Woke up this morning loving this whole villa action! The only annoying thing is that it is so big, it’s just too ‘echo-y’, and I didn’t know which bathroom to use – I think I can live with that though! We were still undecided on whether to start cycling today or ask if we could stay another night. Then Fathi (number 2) arrived – he was a friend of Sami’s and informed us that he had a lot of things arranged for us, so our decision was made. First stop was to visit the main hospital in Tubruq, where we met the director. There were loads of people around, and about 10 in his office. We soon established that these were sports TV channel, newspaper and radio companies ready to interview us. Sami certainly came up with the goods here. It was all a bit surreal walking around the hospital in a big ‘media’ group meeting various doctors and consultants, as everyone wanted to say hello to us. We had our first TCC TV interview in the grounds, causing many more people to stop and stare.
We had a couple of hours to catch our breath back at the villa, before our next round of media interviews at the Tubruq football stadium (this time with the bikes). We met the manager, coach, and some players before cycling down to the corner flag and back to the goal for the TV camera. We also took a penalty each – Jon’s just saved by the keeper’s trailing arm, and I was denied by the crossbar. Now in Libya everyone is so friendly, and so they think nothing of offering to show you around their city, but what is weird is that someone who Fathi (number 1) has just met, takes it upon himself to drive his car (badly). Anyway it was the football coach who then drove us around before paying for dinner at an amazing fish restaurant for us. Back at the villa, Fathi’s back was causing him serious grief, so I had to administer an Arabic treatment. Not particularly comfortable with the situation, this involved putting a burning piece of paper in a small jamjar, and quickly applying it to his back, causing a vacuum and drawing blood to the skin. After massaging more blood into the area, I then slowly took the jar off and made 8 small cuts to the skin. Another burning piece of paper and jamjar back on the same area then started to draw the blood out of the cuts. Only when we removed it 10 minutes later did we realise that this procedure separated fluid from the blood – in other words Fathi had fluid on some muscle and this was the desert way to resolve it. One weird day!
A big target today of 160km to Tubruq, I started off nearly falling from my bike with laugher at some of the states of cars on the road. One struggled to pass Jon, went for a gear change and nearly lost his engine. Another looked like its body panels were constructed from road signs, and one 1970’s Peugeot had more polythene than glass for windows.
Pulling over for our usual break stop (well a piss for me), Fathi pulled his back and was in some serious discomfort. He explained that he should be ok, but it didn’t look good. Jon popped in for some JoJo’s (chocolate cake bars), but the tin shack only had some nuclear swiss roll. I think this pushed Jon’s stomach over the edge, and let to his first roadside desert poo. Luckily he found a wall to shelter from the side wind, and quickly finished before some wild dogs came for a sniff!
More slow progress due to the wind, this is really grinding us now, but a quick change of direction at 72 miles, and it was on our side. Shame about the Italian road signs which still showed 60km to Tubruq. As the light faded, we faced another leg of nightime cycling. Not my most favourite pastime, especially with wild dogs wanting to chase us, and every wall, tree or scrapped car saw us tense up in case of a dog jumping out.
Big Dave had sorted us out the digs again, and we met the housekeeper on a roundabout on the outskirts of Tubruq. Again the driver wasn’t briefed, and not realising that we had just cycled our longest day ever (115 miles), raced to the Aecom villa, one of the biggest in Tubruq. Pimping!
Jon had the east wing and I went for the west wing, and after explaining to the housekeeper that we could both eat a camel, showed us to a Turkish restaurant, where we were actually refused the amount of food we wanted to order. Three kilos of kebabs was clearly a step too far, so we had to settle for 2kg instead!
A short 58 mile cycle to Derna, we followed the Green Mountain plateau, before a long windy hill down into town. We got some brilliant footage on the camera, but Jon was almost blown off bike while filming. Our upbeat moods were even matched by the checkpoint police today, with them offering us coffee – although they were all in dire need of a dentist and some aquafresh.
Fathi then offered to show us the town’s great waterfalls, or should I say an 8 meter trickle. Apparently this was going to fill the next big dam, but when we arrived we could barely see a small stream dropping from the rocks. Well Victoria Falls has no need to worry – we just tried to appear as interested as we could, not wanting to be ungrateful. We had a frustrating afternoon wasted in another pony internet cafe and poor old Fathi had to wait 2 hours for us to do some admin which should have taken 10 minutes. Our casual outfit no. 2 of swimming trunks and flip flops drew some strange looks in the soaking high street, with more potholes than tarmac.
