Libyan Border and Cous Cous Kindness!

January 25, 2013 / Libya / 0 Comments /

It was around 4:30am and despite the air being cold and dewy the atmosphere felt heavy.  The cats had returned to their dens by that time and only a quiet infrequent rustling was tweaking my ears causing me the odd eyelid flicker.  I had just managed to drift away from an uncomfortable thought and begun to fall in to a much needed but restless doze when suddenly there was a cardiac arrest provoking wail which exploded into our tent:

“ALLLLLAAAaaAaAAAHhhHHH…. ALLLlllllAaaAAAAAaaaAAAAhhhAHhhh”

We both bolted upright, limbs flailing and completely flummoxed at this attack on our ears.  In our utter exhaustion the night prior we hadn’t quite realised where exactly we had set up camp…. it was smack bang in front of the prayer megaphone.  No wonder we had so many   local guys smirking at us when we were setting up camp.  With all brain activity temporarily disengaged due to the booming voice pumping at our ear drums, we grabbed our stove and like the true Brits that we are made ourselves a cuppa to help settle our frazzled nerves.   In silence cradling our tea we blearily looked out beyond our potato sacked eye bagged vision at each other in the breaking dawn light and couldn’t help but crank a smile at the situation.  It was almost ludicrous!  We were about to ride into the currently most news worthy war thronged country in the world which was at threat to imminent attacks on Westerners.  Were we mad?!  At that moment we had no idea, not with the wailing going on anyway.

By the time the calling had stopped we had finished our tea.  With caffeine pulsating in our blood, we found hidden energy and hastily shuffled our stuff together and abandoned the cat litter campsite behind us as the sun began to rise.

Silence….

Where normally the scenery and world around us would spark conversations and happy banter, we rode in silence which was only broken to confirm if the other was okay.  The approach to the border itself is a bit of a blur.  I think I was so tired, all my energy was focussed on riding safely and staying energised.  I do remember wondering why some fella was running at me with a wodge of money in one of the small villages… I had thought it was a very generous gesture in my sleepiness… it hadn’t occurred to me it was black market exchange money for Libya!

The border itself is in the middle of no where.  We had seen various cars and trucks coming the other way when approaching, some of which were flashing their lights at us for reasons we still don’t know but either way added to our already tetchy nerves.  We had spoken about the border before and agreed that Sam would do all the negotiations and so after crossing one set of passport checking officials, I dismounted and stood to the side, hair and face covered and awaited nervously as Sam sorted our Carnets.

A short time later Sam returned a bit pale faced saying how we have been told to open up and keep going to Tripoli, stopping for no one.  Apparently the border guard had suggested people who have stopped had not come out the other end of it too well (or at all).  Another border guard came over and spoke with us, Khalil.  He was full of smiles and welcomes, extremely lovely!  Born in Tunis he tells us of his family and desire to return to work as a Police Officer as opposed to being so far away as a Border Guard.  He also confirmed to keep on the move once past the border but tells us not to worry too much.  Khalil then took Sam to the border entrance to help him do some black market money dealing (in all our stress and hastiness we had forgotten that it was Friday – their day of rest – meaning no banks or ATM’s were open).  Absolutely mega chap, so kind and lovely!

Libyan Border…

Next was the Libyan Border.  We approached still nervous but were welcomed with smiles and intrigue.  After striking up a conversation with a couple of guards, Mohammed and Osma, they decided to stay with us through the rest of the process.  There was a fair bit of too-ing and fro-ing and due to prayers we had to hang fire for a while but all in all everything was going super smooth!  The guards offered us tea, a lush court yard to chill out in, chairs and generally cheery conversation… this was completely against everything we expected!  At one point, we were told we needed to pay for some number plates which we didn’t have the monies for.  Initially Mohammed invited us to stay with him over night (his Brother does motocross so he was all for bikers!) until the banks were open and we could pay for the plates but then they decided to save us the time and just give us the plates without payment!  Really not something to expect at all!

After the paperwork was completed we asked where the nearest petrol station was and within moments both Mohammed and Osma were getting us to follow them in their car.  A kilometer up the road we stop off at a HUGE complex (it’s unbelievable it was a petrol station… more like a palace) where Mohammed and Osma insisted on helping us fill up our bikes.  Slightly flabberghasted at the kindness of the guards and the fact we were only required to pay less than £1 to fill up nearly 60 litres worth of fuel, we go to ride off only to be waved down by Mohammed and Osma.  Thinking maybe we had paid the incorrect amount we stop and watch them both leap out of their car and go foraging in their back seats telling us to wait wait wait.  After a moment or two they both jump back and reveal two packs of food (hot cous cous, beef and peppers), a bag of oranges and fanta and ask us to eat with them!

Seriously, how cool?!!  Having realised we had not eaten for the whole day we sat in the sun and devoured the delicious yummy food within minutes, smiling and joking and slightly bewildered at the kindness and generosity of the local Libyan Guards.  This was the best border crossing EVER!

Photographs later, full to the brim and smiling we are then waved off cheerily on our way!

Libya-MohammedandOsama

Sam and I just cannot express how amazing they were, it was a delightful crossing!  Our nerves had been calmed and expectations taken by surprise… all we had to do now was get to Tripoli safely…. :)

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