Sunday, July 20, 2014

The July 2014 Alpine run was a thrilling challenge
of man and machine negotiating high passes
between France and Italy.

Our navigator was Ray Bird, our machine was
our trusted Land Rover Discovery and the
off-road driver was Kit Constable Maxwell.

To read about it, copy this address
into your web browser

Monday, May 06, 2013

Travels in May 2013

Newsflash - Far horizons, Portugal off-road

The tents are packed, the desert dinners in stock and the route plotted on 'Google Earth'. Navigator Raymond Bird and photographer Kit Constable Maxwell depart for Portugal on May 7th

We take the Brittany ferry to Santander, then drive to Bragança, Portugal.
From this point we follow tracks and trails, camping en-route, crossing upland country, nature reserves and national parks.

We will live off local produce supplemented by soya stew and vac-packed ingredients from the Kitmax TwinTop Tuckbox.

We carry recovery skids, a hi-lift winch, extra fuel and water, two tents and sleeping bags. Maximum altitude will be around 6,000ft. There will be rivers to cross and steep sided gorges to negotiate.

The trip will be the subject of an illustrated talk later in the year. Check this website for updates.

Proposed route through Portugal

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This blog is a test message for a fellow blogger

To enter a picture, click the 'Insert Image' icon on ther blogsite toolbar, then browse for the image.
You can then insert a text description or other information as required.
This is a picture of Charles 1st of France, successor to Napoleon

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Yetminster has a NEW Art Gallery.

It is called the OLD SCHOOL GALLERY and is run by Sarah Hedin.

“I want a shop window for all the great artistic talent in the area” says Sarah “and hold regular exhibitions, teach-ins and master classes here at the Old School Gallery”.

The gallery is also a renowned cafe serving delicious local fare lunches and snacks throughout the day.

Keep in contact at ...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Web Blog post no 3

Web Blog post no 3  Morocco 2011
Todra Gorge, Zagora, Foum Zguid
Todra Gorge is a spectacular cleft in the rocks, cut aeons ago by the river coursing through the narrow gorge, draining show-melt from the
central Atlas mountains. At this time of the year we could still drive through the narrows and admire the great cliffs bordering either side. At it's narrowest it is only a few metres wide and it is a truly powerful experience to pass through.
From here we drove to Ouarzazate and then to Agdz, a small market town at the head of the Drâa valley. The scenery turned increasingly spectacular as we drove up and up into the Atlas highlands.
We peaked in mid-morning at 4,000 ft and drove through a barren, lifeless terrain which developed slowly into productive land. There
was some agricultural terracing to be seen and eventually our route accompanied a small stream. This developed during our journey. As we
descended the faster flowing water supported a string of oases and palmeries.
We reached a small gorge where the water sparkled on the morning sun. Up the cliff we heard bells announcing a nearby flock. Over the crest
appeared a hundred sheep and goats. They proceeded to descend the near vertical cliff with a sure-footedness that was amazing to watch.
They all descended safely and we continued our journey south through this spectacular valley and welcomed the increasing verdance as we
We reached the one-horse town of Zagora, gateway to the desert. Only 42 days by camel to Timbuktu, we were told…
After a rest stop in a good campsite, to repack and re-plan, we ventured off down a desert piste to Foum Zguid. This rough track started well
but petered out after 30 rattling miles at the edge of a deep wadi. I prospected on foot and chose a route across the great rock-strewn
divide, and having no low gear had to advance at the wrong speed for the terrain.
The first part went quite well, the wadi was about 75 yards wide at this point, but then I hit a patch of sand which gave way under the
left rear wheel as I drove over it. In front was a rock the size of an armchair. Next to it was an un-climbable sand bank and upstream was
our only exit. I applied more power, the mobile suspension gripped the uneven the contours and we shot out of the wadi to a hoot of joy from
Raymond, a gasp of relief from me… and a cheer from a shepherd who quickly told us we had come the wrong way!
The Discovery excelled itself.
I knew I was uncomfortably close to tipping the vehicle that time and  was much relieved to regain level ground afterwards. The shepherd
received a stylo biro and some melted sweets for his helpful comments.
We hit the Foum Zguid junction, turned north and proceeded to Tazenakht, the carpet-weaving centre of the Atlas. Raymond bought two
excellent Berber carpets while I ordered a splendid chicken tazine lunch for us both.
We camped at Tafaroute which supported a splendid swimming pool. We were the only guests there. Dinner was brought out to us at our tent,
and we dined by candle light under the full moon.
The next phase of the journey was a long and exciting drive northwards through the Anti Atlas, our road clinging to the side of
precipitous falls and spectacular scenery. We saw many striped squirrels. Here and there we would see big blue lizards running across
the hot tarmac with their tails held high. Also many small birds, finches, skylarks and a few soaring eagles.
We crossed the mountain range, reached Agadir and stared on the long journey home.
We stayed at Marrakech for a night and then camped near the important Roman town of Volubilis next day.
We have had a full, colourful and very enjoyable voyage and are now heading home through Spain.
This will be the last blog post in this series. In a short time I shall have photographs and text on the website at
Keep tuned in …

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blog post Morocco 2

Erfoud to Merzouga

The stillness of the desert at the campsite was only disturbed by a
dog's concert that night, where every canine in the countryside joined
We left that morning for Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga, an isolated
offshoot of the Great Western Erg across the border in Algeria.
The route led east across a wide stony desert, wretchedly lifeless,
with only the occasional wadi sustaining a few goats and the odd
We were convinced from our research that there was a fairly strong
piste to be found around the east side of the Chebbi dunes, but all
our waypoints and two gps navigators failed to reveal the unmarked
trail we sought.
After a long drive we arrived unexpectedly at the dunes, a majestic
and spectacular formation. This isolated sand sea rises unannounced
from a flat stony desert, a great golden erg stretched into the desert
haze. Whispering winds sculpt the sand into a maze of crests and
curves, hollows and heights all basking in the morning sun.
We were at the northernmost tip. Across the sand, Raymond assured me,
lay our trail. However we were travelling alone and I didn't want to
enter the sands without a backup car.

And while we discussed the options, unfortunately the Disco made the
decision for us. Reaching for the low ratio gearing, the selection
lever failed to engage, indicating a broken linkage. Sand requires
power and the right gearing is essential, and now we didn't have it. A
quick check revealed the link was inaccessible without extensive
stripping down. We were now in a deep trough of sand and I had to
apply serious shunting, clutch slipping and engine overheating to get
That marked the end of that particular sand crossing and we re-routed
across the gravel plain to Merzouga, and drove the easier west side of
the dune instead.

Our route continued up the Todra gorge by way of Rissani and Tinerhir
and we found a wonderful waterside campsite for the night.
K. Constable Maxwell

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bird and Maxwell desert progress, Morocco May 2011

Raymond Bird and Kit Constable-Maxwell in Africa.
Our 'Bay of Biscay' crossing passed in a flash - and we reached the Spanish coastal port of Almeira on the third day, took the night boat to Melilla.
With lots of African hassle at the Moroccan border, we were well assisted by a self-appointed border guide.
A cash machine exchanged our pounds for dirhms and we were through the 'Douanes' in two intensive hours, free to travel.
We drove south and soon reached the open desert.
We turned off the tarmac at Bouarfa on day two and made a long challenging desert crossing on a rough, unsurfaced trail.
It was bumpy, dusty and HOT... I reminded Raymond that this is what we had come for.
There were a number of confusing breaks in the the trail where we would stop, check our compass, maps and GPS position.
Raymond's navigation was very well researched, all well backed with satellite images.
Six hours later we reached a stone-built desert refuge at the head of a long fertile, dried river course, a 'wadi'.
This was a vital landmark and we turned down the wadi with some relief.
We emerged several hours later at the 'Source Bleu', a campsite I had visited on my last trip some years ago.
It was nurturend by running water and an abundantly shady palmerie.
My old contact Joussef came out of the shadows to welcome me like a long lost friend - an amazing feat of memory !
A happy evening followed with a grand desert dinner from the 'Kitmax Twin-top Tuckbox' and a bottle of wine smuggled from Spain.

