Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mountain biking near Chenini

2 Ksours: Loop Chenini - Guermassa

Distance: 29km
Altitude difference 555m
Terrain: desert: dirt track, rough and rocky track
Technicality: **** (out of *****)

Note about the technical difficulty: when going back from Guermassa to Chenini the same way the technical rating is **.

A 29km loop in a place that looks like a landscape on Mars

It's October, temperatures are dropping so the mountain bike season in Tunisia has started again. High on the list was the Tunisian desert. With the recently bought van I headed south in search of a good desert trail.

West of the cities of Medenine and Tatouine is a small mountainous area with canyons and table mountains. I used the wonderful ancient village of Chenini as a base for some bike exploring. There's a great Gite to stay called Kenza.

The trail starts on the saddle of the village mountain at the mosque. Descent towards Chenini Nouvelle which is along the tarmac road (eastwards). Before you enter the town turn left on a tarmac road that quickly becomes a dirt track. It's a flatt-ish at times rough track that passes the mountains on the eastern side and goes pretty much north bound all the way to Guermassa. There are several tracks but these all lead to Guermassa Nouvelle. From there the dramatic ancient town of Guermassa is visible. Go up the rough and steep track towards the old village (good luck, you probably have to hike a bit of this...).

Guermassa Ancient, dramatically perched on top of a hill

It's fun to explore the abandoned houses and granaries. They are currently restoring the settlement. Experienced bikers can continue the the loop, if you're not a very skilled biker it is best to return the way you have come.

Head southwest on the path that continues along the mosque and climbs gradually. It passes more ancient houses until the path vanishes abruptly. At this point you will have to hike a bike for about 10 minutes. This is a marked walking route, just follow the red/white signs. It takes you up the mountain plateau where you can continue biking again. Especially in the first couple of kilometres the biking is difficult due to big rocks and lack of clear path. The path does become better visible and the terrain also somewhat easier. All along the plateau you can follow the signs. I tried a short cut to the down hill I spotted from Chenini, cruising on dirt tracks and cross country to find the start of the downhill. But this is not needed, the walking route will go there eventually. The GPS track should therefore not be blindly followed (this should never be the case!). It is indicative only.

The final descent seen from Chenini

The final downhill towards Chenini (on the top you can see the village) is technical. It's not that steep but the man made path has big slabs, loose rocks and hair pin corners. Experienced mountain bikers only! Have fun!

At the bottom, return to the road that takes you back to beautiful Chenini.

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