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Sahara

Day 79: Tobruk

Michael Palin - SaharaThey didn't have tents and mostly lived in holes, like shallow graves, that they'd managed to dig out of the compacted mud.

'We loved our holes,' says Frank, eyes wandering briefly into the middle distance. 'That's why we won the name rats. Desert Rats.'

The Desert Rats have more stamina than I. Leaving them burning the midnight oil, I retire to my eccentric room. The bathroom is like a Laurel and Hardy set, with a shower that sends out spray from every point apart from the head and a lavatory flush that requires both hands and one foot against the wall to operate. Over many years of travelling I have acquired the habit, though I often regret it, of checking the state of the bed sheets. I'm pleasantly surprised to find my sheet at the Al-Masera is as clean as a whistle, but as soon as I climb in my foot goes right through it. This is not the time to have a go at hard-working attempts to improve tourist facilities, but there are certain basics, like non-splitting sheets, that someone ought to have noticed. Tourist brochures are another. If you really want to bring in the visitors it is surely not too much to employ a translator who knows their language. The leaflet in my room invites me to visit 'scenes of the Second World Ear', and has a lot of trouble with the word 'snacks'.

'Lunch is mainly takeaway snakes. Dinner is the major meal. It is a full one consisting of different Slacks...' It concludes with a wonderfully loopy passage about Libyan beaches that could have been written by the late, great Stanley Unwin: 'You may enjoy the moon-lighted nights and sleep smoothly on the sea waves songs in your tent.'

Clutching the two halves of the sheet around me, I at least drift off to sleep with a smile.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 79
  • Country/sea: Libya
  • Place: Tobruk
  • Book page no: 211

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