Bulla Regia, Dougga and Le Kef
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
I had heard it was more laid back than Morocco and that the food was good. Tunisian red is fantastic too and the French had been there at some time or another so there would be great bread and cakes!
Arriving at Tunis airport I wondered what to expect. Being an Arabic country and predominantly Muslim, I was expecting a very male dominated public. First impressions, the airport was tiled and cool - and there it was, that faint odor of masculinity - urinals. Nice.
Conveniently, right outside, as in Morocco, Vietnam and Egypt, there was a plethora of slightly enthusiastic taxi drivers. We were guided to a car and started on our way. With our very, very limited French, the driver had asked us where we were going and convinced us that a Louage (like a people carrier) would be the best way to get to Jendouba. Faster, more comfortable and just as cheap as the train. So that's what we did. It was great actually, the taxi driver charged us as much as he said it would and didn't hassle us at all. We didn't have to wait too long for our Louage to fill up and go. A couple of hours later we were in Jendouba where we then got a taxi to our first roman site, Bulla Regia. We negotiated, again in very limited French, that the taxi driver would come back an hour and a half later to collect us.
They charged extra if you wanted to take pics so we just declared one camera and headed in. It was a fantastic place. There were the remains of underground villas with the most amazing, intricate mosaics. They'd been there for thousands of years but they looked almost new! The villas were really intact and we wandered round them all, up and down the stairs, looking at the courtyards and underground columned halls and rooms. The drop in temperature when walking downstairs was lovely. They would have been really cool in the summer time. We walked through the rest of the city. Along to the forum and the Temple of Apollo. There was a little crystal clear stream that had apparently supplied the city with water in roman times! There were some shepherds taking a snooze in one of the temple ruins with their flock keeping the grass nicely trimmed. We should have asked the taxi driver to come back later. It was a bigger site than we had thought, but we had to rush off. Great place. We got back to Jendouba to get another Louage to our next stop, Le Kef.
We found a hotel and booked in. Nice big room with en-suite, which I wasn't expecting. We're not talking your 4 star rating, just 1 or 2 I think, but clean and functional. There appeared to be hot water too, which is always good.
We went for a walk around the town and as per usual, my fair skin and blonde hair got a lot of looks. The cafes lining the streets were filled with men doing the usual, drinking coffee, smoking either cigarettes or shishas and talking. It's a nice place. The streets of the Medina were being re-paved and the walls repainted so it was lovely and fresh - white walls and lots of blue doors and window frames.
We got lots of hello's, bonjours and other such welcoming comments from everyone which was really nice. No one came up to try to sell us anything. They seemed intrigued by our presence but happy just to watch. Very laid back. We found a pizza place for dinner and then went back to the hotel and crashed. Dougga was next.
We were up bright and early and walked up the road to find brekky and a cab to Dougga. The pizza place we were at the night before was a bakery as well so we bought up on some pan au chocs. There was another thing I had seen that looked really nice - just a puff pastry thing that I wanted to try. So I did, and it was revolting. Curried egg and tuna in puff pastry. Well, it's gotta be done. I would have wondered forever what it was.
We were told to go to the bus station to get a bus to Tebersouk and then get a cab to Dougga. We queued for ages for the ticket window to open, along with loads of other locals. The ticket window opened about 10 mins before the bus was due to leave and there was a sudden surge towards the window. A little local Louage driver who thought we could speak German pushed us forward to make sure we got our tickets. I really had to fight to maintain my position in the line and even when I was in front of the tiny window, octopus arms shoved money in the window from all directions. Our friend then dragged us over to the bus and pushed us on - lucky he did because it was bloody chaos. They over-sell the bus and if you don't fight and push your way on then bad luck. So we squished onto the bus with all eyes upon us. We got shoved to the back and the locals try to save seats for themselves, friends and family by putting bags on seats. We found a couple of seats, took the bags off and sat down. No one came back for the bags so don't know what that was all about. The ticket man just looked at us and said - Dougga. It's the only place that tourists would go round there so I guess everyone knew.
We got off at Tebersouk and it was raining. Bugger. We got a cab over to Dougga and asked the cab driver to come back 3 hours later. We could have spent so much longer there. It was great! So much to see. Lucky we had our Lonely Planet with us because the maps in it were very helpful. The place is huge. We walked around the streets and temples and made our way up to the capitol, which was massive. Unfortunately it's held up with scaffolding but still very impressive. We eventually found the amphitheatre. It was absolutely amazing. There was a beautiful view from the top seats. But then it started to pour so we had to hide in the entry tunnel until it slowed. We ended up speaking to a lovely Spanish guy and his dad who were sheltering as well. David mentioned that I was learning Spanish and the older man started telling us all about Valencia. I could understand lots of what he was saying and even translated some for David but I get tongue tied and couldn't really reply.
I love the old, wide paved roads and paths. The stones are lovely and smooth. There were grooves in them where the carriages and other wheeled vehicles had been. There were huge cisterns and lots of temples and villas. Even a row of 12 latrines!! There weren't too many tourists around either. Fantastic site. We had to go though. We could see the cab in the distance waiting for us. He took us back to Tebersouk and then had to wait ages for the bus back to Le Kef. Never doing the bloody buses again.
The Kasbah on top of the hill in Le Kef looked cool so we went up there. Some of it dates back to the 6th century and the Tunisian army even lived there until 1992! We found a gate slightly open and went in. There were some cannons and we walked around the walls inside but there wasn't too much more there. Still, an impressive building with good views. We followed the winding streets all around and went to some more roman ruins in the town. We walked all over the place and through some local markets too. We had the most massive dinner. The restaurant owner just kept bringing more and more and more food out. Lots of raw fennel. He dished up this really weird thing for dessert which we could have done without but didn't want to offend anyone. It was some sort of green and pink almond and sugar slice thing. Or maybe solid semolina. No pastry. It's difficult to describe but it had a really strange grainy texture, and it was really really super sweet. I was so full, I thought I would explode. I had to walk around a bit to aid digestion before going back to the hotel.