John and Gerry travel through Libya

TUNISIA        LIBYA         EGYPT


Our arrival at the Libya border heralded our first taste in an ongoing saga of dealing with bureaucracy and the difficulties one can encounter in border crossings. Together with a couple of French guys from Chamonix who were crossing Africa north to south in a Nissan Patrol 4WD we were sent from billy to jack spending over four hours in scorching heat at what was obviously a corrupt system characterized by backhanders. Prior to leaving Ireland we had organized visas for Libya. To get these you need an introductory letter from someone there. This was all organized through a travel agency in London in fact the very same one Ted Simons used. This involved all aspects of our trip through Libya being organized as such. We had to stay in predetermined hotels and they also arranged tours for us. When Khalid, our designated guide from Sukra Travel arrived at the border for us he really was of no help in moving the process on any quicker and it was dark by the time we left the border post for Tripoli.


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Our hotel in Tripoli was an excellent Five Stars affair but by the time we arrived we were too exhausted to avail of the cultural guided tour of the city that had been laid on. The next day we were escorted to the site of the ruined Roman city of Leptis Magna. The extend and state of preservation of this site rivals anything short of Pompeii and in some respects is even more impressive set as it is against the back drop of the Mediterranean. It was extremely hot as we plodded our way around it but rather than being burdened by biking gear we changed into lightweight clothes at the site. This aspect of heavy biking gear in these hot humid conditions is the most debilitating part of enjoying the biking in this type of weather. When we initially planned the trip we calculated that September would be the ideal time to leave Ireland, as it would keep us in a constant band of good weather if we kept to our schedule the whole way around. While it is not unusual to get very hot weather in late September by and large it has begun to get a little cooler by that time.


Our trip from Misaratha, where we stayed that night, to Benghazi the following day epitomized this aspect of these conditions. For this leg of the journey we were left to our own devices to make our way the 800 km across the desert between these 2 cities. This we had to do in one day in order to rendezvous with our next guide. Foolishly we did the whole 800 km only stopping for petrol and drinks and as the temperature soared to 49c it left us very tired by the time we reached Benghazi. When you are traveling along the bike gear is fine. The Dainese jackets given to us by Billy from Rod Taylors in Belfast are very versatile for even in such heat as this they are more than bearable on the move but the difficulty is once you stop to drink water you are a ball of sweat in seconds. After such a long trip through the Libyan Desert we were lucky that the first hotel we called into in Benghazi was the one we were booked into. Again a five star hotel it was very comfortable and our guide Fahid Thomani was on hand to take us out on the town for our meal. While in Benghazi we availed of Fahid's driver, Saed, to take us to the Egyptian embassy to get our visa in the hope that it would save time at the border. We also tried to get visas again for Sudan but we were told we would have to wait 4 to 5 days. As we were schedule to be out of Libya by the next day we decided to look for a Sudanese visa when we got to Cairo.


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After Benghazi we were trusted to make our own way to the border. Making our way through the Green Mountains it was very pleasant as it gave us a respite from the high temperature and humidity though it was still well in the 30's. Descending back down from the mountains on to the coast at Derna, the scenery was very beautiful. The only hotel we could find here was very basic but the locals were friendly and we were able to drive our bikes up by the steps into a secure garage. The next day when we reached the Egyptian border we were once again thrown into what has now become an all too familiar and unwanted pattern, tedious hours spent waiting and being needlessly delayed. Firstly to get out of Libya we spent some two hours. While I kept an eye on our bikes John tried to get our passports stamped. The officers in the room doing this kept huge queues of poor people waiting all day until such time as the "missing page" of money appeared in their passports. When they saw that they were getting nowhere with John they eventually relented and we spend another age at the next section getting our carnets stamped. After some two hours we were eventually released from the frying pan into the fire of Egyptian bureaucracy. At one stage while being sent from one office to another a lorry parked in front of John's bike reversed back into it. As John ran out to pick it up he was surrounded by a crowd of helpers including one who asked him if he wanted to change money as he was lifting it up. The fact that petrol was pouring out of it at the time only added fuel to John's response. Thankfully though the damage was negligible and after 4 more hours we once again left a border post in the dark. The lights on our bikes are poor so the 2 extra spotlights I fitted were helpful as we wound our way down from the mountain down diesel covered hair-pin bends into Salum below us which was lit up like some welcoming haven.


TUNISIA        LIBYA         EGYPT

220902 Leptis Magna

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