an interesting escapade in the madness that is Marrakesh!

After three days it’s time to pull the plug on the erratic city, and can you guess the transport? In Morocco, bus travel involves the unavoidable pre-departure ritual of bedraggled beggars climbing aboard and orating some long winded tale of woe before proceeding down the aisle with outstretched palms. We are the only foreigners aboard and toss them a few coins even though we cannot fathom what their tragic tale entails.

The route through the Atlas Mountains is bleak; mainly Berber women hauling water in clay urns, storks nesting atop old ruins, and nomad camel jockeys. The driver enthroned behind the steering wheel is clearly not a first-round draft choice and combines a dangerously heavy foot with an apparent brake phobia.

With the bus worming through dusty mountain switchbacks at full bore, several passengers are spewing the unlovely contents of their stomachs over the floor. Trying not to retch from the stench, we elevate our feet to evade nauseating pools of puke sloshing about the isles with each lurch of the bus. Barricading our nostrils as well as our bladders, we glumly endure the regurgitating 200 km ride, until finally escaping confinement in the town of Ouazarzate in the Moroccan Sahara.

The sand surrounded town turns out to be a waste of real estate, and the savage Saharan conditions convince us not to stay. With our sanity waning, we’re now tasked with another cheerless 24 hours of angst,  traveling on a succession of unsafe buses back to Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, and finally out to Asilah on the coast. I can barely restrain my disgust at being again crammed cheek by jowl on more wretched buses.

Halle-fucking-lujah; we’ve survived our ludicrously lengthy grind of buses and made it to Asilah! Stepping off the last bus, we immediately decide this tranquil seaside town with its whitewashed medina will have to suffice as a desperately needed stopover where our spirits will have a chance to gradually repair themselves.

Among the djellaba-clad Berber tribes’ people, the only sign of the current century seems to be a fleet of older Mercedes Benz taxis parked at one end of town. The more common method of transport around here is a wooden cart powered by a four-footed ass with long ears.

Staying in the room next to us is an offbeat American hippie couple, and two adorkable little chameleons they purchased as pets. One night, getting high with a little help from my friends over a pipe of hash, I am fascinated by the laughable lizards. One is perched atop the guy’s Rasta hat, and the other clings to his bright red sunglasses that I think he must be wearing on a dare! The little dudes move about like they’ve been hit with a tranquilizer dart, but entertainingly cloak themselves to their surroundings, and hilariously roll about their bulging Marty Feldman-like eyeballs totally independently of each other.

Asilah has been a welcomed break, and we’ve stayed four days longer than planned. The decaying port town of Tangier is next, but it again quells our expectations. Feral urchins with a personal hygiene deficit pull at our shirts for money, and obvious religious differences mean trouble slumbers just beneath the surface. It has left us disenchanted and we would rate the place with a Go Back Factor of zero!

Empty of enthusiasm, and tired of seeing travel unravel in unfriendly Islamic countries, we realize that it’s time to get out from under the veil of Morocco. We have absolutely no remorse in leaving the in-your-face cultural differences of the aloof Arabs; busy head-bonking prayer mats, lusting over livestock, braiding nose hairs, or whatever else fills their dusty days. My theory is that if you ever find yourself traveling in a Muslim country I strongly suggest heeding one of my better traveling tips; never find yourself traveling in a Muslim country! Sorry; one man’s opinion. We grudgingly bus back to Casablanca to secure a flight back to Tunisia, because sadly that is where we have our pre-booked flight home; a journey of joy this is not!

Travel now feels more like travail, and with spending another hour in spirit-sucking Tunis about as appealing as toenail fungus, we look for an exit with ANYTHING not involving a bus. At this point, I swear I’d rather French-kiss a coiled rattlesnake than climb aboard another bastardly bus!

Rumbling along the tracks aboard a lethargic locomotive headed south to the town of Sfax, suddenly shift happens. Christine’s heavy backpack accidentally tumbles off the overhead rack, landing atop a Muslim woman’s hijab-covered head. With wildly gesticulating limbs and nastiness oozing from every pore, the woman dressed in bedsheets sets the train car off in a barrage of vilifying, auctioneer-speed Arabic squawk. We unsuccessfully try to mollify ‘Jihad Jane’ and her belligerent buddies, but it’s like taking a bread knife to a gunfight. Our backpack bombing was clearly unintentional, but with their ongoing fury I’m now ruing the fact we’re not equipped with the provisions to try pacifying them with a pound of pork!

Our tolerance of the country is decelerating by the minute, but still with time to kill on Tunisian soil, we ferry out to the palm-filled Kerkennah Islands, to get away from it all. Fishing is the main activity here, and the shallow seas are sprinkled with ancient style traps made out of palm fronds shaped into a funnel.

After five days on the islands we return to the mainland and travel north to the coastal town of Hammamet, squandering the last of our meager budget sequestered away in the posh Samira Club Hotel; content with lounging at pool and sweating ourselves into a puddle while awaiting a return flight to our own continent.

In our two frenzied months of travel, we have woven our way through 34 cities; including 10 trips by plane, 9 by boat, 7 by train, 37 by bus, and 17 miscellaneous!  Tuckered out from difficult journeying in countries of strangers and sleeping in strange beds, we’re almost levitating with joy to have this exasperating trip at end. Westward-ho! Arriving back home in Canada many long hours later, a friendly custom officer greets us with our two new favorite words; “Welcome Home”.

Mark Colegrave    1988