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The road in the desertLIBYA


The road in the desert

Article published in Euromoto magazine in 2008.

A lonely, fascinating itinerary, a ribbon of asphalt that cuts like a blade one of the most beautiful parts of the Sahara, to reach the 2 most distant cities in the Libyan desert, including off-road excursions with local guides and jeeps. An itinerary suitable for all types of motorcycles and which lets you savor the taste of the desert.

Read the story published in the magazine.

Already leaving Nalut you realize that you are pushing into the unknown. Even the road reduces the carriageway almost fearful of invading spaces not granted to it. The show is fascinating. Darwin, speaking of the desert, defined its "negative qualities" as irresistible. Because? His answer was that such lands leave free rein to the imagination. How to contradict him? The important thing is the sensations: slow down often, look around, immerse yourself completely in this absolute nothingness. How to transform the monotonous into something suggestive, almost hypnotic. As you go, the landscape is in transformation, the arid hills give way to the boundless immensity of the desert: the Sahara! After Derj it bends decidedly to the west and after a hundred kilometers the oasis of Gadhames, "the pearl" as it is often called, appears in the void. Reaching it at sunset with the lights extending into the desert is already worth the journey that hasn't actually started yet. A thousand-year-old city, an uninterrupted transit point for caravans from all over the African continent. Rightly declared a World Heritage Site, it is certainly the largest and best preserved ancient city in the country, an obligatory stop that is impossible to give up. The ancient part is practically uninhabited, despite the fact that in 1984 almost 7000 people lived there, all moved within 4 years to more modern accommodations. Walking in the maze of alleys, a labyrinth of covered streets that rely on natural light, by means of suggestive skylights, often equidistant from each other and even 10 meters high, can only leave you astonished. Usually the tour package includes a visit to a salt lake, a castle and, at the end of the day, sunset from the top of one of the dunes overlooking the nearby Algerian border, but don't be too surprised, given what awaits you in the south. The next day will be a long way, the goal is Hun, about 800km, in the middle, the usual, fantastic nothing, some petrol stations, few in truth. In the most desolate stretch from Darj to Ghariat, about 300km I will cross a convoy of 4 trucks (yes, in these areas you never travel alone !!!), a tourist bus stopped for mechanical problems and a couple of cars. On the other hand, I will manage with 7 dinars of petrol, about € 4 !!!! I arrive at the checkpoint before Hun and from the guardhouse some plainclothes soldiers beckoning me to approach. I go in and they offer me some water. I take the bottle and we fill it. One of the boys appears with a package full of dates, they will be at least 3kg, he offers them to me. Another comes with some cans of soda, also offered. They ask me if I need petrol, but I answer that with this bike I have no autonomy problems. They ask me how many liters the tank contains: “24” I answer, naturally with gestures. They are stunned, they do not believe that he can travel 400km or more without refueling. Hun, deliberately included in the itinerary, deserves two separate lines. 6 years ago I arrived there looking for a person and I met 2 friends. Abubaker and Abdul Fatah, met a few hours earlier, had hosted me in the house of the former, since, as usual, I was without money and without the possibility of being able to change into black. I still remember now when the 2 confabulating in Arabic then communicated to me: "ok, in our opinion there is only one possibility for you: you stay and sleep at Abubaker's house, tonight you are our guest for dinner, and tomorrow you change the money to Measured ". I have with me the photos of their children, taken in 1999, which I tried to send them as soon as I returned to Italy but which they never received. I easily find Abubaker, he is at his shop and together we go to Abdul Fatah's. We will spend the whole afternoon together, visiting this sleepy town in the Libyan desert. "This time I have more money than the other time" But there is nothing to do, I will sleep in the same room, in the same corner and eat the Arab way with my 2 friends. The next day, the stretch to get to Sabha, following the southernmost road, is also the worst in terms of the quality of the asphalt, a kind of crust full of cracks that leaves no way out for shock absorbers and backs. Traffic? Almost non-existent! I will arrive in the late afternoon and in the evening I will meet Ali in a café. You speak English and, during the discussion, I ask about Cyrenaica and the Benghazi problems. He confirms to me how I had news, that this is certainly the area of ​​the whole country where Gaddafi has less popular support and believes that the clashes, which resulted in a carnage with 15 dead and dozens of wounded, were generated by a deep-rooted and widespread discontent towards the government establishment rather than to foreign consulates and representations, in this case ours, among other things the only one present in that city. We also talk about the idiot with the shirt, now a former minister, but I am probably more resentful of such stupidity than my interlocutor. According to Ali, another serious problem in his country is the widespread poverty of some areas, especially in the south, even if he believes that the government is changing its strategy, becoming more interested in these depressed areas. Sabha is however an important tourist center, which has no particular points of interest but a good liveliness. From here we leave for all the excursions to the major attractions of the area: the Ubari dunes, the Akakus desert and the Murzuq desert. But you can do differently and go by road, starting directly from Ghat or Al Awynat for the Akakus and from the Ubari area for its lakes. In one word? Fantastic! The first is an excursion that lasts between 2 and 4 days, the second can be done in one day. But what exactly are we talking about? Why so much effort, so much heat and consequent sweat to get to a place where even in winter there are temperatures that reach 30 °? These are arguably the biggest draws of the Libyan Sahara and feature some of the most spectacular desert landscapes in the world. The sea of ​​sand of Ubari extends for thousands of square kilometers and hides a series of small lakes that have something fairytale and fantastic, fringed by dozens of palm trees, among its gigantic red sand dunes. The Jebel Akakus is perhaps even more fascinating and disturbing. Imagine a mountain range of volcanic rock, black and under a sea of ​​orange sand, sometimes red, depending on the light conditions and the time of year you visit it. A chromatic contrast to leave you stunned! To this it should be added that many of the rock formations are embellished with rock carvings and paintings, some beautifully preserved and dating back as far as 12,000 years ago. There is little to do, you have to go there at least once. And so still road. The temperature and the colors warn that you are about to enter a different climate zone. Even the temperature, which up to now was all in all pleasant, has a sudden surge, exceeding 30 °. In April 7 years ago in Akakus we found 55 ° in the shade !!! I'm a month early, thankfully. In Ubari the last houses, a petrol station and a few grocery stores before another 280km of absolute peace: non-existent traffic, wind, sand. I arrive in Al Awaynat and I am at the edge of the world, even the weary inhabitants who shelter from the sun and the wind in the shaded areas of their homes observe this black man wondering where he is going. Ghat, I'm going to Ghat, the entrance door to the Akakus! And the black mountains begin to appear after about 60km, on the left, high, imposing, they escort me in the last tens of km to the entrance of this small, lively town of about 16,000 inhabitants. This is practically one of the few permanent Tuareg settlements in the Sahara with a well-preserved Medina dominated by a castle started by the Turks but only finished with the arrival of the Italians who transformed it into a barracks. I settle in a kind of hostel without signs, where I am the only tourist among workers who come from neighboring countries, in search of better social conditions or simply stopping temporarily waiting to go further north. Everyone speaks French unlike me, but smiles and friendliness are the masters even in the midst of so much linguistic misunderstanding. In the evening I am sitting in one of the 2 restaurants on the main street where a portly cook boning chickens and cooking kebabs with painstaking expertise right in the middle of the street. Mutton, salad and a little rice, in addition to the inevitable water. I listen to sounds, noises, laughter, discussions that I don't understand. I'm at the end of the journey. No, we can only start from here.

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