     K. Constable Maxwell      

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Morocco 2011,
Desert, Mountains and Sand
A photo-safari to record desert images for future travel lectures.

Kit Constable Maxwell and Dr Raymond Bird will be launching an overland trip to south east Morocco in May 2011. We depart on May 3rd and return at the end of the month.
We shall navigate mountain tracks and donkey trails in the Atlas Mountains. We'll camp out in the desert sands, bask in the silence of the Sahara and sleep under the great African panoply of stars.
Our home will be this sun-saturated, camel-powered desert environment where time has stood still for centuries.
The trip will take us from Portsmouth across the Bay of Biscay to Santander, 600 miles through Spain to Almeria, and then across the Mediterranean to Nador, Eastern Morocco.
We shall drive eastwards to the Algerian border and trek down the edge of the 'Erg Occidental' sand sea. We shall reach Erg Chebbi, 500 miles to the south and then cross the Drâa valley, course of the longest river in Morocco. This valley drains the centre of the Anti Atlas mountains and hosts many of the historic sultanates and domains. We will examine some of the old Sultan's castles described by Gavin Maxwell in his 1966 book 'Lords of the Atlas'
The trip will cover some 3,000 miles. We will collect emails periodically.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An amazing expedition, now safely completed.
Khara Khoto Fort in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia.
Mazartag Fort in the Taklamakan desert, China.

For a preliminary selection of pictures, click here...
Click on the first picture to enlarge it, then click the 'next' arrow to view.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rockets and Forts in the Gobi
25th October 2009 - We drove North and reached the well laid-out town of Jiayuguan. Here we visited the great Ming fort. This historic building stands on a big hill which marks the very edge of the Gobi desert. It is a formidable structure with high walls, double ramparts, guard house, battlements and ornate, pagoda-styled watch towers. It presided over the changing loyalties of the Mongolian border and manned the patrols on this section of the Great Wall. The 'Wall' itself is unbreachable and runs from a precipitous gorge at one side before snaking off across the mountains on the other. The whole fortification is a tiumph of medieval engineering and tactical design and a grand statement of pure military might. Little surprise it was never taken.

26th October 2009 - Our journey across the Gobi continues. We drove northwards up the Ruo Shui river which rises in far-away Tibet and flows right across the Gobi desert. It disappears into lake Sogo Nur on the Mongolian border. The fertile banks support good cultivation as we started and this thinned out and disappeared as we reached deeper into the Gobi.

The road was well surfaced and clearly a military supply route. We reached a flat barren tract of desert, as flat as the eye could see, and we knew we were entering China's top secret defence installation and rocket launch site. We concealed all maps, 'gps' receivers and cameras. We were stopped at a checkpoint where our passports were submitted for examination. The guard looked us up and down suspiciously and then rang through our details to the guard commander.
"Four eenglish tavellers, all velly old, combined ages 300 years..."
"Ah ! So...", spluttered the captain, "300 years... let them pass".

We were waved onto a desert piste which by-passed the military garrison and rejoined the surfaced road further on. A fighter aircraft zoomed low overhead and then landed nearby. By the hangar were rows of fighter aircraft lined up. On our south side were numerous radar tracking installations. The barbed wire boundary fence went on and on until we reached another check point. And there, directly ahead was the rocket launch pad, clear for all to see.

James Bond would have been amazed. Jian-Hu was amazed too, this uninhabited and highly sensitive area had been out of bounds to Chinese and foreigners alike, until very recently. The secrecy of the site had been blown away when NASA published satellite pictures of the whole world on the internet. No hiding place remains and we identified the rocket site from the Google Earth picture we (improperly) carried with us.

However we are not spies and our goal lay further north. We sped on towards Mongolia across the increasingly barren reaches of the Gashun Gobi until we could see, in the far distance, the outline of hills that mark the Mongolian Border. We were nearing our goal, Khara Khoto.

29 October 2009 -
The medieval fort of Khara Khoto lay some way off our route and Ray Bird had prepared satellite pictures and gps fixes determining our turn-off point across the sand. But we were surprised, and a little disappointed, to find a newly consructed road leading to the fort. We thought we would be blazing a new trail to this forgotten fort but the Chinese Ministry of Culture had got there first.

The town was sacked in 1372 when the first Ming Emperor chased off the Mongol invaders. They had been in residence since 1227 when Ghengiz Khan invaded it. After a fearsome fight, all the Mongol occupants were slaughtered and the town was abandonned to the Gobi sands for over 500 years. It was rediscovered by a Russian archaeolgist around 1910. Few people have visited since but all that looks set to change with China's current tide of enthusiam for Chinese tourism. With the convenience of a graded road we arrived early entered the town by the West Gate and spent a long and interesting time reliving the known history and examining the ruins.

Our visit was the grand finale for our long planned and long travelled journey. We walked and climbed among the abandoned fortifications and cherished the memories of this vibrant border town. The great central square was contained by soaring walls, surmounted at one coner by several Buddhist stupa shrines. The river Ruo Shui provided water, the water provided trees and shade for the animals, crops and grazing, and to all external signs the fort was invincible. History dictated otherwise, however, and only memories and legend now survive. The massive walls were never breached but trickery and a siege starved the fort of water and the end was just a matter of time.

* Footnote from In 1372 Genghis Khan's influence was on the wane and China's new Ming Dynasty was exerting its authority. The great desert fort of Khara Khoto was protected by unassailable walls and maintained by a formidable army. A frontal attack was clearly impractical. So the wily Ming emperor marshalled a great force to dig a canal to divert the river - and then they waited…

The Mongol leader, Khara Bator, soon realised his fate. He dug a deep well which failed to supply water. Fearful of capture, he killed his own family before throwing his treasures down the well and running on his sword. The Chinese entered the town and slaughtered the occupants 'like cattle' and left the bodies unburied in the main square.The city was never reoccupied and gained a ghostly reputation. It became known as the 'Black City' and is shunned by the Chinese and Mongolians alike.

The city was claimed by the desert sands and is now only distinguishable by it's 30ft ramparts, crumbling temples and many bleached bones.

Our visit to Khara Khoto fulfilled all expectations and we started our long journey home with a sense of satisfaction and achievement. We crossed another 800km of Inner Mongolia to reach the northbound stretch of the Yellow River at Yinchuan. The Yellow River makes a curious 180 degree turn and we reached it again, a whole day later, on it's south-bound run at Wubu. Then another long drive through gorges and mountains into central China.

We reached Pingyao in the late afternoon. This extraordinary walled city is locked in it's own time capsule, embodying the best of 300 years of Chinese history. People live and work in this ancient city, cars are banned and tourists flock to see the cobbled streets and the ancient sites. There are Taoist shrines here, Buddhist temples and even a Christian church. It's medieval perfection is so convincing it looked like a Hollywood film set.

Then Datong, the home of many spectacular Buddhist shrines built under and adjacent to the Great Wall. Tomorow Beijing, the Forbidden City and our flight home.

