(5.0) (5 Votes)
September 13th, 2004
Pros: Tunis - Spectacular
Cons: Very Hot
Well, lets see. When we last left our hero he was caught, beer in
hand, in a perilously laconic situation off the southern coast of
Italy. Many of you may have asked. Can our hero possibly survive
five more weeks trapped in the role of European playboy? To discover
the truth you will require: the reading ability of a dyslexic grade
three yet the stamina of a prizefighter. Enjoy.
Here begins Episode Two of this lethargic travel log. As promised,
in this installment our hedonistic hero battles through the fascist
strongholds of Sicily, then crosses the Mediterranean to initiate
a Rommelesq move through North Africa, only to return to the European
theater before landing on allied soil in Canada.
Now, my mother once told me “A clear conscience is usually
the sign of
a bad memory”. Well I had always thought I had a photographic
memory. I just forgot to buy film. As a result of this, and my near
vegetative lifestyle, I am a bit hazy on where the last two months
have gone. So I will start at my most cognitive memory of Sicily.
We were in Palermo, capital of Sicily and a city once said to rival
the spectacle of Rome. Renown travel writer Arthur Symonds said
"Perhaps there are few spots upon the surface of the globe
more beautiful than Palermo,". This statement says to me one
of two things. Either Mr. Symonds had never been to Palermo or he
found a great stash of narcotics and did not get of the ferry. Further
investigation points out that Symonds died in 1900, and back then
Palermo was indeed beautiful.
However it appeared to me that at the turn of the 20th centenary
the maintenance crew went home for their afternoon siesta and never
came back. So you can still see buildings with pock-like facades
where bullet holes and shrapnel marks damaged them in The Italian
Revolution and Second World War. To add insult, to injury in what
could be a magnificent city, the famous Sicilian mafia discovered
that they could make more money in construction than they could
in pimping and protection. So through a combination of their usual
‘leverage’ and lack of construction knowledge they set
about rebuilding the city post WW2. The result, a city that appears
to have been constructed by a bunch of left handed lemmings after
a night on the piss.
But Palermo did have one astonishing attraction; a place that I
like to call ‘The Disneyland of Death’. Basically some
four hundred years ago the vain aristocracy of Palermo decided they
were such a handsome bunch they would look good dead or alive; I
think there are probably a few Melbourne Grammar Boys out there
who can empathize.
So in the catacombs beneath the Capuchins Cathedral they had themselves
strung up so family and friends could visit them long after their
death (don’t get any ideas Mum & Dad), some of them even
stipulated in their Will’s that they would like their clothes
changed to keep up with the latest fashions (how Italian). So four
hundred years and three thousand corpses later they created a necrophiliac’s
fantasyland where you can pay a monk a couple of Euros to go down
and hang out (no pun intended) with the dead people. You could almost
say that in one day I saw more stiffs than porn star Jemma Jamison
has in a lifetime.
After three weeks of floating around in the sunshine with the folks
on Free Spirit, the tyranny of the lifestyle started to get to me.
You guys with jobs and work ethics will never know how hard it is
being a slave to a pleasure centric lifestyle. But like many slaves
before me I went in search of liberty and freedom.
I have always thought of myself as a black man (at least from the
waist down) and so it was only natural that after obtaining my freedom
I would head back to the ancestral home of well-endowed man. So
to Africa I headed.
As I drifted to sleep on the star lit deck of a trans-Mediterranean
ferry I dreamt of the: Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines,
Arabs, Ottomans and most recently French who may have gazed at the
same stars whilst crossing the same seas to attempt to conquer the
small wedge of land that now comprises modern Tunisia. By dawn I
could see the outline of the capital city, Tunis, faintly looming
on the horizon. It is a city founded on the ancient ruins of Carthage;
one of the few civilizations to have the audacity to challenge ‘the
might of Rome’.
Easing back into a half sleep I imagined the spectacle of the Ancient
metropolis that once dominated this skyline and the Southern Mediterranean.
A massive cultural, political and economic center that was home
to the legendary Carthagen General Hannibal; who famously brought
war elephants over the Alps to attack Rome on it’s home soil.
Unfortunately for Hannibal, and Carthage the Elephants were the
great grandparents of Dumbo and so the Romans just laughed at them
and chased them back to Carthage pulling their tails and calling
them big ears [Authors note: there may be some historical inadequacies
in this passage]. The consequence was equally tragic for modern
day tourists, because the Romans were so incensed by Carthage’s
audacity that they ordered the city ‘destroyed so no seed
remained from which to rebuild’. What the Roman’s left
the Vandal’s (as the name suggests) and the ultimate demolition
team –time- took care of.
Although I may have been disappointed with the ruins, Tunis itself
is spectacular. Due impart to its recent history as a French colony
it is considered the Paris of Africa. It is a majestic city bursting
with charm elegance and cultural substance; in part a product of
the highbred influences its history and geographical position has
Before departing the comfort of Italy I had read in a guide book
‘it is not recommended to travel on the interior of Tunisia
during the months of July and August do to extreme heat’.
Ah, I thought to myself guidebooks are for freaks and geeks; not
the Mellett Machine and so: tossing the guidebook in the bin, to
the deserts of North Africa I headed in a 1980’s Ford station
wagon that looked like it would break down more often than a widow
at her husbands funeral.
Do you know what I found out there in the desert? Sand. And loads
of it. Every town I went to had listed under major tourist attractions
‘famous date orchid’. I discovered Tunisians are more
fascinated with dates that the average poof at the Sydney Mardigras.
To make matters worse the guidebook was right. It was hot. Most
days it averaged over 45 degrees. I was sweating like a pedophile
in a playground. It was so hot that I did what German Field Marshal
Rommel would have done. I lifted the pace of the attack. I started
moving like I had dropped my dick in a deep fryer, visiting up to
five towns a day until I reached the coast.
On the way to the coast I met Fahmi, a Tunisian university student
who offered to show me around his town, Suisse, he then offered
me a place to stay with his family. So for three days I hung out
with Fahmi and his mates on the beach. I said good-bye to his family
before we left to see an African cup soccer match. His mother gave
me a hug and said in French ‘you now have a Tunisian mother
too’. Soo quite.
With my work in North Africa complete I boarded the ferry back to
Italy. I got a bit smarter on the trip back and booked a cabin and,
due to cool air, I slept like a mummy on Valium. I awoke. It was
10am. We were supposed to be in port by 8:30. But the engines were
still running? I dived out of my room just in my boxers (an uncommon
sight on a Muslim ferry) and ran up to deck, there was no land in
sight. Shit, I thought, the ferry must have come back to Italy docked
and was now heading back to Africa. After ten minutes of panic I
discovered that one of the engines had broken down and so we would
not be in Italy for another hour and a half.
I wont punish you further by telling you of the next 10 days on
the boat with the folks, you have suffered enough. For reading this
far you should be awarded a noble prize for literature.
As they say in Tunisia hamdoullah
Thank God, or was it watch out for the hairy Australian