I reached the border around 2 o’clock. It was chaotic with people everywhere. There were four lines of cars about 500 meters long heading out of the country. I skipped the line and shot to the front but that didn’t help much. Everyone else had abandoned their cars and were all shoving to get their passports stamped.
There were four booths with only one border control guard inside each. There were windows on all sided of these booths each of which was stuffed with arms holding numerous passports. It was total chaos. I headed for the biggest office I could find and just walked in and asked for help, there was no way I was dealing with that madness. The big boss man came and took my documents and decided there was something wrong with my Libyan visa. I sat there for two hours in the 30 degree heat while he sorted it out. I though at one stage that this was it I was going no further but then he gave me my passport and said have a safe trip.
Dreading the Q on the other side I mounted up and headed to Libya. What a surprise, there was absolutely no one there except my friend Masoud. Masoud works for Tidwa Travel (www.Tidwa.com.) agency and he helped me get the visa in the first place. He took my passport and had it stamped in seconds, I was also given water and snacks by the border guards. It was then off to sort the bike and get Libyan plates. This all took no more than half an hour. It was easier than going through Heathrow. We then set off at speed for Masoud’s house in the town of Zuwara about 70km away. I spent a great night here with Masoud where I was filled in on all the details of the past and present. Thanks for all your help buddy.
The next morning I headed for Tripoli. It was only a two hour ride from Masoud’s place. Traffic flows here at some speed; it’s not uncommon to see a blur go past squeezing through a traffic jam. The country has other problems to deal with at the moment and traffic rules are of no priority. Everyone here is very friendly and helpful so the chaotic driving works just fine. On the plus side I get to ride like a lunatic as well.
I arrived in Tripoli and met with Abdul a friend of Masoud. I then met with Abdul’s biker buddies and we cruised the streets of Tripoli into the night stopping for beautiful sea food and coffee along the way. You would not meet nicer people anywhere. The next day I changed the gearbox oil and with Hazam’s and the captains help we changed the seal in the final drive.
Abdul( the Captain) also put me up in one of his hotels free of charge for the three nights I spent in Tripoli. The next morning I joined about 20 riders from the Tripoli Classic Bikers Club and we headed for the hills about 80km away. Most of these guys ride Harley’s and are great fun to ride with. We spent the whole day riding and didn’t get back till late. I really want to thank all the guys for looking after me and especially Hazam for helping me fix my bike, Big E for constantly feeding me and The Captain for his generosity. These guys are some of the most helpful and kindest guys I have ever met anywhere. I am eternally grateful for ye’re help. I hope to see ye all again one day.
The next morning I got up at 6am but fell back to sleep not to reawaken until 8am. I was supposed to leave early as I was going to ride the 1040km to Benghazi in one day. I was advised this was the safest option as stopping in middle of the country is not advisable. I had to ride through a town called Sirte, this was Gadaffi’s home town and the place where he was captured. When I realised I wouldn’t make it to Benghazi I called the Captain and he advised me of a hotel inside a complex that is owned by an oil company. I made it 700km in total that day and reached the hotel. Riding here is pretty hairy to say the least. The cars swerve into your lane when passing just to get a better look at you. You can’t take your eyes off the road for a second so it’s very tiring.
I checked in at the hotel in the oil complex and parked my bike in the board room. When I turned to exit there were 4 foreigners standing behind me. “Man where the hell did you come from” the first guy asked, “you got some pair of balls dude” was the seconds reply. When I told them where I’d come from I got “Don’t you watch the news man” to which I replied “Nope”. They then proceeded to try and tell me all the horror stories they had heard and had been kept prisoner by but I didn’t want to hear them.
These guys are expats that get flown in for 6 weeks stints, there were about 10 of these guys in total, some American, English and some Scottish guys. They all teach English to the Libyan workers at the base. There is a landing strip in the oil fields and that’s about as far as any of them had ever gotten from the safety of the compound. They were amazed at what I was doing and where I had come from. Lots of these guys had just come over from Iraq as well; I don’t think they left the green zone over there either. I told them they were really missing out on a wonderful country and its people, to stop watching the tabloid news channels of Fox the BBC and CNN and to get out and see the country for themselves.
Yes there are the remnants of war still scattered throughout the desert but the war is over, it was a civil war and the people of Libya want to forget about it and move on. I was stopped at many checkpoints on the ride to the oil compound but all the soldiers want to do is make sure you’re alright. Some take your details for your own safety, others just wave you through. Most of the time I have been stopped it’s because they want to help me. They force water and food on me at every checkpoint. At the end of the day I must have had 5 litres of water and 3 litres of juice strapped to the back of the bike. Also my tank bag was full of bread, snack bars and fruit. Honestly I have never come across a friendlier people.
I left the compound the next morning and completed the 400km ride to Benghazi by 1pm. I took a spin around the city and found a hotel but realized they didn’t take visa. I then had to go in search of an ATM. While I was at the first on a guy noticed me and asked if I needed help. He took me all over town trying ATM machines but none worked. He was really worried for me and even tried to give me money. I had US $ in a stash for just an emergency so all was well but really have you ever had a complete stranger offer to give you money, I haven’t. What a country!
Tomorrow it’s on to Tubruq.