Tunisia: September 2010

As the 2011 Dakar Rally winds down after the closing ceremony on Sunday, this seems like a good time to share some of our experiences from our trip to The Grand Erg Oriental in Tunisia last September. It was our first voyage with the Erg Machine, and our first experience in the desert.

We were thoroughly delighted at having chosen Tunisia to make our first trip and are looking forward to returning as soon as it is possible to do so. We found the country’s arid beauty absolutely breathtaking, and with a few exceptions, the people we met were friendly and helpful. We did not spend much time in any of the populated areas, but we noted a stark contrast between the atmosphere in the few towns and villages we visited and the camps and oases of the southern desert regions.

The caravan on the road between Matamata and Ksar Ghilane

Our trip took place over 12 days from September 3rd to September 14th and was organized by ZZ Kustom, specialist in the preparation of Jeeps and other 4×4 vehicles in Switzerland. We were part of a group that included three Jeeps (a Rubicon, a Cherokee and a Wrangler YJ) and a Quad. The assistance truck was not able to make the trip, so the Erg Machine took that role.

In addition to transporting the Quad to the edge of the Sahara, we carried spare tools, the welding station, the generator, and fuel and water for the other vehicles. From France, we took the ferry from Marseille to Tunis, and then headed south to Matamata and Ksar Ghilane. At Ksar Ghilane, we spent the afternoon taking our marks in the dunes and the following day we crossed into the Sahara near the camp of Zmela, for 4 days of total autonomy in the open desert as we passed through the Jebil National Park. Leaving the desert, we spent an overnight in Douz and skirted the Chott El Djerid and the Chott El Fejaj on the way north to Tunis. The beach resort town of Hammamet on the Gulf of Hammamet was our last stop before heading to Tunis to take the ferry back to Marseille.


Day 1 – Geneva to Marseille

Day 2 – Ferry to Tunis

Day 3 – Tunis to Matmata

Day 4 – Matamata to Ksar Ghilane (Troglodyte houses, initiation to driving in the Dunes)

Day 5 – Ksar Ghilane into Sahara

Day 6 – Bivouac

Day 7 – Bivouac

Day 8 – Bivouac

Day 9 – Leave Sahara to Douz

Day 10 – Douz to Hammamet

Day 11 – Hammamet to Tunis/Ferry to Marseille

Day 12 – Arrival in Marseille, return home

Over the next week or so, we’ll be putting together a series of posts describing each leg of the trip in more detail.

It wouldn’t be right to end this post without mentioning the current situation in Tunisia, which is very troubling. For a few weeks now we’ve been closely following the news with a great deal of concern and sympathy for the Tunisian people. As events are still unfolding, it’s not yet clear what the outcome of the revolution there will be. Although this makes a return to Tunisia unlikely for us this year, our disappointment is trivial compared to the hope that the situation will rapidly improve for the citizens of Tunisia and lead to a new government that is free of corruption and that respects the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2 Responses to Tunisia: September 2010

  1. Pingback: Tunisia 2010: Day 2 — Ferry to Tunis « Erg Machine

  2. Pingback: Spring Cleaning « Erg Machine

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