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Sahara

Day 83: Benghazi to Sirte

Benghazi to Sirte, Libya 
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Inside the Great Manmade River Project. This is the size of the pipes, of which 1000 miles are already laid, as part of Colonel Gaddafi's ambitious plan to water his country by tapping underground water reservoirs deep in the desert.
Michael Palin - SaharaInstead of trees, there are electricity pylons and instead of wheat fields, there is scrub grass interspersed with pipeline, the occasional flaming head of an oil well, trailing a dirty black slick along the horizon. Near Brayqah, concrete holding tanks, into which the Manmade River disgorges, nestle in the gritty sand, each one as big as two football pitches. A little further on, a metal arch with Gaddafi's likeness painted on it marks the entrance to a massive dusty white complex, where the giant pipes are made. By now the Clayderman tape has reached 'Tulips From Amsterdam' for the fifth time, and cries for a lunch stop, or even an engine failure, are increasing. Thirty miles later, Abdul and Faraj spot three trees, close enough together to qualify as a picnic spot.

The picnic lunch is a big disappointment. And I mean big. Jumbo-sized white boxes reveal salad, chicken and cold chips. And it looks as if we might be here for some time. Whilst attempting a tricky and not strictly necessary three-point turn, Faraj has run the back wheels into soft sand and the coach is spread across half the carriageway like a beached whale. Various passing vehicles are flagged down to help, including a lorry with twenty kneeling camels in the back, all nodding away gently like toys on the back shelf of a car, but none has any towing equipment. The police arrive with a chain. It snaps. By now we have an expectant audience of fourteen people, twenty camels and a small car park of vehicles. Faraj looks as whipped and chastened as the little boys he screamed at this morning.

Eventually, a low-loader with a bulldozer on board, heaves us out and we carry on our way.
Benghazi to Sirte, Libya 
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Picnic lunch on the way to Sirte. Sadly the packed lunches were long on cold chips and short on any kind of Libyan cooking. Our pink coach is marooned in the background.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Libya
  • Place: Brayqah
  • Book page no: 222

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