A bit of bike love this morning as mum and Holly had very kindly sent out 4 new tyres – our bikes certainly needed them after 3,300 miles on the old set, and straight away they were put through their paces in driving rain (not seen since Sicily) – certainly a lot of Libyan school kids found it funny as clothes soaked through.
A much more energy draining day with gradual hills and windy roads, but the landscape was stunning – Fathi described it as European Libya, and we could certainly see that. We used our European knowledge to find a half constructed bus shelter to shield us from the pounding rain, but luckily no punctures this time.
As we arrived in Al Bayda, we realised that the other car following us was in fact a police escort, so felt very important as we parted crossroads where cars literally come from all directions! With the sky getting blacker by the second, we parked up at a dingy hotel and I prepared for another night of bugness! But we actually got an apartment with wi-fi, so we ended up helping the manager with his google maps – our good Libyan turn! Before bed we saw a sheesa room like Bob Marley’s house, and I reminded Jon that we need to make sure we aren’t cycling the next day before getting involved in that!
Jon is really not good in the morning – everything he does is in slow motion, so we had a mad rush packing up/ making use of internet before leaving the apartment. The reason for rushing is that Sami had arranged for an interview in Libya’s main newspaper (www.quryna.com owned by Gadaffi’s son) and we really didn’t want to be late. We were treated so well we felt like celebrities as we cycled round the courtyard for the photographer, before meeting the director and editor.
A shock to the system with the cycle next – Libyan hills! We were heading to Al Marj today, 90km from Benghazi. As we rose up above the Mediterranean, the landscape suddenly changed to lush green hills, which we didn’t know Libya had. Apparently they have been known to get snow here before!
The only hotel in AL Marj was a rip off (well £25 for the room), and after being stung with a 75 dinar bill for dinner (should have been no more than 25 dinar), Fathi confirmed our first Egyptian sting!
Boosted our morale after relooking at our itinerary and we could get to Dubai 2 weeks ahead of schedule.
It was brilliant waking up in a brand new apartment, rather than a bug hotel, and we just used the morning chilling out, watching bad yankee films and rinsing the internet connection. It was a result being able to send videos back home, including Jon’s cheeky request to Sir Richard. We even got our washing done with minimal hassle.
We met Sami from Ocean Tours – www.almuheettours.net , and it was really good to put a face to the name. We honestly couldn’t have done Libya without him, and he was so generous and kind towards our massive charity effort. We filled our lunchtime boots at a Turkish restaurant – more kebabs, but I stupidly tucked into the houmous without checking first. True enough it had peanuts in, and I thought I was going to have an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily after throwing up and drinking plenty of water, a couple of hours lying down did the trick.
Later on, Sami gave us a tour of Benghazi and had a private tour of a stunning Italian/ Libyan townhouse, before making it back to the apartment for another buffet dinner.
Watching the live Man U game, we began to route plan Egypt, which looked bleak for first 250 miles, and without a guide started thinking about our next TCC hurdle.
After a fawlty towers experience, 4 honey and chocolate croissants (each) should have done the trick, but as soon as we left the town we hit headwinds which reduced our speed to 10mph. At 35 miles my back started knotting up, and it was my turn to hit a wall. Especially when we knew there was at least another 70 miles to Benghazi, where we were meeting big Dave. The rest of the day was mind over matter, pushing ourselves to the limit, breaking down the distance into 10 mile chunks.
Eventually we hit the street lights of Benghazi at about 6pm. With bike lights on, this was our first experience of night time cycling – Libya style! Trying to see Fathi’s hands with the direction was so difficult, but at a city centre swamp, we parked up, got eaten alive by Abdul’s family and waited for big Dave’s driver. I don’t think Dave had explained to him that we had just cycled 105 miles, as we were instructed to follow him with Fathi behind. I think he was Schumacher’s Libyan cousin!
It was a big lift seeing Big Dave, our first friend since Holly flew to Rome. And boy did he come up with the goods at the Aecom apartments. We had 1 penthouse (each), open-plan, New York hotel style, and after putting down the bags had just enough energy to get downstairs for a buffet dinner – we like this place!