The last jerry can of Gadaffi diesel is put to good use.
I had a call earlier this month from the Professor I have worked with in Libya for the last ten years. He said they had a jerry can of Libyan diesel in the lab left over from the last expedition back in 2011 - would I like it? Never one to turn down an offer of free fuel I said I would be there within the hour! I met the lab technician as the Prof. was out and he commented they would 'be glad to see the back of that stuff in here'. An odd comment to make about reasonably inert can of diesel, when surrounded by all manner of toxic chemicals, but each to their own. I looked out of the first floor window of the lab at the Archaeology Departments own Td5 Land Rover parked below and resisted asking the obvious question. There is presumably some H&S rule outlawing the charging of fuel tanks on University premises.
I remember the occasion of the original purchase of the diesel clearly. It was a hot dry day in Sabratha heading west out of Libya into Tunisia enjoying a break in what was to become the Arab Spring. Tunisia had quietened down and Libya was a latent bubbling revolution that had yet to explode. Colonel Gaddafi was still very much in charge and there was no clue as to what was to happen a month later. We filled the tanks of both Land Rovers - my 200 Tdi Carawagon and the Uni Td5 and also filled 20 jerry cans. I forget the precise cost, but we would have had change from fifty quid. That fill up gave me enough to get back through Tunisia and to get the Archaeologists down to Ghadames where their next eight weeks work was to be. The reasons for carrying so much diesel are not just because of the financial saving, but bizarrely in a country that produces the stuff, petrol stations run out in the desert towns as the deliveries are spasmodic and locals tend to stock pile the fuel for their own use. It may be a two or three day wait for fresh supplies to arrive, unless you can persuade a farmer to relinquish some of his hoarded stash. The can I had just inherited was one from the Ghadames run that had remained in the Td5 throughout the teams evacuation from Libya three weeks later. Had it been able to talk it would have told tales of armed militia manning home made checkpoints, deserted border crossings in the desert, the relief of making it safely into Tunisia and the final long haul back to Leicester. It had survived quite an adventure and was probably the last existing drop of diesel refined in the Gaddafi era!
I pondered exactly how I should use this 'Gaddafi's last drop'. Should I stick it on eBay with an elaborate description of its adventures, or save it as a lasting monument to the Colonel. His crazy form of leadership had done me no harm. Far from it. I have enjoyed ten trips to Libya under his rule. In the end, I reasoned that this bonus 20 litres could transport us roughly 120 miles in any direction in our 200 Tdi Carawagon. I would have opted for a visit to the Land Rover Show at Eastnor, but occasionally one has to bow to pressure from Senior Management and we opted for the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. It was new territory to us and claimed to have its own 'micro climate'. Maybe it would miss the rain forecast for the August Bank Holiday?
Pouring the contents of the can into the Carawagon the smell and feel of it transported me straight back to Libya. Their diesel is less refined than ours and has an oilier feel to it. At the risk of sounding a bit of a diesel anorak it actually feels like a more natural product. I have heard from oil experts that it is the Premier Cru of fuels. Topped up with regular diesel we made an early start in the hope of avoiding the Bank Holiday traffic, little puffs of black smoke emerging from the exhaust as a reminder that we were running on less additives. By 8.30am we were enjoying breakfast in Betws y Coed and had seen off the proportion of ‘Gaddafi’ diesel. By 11.00am we were set up in a camp site overlooking the sea. We were lucky with the weather and had none of the thunder storms Land Rover fans had to endure at Eastnor, but the shock came when we filled up at the local filling station out on that far flung peninsula - £1.45 a litre! Roughly ten times the cost of the Libyan fuel.
If only it could speak, one of these jerry cans could tell tales of adventure fleeing civil unrest in Libya….
…. To end its days powering Toby’s Carawagon to North Wales.