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