I looked out into the distance. From my vantage point on the mountain, I could see the Mediterranean strewn before me, reaching so far into the distance that it eventually met the sky. The rich sapphire of the sea blended well with the lighter blue of the sky, which was mixed with unassuming snowy clouds. I took a deep breath. The air here was clean; a welcome break from the busy streets of the nearby city of Bizerte. I was too far up to smell the refreshing scent of the ocean, but with it laid before me in all of its glimmering allure, my mind almost fooled me into believing that I could actually smell it. I barely moved; it was a perfect moment.
“Done!” yelled Yee Man from about twenty meters away. The little bundle of joy from Taiwan ran up to me and showed me the picture she just took of me. “Do you like it?”
“It’s perfect,” I replied. Took her long enough; I was holding that contemplative-philosophical look for almost thirty seconds. It was a perfect moment; perfect to take a new photo to upload onto Facebook. We had just started our hike to the northernmost point of Africa, and just ten minutes in, we spent a quarter of an hour admiring the view and taking photos.
“Come on guys, let’s get moving,” instructed Slim. He was our guide and friend; a local of Tunisia. His job was not only to show us around, but to ensure we didn’t get ripped off by enterprising salesmen.
We were quite the international group. There were 7 of us, representing 6 continents: There was William from Oceania, Yee Man from Asia, Heidi and Urska from Europe, Slim from Tunisia, Joan from South America, and me from North America. Never did I expect myself to be in the company of so many cultures at the same time.
We begrudgingly left our beautiful vantage point and resumed our hike. Little did we know that for the next 7 hours, we would be treated to even more spectacular views.
Some time later, we climbed a rocky hill that was resting on the edge of the mountain we were hiking around. It provided us with another breathtaking view of the coast. Extended before us was a view of kilometers of sheer cliffs, rolling sand dunes, and pristine coast. Aside from us, there wasn’t another human in sight. It was flawless.
The furthest piece of land I could see jutted out from the beach; it was so far away that it was slightly blue. Out of curiosity, I wondered how long it would take to walk there. It must be twelve kilometers away at least. As I was pondering this, William approached me and pointed out the exact same point I was looking at.
“That is the northernmost point of Africa,” he said. “The cab driver will pick us up there.”
So that was our destination. Surprisingly, I wasn’t intimidated by the challenge; it actually excited me. Reaching that point entailed walking across the kilometers of sheer cliffs, rolling sand dunes, and pristine coast I was admiring. I knew right then and there that this would be a real adventure. I smiled, inhaled deeply, and took my first of what would become around 20000 steps.
The beginning was the most spectacular part of our hike. We descended the hill to the cliffs below. We walked along the edges; it was more exciting that way. I took in my surroundings with delight. To my right side was a sheer 30-meter drop into the rocky, churning ocean below. To my left were endless green mountains and hills, dotted by the occasional herd of sheep.
There it was now: the smell of the ocean. My mind wasn’t playing tricks on me this time. I could really smell it. It was wonderful.
After about 90 minutes or so of hour of hiking along the cliffs, we arrived at a beach. It was the beach of anyone’s dream: it had clear blue water, spotless sand, no trash, and best of all, it was completely empty. We took advantage of this isolation to take endless amounts of “action” shots and so-called “candid” photos. And I thought Asians were the biggest camera enthusiasts.
We capped off about 90 minutes of photo-ops, sand castle building, and dares to go into the cold water with lunch and then went on our way. The northernmost point of Africa was still very far, though slightly less blue now.
What followed was a 2.5 hour hike to our destination. It was mostly along endless stretches of beaches, hills, and the occasional small river. Time passed in a haze of inappropriate jokes, conversations of cultural differences, and glances over our shoulder to see how far we had come.
When we finally reached the northernmost point of Africa, the feeling was indescribable. It was an intense sense of victory. It really was amazing to look back and see the hill we started our journey on 6 hours ago. It was so far in the distance. I couldn’t believe we had walked all that way. Right before we bust out the hypothetical champagne though, William interrupted our celebrations with a grim announcement.
“We aren’t at the northernmost point of Africa yet,” he announced, showing us the screen on his smart phone. “We still have around forty minutes to go. We were wrong.”
A short debate thus ensued about whether or not we could just pretend that we actually reached the northernmost point of Africa. To come all this way only to be disappointed was quite a blow to our morale. This proposal quickly died out though, because most of us felt that we didn’t want to have come all this way only to “almost make it to the northernmost point of Africa.” We begrudgingly picked up our bags and continued our journey.
We arrived an hour later at what we thought was our real destination, only the be proven wrong again, this time by some locals. We actually overshot what we were looking for by about 15 minutes. We walked past our goal without even realizing it. It was at this point that our group was divided.
The women didn’t want to double back towards the real northernmost point of Africa. The reasons they gave were like, “I don’t hike to reach a big goal, but for the views,” and “I don’t feel the urge to go back there. I feel like I’ve already been to the northernmost point of Africa anyway.” As far as I’m concerned, if you haven’t planted your foot on the actual point, then you haven’t been there. I knew that they would regret their decision once they saw our photos at the point, but it was their choice.
Our group then split into two, the men turned back and headed towards the real point while the women waited, munching on some snacks and drinking water. Shortly after, we reached our goal, confirmed by William’s smart phone. We made it to the northernmost point of Africa.
I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked into the distance. I didn’t move a muscle. It wasn’t the most spectacular view we had been treated to today, but it was beautiful in its own right. Below me was another sheer plummet into the ocean. Even though I couldn’t see it, in front of me lay the entire continent of Europe, and behind me was all of Africa. It really was an amazing feeling; out of 1 billion people in Africa, I was the northernmost one. Not a single person in Africa was closer to Europe than I was. The hours of hiking and patience have finally paid off. It was definitely worth it.
“Okay my turn!” shouted William from a dozen or so meters away. He handed me the camera, showing me the picture he just took of me.
“It’s good,” I replied, smiling. A new display picture to post on Facebook for sure. hehehe…