08 June 2021 00:18
09 June 2021 14:59
Greetings from Italy, Andrea and Mike
Over the past weeks, we have experienced so much that we need our photos and the markings on our maps to remind us of everything we did. However, for the biggest event, we don’t need a reminder: we’re back in Europe, and more specifically, we’re in Sicily.
We knew that it was going to be difficult to travel any further from Tunisia. The borders of their westward neighbour Algeria were shut due to corona. And to the east, crossing crisis-hit Libya would be a risky move, but we wanted to give it a shot regardless. We tried our luck in obtaining a transit visa from various official authorities, but we didn’t even get an answer.
And so the only thing left to do was to head across to Italy. The return journey from Djerba to Tunis gave us some more incredible sights. For example in Matmata. The village in the mountains is home to centuries-old cave dwellings, one of which was even used as a filming location for Star Wars. You may also remember that we had already visited a number of these dwellings.
We set up camp directly next to the mosque. At sunset, we hiked above the cave dwellings and heard the evening prayer of the Imam – it was a truly magical moment. But that’s not all: the owner of the small camp site invited us to join them for Iftar – the meal which Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan. Contentedly and with full tummies, we slept well that night. That is, until we were awoken at 4:00 a.m. by the Imam.
The next stop was the ancient amphitheatre in El Djem which can look back on almost 1,800 years of history where audiences of up to 35,000 people once sat. Names were engraved on the walls in Arabic and Latin script – some were even accompanied by the date or year.
It goes without saying that in an arid country such as Tunisia, drinking water is precious. Often, there wasn’t even usable water at the rare water stations we found along the route. And our five-stage filter system wasn’t able to cope with the high salt content of the water. With that in mind, we decided to start searching for a water source two or three days before our stocks were likely to run out.
The biggest challenge still awaited us, however – the crossing to Italy. And with that we don’t mean the corona tests and veterinary certificate for our dog Aimée. No, the worst bit was definitely the seven-hour wait before boarding the ferry at 11:00 p.m.
On the parking area ahead of the ticket booths, there were groups of youngsters hovering around. As nice as Tunisia is for tourists, the country offers no real perspective for a good number of the local youths there. And so they try to make their way over to Europe as stowaways. After sunset, one youth tried to break open our stowage flap. Luckily, we spotted him early enough though.
Before entering the port area, there is a massive queue of vehicles along a poorly illuminated road. And this is precisely the place where groups of clandestine passengers wait for their golden opportunity. They try and climb onto the roof or underneath any van or truck in the queue. Until the column of vehicles starts moving again, Mike patrolled around the vehicle, where he found two further youths who had creept underneath the Axor.
In the port, we get out for a final check. And guess what? A young lad had hidden himself on our roof. The border force in the port observed the goings-on without a care in the world, leaving the onus on the ferry company. By the time the ferry set off, it was actually 2:00 a.m. Ten hours later, we were in Palermo. The extremely friendly border force there loved our Axor and wanted to take photos of it. We were also able to clarify the issue of quarantining: we were allowed to quarantine in our own truck.
We were immediately taken aback by Sicily’s wild landscapes and its blooming meadows. After visiting one beach, we needed a few days to rid the truck of the desert sand. After that we visited the Zingaro nature park which is the last remaining unspoilt section along the island’s coast.
We wandered around the well-known yet virtually deserted village of Erice and bought some traditional Sicilian sweets from the only shop that was open there. After that, we headed back to the coast and visited the Marsala salt marshes as well as the step-shaped Scala dei Turchi cliffs. Before sunset, we took a walk through the narrow streets of the mountain village of Ragusa and stopped for a pizza.
Our navigating skills were very much in demand: it’s not easy to drive around villages like these. Particularly problematic was the combination of overhanging balconies, jutting-out air conditioning units and parked cars. Thankfully though, our Axor again proved itself to be particularly nimble. And then it was time for something a little different: we parked at the top of a canyon, from where we were also able to go hiking. There, we had time to allow the experiences of the past weeks to sink in – and you’ll be surprised to hear where we’re off to next.
An unparalleled journey.
Andrea and Mike Kammermann have been on tour in their Axor for three years. "4-Xtremes – The World Tour" is the motto of the journey that the two Swiss nationals embarked on in mid-2020 and which they share with the RoadStars community. Keep up to date and don't miss out on any of the stunning destinations visited by the adventurous pair.
You can find all the parts from the “4-Xtremes – The World Tour” series here.