This will be the last web-log post this series. Website and pictures will follow. Keep tuned in to

Raymond Bird, Philippa Treadwell, Suzie Rae, Kit Constable Maxwell

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yardangs and Buddhist temples, Post 4

Yardangs and Buddhist temples at Dunhuang
20 October 2009 - The windscreen was frozen up in the morning and we were glad to have our cold-weather gear; we crossed the main street to have breakfast in a cafe opposite. There was a solid-fuel stove inside which kept us warm and kept the rice soup boiling. Menu highlights were the crispy-fried doughnuts accompanied by boiled eggs, all eaten with chopsticks.
Our route took us northwest through the mountains. We reached 3,670 m altitude. The desert area of Lop Nor and the Wild Camel reserve lay to our east and the snow-clad 20,000ft Altun mountains lay to our south. It was a rewarding drive with fine-ridged dunes telling tales of whispering winds... We saw camels, ptarmigan (the Chinese call them 'snow chickens') and several mounted nomads herding large flocks of sheep across brown, barren upland valleys.
We reached Dunhuang, a great historic trading post on the Silk Road where traders were faced with two risky decisions - to proceed north around the Taklamakan Desert, a route described by Ghengis Khan as 'hostile and ghostly', or the southerly route from where we had just travelled. Both were full of dangers, not to mention bandits, and many traders and their beasts perished to the unkown demands of this hostile desert. Dunhuang is now a well presented and colourful town, sunny and warm after our mountain journey. We had a spicy Sichuan dinner to celebrate our arrrival.
21 October 2009 - We travelled to the Mogao Caves nearby to visit one of the great centres of early Buddhism. Nothing prepares us for the size, variety and quality of the 800 - 1,000 year old temples. They are all hewn out of solid rock and most are high up on the cliff-face where we need to ascend steps to reach them. Sculpture and paintings reside on a backdrop of carefully worked design in an endless series of symmetrically configured caves. We saw big Buddhas and giant Buddhas, some with their bodhisattva attendants and all defended by fearsome demons. The whole cliff-face is hollowed out into caves, some huge. It is an amazing site and was so important to the old silk traders making their offerings before venturing out into the desert beyond.
22 October 2009 - We visited Charley Jhong's Cafe in the town and were served a welcome fried-egg breakfast and toast. Then we drove to the historic 'Jade Gate', and important 1,700 year old fort on the silk road where traders would be charged a fee in return for safe conduct. We examined the ancient section of the Great Wall which marked territorial boundaries while giving protection against invaders. We visited the garrison storehouse too, and great building on the river which provided for the needs of the fort.
A short way beyond we arrive at the 'desert yardangs', a curious and enticing geological formation. Neat rows of rock march abreast across the sands.They are the result of age-old erosion leaving corridors of sand separated by walls of hard bed-rock. Some fomations have developed into rock islands, but all rmain firmy aligned with their rocky neigbours.
24th Octoer 2009 - Some of the bigest dunes in China occur in the Gashun Gobi at Dunhuang, and we drove a few miles to this awesome formation. Philippa, Suzi and I hired a camel each and were led up to the crest of a 600ft dune. From here we looked down on a rolling sand-sea stretching off across the desert, a formidable barrier to both man and beast.
Afterwards we walked to a dune-locked lake nearby with a small island on it, a Llama's retreat from times past. Emotive, timeless and beautiful.
24th Octoer 2009 - We drove all morning to a long forgotten gorge on the Yulin river. Here we came suddenly upon a honeycomb of Buddhist temples, all carved high into the canyon walls. A small entrance led into a narrow passage which connected the caves together. Each cave is big, spacious and filled with modelled and polychromed sculptures and carvings. The walls are richly decorated too and most date from around 1000AD. We are the only visitors.The site matches the Mogao caves for general style and quality, and exceeds them for the greater variety of images. In one central cavern stands an immense Buddha nearly 80ft tall, and we looked in awe at the might and majesty of this engaging image.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Desert picnic on the Silk Road, Blog post 3

Desert and mountain, picnic on the Silk Road 
17th October 2009 - We left Hotan and made good time driving east along the Silk Road. After a very desolate stretch where the mountains loomed in the morning mist, we reached several oases served by rivers running off the Tibetan plateau.
Maize is grown here, and dates. There are a few cattle and some goats and sheep. Soon we see our first camels too, Bactrian double-humpers being herded by cameleers on motor cycles. The road is unsurfaced and the terrain sandy. It is hot, dusty, bumpy and slow. Eventually we reach the small but nicely laid out town of Minfeng where we stop.
18th October 2009 - It is noticeably colder now and we rug up for the next section. Rivers flowing out of the Altun Mountains are diverted into irrigation systems before being swallowed up in the desert. We pass a very large melon plantation with uncountable melons being loaded onto 30 ton trucks for transporting to city markets far away.
We branched onto a desert section of the old silk road, a wide highway newly resurfaced in black tarmac. We stopped for lunch and laid out our picnic on the main road, just in front of the car. Jian-Hu didn't pull off to one side, he just stopped the car on the highway. Cars and trucks passed occasionally in each direction. We watched anxiously and winced occasionally... but this is the Chinese way, and it worked for us too.
Our Chinese guide, Jian-Hu, is a star performer and has proved himself worthy of his fine reputation. He is capable, charming, effective, enthusiastic and humorous. He negotiates prices for us, chooses our menus, introduces us to locals, makes us laugh, researches our route and chooses our campsites and hotels. He makes friends wherever he goes, we get waved through check points, get priority service in stores and are given private rooms in restaurants. He can draw a smile from the most sombre bureaucrats and has doubled the enjoyment and success of our expedition. And best of all, he is enjoying every minute of it too.
19th October Ruoquing - Today started badly... and got worse.After we left the town we were stopped for reasons which were not fully explained and compelled to join a growing traffic queue. Our early start ebbed into a late start. Eventually we were waved on to find our newly built road had been closed and we were compelled to divert onto the old dusty, wornout desert piste.
Three hours later Jian-Hu remembered he'd left his wallet under pillow back in the hotel. We turned around promptly and hastened back to Ruoquing, thankfully retireving the lost wallet, and then we retraced our steps. By lunchtine we had only advanced a third of our way.
We reached the 2nd C Tibetan ruins of Miran, now just a pillar of stones in the desert, and were greeted by a surly warden and his scowling missus. The entrance fee was an unbelievable £250.00 for the four of us. Much negotiation followed, all without a breakthrough; even the ever charming Jian-Hu was floored. So we made our feelings known and moved on - we still had a long way to go. Miran fort was never a major objective so we didn't mind too much, and once back on the main piste were were able to climb a dune and view the ruins from the top.
Now we were on the old Silk Road again and entered a strategic mountain pass - countless traders would have trod this historic ground trough the ages, and we treasured the experience. We reached a high upland valley where the piste was badly deteriorated. We thundered on through billowing sand and suffocating dust, circling the deepest dust bowls and breaking new ground through the scrub, the rocks and the dried river beds.We were being thrown around in the car and were now over 8,000ft, and still climbing. Jian-Hu did a skilful job negotiating this hellish section. It was getting late and we didn't want to camp in this high, desolate, uninhabited place with only bandits and wolves for company.
Whisky hour came and went as the sun sank lower and disappeared behing the mountainous rim of our high valley.  The girls, Philippa and Suzi, never once complained, stalwart to the last. Raymond took GPS fixes and plotted them on his many maps, and I took fleeting photographs of soaring eagles, crags and the rocky sunset.  Jian-Hu kept up a running commentary and drove with verve and determination. At over 10,500 ft we passed through China's big asbestos mine - we closed all windows and tried not to breathe too deeply.
After 14 hours on the road we reached Huatuguo, a small mountain town, at 10.30pm and found a very welcome hotel for £16.00 per night. A gourmet meal appeared soon after. Our night's rest was never so well appreciated or so hard won.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

