Odyssey in the desert – Tunisia

100 km through the desert, by camels and with the bicycles; it seemed that it wouldn’t be a big difficulty, but for some moments I felt that the tour through the desert which should be a pleasant experience was becoming a big nightmare, or even worse in a military subjection.

When we arrived to Douz, Ale and I met Jeff, to Mireille and Marie Helene. They were from Canada and after seeing us with our bicycles and without anyplace to sleep they offered us to stay in their room where it also stayed their dog; so at that moment that room for some days became in a true disorder.

The following day we met Sabri, a Tunisian guy who lived in Belgium since child, and then together we decided to share perhaps one of the strongest experiences in our lives; “to cross over 100 km through the desert in 3 days; some kilometres by camel and the rest by foot”.

When the Mustafa’s father sold us the tour he said to us that we should walk 7 hours per days, but we would stop to lunch and always to camp before the evening. But sincerely it never was by this way.

The first morning we got up before the dawn and we left toward the Mustafa’s house, the Bedouin Sabri’s friend, who led the tour. The other two guides, Abdu and Nasser were also waiting for us, with the camels and all our baggage. So at 8.00 am., after eating an Arab bread we left to a quick step, it was an atypical day because the sky was grey and it was often raining.


After a couple of hours of walking I asked to Abdu for the direction which we were going, because I wanted to go forward and to film some scenes with my video camera. For this reason I ran 200 mts to prepare the tripod and to wait the caravan; but when I turn back I noticed that I had run to the wrong way or that I hadn’t been well informed. So without understanding too much I went to Abdu and with signs I asked him about that happened, but he became to laugh ironically. And at that moment I knew that we would have an upset walk.

The first setback happened after 5 hours of walking when we were informed that due to the bad weather we would not stop to lunch, so we had to keep walking. Minutes later I discussed with Abdu, because when I requested to him a camel he answered me: “I ride it first and then you ride it”. I thought that he was joking with me, but he told it to me seriously. But I thought: “ I am who pay the tour and I will ride the camel.

But Abdu hit the camel and he threw stones to it, and the camel came out running very fast. So I fell down, like a potatoes bag, on my handbag where I carried the photo and video cameras. But I didn’t feel pain and I got up quickly, infuriated, ready to begin a fight. I caught him from his neck and I threatened him but Abdu frightened; and I scarcely returned him a fall.

And he was lucky, because the cameras were ok.

Endless walk

After some hours, the tension lowered, maybe because we ate other Arab bread that Mustafa brought from the breakfast; but the walk rhythm never ceased.

Corriendo la caravana

On the end of the afternoon I went to Abdu and with a few words and some signs we apologized each other, then I went ahead to film another scene and I waited for Ale who walked slowly behind us. Then we thought that we would camp quickly because it was later so we took our time to take pictures and to enjoy the landscape. But we were mistaken and the caravan went ahead; in spite of we had walked more than 10 hours by uninterrupted way with only an Arab bread as lunch for 9 people, we had to keep walking.

But we were only conscious how far we had been when we saw the caravan from the big dune, so we began to run them through the dunes pursuing their treads. But we couldn’t run too much, because we felt pain on our knees and Ale more than me. Suddenly he said to me: “I need a camel, I cannot go on by this way.”

From the big dune, the panorama was terrible; in a line of 2 km everybody were walking separated and that was good to the guides because in that way we couldn’t riot. Abdu and Nasser with Sabri and 8 of the 9 camels walked ahead very fast, while the rest of the people each time walked slower.

At that moment I felt that the tour through the desert which should be a pleasant experience was becoming a big nightmare or even worse; in a military subjection, for that at the end we should pay almost 400 Euros.

Then in a fury attack I ran toward Mustafa to stop the caravan. But when I reached to him, he ordered me to keep running to stop Abdu and Nasser.

By this way I met Maria Helene, who was riding the only one camel since many hours; I still remember her face, she was pale and cold and she seemed a ghost; for this reason she preferred to keep walking and to give the camel to Ale who came behind us very slow. Further on, Jeff walked with his dog and by a crestfallen way; and when I crossed him he asked me in a furious tone: “How long will we keep walking?”

Everybody were exhausted, excepting Sabri who suggested me to keep walking an hour and a half to arrive, according to the cameleers, where the camels could drink water. It was the limit!!! Did the camels need to drink water? But what kind of camels are?

Finally we waited to the whole group to arrive, and in spite of the pressure of the cameleers we decided to camp. It was almost at 07.00 pm and we discussed once more because the guides suggested us to put our tents and by this way to avoid putting the big Bedouin tent. They blackmailed us with sleeping a little more in the morning, but we didn’t accept and they had to put the big tent.

But regrettably our unconformity didn’t conclude there, because we were very hungry. We seemed 6 hyenas but we had to conform with two packages of spaguettis; in spite of we were a total of 9 persons to eat.

Second and third day of voyage

The alarm clock of Sabri’s movil sounded at 05.00 am. And he was the only one who got up and tried to get up to everybody, but neither the cameleers could get up; it was still at night and very cold. Then at 5.30 am. Sabri fell asleep again and we only started up to walk after 09.00 am.

But it was a sunny day so everybody was in a good mood and our walk was developed without any problems. The first hours of the day we walked among dunes, where the landscapes were assimilated to some postal cards, wonderful to contemplate them from the camel or even more alone and by foot. Surely that was the day where each one of the group forgot the bad moments of the day before and connected with the infinite of the landscapes; and it was splendid.

camel safari
camel safari

For this reason it didn’t care that to the lunch time we didn’t eat, because we agreed to keep walking and to camp earlier to contemplate the sunset. In the afternoon the landscape already changed and we crossed over an immense plain with scarce vegetation.

Luckily the pleasure during the whole second day of the tour was which avoided a great discussion, because although that night we ate better, that day we walked more than we agreed again. But the truly unforgivable thing or already comedian at that moment was that the third day after walking a couple of hours we sight the antenna of Ksar Ghilane, the oasis where we were going.

It was obvious, Mustafa who led the group, had never been idea of the route we walked; I still remember how he did react when Nasser told us the news. The mistake was the average of the three days of walking. “11 hours the first day, 8 the second and 3 the third day”. We walked as militaries, without any stop to lunch neither to rest, nor to take a picture; if one stopped and took it then he had to catch the caravan that never stopped.

10.La caravana

But the most intelligent was Sabri who foresaw the mistake, he charged us in advance in the last morning before starting to walk. Undoubtedly he was the most conformist because he had been who organized the tour and maybe also the responsible of all the complications. But it was already late and we could not make return the time behind. For this reason we preferred to shut up and not to create any confusion more.

In fact also this experience was good to corroborate how many of the Muslims who work or relate with tourists are; “they are not cared in that agreed and for any problem they prefer to seem silly, because they only want the money and to end as soon as possible with their side.

¡By the way!!! In three days of walking the camels never drank water.

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