A parting of the ways this morning as the main group headed back to Tripoli in the big bus, while the intrepid explorers Sabine, Guenther, Matthias and I in the care of Abdul and a new driver Mohammed set off on the long drive to Sebha.
Amanda gave a short speech on the hotel forecourt thanking our leader Abdul, driver Sofian and minder Ali for all their efforts in making the trip an enjoyable one, and a tip of various currencies was distributed. The main group was away first, along with one of my two telescopes and Sabine's laptop, while I kept the other telescope, and my laptop, in case we should want them in the coming week. Would we ever see the sent away items again, and would those I kept survive the rigours of the trip ahead?
We were a little late getting away while Abdul made phone calls to try to locate Guenther's trousers that had been lost by the laundry yesterday, then we spent time in town retrieveing said trousers and getting supplies for the journey.
Finally underway, we headed east out of town, the way we had come in. At Dirj the main road turned north, the route followed by the Tripoli contingent, while we carried on eastwards for a futher 300km to the oasis town of Al Qaryah. This was scarcely more than a few houses, a filling station (which we used) and a restaurant (which was closed except for cold drinks and the toilet). No matter, we had our supplies from earlier and had a picnic lunch beside the road just south of the town. We had hoped for a shady palm tree perhaps, but no chance - apart from a few hardy succulents and daisies nothing seems to grow around here.
From here we headed south for the 460km drive to Sebha, but about half way we past through a lava field, which consisted of a series of mesas whose upper slopes and tops were covered in millions of lumps of black basalt lava. This was very strange as there was no sign of a solid lava flow anywhere, and with few exceptions, there were almost no lumps on the main desert floor. Their origin is probably an extinct volcano in the Jabal as Sawda mountains about 150km to the east of here.
As usual we were accompanied by pylons and a Great Man Made River. For most of the route to Birak the road scarcely deviated from a dead straight line due south.
At Birak we stopped for sandwiches, kebabs in a baguette really, and it was dark by the time we reached Sebha. The government hotel, the tallest building in Sebha, looked OK initially, apart from being liberally adorned with pictures of the great leader, but in fact turned out to be surprisingly rundown. Dodgy wiring and plumbing and lifts that jerked alarmingly when starting and whose aggressive doors took no prisoners, made life interesting. Sabine also enjoyed the company of a cockroach in her room. At least the water was hot for a bath - shower not working - but it needed my plug as usual to keep the water in.
The hotel's internet room at least allowed us to catch up on emails and I wrote my initial comments in this journal. After this I headed off into town, which was surprisingly big as it is actually Libya's 3rd largest city, after Tripoli and Benghazi. Here, at last, I was able to buy a pair of sandals so would not have to remain in boots all day. The town was gaily decorated with Christmas lights, and even the hotel foyer still boasted a Christmas tree, all of which must give some clue to the laid back nature of life in these parts.