7th Oct 2005 – 9th Nov 2005
33250 miles on the clock
Round the Med. 2005
7th Oct Friday
Had gone to London the night before to stay with my children. Today I had an important mission…to collect our passports from the Syrian Embassy. No passports , no hols. We had had to get visas. Got them and set off to Dover to meet Clive and catch ferry. Weather good for Oct, dry and 18c. Ferry at 1.45pm and then we head for Belgium and stay the night in a formule 1 near Charleroi.
8th Oct Saturday
Foggy morning but dry and not too cold for this time of the year! In fact I think we are very lucky with the weather. Off at 8.15am after brewing up a cup of tea on our camping gas stove in our formule 1 room. ‘That’s very” sad” says Emma’ .
A boring day making miles on motorways. Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Heading for Austria. We do 440 miles, ending up near Meningheim? Some road works held us up as lanes too narrow to filter through the traffic jam. Slowly beginning to realise I am on holiday. Petrol in Luxembourg cheap, Germany same as us.
9th Oct Sunday
Beautiful morning. We leave after breakfast at 9.15am, heading for Austria ( country no. 5) and Innsbruck. Slow going as we do not use motorway(big fee says Clive). Nice road but loads of traffic. It is a Sunday and good weather so many drivers and motorcyclists out and about. Nice to do some bends when not behind something. Austria very pretty; green and full of flowers. We get on and over the Brenner pass to Italy (no 6). Down the Italian side on motorway and heading for Venice. We spend 2 hrs in jams looking for an hotel near Venice. About 40kms inland. Finally strike lucky. Nevertheless room costs 55 euros a night. Good food. Miles 329.
10th Oct Monday
Take taxi(10€) to the station at Castelfranca to catch train (6€ return) to Venice. Good weather. We have a good day wandering around. Had not imagined how busy the main waterways would be i.e. water fire engines,police,builders,taxis,waterbuses etc, apart from gondolas. Also the buildings were in better shape than I thought they would be. Obviously did not see all. Felt Gina would love it. Wonderful masks on sale and venetian glass etc. Miles nil! Staying second night in hotel. Good modern Italian food.
11th Oct Tuesday
Bought picnic and off to port of Venice to catch the ferry. Took a remarkably long time to get there..lots of traffic. Caught boat( straight on in fact). Minoan line. Very good view of Venice as you leave the harbour; very pretty and interesting. Good weather.Miles 37.
12th Oct Wednesday
Arrived in Igoumenista at 11.45am. Straight off on to a motorway that was not there 3 years ago. I was fed up taking the motorway ,preferring the main road and the nice (for bikes) bendy road. Luckily the motorway was not finished and so I became a lot happier on the nicely curving and much more interesting road. Yes, it took longer but we were up to schedule. Clive would have used more motorway if he could have done. In the end we reached Veria..further on than we thought. Miles 236.
13th Oct Thursday
Left at 9.30am after getting some more contact lenses and internet cafe.
Coldish, about 12c but going to be a sunny day. Veria is just on the edge of the plain, so it was down to the plain and the motorway, as any road was going to be straightish. Bypassed Thessalonika, filthy looking . Fertile plain growing cotton and veg but lots of orchards too. Cotton grown all the way along to Kavala and beyond. Otherwise countryside where less fertile looked brown. Brown grass ,brown crops, brown earth . Untidy and rubbish. Pollution perhaps causing the haze. Quite a lot of little stubble fiires. Nearly empty motorway and we make good progress. Find the hotel in Kavala that we stayed when going round the world.! Had lunch and then on towards Turkey. Border took a while but no problem. Cost 30€ each for insurance and a so called visa. Road surface now less good and the driving(from others) becoming more erratic!. Stop in Tekirdag. Miles 352.
14th Oct Friday
Off at 9am. After breakfast. Sunny and 11c. 2 hours to Istanbul via motorway. Built up, industrial etc. We continue on fairly empty motorway towards Ankara, trying to cover some miles in this not such great corner of Turkey. Gradually the scenery becomes more interesting and reminds me of the USA because of its ‘bigness’. Big wide valleys and large looking hills with some rocky outcrops, small trees dotting the landscape and generally a brown look. The large 3 lane (6 lanes both ways)motorway could have been USA but for the Turkish trucks. Smallish, brightly coloured and overloaded , they belch black diesel smoke and crawl very slowly up hills. We went up a long hill up an escarpment just before Bolu. We encountered the first rain of the trip here and it was foggy too. The moment we were at the top the weather improved and we did not have much rain after that.
