My dad is a realist. His travel philosophy is to assume he will never be back to a particular part of the world and thus he tries to see all that he can while he is on his adventure. I am more of a dreamer, I guess. I wish we never had to end a trip and dream of ways to make sure I can return. And Kyle's travel philosophy? He is already planning the next trip three days into the current trip!
We all handle the end of the trip differently. Dad's mind started wandering to the happenings at home and the to-do lists waiting for him a day or two before the return flight. As you know, Kyle left the adventure earlier than dad and I so he could tend to the demands waiting at the office. And even with my body in the Midwest, my mind is in Tunisia and Algeria. (No, I am not ready to focus on the day-to-day!)
It is interesting how three pretty similar travelers can experience the same adventure in such different ways. It is always fun to recap the exciting, comical and daring events we endured as we all wandered
through exotic lands.
Inevitably, we have to answer the question of what was our favorite part of the trip:
Kyle's favorite part of the traveling to Algeria and Tunisia was using a language he had not used since he was a boy in Canada. With very little effort, his grasp of the French language came back to him and he was communicating well with the locals. Even after taking a hiatus of 20 years, it was like riding a bike. Close behind speaking French, Kyle loved seeing the massive sand dunes of Algeria and enduring the day-long drive from Ghardaia to Timimoun. That drive took us through the heart of the Sahara desert.
Dad's favorite part of the trip was journeying through the winding alleyways of the Marketplace in Old Algiers. I suppose that is not too surprising when you consider that was a bucket list item and putting a stamp on all the items listed in the song "You Belong To Me." Dad also really enjoyed the city center and old medina in Tunis.
I wanted to say my favorite part of the trip was the food, but decided it would make me look too glutonous.
So, I suppose I most enjoyed the livestock market in Douz. The energy, sounds and genuineness of the event was mesmerizing.
When a trip comes to an end and we are facing that dauntingly long flight home, we always discuss what foods we are craving from home. Kyle usually needs some Kansas City style barbecue and dad usually needs a good burger with fries. Interestingly enough, we NEVER got tired of the food in either country and did not come home craving ANYTHING! This has to be a first. It was hard to narrow it down, but we each identified our favorite food item/meal in Algeria or Tunisia:
Kyle's favorite meal was a chicken, olives and curry dish Fatma made for us while we were in Timimoun, Algeria. He doesn't even like olives, but loved this dish!
Dad said he could not get enough of the rotisserie chicken that was a staple in both countries. If I had a dinar for everytime he said, "these people know how to cook chicken!" (Actually he was right!)
This was not an easy question for me to answer...was it the fresh crepes I got used to eating on a daily basis?
Or the couscous, a dish I practically live on even while I am in the States? No, I decided it was the fresh strawberry juice I guzzled whenever I had the chance. (Our last night in Tunis, I had three glasses! I used my manners and declined the fourth glass the bartender offered me as I was leaving!)
We never consider our trips reckless, but maybe our itineraries are not for the faint of heart either. And while Algeria and Tunisia seemed extremely safe, there were a few moments that bordered on scary.
Dad said he was most concerned when we encountered the burning tires and protest in Matmata. He noted he was also concerned when we were on the tarmac in Algiers and our luggage was not there, so security sent us back to the bus. He calls it his Munich Moment. Kyle concurred that was the most unsettling moment for him.
Really, the only situation that got my heart pounding a little faster than normal was when the waiter told me they were out of strawberry juice! Okay, seriously...the fake roadblock in the mountains south of Matmata was enough to make my eyebrows raise. I had read
too many accounts of how these fake roadblocks are what lead to beheadings. Luckily, nothing of the sort was part of our trip.
Northern Africa was a region we did not know a lot about and were pleasantly surprised by a variety of discoveries:
Kyle was most surprised by quality of fruits and vegetables and he thought there were would be more fruits and vegetables growing in the palmaraies in the oasis towns. "I would never have guessed you would get better fruit in the middle of the Sahara than we can get in the USA."
Dad said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of good food in both Algeria and Tunisia and he never expected both countries to have such progressive road systems. The way we were treated because we were Americans also took him off guard.
I knew tourism was low right now for a variety of reasons, but I could not believe how empty the hotels were, how few tourists we spotted and how being an American was such a novelty. I suppose because of that realization, I should not be as shocked as I am that it was so difficult to find any
use or understanding of the English language. The discovery that was most pleasing to me was finding how Algerians and Tunisians displayed such grace, good form and manners. The touts and salespersons were non-aggressive, not pushy and actually took "no" for an answer. There was rarely any begging and any hassling.
For anyone thinking of traveling to Algeria or Tunisia, we recommend:
Kyle recommends you learn French before you go.
Dad recommends you make sure and travel south into the Sahara.
I recommend you research your airlines' baggage requirements and shipping luggage/gifts back home.
If we could have done anything differently, we wish we could have:
Kyle wanted to have the time to travel south to Tameranset and experience even more of the Taureg culture.
I wish there were would have been camels at the animal market in Douz and I wish my French would have been good enough to help me find unpasteurized camel milk.
Dad said he would not have changed anything.
So after being gone for almost a month, what did we miss most about home? Sadly, not much! Dad said he missed being able to get in his truck and drive.
I know it sounds silly, but I missed the convenience of western style toilets, western standards of bathroom cleanliness and decent quality toilet paper.
Gas in Algeria cost about $.90 per gallon
Gas in Tunisia cost about $1.50 per gallon
Diet soda (Coke) was readily available in most locations (though many times the most expensive item on the menu). One morning at breakfast, Kyle ordered diet soda and the waiter almost lost his mind! He said he had never heard of such a thing and it has never been ordered at breakfast before at the hotel. The next morning, when Kyle ordered it again, he just smiled, shook his head and went to get it for him.
There are no McDonalds in all of Tunisia or Algeria.
Nothing moves fast in Algeria.
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