Africa: Tunisia - Libya



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Sunday 6th April

Tunis – Menzel Temime

Awoke at 0700 to sound of engines so quick start onto deck for sunrise as we entered Tunis harbour. Filled in paperwork on ferry then into landy to disembark. Friendly police followed by customs who had plenty of paperwork to fill in including one for GPS authorisation. Learning experience as customs ‘official’ managed to get €20 off us with prospect of speeding things up but to no avail. No more ‘bribes’.

Headed up to Carthage but too early to headed onto Tunis main avenue for breakfast before picking up supplies from market including soldering iron to start work on numerous electrical faults that are forming.

Headed east through some sparse towns looking for blankets for what looked to be another chilly night camping. Found great spot as we reached coast in small ruined house next to beach (36º48’41.6”N 11º03’05.9”E). Checked levels and investigated wiring but unsuccessfully fixed stereo so still without tunes. Learnt a lot about electrics though! Great dinner under amazing stars for first African night.

2654 mile

Tunis Harbour
In Africa!!
Camping site
Boiler suit
Catalogue shot!

Monday 7th April

Menzel Temime – Sousse

Started day with BMF session along beach before quick dip in sea which needed warmed up. Decided it was time for hair trim. Andy went first for some fine salon work before Andy attacked Nick with a #4 to finally shed the golden locks. Think it could go shorter once the tan kicks in to reduce the Romanian orphan look.

Set off south through touristy Hammamet to see the white flesh on offer. then onto motorway. Andy ‘pee pants’ needed to stop on hard shoulder but unfortunately landy didn’t start when he got back in. Seems the battery warning light was for real. Bump started it and pulled over at services to change alternator. Stripped nut and odd access proved tricky for our large socket set so took advice of friendly services manager and bump started again to head into Hammam Sousse where there was a plethora of garages.

First garage changed over alternator but replacement was running very hot so they took us to their uncle who was alternator ‘expert’ who fixed the bushes in our old one and changed them back again. Total cost 40 dnr which is pretty reasonable and a good lesson in recycling from Uncle Alternator. One of the garage customers Mohammed invited us back to his house to stay as the day was running out.

Pulled up at great house with gates for secure parking and he offered us a whole apartment upstairs for 20 dnr with 2 bedrooms and satellite TV followed by guided tour of town to show us the highlights as he is a taxi driver normally. Used our new found knowledge to head out for kebab dinner then onto hotels for beers. Confronted by appalling entertainment as staff dragged up guests to humiliate themselves. Moved on quickly to Le Saloon ‘Pub, Disco, Toilettes’ to join a Romanian study trip for some bad ‘80’s music and dancing. A surreal day all in all!!

2755 miles

Mohammed in red jumper
Alternator 'workshop'
'Uncle Alternator'
El Jem Colleseum

Tuesday 8th April

Sousse – Gafsa

Left Mohammed and stocked up with supplies at local shop after good coffee and croissants in light rain. Headed south for El Jem and stopped at our second colleseum for quick culture stop which was pretty impressive. Fell into tourist trap and bought headwear on way out which could prove useful later on. Continued south to Sfax and got caught in bad town traffic after missing city bypass.

We cut west through endless olive groves into first desert scenery. Strong winds picked up dust to reduce visibility and temperatures rose to over 35ºc. With no music, the singing was loud and bad to cut through the engine noise. After a short roadside lunch stop in the shade we continued west to Gafsa. Continued 2km towards Tozeur before seeing sign for Elhassen Camping (34º24’33.3”N, 08º45’03.6”E) next to ‘5* hotel’ for 15 dnr. Nice sheltered site with us being only people there so chilled dinner listening to horrific Arabic music from alcohol free hotel next door.

2994 miles

The happy couple at El Jem Colleseum
Local boy!
Salt flats

Wednesday 9th April

Gafsa – Douz

Departed with intention of heading to border town. After passing industrial towns and mines, police turned us back as road closed for work unfortunately. Back through pleasant hill scenery to rejoin Tozeur road passing large groups of camels in oases.

Quick fuel stop in Tozeur before crossing causeway over huge salt flats. Overwhelming site with nothing as far as you can see other than convoys of Nissan Patrols filled with tourists in matching Arabic headgear (‘Amama’). None of them looking particularly happy or even awake as we chill on roadside for photo opportunity and lunch.