China travels Blogsite, post 2

Silk spinners on the Silk Road 16th October 2009
Nearing the jade centre of Hotan we stopped to visit a traditional silk mill. Silk-fledged cocoons bobbed about in a pan of warm water and the spinner attached a thread to the string of silk running onto the bobbin. Her spinning partner wound the spinning wheel by hand. Raw silk is coarse and joins on contact, but the process requires keen concentration and a practiced hand. When the cocoon was unwound it was discarded and another connected swiftly, without a pause or a break. The process is mesmerising and fascinating.
Suzi bought a nice silk carpet in the shop and we lunched in the shade of a grapevine before driving into town. This is a Uyghar moslem town and there is a grand minaret, but no mosque... just by the hotel. We walked down to a restaurant in a pedestrian area and had an excellent dinner. Jian-Hu chose many different dishes of meat and vegetable for us, and the bill came to under 10 Pounds UK for all five of us.
We visited the main museum of Hotan and saw an excellent presentation of archeological artefacts excavated from provinces on the Silk Road.These included prehistoric axe heads made from the very hard local jade, carved wood and bone figures revealing Buddhist and Indian influence, and a 1,000 year old mummified Chinese princess complete with her splendid, ornate wood coffin. Outside we saw local youths scouring the drying river bed for 'river jade'.
We visited a jade-cutting factory and saw craftsmen at work. Diamond-tipped drills are used to work this hard stone. Philippa bought a jade camel and Raymond bought two jade elephants. Later we joined throngs of Uyghars in the covered shopping alleys where everything from silk, jade and domestic goods were on sale.
The Uyghar ladies dress elegantly with colourful head-scarves and long flowing dresses. Most of them ride a motor scooter, and most carry a friend riding side-saddle on the pillion seat. The Uyghar men wear a flat, embroidered pork-pie hat, dress usually in black and ride light motor cycles. Their passenger will be their wife, sister or cousin, usually carrying a babe-in-arms. All look cheerful and none wear helmets. Everyone drives very slowly and none observe traffic signs or lane discipline.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kashgar is an ancient trading city ... and is cradled in the converging arms of the ancient Silk Road. Travellers of old would circumnavigate the waterless wastes of the Taklamakan desert and trade their goods and livestock at Kashgar. We arrived here after a 38 hour journey on 4 aeroplanes, crossing 8 times zones and covering nearly 10,000 kilometers.

Kashgar lies north of Kashmir and lies in that great central Asian basin bordered by Mongolia in the north, the Gobi desert in the East and Tibet in the south. It is now 7.00 am but won't be light for another two hours. Kashgar is on Beijing time (GMT+8) but so far in the west that we have crossed three time zones to get here.

Today we prepare our provisions for our camping trip across the desert. We assess our supply points with the help of our experienced Chinese guide, Jian-Hu. Our navigator is Ray Bird and we are accompanied by Philippa Treadwell and Suzie Rae, all of whom have travelled with Jian-Hu previously. We had a good trip to Kashgar's main square and viewed the enormous statue of Chairman Mao. The square was manned by soldiers in sandbagged machine gun posts and we were aware of the recent clashes between the Uyghar and Han people. The atmosphere in public areas was tense. We visited to old mosque too, set in a charming plantation of it's own.

We left Kashgar and had a long and interesting drive east. We bordered the Tien Shan foothills and to the south lay the fertile and productive land of Mao's many 'collective farms'. We passed through at least eight en-route, each covering many thousands of acres. Cotton was being harvested here, mainly by womenfolk, and one mother or father would look after a creche of children at the edge of a cotton field.

After many twists and turns through lakes, rivers and irrigation canals we arrived at Aral and checked into a hotel. We saw herons and comorants en-route and passed a falconer flyng a sizeable eagle; hunting rabbit, we were told. We refuelled at Aral and drove south across the desert on a well-surfaced desert road. We wanted to visit an old Tibetan fort but it lay 5 miles off across the river Hotan. Could we get there, we asked ... Local research in the resthouse revealed that the river was low at this time and crossable - but it needed a Land Rover (Kit's words) and we had just a road-going Honda 4x4.

Jian-Hu set off cautiously on a very sandy piste. We got mildly stuck several times and walked most of the way to lighten the load. We reached the dried river bed, over half a mile wide at this point and drove onto the hard mud. Bar a few wet patches and some soft sand, we drove across and then down-river until we reached the foot of a great rocky cliff. On top were the ruins of an important Tibetan fort dating from the 1st century BC. Tomorrow we shall climb up to it.

We made camp on a sandy bank at the foot of the promontary, collected driftwood and laid a fire. Ray Bird was the first to get his tent up and Philippa Treadwell was the first to get the whisky out. Suzi Rae and I have to run to keep up with these great, redoubtable octogenarians ! We met some Chinese geologists who were doing a land survey and we invited them to join us later.

Jian-Hu then prepared us an excellent dinner of hot noodles, chicken quarters and beef slices. And then, to my complete surprise and delight, a grand birthday cake for me, complete with candles and a singing chime. Birthday wishes followed. The geologists arrived and we had a grand desert party around the camp fire. The sun sank behind the old fort and the first stars appeared. The party went on until all the Chinese 'Great Wall' wine was finished. A birthday feast in the desert, what a unique and happy event it was!

In the night our campsite was visited by a lone jackal whose wild, plaintive call echoed emotively across the starlit river bed. Paw-prints near my tent indicated he was after a tempting row of socks which were hanging out to dry on my guy ropes. He didn't risk it, however, and the socks were still there at dawn.

October 15th 2009
Visit to Mazartag Fort
The old fort was reached after a long climb over rock and loose sand. It was sited in a commanding position on a great bluff of red rock marking a bend in the river. It was constructed of successive layers of stout timbers, bound in place by sun-baked mud over 2000 years ago. Nearby were two wood pens surrounding burial sites of ages past. Every detail of the fort was examined closely and we imagined this distant Tibetan outpost guarding their colonial interests long ago.

We spent more time on our dry sandy bank before striking camp and setting off up-river again. We found, with some dificulty, the steep climb back onto the bank. We dismounted and pointed the heavily laden Honda at an angled approach. Exhorting Jian-Hu to 'make big speed' the car reared up the bank, slithering sideways and scrambled to the top.It was a hazardous obstacle, the front wheel lifted fully clear of the ground and only the momentum stopped the car from rolling.

After that we powered our way through much soft sand and arrived back at the desert road. We handed back the sand-shovel we had borrowed from the rest house, refuelled and set off again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Count down progresses

Gobi trip on target for October 9th 2009 - watch this space
    K. Constable Maxwell,        

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taklamakan desert
The Taklamakan is a vast desert plateau with an average elevation of 4,250 feet. It is the largest expanse of barren sand in Central Asia, covering 200,000 square miles. Stony desert forms an outer ring at the edge of the basin; a soil-covered plain dotted with occasional vegetation forms another ring between the stony desert and the vast sandy interior of the basin. The basin is the most remote place on earth from any sea. Climate is extremely dry with annual rainfall less than three inches. 85 percent of the interior Takla Makan is composed of sand dunes from 300 to 600 feet high. In some places a growth of tamarisk stabilizes dunes. Groves of poplar grow along rivers that cross the basin, and forming a striking contrast to the surrounding hot, dry sandy desert.

Thank you 'spacecowboy2006' for this interesting post - we shall enjoy scrambling up those 600ft dunes

Gobi Desert 2009

My next desert trip starts in October 2009 in Kashgar, North West China.
We drive across the Taklamakan Desert to Dunhuang and visit the 'Cave of 1,000 Buddhas' .
We enter the Gobi and travel to Khara Khoto, the 'Black City', lost for 700 years and now engulfed by desert sands.
More to follow...

Friday, November 30, 2007

I sent this last blog post from a wind-up computer attached to a camel's hind leg...!
Sorry for the delays.
Raymond and I are now safely returned from our amazing expedition across Algeria.
Photographs will follow.
Keep tuned in for news... Kitmax

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


We drove across the desert and arrived at theTefedest mountains, a traditional Touareg stronghold.

The range is dominated by Mt Garet and we camped at the foot of the mountain.

Next day we visited a lone pinnacle of rock far across the sands and discovered a charming canyon where we spent half the day. The pinnacle soared above the flat valley floor and the walls of the canyon were sprinkled with huge boulders. Little fox paw-prints scurrying about told of much nocturnal activity.

The Tefedest range is quite small, very remote and proved to be our guide's homeland. In the afternoon he took us on an amazing journey, up a wadi which got smaller and steeper and more barren.

It was a very difficult drive indeed and I was beginning to wonder for our guide's sanity, when the mountain opened up into a small valley with a few reed houses and, surprisingly, a green and verdant plantation.

