Libyan trials & bad parking

October 5, 2008


In spite of some major dramas with Elsies tyres, we made good progress through Tunisia, heading out to the edge of the Sahara, where we bumped into our travelling companions for Libya, Adrian & Linda, before we set out on our own for our first taste of piste (unsurfaced road to you and me) from Ksar Ghilane to Tatouine.  Miles & miles of empty road, and more biblical landscapes.  The camel spotting novelty soon wore off.

There's another one!

There's another one!

 We had an overnight stop on the touristy island of Jerba. If you have multiple tattoos and like to chain smoke come to Jerba on holiday, you’ll feel right at home.

However the upside was that Paulo and Allesandra, our Italian fellow campers shared their red wine with us, and helped us change our first wheel of the trip, a consequence of the ongoing tyre saga… 


On 26th September, having met up as planned with Adrian & Linda at the border we met up with our guide, Bilal, who steered us through the Libyan border with consumate calm & professionalism.  Our plan was to drive over the top of Libya in 5 days, with a couple of stops to take in the Roman ruins at Sabratha and Leptis Magna.

Ruins at Sabratha ;-)

Ruins at Sabratha 😉

The Roman sites were extraordinary, just acres & acres of priceless stuff, just tumbled & piled up.  Leptis Magna was huge, and you really could picture all the toga wearers doing their thing.

Gorgon head

Gorgon head

Heading for Tolmeida on Sean’s birthday, Sunday 28th, it all went pear shaped for Adrian & Linda, when their car, which had had overheating problems in Tunisia, and had been smoking quite badly, gave up the ghost with suspected engine seizure.  We towed them for a few Km to the nearest small town, where Bilal went on the hunt for a flat bed truck.  It was a long, long wait and eventually they got the car onto a flat bed, and we all drove in Elsie to Benghazi, arriving at 2am, filthy and knackered. 

Sadly we had to leave Adrian & Linda in Benghazi, while we pressed on to the last stop in Libya, Tobruk.  Just after sunset we stopped at a checkpoint at At-Tmimi for Bilal to have a quick pray and break his fast as it’s Ramadan.  One of the guys from the checkpoint invited us to join them so we went inside to find this huge meal spread out on a blanket on the floor.  They were so friendly, and the food was delicious.  What really struck me was the ease with which these strangers offered hospitality to us and the other people there. 

Checkpoint feast

Checkpoint feast


On the morning of the 30th September we said goodbye to Bilal, who had looked after us so well over the last few days, and our Libyan number plates & crossed over into Egypt.

Goodbye to Libya and Bilal

Goodbye to Libya and Bilal

We were both slightly anxious about our first major African border without adult supervision, but it all went swimmingly, if you like swimming through mazes in treacle.  After 2.5 hours of going from office to office, changing money, getting rubbings done of chassis number, carnet verification etc. we were through.

After overnighting in Marsa Matruh we headed back into the desert, to Siwa oasis, right on the edge of the Great Sand Sea.  Whilst having lunch we asked directions to the hotel we’d planned to stay in, and an english guy called Duncan who was sitting at the next table offered to take us there as he lived next door.  A decision I suspect he came to regret as the events of the next 24 hours unfolded…… 

The hotel was shut so Duncan & Penny very kindly offered us their garden to camp in which had the most awesome view of the dunes, and a pool.  We enjoyed a lovely evening with them, having beers on the roof of their villa in Siwa town, before heading to a party at a nearby hot spring.

After a quick swim the next morning we set off to get permission from the police to drive to the next oasis across piste on the edge of the desert.  A minor amount of Egyptian style faffing later and we were told to report to the police station at 7am the next day where we would find an armed Captain to escort us. 

We decided to go in search of a nearby hot spring to while away the afternoon.  This is where all our plans went out the window!  Sean was attempting to turn around, having decided the track was too narrow to continue.  The rest is probably best explained with visual aids…

Bad parking

Bad parking

After initial attempts at extraction failed, we retired to Duncan & Penny’s townhouse for a few beers before taking everyone out to dinner by way of apology.

The next day the professionals got involved and Elsie was extracted, undamaged & dignity almost intact.

Having given Elsie a good scrubbing we made tracks for Alexandria, which I can only describe using a range of fruity expletives, so I won’t bother.  The worst is yet to come however, as we’re now leaving for Cairo, something I’ve been dreading since we started planning this trip.  But we have to go there to get our Sudanese visas, so it’s time to bite the bullet.  Until next time, Amigos! XXXX

One Response to “Libyan trials & bad parking”

  1. Vic said

    Hello? Cairo will be fantastic! What about the museum you dummies! Quit whingeing and enjoy the felafel.

    Missing you loads. Please don’t enagage in any more inappropriate ‘parking’…


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