Got to Golbasi, just south of Ankara.Ankara was surrounded by masses of new housing, blocks of flats and houses, all standing empty in various states of being finished but no builders to be seen.
Had difficulty finding an hotel. One expensive and one a dormitory type with filthy used sheets! Ate cheaply and went back to the expensive one. Miles 416
15th Oct Saturday
Began quite late, 9.45am considering Clive wanted to get on! We had 200 miles to go before before seeing the underground cities in Cappodocia. We seem to be highish. Rolling hills, open farmland. No trees for miles. Farmers must all live in the villages as no single settlements. Farmers on small Massey Ferguson tractors (no cabs) with small trailers( just like our wooden ones we are trying to sell). Itinerant workers hand harvesting potatoes and sugar beet. Sugarbeet being harvested as we did in Norfolk in the fifties. Hand labour, beet in heaps, into small trailer, and then into small lorry. But beet growing nothing compared with the cereal acres. Patchwork quilt of stubble fields for mile upon mile.
Saw a large bird of prey.
Constant road building. Making all main roads dual carriageway, it seems. Roads not very busy!
The rolling hills remind me of USA still and Clive of Kwazulu Natal in south Africa. Huge views, big valleys. Big geological features, especially the soft weathered sandstone in Cappodocia with its fissured rock and volcanic plugs.
We visit Derinkuyu underground city. 8 layers of rooms etc begun in the Hittite period, 3000 years ago. Nicely low key tourism. See lots of volcanic plugs with ‘houses’ dug out in them, especially round Goreme.
Turkish people all very friendly . Not seen big motorbikes very often. Its not that cheap and petrol is the most expensive in Europe….£1.12 per litre. It is eating into our finances.
Head on for 3 more hours( one in the dark) till we reach Pinarbasi. Find hotel (the one and only). Basic.
We are 1500 meters up. Weather has been cool (10-20c) all day. Had one heavy shower. Miles 337
16th Oct Sunday
Began cold 10c, and up high 1590m. Hotel had been a bit noisy. Rain began on and off as we stayed high with one pass of 1890m. Became more as I had imagined Turkey. More rocky outcrops and pretty valleys. Still lots of farming for cash. Houses look different…realise its the tin roofs that have replaced the red tile roofs. A few horse and carts and donkeys but mainly tractors. Gradually more small motorbikes with side ‘trailers’ for carrying things. Saw one lot of nomads up on the side of a hill side, camped with their horses. Definitely the prettiest part of Turkey yet seen. Got fed up with Clive who just seems to want to tear through the country on motorways, not pausing to look at anything. Before he took off on motorway we ate some great Turkish snacks. Then Clive choose motorway instead of the main road. I went through Gaziantep’s middle instead of by passing it which was much better. Found Clive later as we neared the Syrian border.Border no problem. Then instead of secondary road Clive heads down a horrible busy main road with quite wild traffic to Aleppo. In the end we go into the centre of Aleppo looking for an hotel. I think Clive thought he would get something on the outskirts, all modern. So here we are in Aleppo. It warmed up as we came down from the hills and now in the 20’s c. Hottest yet!. Miles 265. It rained in the evening….the first time this year! Its warm though!
17th Oct Monday
After disagreeing with Clive yesterday he comes round to the fact that I am not driving through Syria without looking at something. So off to the Aleppo citadel, the largest in the world! Its on a hill overlooking the whole huge city. Usual mayhem in the poorer streets. Weather now very pleasant. Then motorway to Damascus.
The motorway was really a duel carriageway. Mostly overloaded trucks belching out black diesel smoke. A few fast cars. Tractors and mopeds on the hard shoulder, people wandering and traffic sometimes coming the wrong way towards you on the hard shoulder or even on the fast lane side. Interesting! Weather a pleasant 20c. Outran some black clouds and reached Damascus. Big city. Miles 235.
