Success! A whole night and morning with not a whiskey-seeker to be seen! We got up, threw all our warm gear on and headed out into the freezing day in Tunis.
We had a big list of things to find — throw rugs to keep us warm while we’re sitting around in Nettle, a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse for Katherine, who has been coveting my awesome workstation setup and the lack of back-pain that goes with it, a bunch of other stuff and second-hand bikes, which we still somehow haven’t managed to come by yet.
We spotted a shopping centre, which turned out to be quite small, but we did find a computer tech shop and nabbed a mouse, then headed onwards towards the medina, which we wanted to wander around for a while.
As we approached we were immediately set upon by someone who spotted us, the rich tourists; I steadfastly ignored him, having had well enough of being polite! Into the crowded cave-like corridors we went, moving at a crawl through the tight press of people — all Tunisians, no tourists that we could spot. A guy who was walking to his stall for the day, remarked to us on the busyness of the place. He worked in a perfumery, making oils and such. He told us that the proper ‘tourist’ medina was further onwards and offered to lead the way. We preferred to wander where we were, but he’d said it wasn’t far and it would’ve been nice to get our bearings a little. We followed a little way, farther than we’d anticipated, until we spotted a corridor lined with rug and blanket stalls and, spotting our opportunity to politely slip away, bid him farewell and headed down to see if we could find any throw-rugs.
No luck, but we continued wandering aimlessly, more-or-less un-harassed. It was a funny place, lots and lots of different goods available, but within each category (jeans, shoes, rugs, kitchen utensils, electronic goods, art supplies…) the goods were all the same, and choice was very limited. So, we didn’t do too well with our list of things to buy while we were still paying in Dinars.
We stopped at a café located off to the side of a covered corridor and had lunch of tasty grilled fish on a tomato sauce with chips on the side. The place was quite atmospheric, a dimly lit tunnel with Tunisians wandering by with their shopping, a bunch of men sitting outside another café nearby smoking sheeshas.
We found ourselves in the ‘touristy’ part of the medina, and entered a world of annoying pushy merchants, all with the same wares — copper-and-glass lanterns, painted pottery jars/urns, ornate hinged boxes, sheeshas (those water pipe things), bird cages, like the one Katherine bought in Medenine, and various leather goods.
The stores looked fascinating, and we would’ve stopped to investigate more, but for the amazingly stupid behaviour of the vendors — they would all stand, blocking the entrance to their shops, and as soon as they saw you looking at anything near their stall (actually, as soon as you were within earshot). they start with the badgering. Where are you from? Come look at my shop. You very beautiful. (to Katherine). One glance at a lamp or a birdcage and they would pounce and wouldn’t let you do anything else but start talking prices. We just wanted to look at stuff!
One vendor, who we naïvely thought may have been just being friendly, brought us tea and talked with us, then it was clear it was a ploy to guilt us into staying and buying something; he would first tell us to take our time looking around, give us a couple of seconds, then be back prodding and nudging, being a complete ass and touching Katherine’s hand. Katherine had originally wanted a closer look at a lamp, and by blocking the exit and keeping on us, we were hard-pressed to find an exit. He asked several times more than we would be willing to pay for a lamp that didn’t really suit us, and it was only by basically forcing our way past him out of the shop that we managed to escape. If that wasn’t enough, he actually scolded us as we walked by later!
Another vendor noticed we were looking at a bird cage, and told us it was five dinars, then once we were inside told us this one was more expensive, because it was better quality. The others were five dinars though.
After a couple of similar experiences, as well as more sleazy behaviour towards Katherine than anyone should ever have to put up with, we had had enough — it was either bail now, or fashion a shiv from whatever’s handy and just get stabby. Katherine actually wanted the bird cage we were looking at, but we were furious with the terrible behaviour of the merchant, and just walked out on him as he shouted decreasing prices after us.
We wonder if they have any idea their behaviour is so offensive as to scare off customers. We were very pleased we had visited the medina at Sfax, which was entirely devoid of such unacceptable behaviour!
We’d had enough of Tunis, and despite having managed almost nothing on our to do list, we headed back to Nettle through the rain, via the supermarket we’d identified earlier.
We’d identified a caravan park relatively close by, the other side of Hammam Lif, to spend the last few days, and headed off down the motorway. A stopover to get fuel while it was still so bafflingly cheap ended with a little concern after the attendant ripped the cover off Nettle’s fuel inlet in the process of filling up, then blithely said “ça va.” (it’s okay), and then asked for payment. Luckily it was just a clip-on thing that had come undone, and I clipped it back on easily while holding the fuel pipe from the other side. Phew!
We found our way to the caravan park, located on the far side of a very weird collection of half-finished buildings and puddle-covered dirt roads. We originally thought it was an under-construction tourist zone or something, but we later found it was a residential area. Tunisia is weird.
The caravan park appeared closed; I wandered around trying to find someone to talk to, but failed, so we just pulled up within the entrance-way, nicely out of the way, and closed up for the night.
I said something to the effect of “Now, what would be good is for there to be a knock at the door and there to be a caravan park attendant to open up for us“. Then, there was a knock at the door and there was a caravan park attendant welcoming us in. After experimentally trying “Now, what would be good is for there to be a suitcase of a few million dollars to appear“, we happily followed the dude in, plugged into the electricity hook-up, and settled in.