I´m the last to board a minibus to Tunis so we leave straight away, past the wind turbines catching the coastal winds outside of El-Haouaria. We climb olive-speckled hills to Soliman, and then travel another 30 km or so to Tunis.
Tunis quickly felt like a friend´s unwelcoming elder brother; the friend being the rest of Tunisia. I try and cool down with some citronnade – still lemonade – on Avenue Habib Bourguiba. He was the first predident of the Tunisian republic. Ben Ali, who fell with the revolution, was only the second. The avenue is lined with a central row of tightly clipped trees and a dozen or so tanks and riot vans protecting government ministries.
The medina in Tunis is not like others I have visited; the walls have been brought down or otherwise incorporated in many places; leaving me to enter the area through the defunct Bab Bhar (or Porte de France), now more a triumphal arch topped by a Tunisian flag wrapped tightly around its pole.
The road north from Tunis cuts across the hills of Cap Farina. After around 40 minutes of a mostly motorway run I arrive on the outskirts of Bizerte. I take a taxi across the bridge over the wide canal connecting port and Mediterranean, into the town centre. Bizerte is a small place with a pleasant, work-like atmosphere. Beyond that I struggle to know what to say. It has a Spanish fort, medina, and walled kasbah overlooking a dogleg old port, but seems to treat each of these in turn as an inconvience. By accident I´m able to watch the bridge open up to allow large ships through. Its a modern one-armed version of Tower Bridge. Though there isn´t a great deal to do, I take heart in the knowledge this is the furthest north I will travel in Africa.
I must go inland to Jendouba to get to Tabarka. Its 66km from Jendouba, at a slower, more sensible pace than the first journey of the day over a ridge of hills that lead to the sea. Only another 4 km from Tabarka lies the frontiere algeiriene. My hotel on the main street is overlooked by a stout stone Genoese fort, mounted on a hill a short distance away. I walk the steep road through pine and other Mediterranean species of tree. The fort itself is closed, with a ´no trespassing´ sign to one side, but I´m able to walk three quarters of its perimeter – the rest blocked by shear drops to the sea – and sit on the natural rock areas of the battlements to watch men in rowing boats fishing below. Its a peaceful pleace with a steady stream of visitors who spend a few minutes admiring the views east and west. To the north lies open sea, and the south is blocked by the hills that lead back to Jendouba.