The best laid plans.
A proposed trip to Libya falls foul of cuts in funding.
I write this, shivering in Leicester, when I should be hurtling south through Libya in the heat of a Saharan afternoon. Dust plumes kicking up from the tyres of my Carawagon, 200 Tdi engine working hard, nothing but clear blue sky on the horizon. But no, I’m here in Leicester. Our planned departure to Libya has been postponed until the end of March, In-sh’Allah. Organising a Geographical expedition to Libya is, as you’d imagine, not a simple task and involves liaising with several Libyan Govt Depts. and senior Libyan Academics as well as the Libyan funding body who are footing most of the bill.
Organising this trip has been the sole responsibility of project leader Nick, a senior Geographer at the UCL in London. The frustration and stress of organising last years trip was so harrowing, the poor chap got Irritable Bowel Syndrome!! This year, he was determined not to let it effect him similarly and when the Libyans assured him everything was okay he relaxed. With just two weeks to go Nick called me to say there was problem. It transpired that the promised funding wasn’t in place and probably couldn’t be sorted out in the time available due to National Holidays, but they would try their best. Then, with just a week to go and no positive news, Nick decided to pull the plug.
There are both good and bad things about departing at the end of March and being in the Sahara for most of April. On the plus side, Kevin, a Geographer from Reading University, may be able to drive out as well. Dr. Kev bought one of the last Camel Trophy, 300Tdi, 110’s through the Royal Geographical Society some years ago and he and I have enjoyed many Sahara adventures together. We were both attached to an Archaeological project in the Fezzan region of Libya for a couple of years. Kev as a Geographer and me as Landy driver/Photographer. The Geography research necessitated driving deep into the Sand Sea to take sediment samples from dried up lake beds identified from Satellite imagery back in Reading. Most of these were at least a days drive into the dunes and ensured we could enjoy a night or two camping in the heart of the Sand Sea, probably a hundred miles from the nearest other person.
Camping amongst huge sand dunes is an unforgettable experience. The camp site is selected an hour before sunset, tents are pitched, firewood gathered and a fire lit as warm sunshine turns to orange sunset and the dunes glow as if on fire. Then, in the space of about ten minutes the dunes turn a satanic dark grey and take on a menacing appearance. The temperature plummets and we all gather closer to the fire and get the meal on the go. By the time the food is ready we are all wearing every item of clothing we possess and need the hot meal to get the circulation going. Warmed up, it’s time to wriggle into a sleeping bag and get to sleep ready fo the next days adventures.
More power is a great asset to dune driving and Kev has added many juicy goodies to his Camel. A big Alli Sport intercooler and uprated turbo, GKN Overdrive and ARB lockers front and rear. He and I enjoyed a memorable run up through Tunisia a few years ago. Rejoicing at being back on tarmac after a fortnight on sand we were both flying in similarly tuned Land Rovers, but I soon lost ground to Kev as he cranked his up to a cruising speed in the low 80’s! My gearbox was running so hot I was cooking cans of curry on it through a special ‘gas mark 5’ access panel under the centre seat.
If we do get to go out in April the down side will be the heat. Probably 30 to 35 degrees in the day and sticky at night. The higher temperatures will mean greater water consumption. 20 peeps for 15 days, at an extra 3 litres each per day, equals an extra 4x4 just to carry the extra water, which means more fuel and another driver who will need to eat. The logistics equation gets worse. Fortunately this part of the operation is the responsibility of our Libyan partners and their boss, Ahmed. He used to run the Libyan Scout movement, so if there’s one person who knows all about arranging good camping trip it’s him.