LEISURE + LIFE
We need to get to Algeria
We wanted to take a quick bath.
In the sea. That shimmered somewhere on the horizon in the sun. We, that was Franky, Ben and I, met on the ferry to North Africa, each with his car. We had already overcome the first hurdles together; the entry into Tunisia with our crappy cars, with self-made license plates and without insurance. So we drove at a brisk pace on the main route along the coast towards Gabes. To the south, our preferred direction of travel for the next few weeks. To the left, towards the east, the flat coastal foothills stretched out in a broad arc. The terrain was barren, with isolated broom bushes and salt-loving reed rushes. The bay of Gabes was just a glimpse behind it.
Finally I found a very promising path
from the road onto the unpaved terrain. At last the long awaited dust fountains flew past, accompanying us for a while. The car shot over the terrain at 80 km/h, the minimum speed for this kind of terrain. Franky and Ben understood pretty quickly why I didn’t mind driving ahead and furthermore that it was best to drive laterally offset behind each other, so as not to eat sand.
My elation ended abruptly
Without noticing it, I had landed in the tidal zone. There was no sign of the sea yet, but the wet sand smacked the tires and pulled relentlessly on the speed. Waving out the window, I signaled the others to stop, stay back! With a wide arc, I tried to make an U-turn. Tearing the steering wheel would have led to an immediate standstill. But after 100 meters it was over. Franky stranded, as well. Ben stayed on solid ground. Well, earlier than expected, but let’s get the sand shovels out. Franky says, great, then I can try out my Airjack, a rubber balloon that is inflated by exhaust gases. No sooner said than done, the car tilted out of the sand on top of the threateningly growing balloon, Done.
Together we turned to my car: Look, what's coming?
The flood was coming at us at marching speed, had already reached the car, and airjack was out of the question. The two of them raced to shovel, trying to wedge wooden boards under the wheels, while I sat in the car with the engine running, trying to prevent the water from entering the exhaust. To no avail, eventually the engine died as the alternator whisked water. How long does the flood last? About six hours. Time for us to plan how to get the car to the Algerian border in 24 hours as the entry window on our visas expired.
The water finally reached the dashboard
and the ignition switch above the engine. The engine oil was forced out by the penetrating water through the holes of the removed spark plugs, the same way the contents of the gasoline tank said goodbye. – The water drained away, seaweed, fish and driftwood were scooped out of the car. The cut seat belts from all the cars together with other ropes resulted in a line almost 100 meters long . The car was hauled to the mainland.
Starter motor, alternator from my expedition fundus were installed, oily brine was sucked out of the cylinders by means of the hoses of the windshield washer system, oil and fuel were filled in. Dawn: with three batteries the engine fires for the first time, stuttering I climb the tarred road, now don’t stall the engine. In the sticky-salty atmosphere of my French car upholstery, we slowly picked up speed, but only in second gear for lack of transmission oil. Afternoon, Algerian border: grumpy but expectant, the border guards accept my destroyed engine parts as a “gift”.