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UK-Tunisia-UK Summary PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

Summary of a Winter Journey to Tunisia 2010

Barry and Margaret Williamson
May 2010

Summary: Travelling in a short wheelbase Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van, we left the UK on Sunday, 20 December 2009 and returned on Monday, 26 April 2010. In the intervening 127 days (4 months), we travelled 8,500 miles through 17 countries in 70 stages, using 12 ferries.

Countries Visited: In chronological order, we travelled through the following countries:

Outward: UK Belgium Luxembourg France Germany Switzerland Italy Greece Italy Sicily Malta Sicily Tunisia.

Return: Tunisia Italy Greece Albania Montenegro Republic of Srpska/Bosnia-Herzegovina Croatia Slovenia Austria Germany Holland Belgium UK.

Ferries: We made 12 journeys by ferry in the following order:

1.  Ramsgate (UK) to Ostend (Belgium) on TransEuropa/LD Lines
2.  Ancona (Italy) to Patras (Greece) on ANEK Lines
3.  Patras (Greece) to Brindisi (Italy) on Endeavour Lines
4.  Villa San Giovanni (Italy) to Messina (Sicily) on a local ferry
5.  Pozzallo (Sicily) to Valetta (Malta) on Virtu Ferries high speed catamaran
6.  Valetta (Malta) to Pozzallo (Sicily) on Virtu Ferries high speed catamaran
7.  Trapani (Sicily) to La Goulette (Tunisia) on Grimaldi Lines
8.  La Goulette (Tunisia) to Civitavecchia (Italy) on Grimaldi Lines
9.  Bari (Italy) to Igoumenitsa (Greece) on Ventouris Ferries (now with Agoudimos)
10. Igoumenitsa (Greece) to Kerkira (Corfu) on a local ferry
11. Kerkira (Corfu) to Igoumenitsa (Greece) on a local ferry
12. Ostend (Belgium) to Ramsgate (UK) on TransEuropa/LD Lines

Map of the Route

Europe.jpg

 

Some Key Features of the Journey

We had originally intended to sail from Dover, but problems in the Channel Tunnel and heavy snowfalls caused chaos around Dover and Calais. Instead, we made our way to Ramsgate where there was plenty of space available on the ancient but reliable TransEuropa ferry to Ostend.

Snow in the Alps, delays in the 11-mile-long St Gotthard Tunnel (we queued in snow for hours at 4,000 ft) and the promise of more chaos around Milan, caused us to deviate into Bellinzona in the Swiss Italian Alps. Finding a good hotel in the centre of the town, we settled in for a quiet Christmas week.

Finding Italy cold, wet, crowded and very expensive, after a few days we escaped on the ANEK ferry from Ancona to Patras in the Greek Peloponnese. We sailed on 31 December and landed in Greece on the afternoon of 1 January 2010, enjoying the celebration of three New Year's Eve midnights on board: Greek, Italian and, finally, English.

Waiting out the winter weather in Greece, we enjoyed the comfort of apartment rooms in the familiar surroundings of Camping Ionion Beach. Despite the threats of an anonymous email, we went on to spend the first half of February among more old friends in Finikounda at Camping Finikes.

Whilst in Sicily, waiting for the weekly ferry to Tunisia, we left the van on the quayside in Pozzallo and took our bicycles to Malta on the high speed catamaran (60 miles in 90 minutes) for a few days cycling around Valetta and the Grand Harbour.

Our 1,800-mile tour of Tunisia was packed with experiences: a liberal Muslim regime; warm and welcoming people; inexpensive accommodation; fewer fully-veiled women than one might see in Huddersfield; French-speaking Arabs and Berbers; Ancient Carthage and half a dozen Roman sites in splendid states of preservation; the Mediterranean coastline; the Sahara Desert; a 40-km (25-mile) causeway across a Chott (salt lake); gorges on the border with Algeria; cycling on the island of Jerba; film sets including Star Wars (in Matmata and the ksars around Tataouine) and the Life Of Brian (in the Fort at Monastir); Commonwealth War Graves Commission and American cemeteries marking the progress of final victory in North Africa against German and Italian fascist forces in WW2.

The return journey to the UK was the climax of an ambition to explore the mountainous regions of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia.

The Sprinter van proved to be the ideal vehicle for all these adventures.