|| || |
It all began a September afternoon, the motive was George's statement "I want to ride on the desert". I do not know if I really meant it that moment, but I suggested "Why don't we go again to Tunisia during the Dakar 2003 rally?" That was the beginning of the whole story. We contacted the organisation for information, calculated the kilometres, we thought of the general preparation and "why don't we ask around, maybe someone else would like to come along?"
| The whole thing developed in organising a
proper expedition. A poster was created of course, entered in the site,
magazines were informed and little by little we received the first
calls. “Hello… I have an RMX250… Can I come along?”.
Additional clarifications in the site. From where we will start
and where we are going. In spite of all the new clarifications we still
received strange calls, “I have a GSXR1100, you think I will make it?”
“Where are the KTMs;” I wondered and almost cried disappointed.
“In bars trying to come on to women just by mentioning that they travel
all over the world with their KTM” my friends answered, “Didn’ t you
realised that in the last Odyssey? The only think that an Adventure can
offer to you is status!” they continued and they were right.
Two weeks before departure, I did nothing else but preparing the
details of this journey: Clarification concerning the tickets, advice
for the preparation of the bikes and riders, printing the Dakar plates
that we would carry along, IDs for each one of us, meetings and more
meetings with the rest of the gang, planning and calculating the
kilometres up to the last detail, more meetings, communication with the
Italian agency for the tickets once more in order to be sure, preparing
the bike and don’t forget its Christmas, come on! When can we leave?!!
Finally, the morning of New Year, we met at 11:30 at MAKAN’s,
where after checking for a last time our things and our bikes we
managed to leave. Seven riders with their bikes, wanting to live the
Dakar rally not just as simple visitors, watchers, but through dust and
We finally managed to leave at 13:00, our destination was Patra’s
port. The weather was fine till we reached Aegio. There, it
start raining. We put on our raincoats and managed to reach the
hospitable Superfast ferry, without any problem, for our first night on
In our first true moment of relaxation and enjoyment, the feast was
necessary. It was New Year’s and the captain’s statement: “the
pieces of this cake are more than we are, we must eat till we find the
gold coin”, made us eat so much that we almost burst out.
We were prepared for rain, so the unexpectedly good weather improved
our mood. Since we had plenty of time we decided to take the old road
through the mountains, in order to reach Napoli after 240 kilometres.
Arrival, receipt of the tickets, and without any further delay, we were
standing in queue waiting for custom control
A van was standing in the queue with us with four enduros, three KTM
and a CRF, they wanted to reach Ksar Ghilane and a Samurai with a blond
guy with “rasta” hair along with his girlfriend, his destination was El
Kef, they hoped to find muddy areas for their Samurai.
A little patience and finally yes…we are on board. Each one of us gets
settled in his cabin and after the standard night cup, we went to sleep
in order to be ready for next day’s kilometres.
The port of Tunis appeared and we were already down with our things
packed. We were the first ones off board and we managed to arrange
exchange and custom in the record time of 45 minutes. In my wildest
dreams this could not happen. Since we finished that early, we decided
to slightly change our program. Instead of going to Hammamet, we would
continue and stay the first night at Kairouan.
Only 45 kilometres from Tunis and while we travelled with steady
120km/h, baf….. vrrrrrrm my KTM. “It better not be the ignition coil, I
can’t stand it, not again”, I thought to my self (for those of you that
do not know it, my previous KTM in 60000km it had left me four times
from ignition coil.
Fortunately, it was simply the tank bag, after the last refuelling, it
was careless of me, it had stepped the tank breather, as a result
of that, carburator was out of fuel!.
It all ended up unexpectedly well, and we continued with one hour delay
(the time we saved from the custom and exchange procedures was wasted
here). The landscape is classic Greek, with olives and rocks, nothing
prepares the traveller for the scenery change only 400 kilometres away.
When the sun went down we stopped in the first restaurant (something
like the Greek “tavern”)” for our first dinner in Tunisia. We tried and
managed to communicate in four languages, Arabic, Greek, French and
English, we all used all of them and we finally ate lamp chops with
fries and salad.
There, the rest of the guys had the opportunity (it was something that
they had never seen before), to see from close (just behind our table),
the process of washing the glasses. In a big saucepan, the owner first
washed his hands, then he reached for the glasses and one by one he
sunk them once in the same saucepan, and then brought them to our
table. The same process was also followed with the cutlery and the
dishes. “Haven’t you been in the army?” and other similar comments
helped us eat the really tasty food, (besides, after two days in the
ship, everything was delicious).
It was almost dark and after the necessary bargain between the local
hotel owner and our own Michali, who is himself a hotel owner in Crete
(the hotel owners reached a settlement!), we stayed in the rooms of
Amina in Kairouan, with our bikes standing proudly by the pool, it was
quite a spectacle, I assure you. Thorough “disinfection” this is
meant as a joke, resettling our stuff, and we were ready for an evening
walk in the city, which by the way, is the fourth holy city of Muslims.
In the hotel, apart from us there were 5-6 italian 4x4 with monstrous
tyres (9.00H16 most of them) that were returning from the desert. Night
sleep with full gazz! Tomorrow we will “step” on the desert!