Day 129: Close But No Cigar

09.05.09:

Again we were up at the crack, I said my farewells to Laura and shoved her on a Louage back up to Tunis (or at least I thought I did). I got a Taxi to the Libyan border, and in a damn near carbon copy of what happened yesterday, the Tunisian border guards turned me back.

Leo – the Webmaster – doesn’t like me swearing on my blogs, but you can probably hazard a guess at the string of expletives that I launched at the desert. But they said I could get a visa from Sfax, a city halfway back to Tunis, and that the embassy was open today. I made a beeline, passing up my change to go and visit Tatouine (oh yes it exists!) and the Star Wars film sets.

Bah!

Upon arrival in Sfax, I headed to the Libyan embassy, which was (surprisingly) open. But there was no chance. Since Colonel Saunders, sorry, Qaddafi decided in 2000 that westerners were coming over to Libya and stealing their precious things, they won’t let you in without an invite.

Like one of those bloody clubs in London that you wouldn’t want to go to anyway because they charge 16 quid for a pint of shandy…

So I hit the streets of Sfax to shake things up, see if I could make something work.

If I had known that there was no way of getting a visa to Algeria on Monday, I would have jumped on the train to Tunis and met Laura, got on the boat to Sicily with her and headed over to Barcelona where my parents and the Producer of The Odyssey television show, Matt, were waiting.

IF I HAD KNOWN.

But at this point I still believed that I could get a visa for Algeria on Monday and the alternative was going to be too much of a nightmare to even contemplate. Maybe I could convince somebody to take me over the Libyan border tomorrow in a 4×4 or something, anything.

I got chatting to a few guys who spoke English – Semi, Anis, Wahleed and their friends. At first they were full of ideas, but then after making a few phone calls, they seemed to come down on the ‘it’s impossible’ side of the debate. I then started walking back to the hotel where I had dumped my bags, which is when I ran into Raouf. Having introduced himself as a poet, Raouf and WAS the illegitimate child of Chris Morris and my mate Chris Pye, not just in looks, but in mannerisms; I almost expected him to force me to eat Cake or draw a cartoon willy on the question paper.

He said he could get me a journalist visa, and, out of options, I thought I’d give it a punt.

In hindsight, I should have headed up to Tunis and met Laura. I really wish I had done. The Louage I put her on ended up going nowhere and she had a total ordeal with the bloody Tunisian men in Ben Guerdane, dragging her around various places before (thankfully) some women came and told them to do one, and put her on the right bus.

I thought Tunisia was one of the safest Muslim countries for women. Obviously being the ‘safest’ in a league that includes rampant female genital mutilation (99% in Somalia!), rape victims being stoned to death and woman being routinely beaten to death by their own family in ‘honour(!)’ killings, THAT AIN’T SAYING MUCH.

Quite what is honourable about a gang of men murdering a female relative in cold blood is anyone’s guess.

And don’t give me that moral relativism bulls**t; wrong is wrong, period – I’m sick of people hiding their personal darkness behind their rotten religion. We don’t stand for people eating each other in the Solomon Islands, but more catholic priests have been excused by the Vatican for raping children than have been ex-communicated.

Fair?

Anyway, I messed – let’s give them the benefit of the doubt shall we? In future, no. I’m just going to assume that everyone I meet in this part of the world is a rotter, and let them prove me wrong!

I’m sorry Laura. You shouldn’t have had to put up with that. Nobody should.

Anyway, I decided to stay in Sfax for the night, and try again for the border with Raouf in the morning. Raouf and I went out for a meal and a few drinks (which I ended up paying for, of course!), but I had a good night – the food was excellent and I got to dance to some Arabic music until the wee small hours, so I’m not complaining.

My spidey-sense started tingling when on the way back to my hotel, Raouf started asking for an insane amount of money for the visa. I told him to leave it and I’d see him in the morning.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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