Driving in Tunisia & the AA
When I arrived this time, I thought I’d upgrade my regular Sony TV to one of those wall mounted, flat screen, LCD, all singing & dancing ones.
The shop owner I deal with said they had a super deal on a 32 “ Mega Star TV – only 1000 dinars and 3 years guarantee but if I wanted the 42” one it would be 2299 dinars with 1 year guarantee. He didn’t have the 42” in stock so phoned a friend or was it a cousin, uncle or brother as they do, and gave me directions to go to this other shop at the back of Hammam Sousse. It was about 8pm so I decided to try to see this one and make a decision before dinner. I followed the directions and arrived at the shop and, quelle surprise, it was the wrong one but, after a couple of phone calls, I eventually found the correct one. Parking was horrendous as this main street was so narrow and tight but I parked carefully tucking in my wing mirrors – both sides – you never know who is going to overtake on the inside with a bicycle, moped, motorcycle.
(Don’t you just love the ‘rocket men’ as my daughter calls them – the ones with the helmets who weave their motorcycles in and out of the traffic – looking as if they’ve just been fired from a canon! At one roundabout, a Vespa drive cut me off and he was clearly in the wrong lane. I was told that, if I’d hit him, he would have been ‘faulty’ (meaning - at fault) – I dare say he would have been more than faulty if I had hit him!)
Unfortunately, this guy in the shop didn’t have the Mega Star, mega deal, TV only a much more expensive one. About 3 years ago, this shop was advertising a huge Plasma TV for 9900 dinars and just a few minutes away around the corner, the local butcher had a cow tethered outside his shop on the pavement and was advertising fresh meat the following Tuesday when the poor beast would be slaughtered (imagine Tesco’s trying that one!) How modern and traditional lives mix well here!
I left and started to drive down the narrowest of narrow streets. One of those ones where you can reach across from one door and touch your neighbour’s door on the opposite side. My car started then cut out. Tried it again several times but it just kept cutting out. Oops! What to do? This was the narrowest street on fairly steep incline. So I freewheeled it down, taking care not to hit any of the passing mopeds, bikes, women with prams and children who were coming from behind me as well as towards me. I imagined it to be like one of those video games only I was trying to miss instead of hit the targets.
So after rolling it down hill and parking in the first available safe space, I phoned the cavalry, a friend who lives nearby. Was sitting waiting to be rescued when in my mirror caught a glimpse of two hands on the spoiler – but the body had disappeared under the back of the car and I thought to myself that was quick – my friends are obviously checking things out or someone is trying to help by looking underneath although I was sure it was either an electrical fault or something had disconnected somewhere in the engine – at the front! Within a minute, a child’s face appeared in line with the hands. It was a little local girl who’d decided to have a swing on the spoiler whilst I was parked there! Her mum saw her at the same time as I did and shouted for her to move away which she did - rapidly!
So friends arrived with one of those massive Suzuki trucks and said they’d tow me home. I said that I was in the AA (Afrique Assistance) and they would come out and tow me to the Peugeot Garage in Sousse. “Not at all, we’ll tow you” they said. There are some situations where you just have to agree, albeit unwillingly, after all I’d called them for help. They took out the tow rope which was a plastic washing line and I commented that it wouldn’t hold. I was told that it would because they would double it over – twice!! OK!
So we set off precariously towards Hammam Sousse, where the big clock used to be when we had traffic lights there. Now we have a roundabout. Twice the rope snapped and then a louage tried to cut in between the Suzuki truck towing my car - and the rope snapped again on the roundabout across from the police station. Enough! We pushed the car into the petrol garage there and I insisted that we call the AA who they said they’d be there within 40 minutes.
Up went the bonnet of the car and everyone, garage staff, people in buying petrol et al were having a good look at my engine although by this time it was darkish. There were lots of hands on chins humming and hawing and throwing in their opinions. Then someone said could it not be the key, it had to be the key and asked if I had a spare one!! I’m no motor mechanic and said naturally I have a spare key but how could it be anything to do with the key as the engine was turning over then cutting out! So there was more rubbing of chins and another debate with all looking into this engine in the dark as if magically the fault would jump out and become apparent to everyone.
True to their word, within about 40 minutes the AA arrived and of course, everyone had to tell the guy what they thought was wrong and he was only interested in towing the car to my local garage. So into the tow truck and off to the garage where we left it under the care of the watchful guardian. This garage is absolutely brilliant and really look after their clients well. In fact, when we arrived one of the owners was just about to leave for the evening and he made sure that everything that had to be done was done and assured me that I’d have it back next morning.
By this time I could have eaten a sheep’s head (not even if my life depended on it – I’d just have to die) - have you noticed that Tunisians will eat delicacies like that but won’t eat the skin from a baked potato – bizarre! So got a lift back to Restaurant Le Delicieux in Hamman Sousse, about a minute from where the breakdown lorry picked me up, only to have a wonderful late supper around 10.30pm. I asked for a 4 season pizza and said to leave out the salami. So Zied, the waiter, said OK no salami, it’s a 3 seasons pizza. Then he said he didn’t have any mushrooms so I ended up with a 2 seasons pizza – only in Tunisia!!! Then home by taxi and of course the driver told me what he thought the fault in the car could possible be!
Next morning, as promised, garage phoned to say the fuel pump had broken, it had been replaced and the car was ready to be picked up or did I want them to bring it to me - cost 280 dinars. My thanks to Peugeot Sousse and Africa Assistance – fantastic service always from both.
I have since bought a proper tow rope. Never did buy the Mega Star mega deal TV though – but am going to drive up to Carrefour in Tunis this week to have a look around there. But that’s another blog!...........................