18th Oct Tuesday
Damascus was disappointing for me for we never waked around/found the old city. We did other things though…internet, ate etc.
Off to the border and Jordan. Clive still bent on motorway even though there is a good road. I do not know what has got into him. Rubbish , nomads, herdsmen and their sheep, farming and stony desert. Temp around 20c but rising. Hills to our right and somewhere in the haze are the Golan Heights.
Border is okay. Insurance guy took his time and the whole thing cost £25 each. That was all my Jordan money I had with us. Off to the first town and ATM and some food and drink. Ramadam means we have to eat inside. Our bikes catch the attention of local students.
Jordan seems tidier and less full of rubbish than Syria. More organised. We get round Amman and down to the Dead Sea. Two beaches are marked on the map and we pass the first and head to the second one…only we never find it. There went my swim in the Dead sea. It is very lovely with the hills of Israel on one side and the rocky hillside on ours. Totally calm sea but on land we have numerous soldier checkpoints. All have machine guns on armoured vehicles, but all fine. Lots of Berber at the end of the sea ..tents and sheep etc. We then plunge up into the hills climbing from below sealevel up to a fortified town for the night at 1000 odd meters. Our room in a cheap hotel has the most fantastic view of the way we had just come including the Dead Sea in the far distance. Miles 233.
19th Oct wed
Too much food the night before. Cost was £13 without wine. We provided our own bottle. Jordan is not as cheap as Syria but much cheaper than back home. Petrol about 40p per litre. Prices varied and sometimes we were luckier than others. Hotel was £17 for the night.
Dressed for 20c at 1000m but soon got cold as we went higher up in a biting wind. Then down then up! We were in the mountains and on high plateaux. 2 hours and we reached Petra: luckily only at 900m. We did the sightseeing thing. Price to go in was £18 each. This allows you to walk down to the gorge and through the narrow and spectacular gorge and view the tombs carved in the rock. In all they say 5 k long. It was the perfect season to go ,weather pleasant and not too many other tourists. Horses with small carriages, horses and donkeys were available to carry you where you wanted…all at a price. We negotiated a carriage some of the way back ( having walked down) and I rode a horse the last bit ( cost £1). Then back on bikes to ride to Aqaba. Desert mountains and more cold before descending all the way down to the sea. Good scenery. Found good hotel . Miles 183.
20th Oct Thursday
Ferry apparently leaving at 11am to Nuweiba so off we go to the port at 9ish. Clive not feeling tiptop. Exiting Jordan is lengthy and combined with getting tickets for the ferry. Meet couple from South Africa in their landcruiser. We all help each other. Ferry is a fast speed boat. Looks a bit like a torpedo. Works well and we whizz down the gulf of Aqaba. Arrive 1.30pm and don’t get through border formalities till 5.30pm; and about £50 the poorer. Terrible bureaucracy. Ourselves and the land cruiser couple (Carla and Andreas) ( website travelongravel.tk) go different ways at the system but 4 hours later we are all round the same window worried that all will shut before we are done. Ramadam prayers and eating were about to get in the way. Got the papers, off to the final gate and they say wait till after(evening breakfast)…at this Clive let rip in Arabic for us all and we were finally on our way.Clive was still feeling a bit fragile. Its then dusk as we head for Dahab only 65k down the road. Rocky mts silhouetted against the sky looked great as we sped on through the warm evening. Clive’s son in Dahab did not know which day we were arriving…He had gone for a camel ride but came back at 9pm when we met up. Miles 56
21st,22nd,23rd Oct Fri-sun
We relaxed in Dahab for these 3 days. Intended 2 days but now waiting for the right news from Libya i.e. that they can meet us on a certain day. We are now aiming for 27th but doubt it will be possible for them. Awaiting a phone call from Abdusalam of Sukra travel.
In the meantime we have swum, windsurfed and I had a dive on a coral reef. Masses of fish and colours. It was nice and good to have a proper dive after so long. Its generally windy in the mornings and dies off during the day. Burning sun and we do a lot of sitting in the shade . Robert was around and good to see him with Clive.
24th Oct Mon.
