This song by the Australian band ‘Powederfinger’ played on my iPod shuffle, just before I went to bed on the ferry from Genoa to Tunis. No other song would have been more appropriate, Up and down and back again. Phew! What a few days it’s been.
Considering that our final destination is the biggest sandpit in the world, I expect plenty more up and down to come.
This is the start of our off-road caravan into the Sahara Desert.
10 days later, we’ll be driving back to Montova. Let’s turn back the clock for a few days.
When I contacted Claudio about my travel plans to visit him in Italy, he invited me to a 4 wheel-drive tour through the Sahara immediately.
I know, right?
Surrounded only by waves of sand as far as the eye can see and that roaring sound of engines digging through Tunisia’s desert.
Driving up and down sand dunes, camping under the stars with friends off old and new, before touring back to Tunis.
If we’re lucky, we may see a traditional caravan in the distance, which is still the safest way to cross the desert.
This adventure will be the icing of my on European holiday cake and is an opportunity not to be missed. I couldn’t wait.
Claudio usually takes his charming wife Federica on 4 WD excursions throughout Africa, but for one reason or another, Fede wasn’t able to join this time.
‘I need some moral support’ he said ‘It’s just like, when we were driving around Zambia’.
We met and became friends in Lusaka 4 years ago, time has flown.
He persuaded me to join the Italian convoy of 5 cars back then as well, which took some convincing.
There is plenty involved to arrange a remote tour through the desert.
We will be completely cut off from the world for 10 days.
Mountains of food, drinks, tools, camping and spare parts need to fit into this Landrover Discovery.
That’s not where it ends for him. He will be the tourguide, mechanic, entertainer, negotiator, organiser, bartender, cook and most importantly responsible for health and safety of each individual, like he has always been.
It’s only fair that I lend him a hand or two.
His experience of past adventures throughout Africa made him an authentic desert fox.
Claudio started to navigate Safari adventures in1988, a trip through Tunisia was the maiden voyage with ‘Sahara Service’.
Geographically, he extended journeys on the black continent and changed the name to ‘Safari Service Africa’.
A total of 17 people suited into 9 adventure cars on this excursion. Landrovers are very popular with Italians, three Toyota landcruisers add to the mix.
Let’s hope all drivers know the sand and their driving skills well.
We arrived in Genoa’s port on Saturday morning. There was a strange noise coming from the engine room on our way to the port city, which is not really something you want to hear taking off into the land of sand.
We’re not just going to any desert after all. Furthermore, one of the convoy cars was stuck in an accident on a major highway, where a truck went up in flames. Let’s hope that they make it in time.
A long queue greeted us at the ferry terminal. I was baffled on how many off-roaders were eager to board the ferry. Tuned up cars, trucks and off-road bikes with any kind of modifications you can think of lined up around us. Africa is the easiest and cheapest orientation for passionate European motorheads. The ‘Red Tape’ to leave Italy by ship is phenomenal. Up and down and back again.
Two familiar faces greeted me happily to my very surprise.
Loredana and Agostino were part of the Zambian convoy and remembered me well. Or did they?
Georgio and his gorgeous daughter Martina arrived just in time for us to board the ferry together. Andiamo. ‘It always works out in the end’ Claudio tells me confidently. I have no doubt.
‘Splendid’ was the name of the ferry we sailed on to Tunis for almost 24 hours. But that didn’t include the passenger’s behavior. Disgusting and rude, I was appalled. What am I getting myself into? I just can’t deal with inhumane nature. The worst part was that I just couldn’t get off this swimming jail. It’s part of the adventure I kept telling myself. It’s part of the adventure. Wave and smile.
The next few ‘travelswithben’ posts will summaries the breakdown of this adventure. We had plenty of both, this much I can tell.
I released a short video on my YouTube channel travelswithben already. This will give a wee insight of what’s to come.