An October cruise: Sardinia - Tunisia - Sicily  

Part 2

Cagliari – Bizerte (122 miles)

We set off at 11.30 pm, with a suitable light northerly and had a tranquil crossing, partly motored and partly sailed. With the professional fishing tackle we caught two smallish fish in Tunisian waters, which are much richer in fish and they were exquisitely cooked by Mabi.

During the crossing, we spotted a whale and were followed by a large group of playful dolfin. We arrived at Bizerte in Tunisia at 5 pm, just before nightfall (which is 6 pm local time in October).

It would have been possible to head for the island of La Galite, 22 miles off the Tunisian coast of Cap Serrat, thus reducing the Sardinian Channel crossing to 100 miles instead of 122. However having already visited it previously, I found that it has little to offer, with its stark geography and no harbour, other than fresh fish and lobster from the local fishermen. But then you have a 48 mile trip to Bizerte, which can be heavy going in a head wind.

Bizerte is a pretty city, but very much run down and far removed from tourism and progress, though since my last trip a year ago, I found considerable restructuring work around the old port area. I do hope that this work will also include the creation of a proper sewage system for the city which is very evidently lacking. As you walk around the city, you are often overwhelmed by a powerful stench, which the locals apparently have grown used to.

You should visit the covered market with its multi-coloured fruit stalls, the fish market and the meat section, which provides an educational study in animal anatomy. The arab medina, a walled-in city within a city, should also be visited. I have found that it is quite safe to wander around each medina in the various cities of Tunisia, though they are a maze of alleyways and very easy to get lost in.

Fortunately French is the second official language in Tunisia, so one can easily get by. This is my third visit to Tunisia and I still haven’t learnt to bargain hard enough – so my advice when shopping, is to bargain, bargain. You will still pay more than a local, but compared to home prices you will get an excellent deal. And there is very much to buy, carpets, ceramics, spices and art crafts, the temptations are unending. Keep an account of your available storage space on the boat, as here you will very easily overfill it.

I found that the local pastry shops in Bizerte were clean and the goodies excellent, but I shied from the restaurants. Tunis was different.

The Bizerte marina is reasonable and is a short walk from the city centre. Taxis in Tunisia cost almost nothing and can therefore be used at pleasure. Arriving in Bizerte, or any port for that matter, you must report immediately to the local police and customs for registration. They come on board, boots and all and require detailed information on the consistency of crew and passengers, equipment and stores, especially the alcoholic ones. Alcohol is prohibited in Tunisia and this means that you cannot sit down at the bar for a beer. However they tolerate that you have your own on board, or rather, they do their best to help you liquidate it. “If you are nice to me I will be nice to you” is the typical welcoming remark in Bizerte, so make sure that you have extra bottles of whiskey on board, as they will come in handy.

Also make sure that you notify the police of all boat movements and of any changes in the passenger list, as they are very strick about this. Non Europeans need a visa and being Australian, I had problems and was confined to the boat until approval came through the next day. My departure from Tunisia was another bureaucratic nightmare, which I will describe later.

My suggestion to the Minister of Tourism is to lessen restrictions and formalities for visiting cruising boats and so encourage tourism, which would be a boon to the local economy.

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    Copyright L. Camillo 2000