"My garden" announced Mohammed, proudly, and there, fed by a year-long water source, was a verdant garden with figs, dates, herbs, greenery and plants . It was an extraordinary sight in this most barren of all mountain passes.

We left in the evening and returned to the plain and were passed by three racing camels in full colours, all of them known to our guide. Their riders joined us later for tea around the campfire.

At dawn an old camel drover turned up in camp - I should have guessed, Mohammed's father. It was a great privilege to be among so many traditional Touareg and to share with them a glimpse of their unique and secretive lifestyle.

We arrived back at In-Salah after a most colourful, rewarding and fulfilling trip. We were greeted by our agent's family and had a traditional goat and couscous stew, seated on the floor in considerable discomfort and eating with our right hands. Delicious!

We are now wending our way back to Europe. It is a long way...

Towns are about 500 miles apart down here, and we have a few towns to reach on our way back to Tunis and the ferry Mediterranee

Photographs will be posted on the website after I get home in December.

A lot has happened since our last blog. We had a good journey to Tamanrasset, bouncing down the Assekrem mountain was slightly easier than bouncing up it.

We collected our escort back-up car and set out for the weirdly eroded rocks of Targrera. The back-up car was leaking fuel all the way and we sent it back with our guide for repair.

We spent a happy 24 hours exploring a remote desert canyon . At night we were surrounded by jackals, their plaintive calls wafting across the starlit plain at the foot of our canyon.

The car arrived back a day later and then broke down again, and then had a succession of problems after which I voted it unusable.

We dumped it in the desert and drove back to Tamanrasset. To give our agent his due, backed up by a couple of satellite calls to Switzerland (the Euro liaison team), a replacement car arrived and our trip continued.

We had now lost 4 days and had to cancel our trip to Djanet and Mount Tazat:

However, all clouds have a silver lining and we then proceeded to have an unscheduled tour of some of the finest desert scenery North of Djanet and across the Amadror plain.

On the way we passed 150 or more camels at a watering hole. They were being saddled up by a team of cameleers. The camels snort and roar, grunt and bellow, generally in good humour as the workers saddle up loads of water and feed for the journey ahead. A very colorful scene, traditional desert life unchanged for centuries.

We reached the saltpans at Tissemt which was an important trading site. The salt was loaded onto camels and then taken to far-away Niger and traded for grain.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The night was very cold and we were now over 9,000ft altitude. Oxygen was in short supply too and we felt quite breathless after exertion.

Raymond and I pitched our tents on a rough patch of gravel. I cooked a dinner of vac-packed veal with spuds and onions from In-Salah.

I awoke at dawn and set out to climb to the summit, 1,000 ft above us, to visit the Hermitage of Père Foucould.

It was the incomparable Foucould, a Viscompte in his own right, a cavalry officer and latterly a committed hermit, who settled on this magnificent site to devote his life to prayer and meditation... and also to write a dictionary of the Tuaregs entire Tamashek language.

I puffed my way up the precipitous incline and reached, almost an hour later, the summit. The view is spectacular, unparalleled and showed a skyline bedecked with unworldly red-rock pinnacles, each one catching their first light of a new day.

The Hermitage, built in 1910 is a small stone rectangle harbouring a tiny chapel. A stone altar is perched on three natural stone columns. A simple cross hangs on the end wall, and prayer mats are gazelle skins.

Each of the two to three hermits lives alone in crude rocky shelters, and come together for communal prayer in the chapel.

20 years ago I met one of the hermits and he gave me his last cup of coffee. I vowed then that I would return one day to replenish his small stock. So it was with the greatest pleasure that I found the Padre hermit, reminded him of our meeting and presented him with coffee, sugar, milk and... two slices of Lyn's cake. He was thrilled and we chatted happily. He looked hardly a day older. Clearly a lift of hi-altitude abstention beckons - but who...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The random pistes on the upper plains converge into a single snaking trail which wound it's way across the rising terrain.   Here and there flash floods had swept away whole sections of the trail.  Circuitous routes beckoned and the Land Rover bounced stoically across boulders, shale and steep inclines.


After 3 hours we had achieved 30km, not much above walking speed. After a brief stop we continued, we still had 45km and 4,000 feet to go. The trail got steeper and the landscape gave way to pinnacled ramparts enclosing secluded valleys, their entrance blocked by tumbled rocks the size of houses.


We left the piste and drove up a steep narrow wadi to cross a saddle between two towering pinnacles - it was a hair raising ascent as first one wheel lost grip on the slippery river bed and then another.   Beside was a 100 ft drop and we had already passed one wrecked car in a ravine far below.


The wadi could now be called more accurately a dry waterfall and had to be approached with carefully planned momentum and maximum traction. We made it, just and stopped on the saddle to admire the scenery.   Great pointed monoliths of fluted red rock thrust skywards and gave the landscape a quite surreal appearance.


We arrived at Assekrem late, watched the setting sun spotlighting first one great towering pinnacle and then another.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We drove to In-Amguel where we left the Tamanrasset road and struck east for the mountains. The piste wandered across fertile wadis separating rocky plains, and all the time rising.

We reached the little village of Hirafok, little changed since my last visit here 20 years ago. I recognised the tea house in the village centre, and those inquisitive kids must be the offspring of the inquisitive kids I met all that time ago.

We passed several groups of donkeys, strong animals and well marked in grey and black outline - quite unlike the working donkeys we saw in the towns.

We camped in a soft sandy wadi. The night was cold and Mohammed lit a fire, with a single match, and we sat around it toasting our toes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We arrived at In-Salah early enough to spend a relaxed morning shopping for vegetables, dates and other supplies for our journey south.


We met our guide, a tall welcoming Touareg called Mohammed.  His wide winning smile augured well and his desert knowledge is unsurpassed.


Next morning his chief, M Haffoui appeared. A distinguished man, carrying dignity and style, a great welcome and good language skills.


We left with Mohammed to drive the long route south. The road was well marked but badly deteriorated in parts.  We reached Arag gorge, a tortuous and spectacular land fall and the scene of many battles in days past. We stopped to refuel and then pulled off into the desert to make camp for the night.  We nestled into a hollow of the dunes and cooked up canned chicken accompanied by In-Salah vegetables.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Raymond arrived at Tunis airport safe and sound. We left for the Algerian border next day. We crossed into Algeria and we had a long drive south and we reached In-Salah one day early.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I am looking forward to hearing all about your adventures on your latest expedition
and will be poised over my computer ready to post your blogs.
Norma - Cumbria

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fingers Poised

I am poised over my keyboard waiting to get Kit's tales of his next adventure to post on to the blogsite.
Watch this space!

Travel information October 2007

Kit Constable-Maxwell and Raymond Bird are now in countdown for their departure to Algeria at the end of October.
Days are spent checking lists, packing and modifying the Land Rover, and organising guides, visa, local permits.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dunes are calling...
Kit Constable Maxwell and Raymond Bird will leave for Algeria at the end of October.
Our destination this time is the Hoggar Mountains, in the far south of Algeria near the Niger border. They will be travelling in Kit's trusty Land Rover.

We shall visit old forts and battle sites to review the history of this strange and compelling land. We shall meet Touareg tribesmen, the masters of the desert, and travel with them to visit unexplored corners of this uninhabited terrain.

Lecture on October 12th 2007
A lecture honouring the Long Range Desert Group's desert raid on Murzuq in 1940/41 was given in Hampshire on October 2007.
It was well received and over 70 guests attended.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Desert Lecture at VSC, London,
on 26th April - comments...

