and the 'Cronulla Riots';
17.09.2007 37 °C
Morning dawned and some exploration was to be had. I had heard of some beaches about 7km south of Bizerte known as Remel Plage, aparently among some of the best beaches along this stretch of coast. Turning a corner towards the beach I was confronted with a forest of Eucalyptus trees, Australian smells about, I half expected to see a couple of 'Drop Bears'. The trees began to thin and the road opened out, over the dunes and through the shrub I looked out to the sea in front of me, dropped my bag and dived straight out into the clear blue 25 degree Mediterranean water.
The water was perfect and I instantly regretted not having any snorkeling gear. I shared the beach with one Arabic family and a couple of very obese, very white European couples. Looking south into the distance I could see what I made out to be a couple of shipwrecks and decided to head in that direction. This stretch of coast is dotted with empty bays;
After rounding into the third bay I noticed I shared this stretch of sand with an old Arabic man and his dog. The dog instantly looked up at me as I came into view and slowly started to creep over towards me. One line from the my guide to Tunisia started to turn over in my head;
"Malaria is not a problem, but precautions against Rabies should be taken."
The dog made it's way up to me with it's owner hanging about 50m behind him waving his walking stick in the air shouting in Arabic. The froth mouthed dog started snapping at my feet covered by nothing but a pair of mere thongs; (or 'flip flops' for any international readers).
I just stood there looking at the stick near my feet thinking; if I pick it up and throw the stick it may go away. Then thought, if I bend down, I may never even get the chance to pick the stick up. So I just stood there staring at this frothing mongrel snapping and barking away until it's owner hobbled over and smacked it with his walking stick. Looked at me said something in Arabic and laughed. I pretended to unterstand, laughed, said;
'Shokran' (Thankyou) and headed off towards the wrecks;
Another half an hour of walking in the glaring Tunisian sun, a couple of dives into water and a final bay I was confronted with one of the shipwrecks; well 'half' of one of the shipwrecks, with the other half nowhere to be seen.
I saw a couple of snorkellers swimming round the side of the ship, and again regretted not having any gear with me.
The second wreck was not in a bay, but lay at the edge of a rocky outcrop. I made my way over the rocks regularly glancing towards the barb wire fences that lined the dunes, hoping I was allowed to be near the wrecks.
The largest of the wrecks looked as though it had been there for at least a decade with it's metal shell being all that remained. A small 3 person fishing boat was moored along side, giving an idea of the size of the wreck;
On my way back I ran into a French family lazing on the beach, that had been living in Tunisia for the past three years. They offered me a lift back to Bizerte and with the sun really starting to throw out some UV's I decided not to turn it down. The walk back to the car was a fair hike, giving me the time to talk to them about what they had been doing in Tunisia. They had come over as part of an International Aid Foundation to work in Tunisian schools, and having loved the challenge, decided to stay on and were now the Tunisian representatives for the Foundation. However they were soon to be moving back to France because;
"When we arrived three years ago and you asked a someone in Tunisia if they were Muslim they would often reply yes, but would say that if they weren't it wouldn't really make a difference and they would still be the same person. However with the international situation changing it is no longer like that, 'Passion for the Koran' and 'Islamic Extremism' has become a fashion and has made it a lot more difficult to live in countries like Tunisia."
It was interesting to get this first hand impression of the situation. The same man who tried to convert me to Islam yesterday had asked me;
"What was all that stuff that happened in Australia with the Lebanese, where even the women were hitting them near Sydney." It took me a moment to realise he was talking about the 'Cronulla Riots' that occured in 2005. I tried to explain to him that it was just initiated by a small group of basically 'pissheads', and that it was by no means a reflection of all Australians.
I told him how it was immediatley frowned upon by the entire Australian community and that those who initiated and participated in it were dealt with and/or sent to jail.
"No, we saw it here on T.V. and they said that this was occuring regularly in Australia."
I'd simply laughed at the comment and quickly changed the subject.
Well I'm back in Bizerte and it's after 7:30pm so I can finally eat according to 'Prophet Mohammed'; the spearfisherman down the beach seemed highly active this afternoon so hopefully a nice fish fillet will be on the menu;
Garrett in Bizerte; Tunisia