Tunisia 2010: Day 2 — Ferry to Tunis

This is the third post in a series describing our voyage to Tunisia in September 2010.

We woke early in the morning on Saturday to have time to eat breakfast before heading to the ferry. We didn’t have far to go, but we wanted to arrive early in case the boarding area was crowded. The 45-minute drive stretched into an hour or more when we took a wrong turn after exiting the Autoroute and had to backtrack several kilometers.

We followed the Ferry access road to the first entrance where we were told by the attendant that the truck was too big to follow the other cars and we would have to take a separate service road. This was unfortunate since the road he indicated was not well marked. We started off, but after a few minutes it became very clear that we were not headed in the right direction. We had probably missed a poorly marked turn, if it had been marked at all.

We called the other members of the group who had already arrived at the main entrance to pick up the tickets. They told us that the road they had taken was passable with the truck, so we retraced our route and continued to the Ferry, following the directions indicated for cars. Once we arrived, we were able to advance the truck alongside the others in our group, and we stopped the motor and got out to take our paperwork (passports, drivers’ license, vehicle registration and insurance certificate) to be checked. The staff onsite told us that since the truck was less than 3 meters high, we would be able to pass normally with the cars for boarding.

It took around 45 minutes to complete the formalities, and once we were done, we didn’t have long to wait. We prepared the backpack and duffle bag, putting all our valuables inside, and loaded them in the cabin. Once the truck was safely parked in the hold, we would have to quickly gather our belongings and leave the area for the upper deck. If we left the duffle in the shelter/sleeping area, it would take too much time to unload it and lock the cabin; we would risk blocking the way for other vehicles that would be parked next to ours in the hold.

Once our paper work had been checked, we had to pass the immigration checkpoint, where several soldiers in camouflage were posted. They were talking amongst themselves, but stopped to watch the Erg Machine as we passed. Several of them smiled.

Just past the check point, traffic was channeled into a single lane bounded on either side by concrete barriers and a tall chain-link fence. We entered the lane through a gate that was just barely wide enough for the Erg Machine. We would not have been able to pass through if we had not pulled-in the side-view mirrors, and the gate left a mark on the right side of the truck bed panel, which scraped the metal pole as we slipped through. It was rather slow going because the lane was curvy, and without the side-view mirrors, it was difficult to see where the rear of the truck would pass. We couldn’t lean out the windows to see for ourselves because of the fence, so we had to rely on our friends in the car behind us to make sure that we did not scrape the sides of the truck when we turned. Several times the tires rubbed up against and partially mounted the concrete barriers, and in a few places we wondered what would happen if the lane got any narrower. We would not have been able to pass, and it would have been a nightmare if we had to back out all the way in reverse. Fortunately, that did not happen and we made it through, emerging in the parking area immediately outside the ship.

Boarding began soon after. The Ferry was not full, and it went fairly quickly. We parked the truck, got out with our bags and made sure everything was locked before going up to find our cabin. It was small but clean, and we left our bags to go above deck to watch as we left the port.

Leaving Marseille

Once we were underway, we had lunch at the Ferry’s cafeteria and then spent some time above deck in the sun. It was a long afternoon with little to do, but we managed to stay awake through dinner and into the evening so that we’d get a good night’s sleep and be rested for arrival in Tunis the following morning.

View of the Mediterranean from the Ferry Port

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