It seems Libya now 28th so we leave Dahab. Fill up with petrol..it costs 10p a litre! 90 octane though .Rocky majestic mts. 30c and off back north through majestic mts. Dry. Nothing green at all. We turn in land and head for the tunnel at the bottom of the Suez canal. Up on to the plateau at about 500m. Temp is good . Road is good unless broken by the flash floods . It is so hard to imagine rain here but the evidence is all around. The wadis that have been created, the damaged road the sculpturing of the desert. The desert mts flatten out. Wild camels, odd donkeys, a few goats and amazingly, people scratching a living from what?. There is hardly a bush in some places! Couple of dead camel by the road, lots of bits of tyres,only 2 cars pass us and the tiny amount of traffic is trucks.
Stop for lunch right in the middle of the Sinai peninsular. Some Americans in a minibus stop. Very unfriendly and the girls probably do not like the squat loos..especially one of them in high heels. We leave and continue across a very barren desert plain, then hills and down to the tunnel under the Suez canal. Suez outskirts very mucky. We head south down beside this gulf. At first mucky,then scenic then flat. Stop in very grand looking hotel at Zafarane. We seem to be the only guests. 350 Egyptian pounds(£35) for room and evening meal and breakfast. All looks good but not everything works! Miles 368
25th Oct Tuesday
Solo breakfast as the only guests in this 220 bedroom hotel, before setting off across the Eastern Arabian desert. Temp about 25c., pleasant. No Bedouin as far as I could see…no animals. Tyre remnants litter the roadside, as do odd piles of bricks and sometimes diesel spills. The road is straight . Soon find out the mystery of the bricks when we come across a truck with its trailer on its side and its load of bricks strewn across the road. A few men were scurrying around in bare feet chucking the bricks to the side of the road. Puncture in 2 tyres caused the trailer to leave the tarmac and lean over enough to shift the load and over goes the trailer. Quite big trailer…these trucks are not small. So problem solved…worn out tyres on too many trucks.
160 kms across the desert and then we hit the Nile valley. Tooting traffic and crazy drivers as we head for Cairo. Much filthier than I would have imagined. Nearly as bad as India but minus the cows and bicycles and mopeds. Cairo full of tooting cars but nowhere near as bad as had been suggested. Find our hotel in downtown Cairo. Very basic and Clive not enamoured but very friendly staff. Miles 175
26th Oct wed
Our pyramid day. We take a taxi there. Very difficult to not get picked up by ‘friendly’ Egyptians. One manages the taxi ride with us and then tries to sell camel rides and horse rides round the pyramids. We manage to finally rid ourselves of him. Not too hot and we ‘do’ the pyramids. Manage without guide and fend off postcard,camel ride and lucky charm sellers. Taxi back to the Hilton for some lunch. Taxi ride costs £2.50 max. Things are cheap.! Hilton because in Ramadam can only eat in tourist or traveller places. Still costs £8.
The traffic in Cairo is less bad than I had been led to believe. Its noisy and very busy but no mopeds or cycles to speak of. No lane discipline at all and a great deal of weaving. Cars pass each other very close. The scariest bit is people crossing the road. Traffic lights are not particularly obeyed. So people cannot cross there with safety so they cross anywhere. You get people crossing in the middle of a fast moving 5 lane one way road and huge roundabouts. They really are dicing with death. Cars bear down on them. Decisive action is required…no hesitating!.
27th Oct Thursday
Exit Cairo before 9am. Not that hot, 25c. We have fairly boring ride to Libyan border today. Its all duel carriage way. We leave the fertile,green,polluted Nile delta and it becomes built upon desert. Obviously land has been sold in parcels. Many Arabs build their grand gateways first and then the compound walls and then maybe the house. Obviously water has been piped here. Saw some strange cigar shaped buildings. Generally in pairs but could be one or two,three,or four. Near houses; sometimes joined to the house and sitting on the roof and once part of but more usually further away. Sometimes painted. They had lots of small holes in them all around and sticks sticking out, and a door in the bottom. Not ovens but maybe bird cotes?