Passing many French and German overlanders (incl. fleet of Land Rovers who give us the obligatory wave/toot/flash) as we near Douz and the ‘desert gates’. Chatted to German off roaders as we got stuck in Douz market who pointed us towards the town ‘Desert Camp’ (33º27’12.8”N, 09º01’30.3”E). Popular campsite with desert vehicles included ‘The Camel’ which was huge truck driven by a German guy who did tours across desert with him and his dog. Had some good tips for Tunisia and Libya.

Got to work with electrics again and after a quick call to Foleys who installed the stereo, we had a solution and music again at last. Moral continued to climb as we sorted every other electrical issue and checked levels with ice cold beers bought at campsite bar. Nick decided to brave the #2 clippers which went down well with the girlfriend on skype later that evening as we checked e-mails in town.

3168 miles


Salt flats
Date farms
Happy campers
Working stereo

Thursday 10th April

Douz – Aghir, Ile de Jerba

Left camp and picked up two Tunisian oil workers when asking for directions to Matmata. Dropped them at pipeline after utilising even more of our French which was proving useful in Tunisia. Had a quick coffee in Matmata while avoiding the Star Wars ‘guides’ with neither of us being particular fans of the film or Monty Python Life of Brian which was also filmed here…apparently.

Took a random road south to Beni Kheddache to liven things up which proved itself as we hit some fun tracks which the Landy coped well with. Took a slight detour but got back on track after speaking to a crazy dude in a shack who drew us a map. Declined offer of coffee after seeing state of the cups in his dwelling and headed back along dried riverbed to main road. Andy wincing at Landy noises as suspension put to the test by Nick’s driving.

Grabbed lunch of deep fried spicy egg meaty sandwich combo in roadside café in Medanine with local school kids. Headed north to El Jorf to catch quick ferry (0.800 dnr) to the tourist island of Jerba. Drove round coast and chatted with kite surfing school on north coast but getting too late in day so continued with some dune bashing to try and find campsite. Decided against soft sand so continued past many gates to hotels until we hot the only camping in town which had seen better times. Got good spot on beach and sarged along hotel beaches which were empty so back for food and chat with German neighbour who had done Cape Town trip before in his Toyota. Debated price of guides in Libya.

3374 miles


Tunisian hitchers
Future road kill
Another fine spot


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Friday 11th April

Aghir, Tunisia – Leptis Magna, Libya

Discovered tent full of mosquitos after horrific nights sleep due to Andy leaving zip open…definite beer penalty there when we get to a country that serves it!! Headed south with bleary eyes across Roman causeway to mainland en route to infamous Libyan border.

Departed Tunisian soil to fee of €10 as we did not have the 1 dnr required for customs stamp. Obviously no receipt or change given! Headed over to Libyan frontier where Fahrat and our smartly dressed guide (Amjed) awaited with smiles to welcome us. Pulled over and handed in our paperwork and waited the obligatory 1.5 hours as they did whatever necessaries to get us into their country.

With all paperwork back in hand we took our first tentative steps into Libya following Fahrat in his nippy VW Golf. First impressions were hot, dusty, rubbish & crazy driving which continued throughout our stay in the country. Pulled into hotel to hand over the required euros for guide services and exchanged some cash.

Amjed joined us in Landy with his kit and we continued East and filled us in on the state of Libyan politics. Country known as ‘money grave’ as so much cash enters through oil but nothing is spent on the country’s infrastructure. Population is happy with Gadaffi though as he has not brought war to the country in his reign of 38 years (which is plastered on signs along the road with his smiling face). Glad of Amjed’s navigation as our map proves useless with all signposts in Arabic when they do finally make an appearance.

Crazy driving continues as temperatures rise to over 45ºc and we finally reach Leptis Magna campsite on roundabout opposite the Roman site. Least glamorous location so far but quick game of Frisbee clears head before chicken stir fry for three.

