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Published: November 4th 2012
The flight from Paris was a mere 2 hour trip, landing in Tunis/Carthage airport, I found myself one of many queueing up to clear immigration. A number of European tourists on a package tour that will go straight to their respective resort hotels, and a handful of backpackers. My line seems to be taking ages to move on, everyone is sighing and wondering what is taking so long. We later then realized that we queued up on the booth where 2 new officers are being trained and thus super slow! eventually making it to the front, the trainee does not have a clue what to do! keeps paging through my passport, scans it, looks at me, asks me something in French, I gave him a stare blank, then he starts the process all over again! Thankfully his senior officer, noticing perhaps his slow pace comes rushing in, scans my passport, stamps it and let me go, in 10 seconds!
Outside in the arrivals hall, I struggled to find Mo, my couchsurfing host, I went round and round, could not locate him, only resort is to call him, so I went looking for a SIM card, I found the Orange booth,
but I have to pay in local money so dasched to the ATM, not working! damn...luckily i always have a stash of some dollars for emergency, so exchanged $100 bill, SIM card sorted I called Mo, no answer, crap! Tried one more he picked up, and we eventually met and off we go. His brother Khairi and cousin Mahdi was with him, they were very shy perhaps their English is not very good so I tried to make them feel at ease, our first stop is a coffee shop, we had sheesha, I gave it a try but I seem to have forgotten how to use it! I was coughing a bit until I gave up.Tunis for me is not any different from other Middle eastern city, chaotic in main roads, bad drivers, constant honking, the usual.
Arriving at their house in the suburbs, I was introduced to every member of the family, his Mom was busy cooking food for us, and dinner was excellent, my first taste of the famed Tunisian harissa, it was hot spicy so I was careful of my portions.. they usually dabble some olive oil on top of it and scoop it with bread,
sometimes olives on the side. So we got ready to go out and check out Tunis nightlife, a squall was starting outside, torrential rain and strong gust of wind. Making it to downtown, the rain abated by then, I stopped by a cash machine and thankfully it worked!, I haven't a clue where we were, somewhere in the seedy(?) part of town maybe, we entered a restaurant where rowdy men enjoy some drinking, sheesha and merriment courtesy of a slew of people playing and singing Arabic music, now there were about 3 women in the crowd, drunk men dancing to the beat and making a fool of themselves as people clap and cheer them on. Sat across us is a middle aged woman by herself, her table full of empty beer bottles, some men occasionally would sit and chat with her, hmm.. could she be? Anyhow she would glance at our table at times and the boys will occasionally chat with her, seeing the quizzical look on my face, Mahdi in his broken English leaned over towards me and declared, that fat woman is from Egypt! Is she.. I dunno..
The boys ordered some wine, red and white(muscat), I
did not like the reds so much but the white is ok, and I must tell you that their Celtia beer sucks!! but the guys loved it so who am I to contend? From there we headed to Sidi Bou Said and Carthage, 2 posh suburbs in the outskirts of Tunis, Sidi Bou is nice even at night, the view towards the harbor from the hilltop is fabulous. soon we returned back to their house and slept through most of the morning. Mo's mom fed us some more, we waited for rain to stop then we headed off for a weekend in the northwest part of the country, destination, Tabarka, a popular place for holiday makers, nice beaches, cool mountain air etc.. the drive was uneventful but long, we stopped at CarreFour to stock up on booze and some food, it was horrible, traffic was mad.The drive up took us to some beautiful mountain scenery, I think it's the cork tree forest near the way to Ain Draham close to the Algerian border, we stoppde a few for some photos.
Arrived in Tabarka and checked in at the Mimosa Hotel. They have an excellent view of the beach below
as they sit on top of the hill and the rooms weret bad with ensuite bathroom with hot showers! We chilled a bit then got ready to find a good seafood restaurant. As it is now low season, and hardly and gringos, finding a good place to eat was a struggle, we drove round and round for half hour asking locals for a good place to eat but we can't seem to find them! Finally we saw a really nice place in a hotel, Mahdi got off to ask the menu, suddenly there was a loud commotion a few hundred meters from us, we saw young men throwing rocks and bottles to the front of a hotel, glasses breaking and all, we panicked and drove away quickly, geesh.. Later we came back and the place is teeming with police, it seems like a domestic violence rather than a riot, so everything fine now we headed to the port and found a good restaurant near the pier. The menu looks good, we ordered a couple of grilled fish, calamaris, all are excellent, the light is dim and we have candles to light the table, I took a bite of a piece
of fish and when I swallowed I felt a sharp pain, crap fish bone! I took some bread and tried to bring it down but somehow it got lodged in my freaking throat!Needless to say, the night went foul from there! Not able to get rid of it, I tried to eat big chunks of fruit, bread, anything but nothing works. The boys had a few drinks that night, I went to bed peed off at my luck!
The next morning, fish bone still lodged in my throat, Mo and I went for a walk to town, nothing much to see, but bought a banana, chomped it down, did not work. The 2 other boys Khairi and Mahdi woke up and we headed out after breakfast to Ain Draham, just as we were about to leave the parking lot, Mo found out from a driver that the roads are closed due to landslide, what luck we are having, so we decided to head back to Tunis instead. And all the while I was contemplating of maybe going to see a doctor and have this fish bone removed, it started raining hard as we approach Tunis, the boys brought me
to a hospital near their house, soon as we enter the ER I nearly turned around, Khairi assured me it's ok,this hospital is good, the floors are being scrubbed looks disorganized and hardly can find doctors, the place does not look clean, I got worried, thankfully they cannot help me here and pointed me to another hospital, which Khairi says is worse, so we headed home.
Not long after we settled back in their house the whole family found out about my dilemma, Mo's mom, bless her, made me eat honey, thinking the bone will stick to it and get dislodged, didn't work and I nearly suffocated choking as it went down the wrong hole. The uncle came in and wanted to scoop it out with a spoon!! I said no! He offered to wash his hands and he will attempt to take it off my throat with his fingers!! Hilarious really it seems but at that time I was mortified. Mo took me to a small clinic near their house, the doctor could not see it, just eat lots of bread he suggested, its not life threatening he added, it will pass eventually. When, next year??Ticked off I
seriously considered going home if this thing is still there the next couple days, and as it will be holiday the next day, there is no chance of finding a good doctor, I want to call the US embassy but can't find their number. Anyway I fell asleep for a few hours and then we went for a walk in the downtown area, the medina, souq and kasbah, my mind is not into it, grudgingly taking pictures as we go. I hated myself for being careless and now I am seriously considering going back home and deal with this at home, it's getting painful to swallow, I thought I needed medical assistance.
Despite the pain, I slept well that night, woke up and the fish bone is gone! I felt like floating on air, I admit, I could be hypochondriac at times but this never happened to me before so needless to say I was ecstatic to be rid of it! Back on route now, and hoping to enjoy Tunisia now, for real! Mo and I are headed to Korbus, to try the thermal hot springs it's famed for.. I believe it's near Cap Bon, the drive was not
bad and really nice mountain scenery. We stopped by a place where people bathe in the sea where gushing hot water from a spring keeps the water balmy warm. Mo and I headed to a"spa", where we got scrubbed and rubbed with some eucalyptus infused mud and a brief exccelent massage, all for a mere $40 total for both of us! A good lunch by the sea, fish! this time i personally picked the bones with my bare hands! just in case...
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