Later its plain desert. The Bedouins have rather given up their tents for concrete boxes. Tiny concrete houses dot the desert with their flocks of sheep and goats. We stop in Mersa Matrout for v.late lunch. Setting off at 3.30pm again we have 2 hours of day light and 210kms. Its a boring ride with desert, a few dogs and the Bedou ‘bunkers’ to look at. Road is empty and good. We arrive in El Sallum. Its a real border town! After dark its full of wild looking people. Boys throw things at our backs…not malicious, more in fun. We have to go down town to find a fax machine so that Abdusalam can fax us the visas for tomorrow. Its very dirty in the streets and poor little donkey carts vie with the Toyota pick ups. Our hotel looks good but no hot water in the shower and they do not provide loo paper. We both have slightly upset stomachs so we buy paper in town too! Miles 430? Our longest day.
Egypt has been great. Amazed at lots of new buildings i.e. houses ; just as in Turkey. Also all the duelled roads. Thought there would be lots of bicycles but there are few: also hardly any mopeds. Lots of pick ups, 30 year old taxis. Everyone friendly. Still plenty of donkeys and poor , but more affluence than I might have thought. But I have not seen the south….another trip.
28th Oct Friday
We got the visa faxed to us. As it happened no one looked at the piece of paper nor did we get a visa in our passports. Just a stamp. Our guide and a driver were there to meet us as planned. It took 2.5 hours to get through the borders. We then set off for Tobruq behind the car. Clive not happy following!
Flat desert. Funny to think my father had been here 63 years ago. Rubbish ,lots of plastic and other rubbish. The rusting shells of cars and other rusting metal litter the desert landscape. Some new buildings going up. Brand new petrol stations too. Petrol about 7p per litre. We have no Libyan money. No banks . Our guide pays for us for the moment. Hills (escarpment) to the right. We are on a flat plateau . Tobruq is big and so is Derna. It is after Derna that the countryside changes and it becomes more like Sardinia; dry, small bushes and rocky. Where there is water it is green. Absence of donkey carts, but plenty of shepherds with their flocks, seemingly eating the rubbish by the roadside.
We end up in Sharat near old Cyrena which we are going to sight see in the morning. It got cold towards the end especially 600m up where we are staying the night in the ‘ Cyrene resort’. Restaurant in a cave. Miles 272
29th Oct Saturday
Hotel was good and clean.
We had arranged with the driver Akmed to set off to see Cyrene ruins at 9am. I write this as we sit and wait. Its now nearly 9.30am. He wants to get to our destination before 5ish so he can pray but with his own delay…? We have 375kms to do plus the sight seeing. Finally Adel Aun turns up and off we go. Akmed is round the corner! Cyrene city is a massive amount of old ruins. You can walk all over mosaic pavements ! The temple of Zeus was good. The town of Shahat seems to be on top of some of the ruins and have 1000,s year old statues in their ‘gardens’!
off late morning to get to Ajdabiya, 250 miles. We are in the jebel (mountains) for most of the way to Benghazi. The countryside is like Italy or Sardinia. Dry and full of small shrubs. The difference is 1. Rubbish everywhere,2. Wild cows wander by the road side, 3. Skeletons of cars/buses litter the land. Clive has a theory on the rubbish…it is chucked by the road then goats,sheep, cows etc eat what they can. Finally only plastic is left , which blows around the whole countryside.
The road is not too bad . The major hazard is ‘white car driver’ that speeds along very fast..most notable when overtaking us very close. Our driver is out in front with Clive following and then me. Driver is a bit erratic. It is still Ramadam and he maybe tired from getting up early to eat before dawn. Then no food all day. Then they stay up late at night…
Benghazi is big but we whizz through. Jebel gives way to flat desert again by the coast. Get stopped in police checks now and then. Suddenly our driver in his black car leaves the road and crashes dramatically. His car careers down an embankment and then up and takes off over a steep bank. Cloud of dust but car remains upright. Driver alright and gets out. Lots of Arabs all stop and rush over to help/see. We are relieved no debris hit us. Akmed is whisked off in a bus that stopped,to hospital, before we know what, leaving us stranded on the road without a driver. So we go to the next town which turns out to be our destination,Ajdabiya. Find hospital and Akmed. He is shocked and cannot tell us where we were to meet the next driver. We find an hotel and amazingly later the next driver finds us by asking in the town who had seen us! Hotel we found is quite hostel like! Miles 250.
