TechnomadicsVagabonding Europe

Camping SamarisWe arrived at Camping Samaris near Hammamet with the intention of staying put for a few weeks, and having some time off travel. We got so caught up in projects during that time though, that a few weeks turned into two months.

I finished off a project, Talkie, and got it on the market, as well as working on some other upcoming projects, and properly setting up the ‘public’ face of my obsession/business, A Tasty Pixel, with some awesome concept/design ‘consulting’ from Katherine (all the pixel character ideas came from her — the freaking genius).

Katherine made the first steps towards setting up her art business, doing lots of blogging in the process, and created some killer paintings as well in the ‘studio‘.

We started most days about 10 or 11. Sometimes I’d venture out to the local boulangerie (bakery) for fresh bread — which costs basically nothing, being subsidised by the government. Four loaves of bread costs around 0.700 DT (about AU$0.56, €0.35). Together with croissants and cake, it was a couple of dinars. Awesome.

Massive preying mantis that came to visit We’d work in Nettle till about 3-4pm, and one of us would cook ‘dinner’ (we started referring to it as dunch); then we’d keep working until about 1am, occasionally 2 or 3.

And we both loved every minute of it — working on the things we love, entirely unrestrained by logistics like power availability, or diurnal waking cycles. Or eating three times a day. We’re fortunate to be so well matched, that both of us tend to feel like doing a thing at the same time — in this case, doing 14 hour ‘work’ days, sitting inside a motorhome.

The internet access was kinda crap, failing entirely about half the time during the evening, but we were grateful we had access at all — it’s remarkably progressive of Tunisia to have a feasible data plan for mobile internet. Beats the hell outta the system in France. I discovered on the last night that our flaky connectivity was due to a dodgy DNS server, and solved the problem by using Google’s public DNS instead, for our final evening. Brilliant. (If that didn’t make sense to you, replace the confusing stuff with the word “Magic!”).

We cooked every night, with fantastic results, having access to vast quantities of exciting spices, and our increasing flair in the kitchen! Shopping was less fun — it really was quite disgusting out there, a dirty, loud street. Getting to the little mini-mart-esque shops was a bit of a gauntlet run, with beggars, pushy taxi drivers and friendly-but-kinda-mocking locals with carts full of clock radios and shoes. Plus there was the shop with the two guys who kept laughing at me! Just because I speak French like a slow four-year-old. Big meanies.

The main street

Taoufik and IDuring one shopping expedition, a friendly local in his early thirties started speaking to us, and invited us to have a coffee — we accepted and joined him in his favourite café, all Arabic-looking tiles and fancy bongs. He didn’t speak any English, so we spoke in French, with mixed results, but it got the job done. His name was Taoufik (too-feek), and he lived nearby and worked as a chef in a local hotel and also in a grocery shop. We caught up with him a few times after that, once for dinner at a local café — total bachelor food! — followed by the best tea we’ve ever had (mint tea, very sweet) in a different café/bar. I joined him solo several times too, for coffee or a stroll — we spoke about his work; he told me of his passion for working with spices, and he was fascinated by our grand make-our-living-on-the-internets scheme. He even invited us on a trip north to visit his family, but that didn’t end up panning out.

The staff at the caravan park were quite friendly — one of the dudes who worked around the grounds (he always seemed busy doing something or other) brought us cut flowers a few times, which was lovely. He also bought us some olives from the trees of the caravan park!

We felt keenly for the dogs that were tied up around the caravan park, for no reason that we could see — so far apart from each other that socialising would’ve been impossible, and on short leashes that meant their world was about 3-4 square metres. One dog that we came to know was tied up near where we do the camper-service thing; he’d go absolutely bananas when you came close, begging for attention and play. I went right up to him and tried to be friendly for a while — but it was difficult to stay, as he just kept jumping and licking constantly, pushing me over. I made myself say hello every now and then, but it was a real endurance test. Poor little guy; we’d read about the most horrendous animal cruelty in Tunisia, and I guess this is just a slightly more chronic form. Awful.

During the last week or two, a group of people were harvesting olives, putting blankets down beneath the trees, then sharing a ladder as they worked round each tree, pulling off the olives and letting them fall into the blankets below. They ended up with an insane amount of harvested olives, massive hessian bag after massive hessian bag. I went out to them and asked if I could take their picture.

My olive-picking friends

My olive-picking friends

Then, they invited me later to join them for tea, sitting around a little fire-in-a-pot with them while they had lunch, which they shared too — bread and olive oil, and a curry-like dish with lots of chillies. The tea was in a shot-glass, black and incredibly sweet. Yum. There were introductions (as usual, I introduced myself as “Michelle”), and my horrendous memory for foreign-sounding names let me down once more. It always feels slightly racist of me. I brought out some Nutella on bread for ‘dessert’ and Bi..Bilahh…Bilal…Dammit. ‘Bill-something’ pulled out a makeshift pipe — a copper pipe with holes drilled in it — and played some charming, very Arabic-sounding music. They were lovely people, and we waved and “comment ça va?-d” (how’s it going?) regularly.

So, all up, we had a quite lovely couple months — it was warm and sunny for the most part, the olivey surroundings were quite pleasant (we loved the little birds), and we were spending about AU$17-20 (about €10-12) per day!

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One Response to Down-time in Hammamet

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