844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Scooter Dreams (Djerba, Tunisia)

[Author's Note: I arrived in Tunis on September 10th, 2010 and left two months later. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on December 18th, 2010, a day after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. I missed the festivities by about a month or so. Some would say I dodged a bullet but I cannot help feeling like I missed the boat. How often do you have the chance to watch history unfold from the front row? It is interesting for me to go back and read about my experiences at the time. Yes, I could almost taste repression in the air but if you told me the powder keg was about to ignite I would have been incredulous in the extreme. Yet, there it was boiling just beneath the surface. Keep this in mind when reading my Tunisia posts. It makes for a fascinating subtext.]

Oct 12th, 2010 - Sometimes I get the feeling writers for the Lonely Planet don't necessarily visit the places described in their guidebooks. I will admit the island of Djerba has its appeal but it does not measure up to the hype attributed to it in the LP. In all fairness the book does prepare one for the onslaught of mass tourism but it still fosters a glimmer of hope in avoiding the worst of it or fosters the idea that the island will make it up to you. Then again, more bad luck may have tainted my perception. 

Phil and I made the village of Houmt Souq our base of operations from which to explore the island. Although it does possess a certain charm I think referring to it as 'so polished and charming it's like eye candy for those living in concrete jungles' is going a bit far. I usually know better than to put my faith in a guidebook description but for some reason in this instance I felt confident. Damn it.

Our plan was to arrive in Houmt Souq, locate a scooter rental office, and buzz the east coast in search of beach lodging. Our plan flew right out of our asses and directly down the drain. We found a place that rents scooters in town but the guys working there not only wanted about $40 per day for each scooter, they seemed to give nary a rat's ass about our patronage. We decided that even if we were to negotiate a better rate there was not enough trust to justify our business.

Another afternoon down the shit can. It was fortunate that Phil and I got on as well as we did or else this trip would have been most regrettable. Luckily, stimulating conversation made up for it. If only we were homosexuals. Then our lives would have been perfect.

The next morning we hopped on a local bus and headed southeast. We read there were other places to rent scooters so we decided to give it another go in the aptly named Zone Touristique. It helps that we are clearly both masochists. Five rental shops, a carriage and taxi ride, and a string of frustrating negotiations found us in possession of two fairly beat up road piglets (as opposed to 'hogs', a term better suited a machine with an engine over 5occs). We managed to secure our 'hellraisers' for the price of around $30 each per day. This still felt a bit steep but, unlike other shops, our benefactor let us have them for a 24 hour period. Score. 

It can be more than a little irritating when a merchant's response to negotiations is to point out that prices in America are normally fixed (i.e not open for debate) and to further imply that we are rich and should just stop being so difficult. What a brilliant sales tactic. I don't know how many times I've fallen for the old '
you are from America which means you have a shit ton of money so shut up and quit bitching' strategy. Touché.

After blast off we didn't get far as I soon discovered my spark plug cable kept separating from the engine. Upon returning to the shop an employee showed me how to screw in the cable so as to avoid constant breakdown. Super. Off we went…again. In the late afternoon we found ourselves blazing through the sand out on Flamingo Point (a rather picturesque peninsula on the north-east coast of Djerba). We decied to loiter at one of the beaches only to find a few naked old couples letting it all hang out. As appealing as this scenario was we managed to tear ourselves a way and keep moving. Wasn't easy.

Not exactly ideal terrain but our piglets managed to do quite well…for a while. Closer to tip of the peninsula we found some huts used for boat trips originating from Houmt-Souq across the inlet on old school faux sailing vessels. It appears that folks are dropped off for spell to explore the peninsula and have a barbeque at one of the makeshift restaurants. The only folks there at the time were random fisherman and those looking after the area. We spent a little time swimming off one of the docks and soaking up the beautiful backdrop. It was most enjoyable for a change. 

However, just when it all seemed to be coming together Phil's piglet shit the bed. The accelerator broke and left us stranded way the hell on a semi-barren peninsula up the proverbial shit creek sans paddle. We had a go at repair but I am embarrassed to admit that my mechanical skills are subpar, to put it mildly. You'd think seven months on a motorcycle in Indonesia would have left its mark. Nuh-uh. I'm just not current on advanced scooter technology. Thankfully, a local fisherman on his own moped stopped to lend a hand. After a quick MacGyver impression Phil was able to gas the beast with the pull of a string. We were off…but not really. It was now my bike's turn to act up. Bessie did not want to start. I found this vexing. I assume it was merely flooded because after about 20 exasperating minutes it came to life. Yeeeaah, bitch!

We had no choice but to return to the shop. I was ready to throw in the towel but Phil was a bit more sanguine about our prospects. We debated whether or not to switch bikes and return them the next day or just say screw it. The owner made our decision for us by allowing us to return the next day to pick up the bikes at no extra charge. I must admit that it was a nice gesture. I'd say it was a warranted one but certainly not something he had to do. How refreshing.

After dinner we took the only action two idiots on our lucky streak could: We went to the casino. We figured if we were going to spit in Fortune's eye we might as well go all the way. As it turns out not only did we both win over a $100 we actually managed to tear ourselves away while we were ahead. Bravo gentlemen! I thought we were doomed for sure when I spotted a black cat wandering between tables. A black cat in a casino? Seriously? Why not just walk under a ladder as you enter and smash a mirror in the bathroom while you're at it?

The next day we remounted our 'piglets' and went for a final spin on the island. There was a wide open salt flat near the coast that we utilized to catch our hair and our pants on fire. Those pigs can fly!! The remainder of the afternoon was spent beachside throwing back a few beers and engaging in more stimulating conversation. I made a play at getting a discounted room at The Radisson Blu but was rebuffed by the obscene price tag. I was really hoping to skim the coastline on a horse and glimpse more naked old folks. Oh well. 

Regrettably, I did very little to engage the island culturally which is a real shame because it is an interesting place (or so I've read). The island contains a small population of Jews whose ancestors have occupied Djerba for the past 2500 years. This is remarkable when you consider Tunisia's Islamic history. And then there is the population of Ibadis, an offshoot of the Kharijites, a distinct independent sect of Islam. There are also old seaside forts, octopus catchers, Islamic monuments, and tons of distinct Djerban architecture. I experienced almost none of it. Had things gone a little smoother and the area felt a little less like a tourist quagmire I am certain I would have been more successful. Instead I went scootering, drank beer, gambled, sat by the beach, and complained a lot. Way to go asshole.

Odysseus and his crew may have a difficult time pulling themselves away from the island of the Lotus-Eaters but Phil and I managed to find the strength. 


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