Monday, 22 September 2014

Hiking the Tunisian North Coast

Tunisia is famous for its endless beaches and warm, clear Mediterranean waters. I have to admit that all-inclusive resorts and temperatures over 30 degrees are not my thing. That's why I aim to hike the lesser known parts of the Tunisian coastline in 2014, in search of unspoilt beaches and small coastal villages in the winter months. Below you will find day-to-day route descriptions, if possible GPS data, maps and photographs. Maybe it inspires you to do parts of the route yourself!

Day 1: Tabarka - Cap Negro

Distance: 20km (plus car transfer)
Hiking up and down: 110m
Terrain: beach, thick scrub
Time: 6hrs
Notes: bypass military zone

The start of the walk is at the beach near the port. Follow the beach and enter the "zone touristique". At a certain point the beach makes way for rocky points. To avoid this head inland and go around the big resort. Follow the road until you come across a dirt road, take this left turn. It connect with a road again, but turn left where this road starts. Hop on the concrete pipe to cross a stream (a bit tricky if you have vertigo). Stay left of the village and make your way back to the actual coastline. It's a bit of a search for a decent path, but after 45 minutes you should arrive at the long, wild beach. Follow this beach for 3-4 hrs up to the wide outlet of Barrage Sidi el Barrak. Go inland to the village Zouara where you will have to find transportation to Nefza and onwards to Cap Negro (rent a louage for 30 dinar).

The wild beach towards Zouara

We were followed by a boat of the Garde National (GN) (watching us with binoculars). Later we were picked up by a GN car, who took us to their station. After the security check, they gave us a lift to Nefza and arranged a louage to take us to Cap Negro. Great service!

You can camp at Cap Negro (where again you will be checked by the GN).

Day 2: Cap Negro - Sidi Mechreg

Distance: 16km
Hiking up and down: unknown, estimation 400m
Terrain: rocks/boulders, thick scrub, vague/no trail
Time: 8hrs
Note: hard section of rough walking

From Cap Negro follow the road up for about 1km. The first lefthand dirt road is a dead end. The second one is roughly a kilometre long before it disappears. After this the walking gets harder. There is no trail along the coast. Staying too high and you'll end up ploughing your way through thick scrub and bush. Staying near the shore and you will have to hike up and down a lot to avoid obstacles. It is difficult finding a middle way, just use common sense. The psychological factor is hard too. Every time you hope/expect to see the beaches of Sidi Mechreg, but you'll turn a lot of corners seeing more hard terrain. There is a small hotel in Sidi Mechreg. We camped on the beach without any problems.

On Google Earth an alternative route appears to wind its way through the mountain (on a proper trail). We didn't come across it, but we didn't look for it either. Good if you want to hike a proper trail.

Day 3: Sidi Mechreg - Nameless Beach

Distance: 24km
Hiking up and down: unknown, estimation 200m
Terrain: dirt road, beach
Time: 8hrs

This is a relatively easy day. From Sidi Mechreg the tarmac road turns into a wide dirt road heading east towards Cap Serrat. Just follow this road, nice and easy walking with great views on the Cap. After a couple of hours the road passes some farm houses and goes up and cuts off the Cap itself (we didn't see a clear trail, but you could round Cap Serrat through scrub). As the road descends again, you can see empty, deserted beaches ahead of you. In summer there is a restaurant at the end of the beach in the village called Cap Serrat. The coves and beaches on the next stretch are the most beautiful we've seen so far. Shipwrecks, secluded bays and still pretty easy walking (sometimes on old coral fields). Only the last section was a little harder with walking on boulders. We pitched our tent at the beach of which we don't know the name. There is a tarmac road leading to it from the main road between Bizerte and Tabarka, no regular transportation is available, but in the village 1km up the road it is possible to arrange a car.

Great bit of coastline with the Fratelli Islands in the background

To be continued!

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