What a splendid evening last Thursday & thank you for a most engaging illustrated talk of your exploits.The historical content was just right & very helpful. Brian Stevens

This really was an excellent and most professional presentation - and a great social event as well! Thank you so much for what was in every way a really memorable and highly enjoyable occasion - accompanied by excellent script, performers, photos, and musical accompaniment! Robert

Just to say how much we enjoyed and were impressed by your presentation yesterday. A great success and clearly enjoyed by your audience. Adrian Thornton

Hi there - just to say what a really excellent evening that was. Many, many congratulations on realising the whole event. I know what a huge amount of energy went into it all (the trip itself notwithstanding!) You managed to convey the more poetic and mysterious side of the desert experience along with the more factual elements and the fun aspect of the actual trip. Very entertaining! The venue was excellent as well. I think people were blown away! Simon

We were really awestruck by the magnitude of the journey you undertook and the beauty of the landscape that unfolded from your magnificent photography. Thank you for bringing a magical journey to us! Love Laura Plumbley

I really enjoyed your show and I thought the photography was fantastic, particularly the light and shade on the sand dunes. Best of luck Anthony Hopkinson

What a great evening and fascinating lecture, I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Many, many congratulations - I really felt I was there and the planning and organization must have been quite something. I would have been constantly worried about getting stuck in the sand ! Thank you for giving us such a wonderfully interesting lecture - brilliantly put together and presented. Much love Lavinia x

Dear Kit - What a 'tour de force'! We all loved every minute of it and well done for putting it all together - Love Penny & Derek

Wonderful evening - you put it together so beautifully and with such élan - Virginia and Peter

A great feat, modestly recounted by its inspirer, and a treat to listen to, as well as providing reassurance to any over-sixties who may be wondering what the next decade may bring! Benedict

Little did I know... what you had in mind! Your slide show was much more than that - your still photographs had a life of their own, moved as they were by the music and the emotional drama of the planning, the courage to set off into the vast desert with only the supplies on your roof, the surprising archaeological discoveries, and of course, reaching your goal! Thanks for treating your friends to a marvellous evening. Love, Alice

I greatly enjoyed your talk yesterday evening. Many thanks and well done. Best wishes Patrick Baty

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Monday 23rd October 2006

We reached Derj in the late afternoon, well on schedule. We continued to Ghadames where we visited the old town. 15,000 people lived in this rabbit-warren edifice which was served with a sizeable well-fed irrigation system. It supported many gardens and date palms, all of which supplied a living for the occupants.
We dropped off Mamdu, our desert-skilled Touareg guide who had accompanied us for the whole route. His knowledge of sand, dunes, and desert terrain was unfathomable. We camped on soft dunes. Tomorrow we drive north and in a few days will reach Tunisia. A few days later we will take the Mediterranean crossing to Europe.
This will be my last post by satellite telephone and in a week or two I will put photographs on my main web site
This has been a tremendously successful expedition and many thanks go to the army of suppliers, advisers, and well-wishers who supported us on our trip.
Thank you for all your many kind messages of support. They will all be answered in due course.
Sunday 22nd October 2006

Fast drive across the great expanse of sand, the edge of the Awbari Sand Sea. Dried out lake beds glistening with salt deposits.
Followed a trail and ascended a very steep escarpment adjacent to a gas pipeline. At the top was a stony plateau which went on, it seems, forever.It was rough driving and tough on the tyres and I sustained two punctures just before we camped. I carried two spare wheels so I was able to change them both.
Saturday 21st October 2006

We fuelled up the cars for a long desert crossing over 800 km of rock and sand skirting round the edge of the Awbari Sand Sea. We allowed 25% extra fuel and 5 days supply of water.
We made good time on the road, and it was very hot and I used the air conditioning in the last town.
We entered the sand sea at 4pm and encountered several herds of camel with their drivers, returning to camp in the setting sun against the background of wind sculpted dunes. A scene unchanged for centuries.
Memories are made of this………..
A sudden deep hole caused a sickening crunch as the Discovery’s well-laden suspension hit the bump-stop hard, the jolt also broke the fixing on my roof rack. Crispin and I repaired it later with bolts, nuts, clamps, ingenuity and imagination. We followed a beautiful sand track to an outcrop of small palms and scattered bushes and dust.
Camped in a shallow sand recession bordering the Sand Sea.
Friday 20th October 2006

Gabran Lake
After the excitement of yesterday’s arrival at Murzuq our camp site at Camp Africa nearby was both welcome and timely and we spent the rest of the day washing our clothes, refitting and repacking for the journey ahead.
We left camp and drove up to some mountainous dunes using every ounce of power and traction available.
This is a steep, soft and difficult drive and after a few sandy extractions we were high on the dune plateau.
We stopped on a ridge and far below was a picture book oasis, Lake Gabran. The water was a deep blue, all fringed with rushes and palm trees and completely surrounded on all sides by huge sand dunes.
This is one of several lakes in this area isolated by time and accessibility.
We then visited the 2000-year-old Garamantes town at Germa and camped in the dunes later.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We thank the many supporting messages we have received on this blog-site. Each of them is precious. On our return in early November photographs will be added to the main web-site at so please stay in contact.
Thursday 19th October 2006


Suddenly we reached Murzuq…….. We made a triumphant entry in our imposing desert-dressed Land Rovers, singing 'Rule Britannia' and 'Land of Hope and Glory'.
The locals could only gasp in amazement. We rounded the corner and there stood the old Fort just as it did when the LRDG arrived all those years ago. It was a grand desert building, complete with guard room, inner courtyard and crenellated ramparts.
It stood on a slight rise overlooking the town.
This was our journey’s end, just as it was the LRDG’s primary goal. It fell to Captain Michael Crichton-Stuart and the Guards Patrol to capture the Fort, while Major Pat Clayton raced off to the adjacent air field simultaneously to disable the aeroplanes, bombs, arms and fuel depot.
I had planned this day for 5 years and now it was here. We drove into the spacious courtyard with a mixture of joy and reserve; the joy of achieving our travellers dream and reserve that our expedition was almost over.
We lined up the three Land Rovers in front of the main entrance, posed for photographs, shook hands and celebrated our great journey.
We remembered absent friends of the LRDG and saluted the memory of those brave desert pioneers before moving off to the old airfield. Here we found a bullet-scarred hangar inhabited by wild dogs. Afterwards we returned to the Fort.
What a great achievement that LRDG raid had been, over a thousand miles behind enemy lines, 30 trucks navigated over the most inhospitable terrain on the planet.
Now 55 years later, we had re-run the journey. We used the time-proved Land Rovers to meet the challenge together with modern satellite navigation equipment.
Wednesday 18th October 2006

Across the huge sand plain part of Murzuq Sand Sea. The Land Rovers could be seen shimmering in their own mirage. With no clear boundary the horizon was lost in a distance haze where land meets the sky. Arrived at Tmissa, re-fuelled and turned West for the final run to Murzuq.
We camped in another picture book dune valley and we all sang Lili Marlene after a candle lit dinner.

We were now three weeks into our desert dash and looking much like a troop of brigands. Richard has a big brindled beard, Crispin and Simon have one too. Nick looks like the chief brigand in his Touareg head-dress, and my hair has not seen a brush since day one.
Tuesday 17th October 2006

We arrived early and returned to the volcano for dawn pictures. Very beautiful. Back to camp site at 0900 for vehicle maintenance.
We left camp at 1400 hrs for a long uncomfortable drive west. Turned off the main piste eventually and camped in a wide plain dotted with patches of soft sand, bordered with white lime stone.
Highlight of the day was to discover the wreck of a Ford Truck of the sort used by the LRDG. Who knows now, so long ago, what story it could tell.