30th Oct Sunday
Sunny after yesterdays cloud and off to see the’ largest man made tank in the world’. Gadaffi has piped water from two wadis in the desert 400miles away to the coast for use in agriculture. More is planned. Very controversial for many reasons. We find the large reservoir(probably bigger ones in England!) in the middle of the desert in full sun( evaporation!). We are especially allowed in and shown around. They are very proud of it. It is virtually all gravity flow. There are fish in it.
Back to Ajdabiya and then onwards to Sirte behind our new driver who is in a Mercedes van. He is more steady than the other. His name is Abdul- Hakim. It is a long boring desert road and we have a long way to go.
The rubbish outside Ajdabiya was terrible and rubbish continues to spoil the desert countryside. However camels are nice to look at and we see plenty roaming wild but branded. We see many in transit too, in trucks; they sit and hold their heads up lifting them higher if the lorry slows down. They appear to enjoy the ride.
Police checkpoints are always a pain but here they seem to be checking us and our route. There are always sleeping policeman at these checkpoints over which lorries crawl. There are many sleeping policemen in the countries we have been in and they become part of life on the road. Motorbikes go over them better than cars but we do have to watch out.
The weather has been much cooler than I had thought. Since leaving Dahab it has been only 20-25c . Some days it has been cloudy and we have nearly been caught in a shower of rain in the desert! We have seen puddles and standing water in the desert.
At the end of the day ,just before Sirt we called in at Medina Sultan to see Marble Arch and a couple of bronze statues. It was the arch we were interested in. It had apparently been moved from its original spot at Um Ezzera( As Sidrah). We had come through this place about 60 miles back and of course did not stop or look. It was not at Sultan so we had a disappointment. We could not go back 60 miles now. Someone had got their info wrong at Sukra travel!.
Arrive in Sirte and led to a grand looking hotel which appears empty of guests apart from ourselves. Miles 315
The hotel looked very grand and our bedroom and seemed fine. However on using the bathroom, we found that the bath tap water ran over the bath edge ,the shower hose spurted water out, no plug, loo paper holder broken,water leaked from overflow of sink, no grill over plug hole so soap fell down the hole …..
31st Oct Monday
Off at 9am to do 200 odd kilometres , which turned out to be miles, to Leptis Magna. More desert full of camels and a road full of pick ups. Libyans drive pick ups of all sorts and ages. Some are very old indeed. The old ones are all the same bluey grey colour and are Peugeots. Very battered they seem to still get along, albeit slowly. Top of the range pick ups are also around and Toyotas of all ages very popular. Its pickups and not donkeys ( nor mopeds of which there seems to be not one).
Near Misratah ,the countryside changes and there are palm trees and eucalyptus and we leave the desert. Much busier road.
Leptus Magna is Roman. Very well preserved roman city by the sea. Its suddenly got hotter and we swelter a bit as we plod round. The amphitheatre was fantastic. Our driver Abdul Hakim, sleeps while we sightsee.
We then head off to hotel about 15 miles further on. Large hotel,Funduq Nagaza, out of town, with views of the sea and terraced hillsides (not being used) . We are the only guests again. Miles 232.
1st Nov Tuesday
Leave at 9am and head for Tripoli along the coast. By 10.30am we are by the castle/fort right by the sea. Wander the souk. Libyan sellers are not pushy . The town is tidy and ordered. The rubbish problem in Gadaffi’s own part of Libya i.e. the capital and all the way to his birthplace near Sirte, is mostly under control. Sirte ,in particular was very clean.
It is the last day of Ramadam. Even here in Tripoli where there are some tourists we find it hard to get a drink in a cafe. We end up in a large hotel…no cafes open even for non Muslims.
After Tripoli we head for Gharyan in the foothills of the Jebel Nafusa. Check into the usual large empty hotel..This time it is in town and in Lonely Planet guide. Funduq Rabta. We quickly get out of motorbike gear (hotter today) and whizz out to see an underground Berber house before it shuts prior to ‘eid al fitr’ which is the holiday and celebrations at the end of Ramadam. The house was fun…you enter via a tunnel and come into a courtyard open to the outside but effectively below ground level. Lots of rooms dug out of the earth open off it and there was a well in the centre.
