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July 3rd, 2010 | Africa

Legging it through Libya…!!

Entry to Libya, is through these huge arches... Upgrading of the already large border is nearing completion...

On the Libyan side of the border, I was met by Masoud, who I had called earlier to advise that Egyptian formalities had gone far smoother than I had dared to hope, and that I would be in Libya a few hours sooner than he had expected.

He had already been busy getting my number plates and sorting through the registration of the bike, and after barely half an hour, we were through into the 20th country of our Journey… I did not see any officials at all, as Masoud took my passport and Carnet, and handled the entire procedure himself, while I stood chatting to a few truck drivers who had gathered around the Big Fella to inquire what in the name of all things holy, was I doing in Libya…!!

The Big Fella goes even deeper under cover, this time in Libya with Umsaad 30957 his new identity...

They laughed and joked when I told them that all I was trying to do was get the hell out of Egypt… I had been very apprehensive about visiting Libya. The negative things we had been brought up to believe, might in some small part be true, but with every passing minute I spent at the border, I felt the tension drain out of me… I was warmly greeted by people walking past the bike and almost everybody started their conversations with me with the words,

“You are welcome!”…

Masoud my guide, poses with a stripped down Big Fella... The bike was happy to be in his racing kit...

Masoud suggested we ride to the nearby village to have some coffee, and discuss our tactics for the day. While enjoying a strong espresso, we decided to skip the plan to stay in Tobruk, as we had gained over three hours during the crossing from Egypt. I was surprised that we did not have to stick to the original plan, as I had been led to believe that this was controlled very strictly…

“I am flexible,” said Masoud, “If you are feeling strong, then we can ride through the Libyan Desert and make up much time!” I had told him all about the time I had lost, and where I needed to be by the end of August. I suggested that to make things easier for me, and allow us to ride as fast as possible, that I load as much of my kit into his car, which he readily agreed to. After refueling, and finding that to fill the tank cost me a staggering R19.54, we left Umsaad and headed toward Tobruk.

Yeah, Dudes, petrol costs just R1.18 a litre for high octane… Can you believe it?

The Big Fella handled like a 250cc, light as a feather and with so much more power on tap, it took me a while to readjust my throttle action… The engine note changed almost immediately, and we purred through the dry and dusty landscape on our way to the turnoff which would take us through the desert. In the first 100 km, we passed at least 8 security checkpoints, where Masoud had to show paperwork authorizing me to be using the Libyan road system as a racing track!! Libyans drive very fast, and are always eager to overtake any vehicle that appears in front of them…

Sand drifts into the road in the Libyan Desert. Some of the drifts covered the right hand lane completely...

At the turnoff just before Tobruk, lies another Commonwealth War Cemetery, as well as one for German and French soldiers. Having decided that we were going to make a run for the coast, which lay more than 600 kms away, we did not stop to visit these cemeteries, and rode on to the village of Gamel Abd de Nasser, where I refueled again, mindful of the fact that there was only one stop in the middle of the desert, and Masoud warned that there is not always fuel available there…

With a full tank of Libyan’s finest, we thundered into the desert, riding at such high speeds, that in the first full hour, we covered 164 kms…!! My top speed through this section was 195 km/h…!! That gets your hair blown back, even inside the helmet!! Masoud’s little Nissan held steady at about 160 km/h and after sitting comfortably behind him through the endless desert scenery, I decided to give the Big Fella his head, and with a twist of the throttle we rocketed past Masoud and tore off down the road… In less than a minute, we had left him far behind and completely out of sight… I rode at this high speed for about three minutes, wondering if I should try and break the 200km/h mark, but a gust of wind made me settle for the 195 km/h and a short while later, I eased back to 170, waiting for Masoud to catch up… It took about 5 minutes for him to come into view and then we settled back into the “follow my leader” routine, all the way to Ajdabiya…

This poor fellow must have been even more uncomfortable than I was... I would have liked to watch him getting loaded...

We had stopped at the fuel station in the middle of the desert, to have a cup of coffee and a snack, and to refuel again, of course…!! I discovered that despite the lighter load the Big Fella was carrying (only the Top-Box and tank bag, he had been a very thirsty boy… My fuel consumption was down from 18 km/l to 13.6 km/l…!! It might have been the speed we had been riding at, but I could be wrong…!!

The heat in the desert was something I had anticipated, but was nevertheless unprepared for… When I opened my visor, it felt as though a blow torch was being held to my face… Within a few hours, an open piece of skin on my wrist, between my glove and jacket sleeve, had burnt bright red… Not a single living thing stirred… No insects hit the visor, not a bird was to be seen…just nothing…!! The sand was an off-white colour, flat and featureless, but for a few low shrubs that looked like dry flower arrangements, and only grew a foot or so high…

Close to the road, where piles of sand had been left over after its construction, sand drifted onto the highway, and Masoud would indicate these drifts by touching his brakes and veering off to the left, so that I could follow his line… If I had hit any of these sand drifts at the speeds we were doing, I have no doubt that I would have come a-cropper… Some of them were metres wide, and a few feet deep…

With the sun going down, Masoud takes a snap of a tired Gypsy Biker along the road to Ben Jawaad...