I sleep with my tent door open and awake before dawn. I then pack up the tent, go down to the Land Rover, fill up the kettle and fire up the burner.
Raymond joins me and we take our place on our desert chairs – each next to a storage box which doubles as a dining table.
Richard is next to get up, always chirpy, followed by Chris who appears out of his swagman’s sleeping tube and Simon from his 5-star camp bed. Nick appears at the first hint of breakfast. There is a rustle from the floor and Mamdu, our memorable Touareg guide emerges from under a ground sheet.
We breakfast on coffee and strong tea with paté and crispbread for Raymond and jam for me.
After breakfast, Raymond holds a briefing with the others on the day’s itinerary and we discuss special challenges, recommended tyre pressures and rendezvous points.
We then carry out maintenance checks, pack up and move off around 0830 hours. The Discovery with navigator (Raymond) and Touareg guide (Mamdu) will lead, with the two Defenders in second and third in order.
At 11.00 we stop for elevenses and at 13.00 we stop for a two- hour break.
I take out two jerry-cans and stand them in the sand, then I install the 'Kitmax twin-top tuckbox', open both lids and remove - mugs, tea, sugar, kettle, crockery, cutlery and soup, and all accessories for lunch.
Then I assemble the large door-mounted parasol and we set out our chairs and storage boxes…… and prepare a lunch of soup, mackerel fillets, mayonnaise and local bread where available.
Between 5pm and 6pm we find a camp site. This may be on a dune or under a group of palm trees or tucked in a maze of tamarisk mounds. Sometimes our camp is just a speck on a great boundless plain.
We set up our tent and unpack our cars. We light a fire and prepare for dinner. Out comes the 'Kitmax twin-top tuckbox' again and tonight we will have dehydrated soya mince with local peppers, carrots and onions, bought in local markets en route.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Monday 16th October 2006

Drove down our dune corridor and came to the great dry lake. The shore was covered with mussel, oyster and clam shells - an extraordinary feature in this waterless desert.
We found, after some searching, the well preserved wreck of a 1930’s bi-plane which had crashed here. We took photos and examined every piece with interest.
Long and difficult drive on blackened sand to the volcanos at Waw Namus. This is an amazing sight, lost in a vast crack of soft black sand is the volcanic crater, about 2km wide . We stopped and looked down at the great central core surrounded by three shimmering lakes bordered with lush green vegetation.
The temperature has soared to 104.6 degrees F ( over 40 deg C) and both cars and passengers are feeling the strain. We camped later by sandy dunes in the cool of the evening.
Sunday 15th October 2006

We practiced dune-driving skills before leaving camp and drove to Tsaibo, a small outpost town. We replenished fuel and water. This is our first supply since leaving Jagbub - five days and a thousand kilometers away. Difficult sandy drive out of the town and off across the plain.

We reached the dune corridor, in the Kalansho sea . We found a picturesque dune site and camped for the night. Silence, space and eternity.
Team Profiles
We have integrated well as a strong and competent group, to celebrate the LRDG’s historic raid on Murzuq in 1941.

Richard Noble – a master planner who will be seen with notebook and calculator logging food, fuel and water stock, checking supplies and plotting GPS fixes. Richard finds the Landrover pace quite slow compared with his other car……….Well, as a 633 mph Land speed record holder he would, wouldn’t he?
He is also the team’s self-appointed dishwasher which says much for his style of management.

Nick Robinson – a driver of good, bad and amazing classic cars. A quick learner, skilled driver and a fund of information and facts. In charge of medical supplies and first aid skills for the group.

Raymond Bird - reliable, amiable, and a great navigator. Fuelled by industrial strength tea and accomplished map reading skills he is the group’s senior member and it’s strongest asset.

Crispin Clay – confident driver, and warm personality, backed by good mechanical skills entrusted with sourcing all self-recovery equipment, vehicle maintenance and equipment storage.

Simon Montford
– lively, active and much motivated. He is learning Arabic from our Touareg guide, playing Arabic poker with our gendarmes. He may be seen bronzing himself on top of a moving Land Rover, or conducting film interviews en route.

Kit Constable Maxwell – solid research and planning skills derived from countless desert travels, many of them alone. Lifelong Land Rover user, ex Scots Guards and French Para’s. Historical adviser to the group on LRDG skills, deployment and achievement.
Saturday 14th October 2006

We drove west across the plain following the route of the LRDG after they left Big Cairn.
Big Cairn was used as a survey point by Major Clayton in the 1930’s. In this otherwise featureless desert it was a good location for LRDG’s fuel dump on the 1941 Murzuq raid. It must be one of the most historical stone Cairns in the Sahara. Many LRDG and SAS units rendezvous-ed here and it was a powerful experience to tread the ground of history.
We saluted brother soldiers and played the wartime favourite 'Lily Marlene' on the radio.
The plain ended and we encountered the southern reaches of the Kalansho Sand Sea. In the jumble of cross-directional dunes interspersed with stony outcrops it was a difficult drive.
Our speed varied between 50 mph and 15mph depending on terrain. We drove along a smooth crest of long whale-backed dunes and made good progress until the next stony area.
We crossed the Kufhra road in late afternoon, the first sign of inhabitation for 1000 km. Clumps of tamarisk trees announced the watered area of Bir Zeigen where we camped. Water lies a few feet below the surface here and can be accessed by digging a shallow hole and waiting briefly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday 13th Oct 2006

We left camp early and drove into progressively worsening sand. We made some amazing Dune descents and crossed some picturesque desert. By mid morning we were driving down a dune corridor, flanked by great dunes on either side. Many times we broke through the crust and sank up to the wheel arches in powder soft sand. By noon we left the reaches of the sand tree and set off across a flat plain and cruised across the unmarked border into Egypt. This was the final run for our primary destination Big Cairn.
We arrived at lunch time and basked in the memory of this historic place. We all felt chuffed, three thousand miles from UK. We lined up Land Rovers for a photograph and later we left to drive west. We camped in a great flat sandy plain just near the crash site of ‘Lady be Good’ a war time US liberator aircraft
Thursday 12th October 2006

Memorable storms with bright red halo rising over the dunes. This is real desert, a land beyond time, an unbounded void reaching from horizon to horizon. We breakfast on paté, jam and crispbread with coffee or tea.
We drive out of our camping valley and rattle off across the stony plateau. Soon the terrain turns increasingly sandy and we started negotiating dunes and soft sand. We dropped our tyre pressures to increase flotation. We passed some picturesque rock formation, artistically eroded by wind, sun and time. We reached Bir Salama an abandoned pumping station and continued south eastwards. The temperature is now 95 degrees Farenheit
We climbed many long ridges and descended some alarmingly steep dunes. In the afternoon we hit a large area of soft sand and frequently had all three cars stuck at once. We used straps, towropes and sand ladders boards and old fashioned push and shove.
By evening we were all much fatigued and ready to stop. We found a wonderful site in the dunes and built a fire. At nightfall everyone sang happy birthday to Kit and I was presented with one of the groups last Mars bars.
Wednesday 11th Oct 2006