Have been forgetting to mention that water is more expensive than petrol here:and in Egypt it was too. Petrol costs .15 ld and water costs .5ld for one litre. That’s about 6p for petrol and 21p for water. Funny thought.
2nd Nov Wednesday
Late start..10.30am for last full day in Libya. We ride along the top of the Jebel Nafusa. Less interesting than I thought it would be. I start seeing Berber ‘houses’ dug into small cliff faces and essentially underground. I am sure some were in use. We finally pull into Kamau and our driver takes us to the old ‘city’. To my surprise it has a Qasr or fortified granary. In fact these stores were used for oil, figs,dates etc as well as grain. Small rooms..one per family or shared , they sit in several storeys. Inside are pottery pots for the oil or just a space. Maybe a hundred rooms. It is surrounded by old houses, half underground,half brick/mud. On we go to Nalut for the night where there is another fortified granary. This one is not based on a courtyard ,as was the other, but has passages between the little store rooms. A veritable honeycomb of rooms in several storeys. Outside in other old buildings were 2 oil presses one of which only stopped being used in 2000. This whole granary was last used in the 60’s.
Libya has some wonderful archaeology but otherwise lacks charm in its countryside, which is full of rubbish, and its modern buildings which are ugly. The people have been friendly, our driver has been helpful, Tripoli was calm and ordered but I am looking forward to Tunisia, not least because we may be able to find a bottle of wine..something we have been without for a week.! The vehicles have been interesting , not least their take on Toyota….Tayota.
Eid seems to be calm so far and much is shut on this day of holiday. I had expected to see much feasting after a month of fasting. Miles 185. Tomorrow the border.
A small note. The libyan bathrooms have looked the part but lacked things, most notably a plug. My universal rubber plug that went round the world as well has proved invaluable, not only in Libya but all the trip. I bought it because Nick Lane had said it was the most useful thing he brought on the trans siberian railway!
3rd nov thurs
Read last night that Gaddafi has banned all nomadic way of life! Still believe I have seen inhabited unddrground houses in the desert. It would explain the absence of donkeys etc, and the concrete boxes built in the desert.
Get to border at 10.15am. Just before the border is Wazim. It had a wonderful looking granary up on the hill with the rest of the old town. Lots of holes/entrances in the rock. It seems we will get some money back on the money paid on the border coming in. Small compensation for the whole cost of the ‘tour’. The customs people make us a sweet cup of ‘chi’ while we wait for them to drive off to get the rebate money for us. It all took quite a time but finally we waved goodbye to our libyan driver Abdul- hakim and after another half hour we entered Tunisia. 10mins down the road a police checkpoint wants to know everything all over again! Off down the desert road finally with a restricted zone to our left. Its the first day of eid here..one day behind libya , so everything shut again. Most notable differences between libya and tunisia are, lack of rubbish, white painted buildings, tidier, people walking and mopeds. Have to go 120km before finding a restaurant open. No money changed (no banks open) but guy in restaurant goes off on Clive’s bike ,with Clive, to find a money changer.
All is more relaxed in a strange way, than libya. We travel on to Gabsa,where someone has recommended a hotel. It is a huge affair near the beach but we half board for £40. Petrol here is about 43p per litre. I notice that more people are in cafes enjoying themselves than in Libya. Not sure what it is that is different..more open islam perhaps. Less girls in headskarves for sure. We are now following dad’s war days and going to the places we can that he mentions in his diary. Miles 211
4th nov friday
Spend morning checking out dad’s ‘places’. We are still in fairly deserty conditions but some faming. Once off main roads we find donkeys and carts…not many but they are still at work. I saw one pulling a small harrow to cultivate under the olive trees. There are lots of olive trees! The old berber houses with their barrel shaped roofs are not in evidence now as they were nearer the border. Occasionally see a round mud built house..possibly store house. Several very rough looking abodes made of sticks and rubbish. Several corrals made of spicky sticks. There were people selling petrol by the road side. We presume this is libyan petrol smuggled in as it is so much cheaper.
As we head for Le Kef we leave the plain and head into the Jebel/hills. It rises to 600m or so. Cooler and farming. Winter barley crops are through and some is still being sown. Still very dry but there is irrigation.
More herdsmen, some quite smartly dresed. All rather neat in some way.
