I was shivering, water puddling around my feet...
I was not a happy little Vegemite*
I had ridden the last forty kilometres in pouring rain and now here I was sitting outside a café trying to drip dry. Maybe it was the truly excellent coffee, maybe it was the huge crepe (filled with tuna, what else, after all this was Tunisia) but when I saw her my spirits lifted. An 'Uptown Princess' (you know the type , dressed to kill, skin tight jeans, stiletto heels, carefully coiffured streaked blonded hair ) riding an old clunker of a bike through peak hour traffic, deftly avoiding both the traffic and the very very large puddles of water that abounded. An exceptional performance in itself, but what made it all the more remarkable was not the small child clinging tightly to her back, nor the other little kid balanced on the crossbar, but the third, precariously balanced on the handlebars. No one else gave this virtuoso performance a second glance... but it surely inspired me; I felt like jumping to my feet and applauding. I didn't, instead I ordered a strawberry juice
The day had started out well. Today was the first day of my trike tour of Tunisia and I had left the Tunis ville nouvelle early so as to avoid the morning rush hour. Tunis is quite a compact little city, easily navigated and in what seemed like no time at all I had passed through the heavily industrialized outskirts and was zooming along a very good road towards the Cap Bon peninsula. The sun was shining, what breeze there was, was coming from the rear (always good for a cyclist) and I didn't take too much notice of the heavy black clouds rolling up behind me
I had spent a couple of days in Tunis just being a tourist, and one of the first things I discovered was just how good the coffee was in Tunisia, so, even tho I hadn't covered much ground when I saw a nice little café I decided to stop and re-fuel. I was only aiming at doing some 60 km for the day anyway; I could afford to go slowly. The trike attracted a lot of attention. The coffee was great, costing the equivalent of 30 cents Oz, and after so much laughter and good-natured banter, I broke a cardinal rule - I asked directions from someone who didn't have grey hair. I was pointed off on a diagonal road and assured that yes, this was the best way to Nabeul, my destination for the day. The road didn't seem to be shown on my map, but that didn't unduly worry me. So off I went. The road was good, well maintained and nice and smooth. Not much traffic either. I was passing thru well-tended farmland and vineyards. Everything was green; wild flowers dotted the meadows
A really lovely ride
Soon enough I came to a smallish town, Soliman. Now I knew exactly where I was, some 10 km north-east of where I wanted to be. The road I had just taken was indeed on my map; I had just not joined the dots as it were and realised quite where I was when I stopped. Ah well, it was only another eleven clicks to get back on track and the countryside really was very pretty. By now tho, I was only too aware of the darkening sky and so I stopped again, this time to pull the raincover over the panniers. Not a minute too soon as light rain started falling just as I started riding again. No problem, I quite like riding in light rain
The road to Grombolia was more of the same but I couldn't see as much, the rain was misting over the fields and bit by bit my vision was being restricted as the rain started coming down heavier. Now riding in heavy rain isn't so nice, so, I found a bit of shelter and decided to wait out the rain. I waited and waited. And waited. I fussed around with the trike, with the panniers, trying to pass time but as the wind gradually shifted and blew more and more rain into my shelter, I got wetter and wetter. If I was wet anyway, I might as well ride on and so I resumed my journey towards Grombolia
By now the rain was bucketing down, the road was awash with run-off. Passing traffic was very light and altho the drivers all passed carefully on the extreme opposite side of the road, every time one did I was drenched by their wheel wash. The road took a long slight downward turn and there at the bottom of the slope was a very large pool of water, maybe a hundred metres wide and it looked deep. I pulled onto the verge, bad move; the trike sank into the soft mud of the verge. I saw a car gingerly drive thru the water, the water level was above the bottom of the door sill, maybe about 30 cms or so and the ground clearance of my trike seat was 10 cm. There was nothing for it, but to walk thru the swirling water. So, off I started, dragging the trike behind. Easier said than done. After sinking into the verge, both the trike and I were covered in sticky mud and wouldn't you know it, just as I about halfway thru the water, streams of traffic appeared in both directions. The road was pretty narrow and so I was off the tarmac back into slimy sticky mud. While most drivers were taking the passage thru the water very carefully, one or two didn't slow so much and so I was soaked all over again by their spraying wash. Those hundred meters seemed like a hundred kilometres
Thoroughly water-logged, I rode on, spraying water and mud of my own over the road and came to Grombolia. Nabeul was only another 30 or so kms away. Surely the rain wouldn't last all the way and surely as Nabeul was on the coast the general trend of the terrain should be downwards? Wrong on both counts. Those 30 kms seemed an endless climb. Eventually I saw a road sign Nabeul 5 km, from here on in I ignored the water running down my back, I ignored the chafing of my heavy-as-lead mud encrusted trousers and headed into town with renewed energy
As I navigated through the spread out little town I spied a little café that also served crepes and the latest fast-food fad, chapattis. Feeling a bit self-consciously wet + dirty I didn't venture inside but sat outside under shelter of an awning, ordered coffee and crepe and interrogated the bike computer. I'd done 79 kms, averaging only 17 kms an hour
I was I was shivering, water was puddling around my feet, I could feel a cold coming on. All in all not a great day
Then the coffee and food came
And then I saw her...
What on earth is Vegemite? I hear you ask
It's described in Wikipedia as a dark brown savoury food paste made from leftovers from the manufacture of beer which tastes salty, slightly bitter and malty
According to some visitors to Australia it's a fairly disgusting abberation, sometimes linked to poo...
As for Happy little Vegemite it's an Australian slang expression meaning a happy person