Drove to Tobruk. A nice harbour, sparkling in the morning sun. We visited, by mistake, the German War memorial, a very fine fort built on a high bluff. Then we left for the long drive to Jagbub where we topped up with full containers of fuel and water. We were now heavily laden, I was carrying 300 litres of fuel and a hundred litres of water.
We turned off into the desert and found an old abandoned piste. We had to climb a sandy ridge to gain the plateau, and we all got stuck at different places. Sand ladders were used for the first time and we were soon free. At dusk we descended into a picturesque valley with soft sandy patches and eroded rocky outcrops for windbreak. Perfect for camping and here we spent the night.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday 10th October 2006
Long driving day. We woke at 6 o'clock and left camp at 8 o'clock. We are now in a flat barren desert inhabited by the odd family of camels. We reached El Adem finally and camped in a welcoming desert wadi.
Monday 9th October 2006
We drive all day. Camp at Ben Jawad on the sea-shore. Very nice camp site, but windy and too rough to swim.
Sunday 8th October 2006
Sabratha ruins revealed unparallelled craftsmanship and we walked down paved streets enjoying temples, forums, squares of splendid theatre. The site borders the sea and the waves lapped gently.
We drove on to Tripoli passing the pretty harbour and continued to Leptis Magna. The size and scale of this important Roman site is amazing as is the quality of stone and marble carved into decorative features, capitals and plinths. More on the web site later. We camped for the night under sun-baked palms.
Saturday 7th October 2006
We cleared Tunisia customs in record time (about 2 hours) and Richard recovered his walkie-talkie set. We entered no-man's-land and were greeted by a tall welcoming Touareg with a broad smile, clutching our Visas.
We fitted our new Libyan number plates and set off for Sabratha. We reached the historic Roman ruins and set up camp by the car park.
Many camping skills were learnt, new equipment unleashed from factory wrappings, and everything was going well when we were hit by a sudden rain squall. We all got wet and it was a good christening.
Friday 6th October 2006
Arrived in Tunis and docked at 11 o'clock to be greeted by shouts, waves, officialdom, beaurocracy, gendarmes and douanes giving conflicting instructions. Self-appointed fixers argued amongst themselves and gesticulated wildly. Welcome to North Africa!
Richard was directed into the residents channel and had his walkie-talkie impounded. Very irritating and time consuming, but not serious as we got them back later. We left the dock 2 hours late and drove right through Tunisia. In the small southern villages Chilli beans were hung out to dry - a colourful red adornment to the simple white buildings.
We arrived at Matmata which has been home to Troglodite communities for centuries. We booked into the Troglodite Hotel El Barbar and were shown to a cave - albeit one with white marble floors and four posters.
Thursday 5th October 2006
We arrived at Marseille and board ship for the 22 hour crossing to Tunis. Comfortable berth and good ship. We assembled at tea time for a drivers briefing. Kit explained the intricacies of Dune driving, Raymond explained the route and the itinerary and Nick briefed on first aid.
Wednesday 4th October 2006
We are off to Libya at last. Raymond Bird and Kit are in a well-loaded Land Rover Discovery. We had a 10 hour drive to Aix where we met up with two Land Rover Defenders. Richard Noble and Nick Robinson are in one. Crispin Clay and Simon Montford are in the other. Richard's brother, Andrew, came to bid us farewell and brought us a case of wine for the journey.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Journey through history, the Kalansho Sand Sea.
This satellite picture shows our route. Tobruk, Libya, is on the coast near the Egyptian border which is shown in Yellow. From here we drive to El Jaghbub, home of the Senoussi people, and then continue south into the Kalansho Sand Sea.
We expect to travel over 1,000km before reaching any supplies. We will be well stocked with extra fuel and water.
We are heading for the darker area where we locate the only feature, Big Cairn.
From here we turn west and head for Zeigen Wells where we replenish our water supplies. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006

We are making the final preparations for our departure on Wednesday 3rd October. The group of two Land Rover Defenders and one Land Rover Discovery will rendezvous at Aix en Provence.
We will spend the night in the comforts of a chambre d’hôte before booking onto the Marseilles to Tunis ferry next day.
This will be the first night of our trip to North Africa. Further news to follow.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The preparations are now well advanced for the Murzuq Raid 2006.
Departure date is set for October 3rd from UK
Raymond Bird will travel toFrance on October 1st

Monday, September 18, 2006


Norma is going to post news items on this Blog-site while Kit and friends are in Sahara in October 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This is the Arch of Septimus Severus in Leptis Magna, Libya taken by Alicia in April 06. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kitmax and friends plan to re-run an LRDG desert raid of the 1940's. The map in the previous post refers. Background notes about the LRDG are as follows:
LRDG Notes (trawled from multiple sources)

Ralph A. Bagnold (1896-1990) had an innate curiosity and inventiveness as a young boy that was encouraged by his father, a British Army Royal Engineer. Young Bagnold followed a family tradition when, after completing a war-shortened training program in 1915, he became an officer in the British Army Royal Engineers. He spent three years in the deadly trenches in France, after which he utilized a special military educational leave program to study engineering at Cambridge University, receiving an honours degree in 1921 and returning to active duty with the army.

1916 - Australian Light Car Patrol reaches Dakhla
The British Light Car Patrols are formed to patrol the north western desert frontier of Egypt against the Senoussi threat. The Australian Light Car Patrol hoists the British flag in Dakhla on 18th December 1916, and conducts several surveying patrols to the south & west of Dakhla till June 1917. (The pass 60 kms to the south of Dakhla along the Darb el Terfawi is named 'Australia Pass'). In 1917 Siwa is captured from the Senoussi by an armoured car division making the crossing across the desert from the Mediterranean coast to Siwa in a surprise attack.
The birth of the LRPs.
“Much of the information concerning the LCP comes from : The Other Desert War, by John W. Gordon”
Ralph Bagnold and other familiar names to the LRDG (Pat Clayton, Bill Kennedy Shaw, Guy Prendergast, to name a few) had been avid desert explorers between the wars and had spent numerous hours of their free time and personal money building on the methods learned by the LCP in getting around the desert. Bagnold had made major improvements on the Sun Compass, and managed to cross the Great sand Sea on several occasions using Ford Model A trucks. A feat considered impossible by just about every desert explorer!
Before the outbreak of the war in 1939 Bagnold proposed that the British Army form a long range patrolling unit to spy on its neighbours to the west. His proposal was roundly dismissed as being diplomatically unsound as well as physically impossible. Most of the British senior staff felt it was impossible to operate motor vehicles through the uncharted desert. They all seemed to feel their was no need or no feasible way to accurately chart the desert. Furthermore it was felt that any long range reconnaissance could be accomplished with aircraft.
Field Marshall Archibald Wavell was in command of the Middle East. He was aware of Bagnold's past desert explorations and has Bagnold assigned to the 7th Armoured Division(Desert Rats). Bagnold did not pitch his idea for long range patrols right away. In time, he began to propose such plans with his immediate commander. While his immediate commander was keen on the idea, higher commanders were not. Eventually however, Bagnold went around the chain of command and with some help got his proposal in Wavell's hands. The proposal was met with enthusiasm and a short deadline of six weeks to get the unit operational. Bagnold was transferred to Wavell's headquarters. The unit was called the "Long Range Patrols" or Long Range Patrol Units.
Bagnold was given a free hand to call for volunteers and decided early on to look for more robust "colonial forces" that were coming into the theatre, assuming they would be more self reliant than British Units. His first choice were Australians, assuming the arid outback region would have made them acclimated to a region like the Sahara. Unfortunately the Australian Divisional commander did not want his men be led by a British Officer. The New Zealanders were approached next. Their commander, Lt. Gen Bernard Freyberg had won the Victory Cross in WWI and was a colleague of Wavell. Within a few days Bagnold had his volunteers and they were considered the best that the Division had to offer.
The initial patrol was led by Pat Clayton, one of Bagnold's friends. What they found was a demoralized army in no hurry to fight. The information proved accurate and was instrumental in the campaign that followed. Wavell realized he was in no immediate danger and informed London that 2RTR and 7RTR could take a longer safer passage to Egypt instead of being rushed through hostile waters.
A New Name and New Patrols.
With the success of the initial patrol and some following raiding missions, Wavell immediately authorized the doubling of size of the LRP and the unit took on its new name, the Long Range Desert Group, LRDG. Unfortunately the New Zealand division could not spare more men and Bagnold actually had to give a few of the originals back to the division!
Bagnold was forced to look else where and that elsewhere was once again newly arriving divisions. Among those arriving were the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards, two of the Britain's finest division, and numerous Yeomanry units.
Yeomanry were mounted territorial or reserve units. Bagnold realized that the various backgrounds of the professional and the part time, and the colonial may not be a good mix so instead of integrating the new men into the New Zealand patrols he organized two new patrols "G" for Guards and "Y" for Yeomanry.
The Guards 'G' patrol were on the 1940-1941 Murzuq raid, under command of Capt Michael Crichton-Stuart (Scots Guards).
The Yeomany 'Y' patrol would have been recruited later that year, 1941.
"W" patrol was gone but the New Zealanders still had "R" and "T" patrol. The letters coming from Maori words used on their vehicles. Later another patrol would be raised from the southern area of the colony of Rhodesia and this patrol would take the letter "S" for south.