Find hotel per Lonely planet guide. Restaurant we were aiming was closed so ended up in a restaurant that was full of men only( I was the only woman)who were drinking alcohol! We ate a meal and drank a bottle of wine! Miles 318
5th nov saturday
Visit the kasbar! Its a solid ,restored and built in the 16th century affair. Lovely views over the countryside. Clive goes to a barber where he gets his hair washed, cut,washed and cut and aftershaved all for £2.20. I bought olive oil!
On to Tunis. Prickly pear hedges of yesterday, give way to open farm land. Small 2 wheel drive tractors with small implements ,by English standards anyway, work in the fields. We are still 500m up so it is cooler than sealevel. Quick look at Dougga, yet another amazingly preserved Roman city. Its perched on a hill top with some old columns on the skyline. I notice Wheatears beside the road..quite a lot of them in places. I had seen a few in Libya.
Tunis is reached without more ado. We find an hotel near to the medina. Not very salubrious area. Wander the medina, buy ‘arab’ outfits for dressing up parties, and go to internet cafe, whose staircase was the scruffiest and whose computers were the slowest…it took me 15 mins to get in to my email box!
Get ready to go out. Decide to put bikes in the paying car park and just before we do so Clive notices his chain has been pinched. Its a heavy chain for locking his bike to something. Was in a pouch on the back of his bike. His panniers were unlocked!! But though opened nothing had gone. First time anything stolen. Time the bikes were off the streets!
6th nov sunday
Have to get up and out by 7.30am to get bikes out of garage before 8am. They are going to shut until Tues morning. Its the weekend. It has been very confusing because in the muslim world Friday is weekend and Sunday is a working day.!
Have breakfast( all included for 43 tunisian for the night…thats £20). Meet english lady who owns a house on a tunisian island…retired teacher. Then set off for Le Goulette and the ferry terminal. We know a boat leaves at 12.30pm. Its raining! Get ticket on an SNCM line. Have a bit of a performance getting through customs since we do not have a piece of paper to allow us to drive in Tunisia. We should have been given this on entry from Libya. So final charade is filling that all in now just before exit. We have to get it stamped in our passport too, which entails walking off to arrivals for the stamp, even though we are departing. Then no one else looks at it before we board the ferry.
Very smart ferry, about 3 years old. Find that the expensive tickets have not included a cabin! Vision of airplane seats does not make me happy. Contrary to info, boat is not full and we pay even more to get a cabin. It is still raining. What will the weather be like on the other side in France. We are headed for Marseille. We see the lights of Sardinia at about 9pm as we ear supper. The boat is going along at about 40 knots. The distance is about 500 nautical miles between Tunis and Marseille. I thought it would have been more. Miles 9
7th nov Monday
Boat gets in at 10.30am, after calm crossing. Its brilliantly sunny. Bright blue sky..not polluted. The sky in north africa was invariably hazy.
Pretty countryside for a couple of hundred miles with massif on one side and alps on the other. We are motorway driving ..home … Notice all the trucks from many nations (in africa there was hardly any inter country travel). Notice the cleanliness and we notice the expense!.
Brilliant sun but only 15c. Not bad…but when the sun goes down its colder. Try to stay in Dijon but on a Monday night in November everything is full! Some fair…! Have to go on n the dark (its not late) to Chaumont. Find Formule 1 but food place full with party. What is it with Monday night in November? Finally get back on bike and find L’oasis rstaurant. Excellent value. Going back see its 6c…cold. Bit of a shock to the system and Clive complains about his kidneys being cold. Miles 413..60m too many!
8th nov Tuesday
Bright but cold, 8c, morning. We have been lucky with the weather. We carry on heading north on the motorway. Green countryside, lots of peewits in the fields, a strange green crop that I cannot recognise, buzzards sitting around on their posts, and the french farmers busy harvesting their sugar beet and sowing cereals. It warms up to 15c in the sunshine. We head for Hesdin and get there about 4pm. Miles 284
9th nov Wed
Off to Calais. Cloudy but dry (rain in the night). Buy 7 boxes of wine, then to the ferry. We were in Calais 3 years to the day coming back from our round the world trip! Ride back to Norfolk in sunshine. Cold however! Make it just before dark
Total miles. 7278