Dark Sun over Libya - March / April 2006 travel blog

Approaching oasis Mindra - a patch of green in a barren landscape

Taking a dip in Umm Alma

Dung beetle

Dung beetle tracks

Saw Scale Snake tracks - didn't meet the snake itself - you...

Cranes arriving at Umm Alma

Cranes having a rest

Mindra drying out

Abandoned engine parts at Minda - things always just seem to be...

Camel skull. Maybe this is what England will look like in summer...

Some wildlife in the camp near Sebha: Fennic Fox

Some wildlife: Rock Hyrax, apparently a relative of the elephant

Silver Back Jackal: what we saw running away from the dried oasis...

Barbary Sheep: what we chased in Wadi Tashwinat

Ostrich: didn't see any of these on our travels

Dorcas Gazelle: or any of these

Saw Scale Snake - deadly poisonous. Had we known this earlier we...

Group photo of the final few who made it through the desert

Last sunset in Libya

Before dinner Abdul, Sabine, Abdul Adim and Hairi prepare the route of...

Woke as intended at 4am, and with the telescope still reasonably assembled it was only a few moments work to get it up and running. However, the moon still lay low in the north west so we thought we would give it another half hour to see if the sky would get any darker. However, Abdul was not really up to it, so come 4.30 I left him slumbering while Guenther and I went out for one final look at the Libyan night sky. The die-hards in the nearby party were clearly made of sterner stuff because they were still drumming away even at this ungodly hour.

Despite the immediate lights being switched off, others elsewhere in the camp and further afield in the town conspired to prevent the sky being as dark as it could be. Nevertheless the Milky Way was still a fine sight, Jupiter was bright in the south-west and by 5am Venus was rising brilliantly in the east through a thin dust. However, this very brightness all but destroyed any chance of seeing the zodiacal light because the light from Venus, spread out as it was by the dust, completely drowned out anything coming from the zodiac. Guenther stayed up for a while as we trained the telescope on various objects. before returning to bed. At around 5.30 I returned too for another couple of hours kip.

No need to pack up this morning as we would be back here for lunch, so just the two cars headed back to the sand sea, and first stop another salt water oasis - Umm Alma. Here we met the Dutch group again, who had spent a very windy night at Gabr On. They were taking to the water here as we had done at Gabr On, but we couldn't join them as none of us had swimming gear, having left it with our main bags back at camp. We also learned that one of the cars in their group had overturned on a dune yesterday evening and the occupants had to go to Sebha hospital to have their injuries attended to - fortunately nothing life threatening, but two or three people with broken arms or shoulders.

Just after we walked around the oasis a flock of cranes (or were they storks - somebody will have to help me here!) wheeled overhead and came in to land in the trees and scrub at the water's edge. Abdul reckoned that they were lost on their migration north and would die, but I'm sure they knew what they were doing, though it is true that they could not drink the water here.

A quick drive took us to Mindra, another oasis which was in the process of drying out. Just a few patches of salty water remained on the hard baked mud of the lake floor, and nearby lay more abandoned machinery, in true Libyan style.

Back at camp we lunched and packed up for the final time, and I disassembled the telescope. Then all three vehicles headed back towards Sebha, along the same road as we had left Sebha 6 days ago. We called in at a well appointed camp initially just for a drink and to say good-bye to the support crew, but in the end we stayed for dinner. The facilities were superb - nice accommodation, good restaurant, swimming pool and a menagerie of creatures we could have, and in a few cases did, see in the desert.

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