Cairo to Algiers: Part 3
Pay attention when crossing a border!
I was learning a lesson the hard way...
Some two weeks earlier I had crossed into Tunisia from Libya, it had been easy and I'm not sure why but I hadn't really been heeding what the guy with the stamp in his hand had been saying, maybe I wanted to get into town? Not too far from the border back in Libya I had stopped at a café which had had a whole outside wall covered in a big green poster advertising a well-known type of European beer (naturally a non-alchoholic variant in Libya) and I had been trying to count the days since my last beer ever since. Maybe I was thinking about a beer in Tunisia? Whatever it was, I had thanked the passport guy when he'd returned my passport to me and had put it away and hadn't looked at it closely until now when I was trying to leave Tunisia for Algeria and belatedly discovered I'd only been given a 7 day visa
I'd overstayed my visa and now the wheels of bureaucracy were turning very, very slowly
Hanging about a border post is always pretty awful but I had no choice but to wait, and wait, and wait, until they decided what to do. The wait seemed interminable but in the end the problem was pretty easily fixed in a couple of hours, they simply issued me with another visa and so I ended up with a lovely hand-written visa (number 001) framed by a heap of 'tax stamps'. The stamps were carefully added in front of me so that I'd know that the money I had handed over was fully accounted for! A very cheery bon chance and a wave signalled that I could go
I didn't need telling twice, I went
I had taken a couple of weeks to get to here from the eastern border post at Ras Adjir and I'd taken much the same route (mostly following the coast) as I'd done in 2003. Tunisia is a great place to ride:
º the distances between towns are manageable for those of us who don't have legs of steel
º roads, signs and (most) drivers are pretty good
º the food is wonderful, I think I could eat brik every day
º hotels are cheap and comfortable
º the people friendly - the occasional (always) young stone thrower aside
What else can a cyclist ask for?
Lots of things have changed since I last rode in Tunisia tho - as if that's a surprise! There seemed fewer police out and about, there were more women and girls wearing a hijab but conversely more girls seemed to be wearing fashionably tight jeans and flashy - but modest - tops with their hijab, fewer restaurants seemed to have beer or wine and the most noticeable of all, the intensity of the gentle art of separating gullible travellers from their money has ratcheted upwards considerably - more 'scams', a 'harder' attitude to knock-backs and so-on. With so many tourists around I guess this was inevitable; tho the level of aggravation was still light years away from, say, Morocco
Anyway, the ride across Tunisia was perhaps the most relaxed of the whole journey, well, the bit after Tunis into the Tebersouk mountains certainly isn't 'relaxing', but the compensation was that there were incredible sights to be seen, like Bulla Regia where I had the whole place to myself and wandered thru quite well preserved Roman ruins for hours without seeing yet another tourist. No wonder that I dallied and ended up 'overstaying' my visa
And when I arrived at the Algerian border post, guess what? Yep, they knew I had had a problem at the Tunisian post and so I found myself under very close scrutiny... but Algeria is another story
But that's another story