This morning a rickety bus carted us the short distance from Remla to the southern tip of the islands, somehow costing more than the hour-long ferry ride it was delivering us to. After boarding the boat, we both put on our headphones and zoned out for the entire ride, content to listen to our music and bask in the sun as the ferry gently swayed along, carving through the ocean swells.
An hour later we arrived, rather abruptly, in a different world. I'm not sure if Kerkennah is very quiet or if Sfax is really loud, but either way, the noise, crazy traffic, and general chaos of it all wasn't very welcoming.
Our original goal was to head to our westernmost destination in Tunisia first, the oasis town of Tozeur. From there we'd loop our way back to Kerkennah hitting several destinations along the way. Unfortunately, we didn't realize the only Sfax -> Tozeur train for the day was departing as our ferry was docking. We did know we were cutting it close, so we quickly hopped in a "taxi" (read: man offering to take us in his car). After confirming the price we tore off for the train station 1km away.
We had a huge mis-communication about the price of our ride when we arrived (this encounter deserves an entire journal entry and may get one if we have time). Shortly after, we also discovered we had indeed missed the train. Switching to plan B, we bought tickets to Gabes. With a few hours to kill before our departure, we went to Cafe Jazz to relax and wait.
Our tickets to Gabes were booked in the lowest class but as we were boarding the train the conductor invited us to move up to first class for free. Cool! The ride took about two hours and we spent most of it sleeping. When we arrived, it was dark, so we left in search of accommodations. Weaving through the surprisingly quiet, empty streets, we found Hotel Mourad.
Situated on the second floor of a bank, a long skinny staircase led up through a tiny hallway lined in ugly, puke-colored ceramic tiles to reveal a deathly quiet reception area carpeted in red. The scent of incense was so thick it was hard to breathe. The olfactory assault gave me an instant headache. As the owner showed us prospective suites we noticed that each inexplicably had a pair of dirty plastic slippers in it. The identical shoes, sitting creepily by the door in each room made us want to ask if someone was already inhabiting them.
One room was shabby, and not worth the money, and the next was too fancy and thus too expensive. We were going to leave, when the man began lowering his prices and showed us a room that was "just right." We agreed on 25 dinar and made ourselves at home after filling out the required paperwork.
Once settled, we both vocalized something we'd only been feeling intuitively: the hotel had a very weird "vibe" to it. It wasn't a bad feeling (if it had been, we would not have stayed), but it definitely felt heavy and old. Almost haunted. I likened it to a kung-fu movie, and Tara thought it felt like something from a Wild West ghost town. All in all, pretty cool.
For the first time in longer than either of us can remember, we had our own double bed (most "double" beds here are actually two single beds that we have to push together) and a giant bathtub in our bathroom. Not only was it clean, miraculously the water was hot too. We kept it running, expecting our luck to run out, leaving us with a tubful of tepid water. To our surprise the hot water kept coming! I have a feeling that will be the last hot bath we see for a good long while.
Feeling refreshed, we headed into town to search for dinner. I had spaghetti for what must be like the fifth night in a row and Tara had couscous. Hunger abated, we returned to our spooky hotel and went to bed. We're both really happy to be on the road again. Tomorrow we'll take a bus to Tataouine!