3645 miles


Gadaffi welcome!
More waiting...
Roadside Cafe
Desert camping

Saturday 12th April

Leptis Magna – Surt

Early morning alarm clock with JCB reversing right next to us at 0630. Headed into Leptis Magna site with our guide who also runs campsite. Guide had all the chat as we raced around the site to see this stunning city that was built 2000 years ago. Amazing amount of marble work still existing as we saw the Roman baths, theatre, port, congress and markets. Grow a couple of beards and we can now become archeology buffs!!

Two hours was enough of that so we kept on chomping through the miles eastwards after a brief roadside café stop that we thought was going to end us. The chicken sandwich we expected proved to be hot chicken entrails disguising itself as liver…even tomato ketchup did little to improve the flavour.

Passed a serious head on collision which was a sobering moment as the blood was still all over the windshield  and airbag. Sticking to a steady 60mph with all senses fully alert seems to be the safest way to drive here.

After quick food & much needed water shop, we found a great beachside camping spot (31º13’29.2”N, 16º18’49.0”E) before Surt after negotiating the heavy sand. Temperature dropped as we built first fire of trip, played football with a couple of local kids who joined us and roasted a chicken and potatoes for a fine dining experience from Andy followed by some of Andy’s bagpipes and contraband whiskey. Wind picked up as we went to bed and continued to batter us all night which was preferable to scorching temperatures or mosquitoes and almost made us feel like being back in Scotland!

3845 miles


Gun show!
New plates

Sunday 13th April

Surt – Ajdabiya

Nice temperature as we wake up to waves breaking to drive to Surt for breakfast and e-mails as Amjed goes to local police to get our passports stamped with another mysterious requirement of the country. Finally set off as Amjed returns two hours later for long road east with nothing to see other than various road kill, the occasional oil refinery and regular near misses of the overtaking cars, trucks and even buses. Most exciting thing is breaking the 4,000 mile barrier of our trip, just a shame we ain’t going south yet.

Get to Ajdabiya around 6ish and decide to get some food and eat in a restaurant for a change.  Good meal consisted of lamb, couscous, rice, and some sauce that actually burnt your nostril hair off, so gave that one a bit of a miss, but the meal itself was good.  A bit of a tense atmosphere in the restaurant when we walked in, as it was full of Squaddies, with shaved heads.  Nick got a good look up and down, as they tried to figure out which Libyan army regiment he was from, (the hair….). Thankfully they left just after we sat down.

One thing that you have to contend with in Libya, is police check points, they are everywhere, sometimes you need to stop, other times you just drive through.  When stopped, Amjed (or ‘Slim Jim’ as we now know him) gets out with photocopies of our official papers and chats to the guards, who seem to not really know what they are doing, so try and look important by asking lots of daft questions.  But no delays have happened, so all good.

Slim Jim seems to have a good way with the police so that helps.  Amjed is 26, and comes from the Southern part of Libya.  He is well educated, and his English is good enough for detailed conversations about Libya, and the government, especially the question ‘Where does all the money go?’

We head about 2 kms north of Ajdabiya, and turn off the road into the desert to find a great camping spot (30º49’27.5”N, 20º13’42.0”E) to sit and contemplate our time in Libya.  The moon comes out very quickly and casts shadows, almost giving enough light to read.

Shoot the shit for a while and plan our next stage, of one more day in Libya, then into Egypt and onto Cairo.


4139 miles


Ready to sweat it out!
Endless view!
'Slim Jim' chillin
Happy Nick
...and counting!!
Moonlit shadow

Sunday 14th April

Ajdabiya – Tobruk

Up fairly early, and quickly get packed away.  Back into Ajdabiya to fill up the tanks, and a quick coffee, before heading into the desert for a 450km crossing. The most tedious drive to date with only camel and tyre carcasses along a very open and very straight road with desert either side as far as the eye can see.

Arrive at Tobruk to check out the WW2 French Cemetery which was a good historic interlude as well as checking out the visitors book to see who was ahead of us. Continued onwards to Egypt and stopped at last services 30 km before border to fill up all our diesel containers (120 litres for £7…unbelievable).

Set up camp at services (Highway Service Company (31º48’13.0” N, 24º54’44.0”E)) which had good toilets and showers for 5 dnr then had some food in café before planning our mission to Cairo tomorrow. Due at border for 0730 tomorrow morning to meet the policeman who is going to make our Libyan exit a walk in the park…

4459 miles

War memorial
Team Libya




















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