At any one time, I could see half a dozen whirlwinds dancing through the desert, and on the second long section, a spiteful little wind sprang up and had me riding at an angle for long spells… By the time we reached Ajdabiya, I had developed a blister on the big toe of my right foot, and can only attribute it to the heat coming from the road and the engine…

My boots felt as though they had melted and stuck to my legs… We staggered into a little roadside rest-stop, and sucked down bottles of water and a few cans of juice… We had ridden through the desert at the hottest time of the day, and I was well and truly knackered… Masoud on the other hand, enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned car, looked fresh, even though this was his third straight day on the road…

I had been in the saddle since 5.00am, and had already covered 750 km, the last 385 kms in just fewer than two and a half hours…

“Where do you want to stop?” asked Masoud…

“Well, we still have four or five hours of daylight left… How much can we cover in that time?” I replied…

He looked at me with a little grin, and said that we could ride as far as I wanted to, it was all up to me… We were on the coastal highway now, having refueled yet again, and with the increase of traffic between Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, we were unable to match our earlier speeds (thankfully!) and decided to ride for another two hours and then make a final decision as to where we would spend the night…

Riding along this stretch of populated highway, showed once again the negative effects that man has on the environment… In the desert, there was not a piece of litter to be seen, just pristine views to the distant horizons… Here near all the settlements, plastic bags clung to every bush along the road, just as they had done through every other country I had ridden through… A great pity this, because even though Libya is a very dry and stark country, there is still a beauty to it all…

We hammered on to Seeder, 200 kms west of our last stop, coastal dunes on our right blocking views of the Mediterranean for the most part… I could smell the sea on the wind, but rarely caught sight of it… I refueled for the sixth and final time for the day, amazed at how far we had ridden despite all the stops we had made…

“We can make it to Sirte before dark,” said Masoud, “It is about 250 kms from here, and we have more than two hours of sun left. But at Sirte we will face difficulties with the authorities, and will need permission to sleep there…”

At 7.23 pm, I broke the magical 1000 km in a day mark...

The truck stop we stayed at... The top floor is a building site, but we didn't care... We were too tired to be picky...

I was feeling the effects of the last 13 hours I had spent on the road, and together we decided to look for a place east of Sirte… Masoud suggested the settlement of Ben Jawaad, where there was a truck stop, and we could roll our sleeping bags out on the beach behind it, and camp on the shoreline…

This sounded like a good idea, and I heaved my tired body back onto the Big Fella for the final time, to ride to Ben Jawaad… A short distance outside Seeder, I noticed that my speedometer read 999 km for the day, and whipped out my camera to take a photo just before it zeroed itself… I had never ridden over a 1000 km in a single day, so this was a milestone that I wanted a memento of…

About 100 kms and an hour later, we arrived at our destination. The truck stop was a very modern structure, with a restaurant and supermarket, clean toilet facilities, and secure parking in front of it… We ate a large supper of chicken and rice, washed down with many cups of coffee and bottle of water… I was definitely feeling the effects of the long, hot day, and from time to time had little bursts of light-headedness… Masoud was also looking a bit knackered, and needed to sleep. He had been up as early as I had been, sorting out my registration without the bike having arrived on Libyan soil… This had gained us at least an hour at the border…

The sun sinks into the western Mediterranean, as we prepare to have dinner at the truckstop...

The manager of the truck stop had intended to build a hotel above the restaurant, and had already begun with the floor above it, when permission to do so was retracted… He suggested that we sleep upstairs, rather than on the beach, and we readily agreed… A carpet was dragged up the stairs and placed on the floor of an unfinished room. Masoud lugged his camp bed up to the room, while I rolled my sleeping bag out on the carpet and settled down for the night… I would have liked to have taken a picture of our “campsite” but I was too tired to go down to the car to get my camera…

The place had no windows or doors, and the bare concrete floor was littered with building materials… But it was dry and out of the wind, and that’s all we needed… The noise from below drifted up to us as we tried to fall asleep, and after about 2.00am, I finally did so… Trucks and buses arrived throughout the night, for this place was open 24 hours a day… I awoke at one point, hearing the scuttling of rats close to where I lay… I wondered if they would try and get into my bags, thankful that I had no food in them to attract the vermin… I rolled around making as much noise as possible, and after a while, all went quiet… Hopefully I had scared them off… Not so the mosquitoes…!! In the morning I had a fine collection of bites on my arms and legs… The sleeping bag was far too hot to spend the night in, and I had slept on the top of it… Bad mistake…!

The hard concrete floor had not done my back any favours, and I awoke stiff and sore, but mentally prepared for another long day… I knew that if we could reach Zuara, about 800 kms to the west, I would have “broken the back” of my long journey to Oran in Algeria… I wanted to get there as quickly as possible to avoid any possible last minute drama with the ferry to Spain… I was determined not to have another “Alexandria fiasco”…

©GBWT 2010

5 comments to Legging it through Libya…!!

  • Paula

    Hi there, I would re-name this entry as “Shunting through Libya!!….” as you and Masoud are difintely not hanging around for the dust to settle. Great to hear that you are back on track and out of Egypt for sure…

  • With

    Ohhh , Taking photo’s at 110Km/h ;-( (AWESOME , 999.9)

    So Officially “Mr IRON BUTT” …

    Well done

    And get that rear Lamp fix , Just now these oke’s lock you up !

    With

  • Anette

    Hi Ronnie,
    So glad to hear you are back online, and that Libya was relatively “painless”…. a little concerned about the speeds you were traveling at!
    Greetings from Cairo!!
    Anette
    PS Phoebe has been going up to your room looking for you!

  • Bloody rear light dash indicator has been like that since Kenya, but the light works fine, no hassles… The yellow triangle light on the dash also works….on my nerves….!!!

  • Gotta love that dog !!!

    Speed is a necessary evil when you are riding in 48 degree heat !!! Cheers, from Anabba Algeria !

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