Mediterranean Cycopaths

Broken Men and Wheels of Fortune

5th February 2007

The plan to have us accompanied across Libya by cyclists from local clubs was doomed from the start.  The coastline is some 1800 kilometres long with our bikes and gear tailor made for such hauls.  The locals, with their racing bike / back pack combination, had no chance of making the distance … and so it proved.  A day and a half after leaving Tripoli, the representatives from ‘Al Madeena’ Club, Nasser and Rabbir, were broken men and had to be packed off back to the Capital in a bus (after presenting us with wrist watches on behalf of their club).

That left Sean, the bikes and I, just the way we like it – a big cost saving, no need to run our plans by anyone and, best of all, no-one taking pictures everytime we scratch our backsides.  As long as we could charm our way through the ubiquitous security checkpoints, then there wouldn’t be any problems.

There are about 10-12 checkpoints between Tripoli and Benghazi and there doesn’t appear to be a standardised process for dealing with Australian (no, not Austrian) cyclists.  A simple “Marhaba” and a wave sometimes suffices and we are through without even stopping while the confused soldiers are still taking in the sight.  On other occasions we have to stop and show our passports, but they are so interested in the map and our route that they soon forget their official capacity and wave us on excitedly. 

Others are a bit more rigourous to the point where we had been kept at one for 20 minutes while they tried to work out what to do with us.  One of the brain surgeons repeatedly asked if we were from Bulgaria despite having our passports right in front of him (refer to recent news re. Bulgarian nurses in Benghazi).  It was a big change from being treated like royalty everywhere else in the country so Sean lets rip with: “Listen guys, I don’t know how to tell you this, but we’re kind of a big deal around here” (that will mean a lot more to those of you that have seen Anchorman).  It went straight over the top of their heads (mainly because they didn’t understand English), but it provided some comic relief for the two of us while we waited for them to finally wave us through.

While Sean enjoys the fine art of Truck Surfin’, my seafaring background ensures that I prefer surfing of the wind variety.  With our route necessarily tracking the coast, wind is a constant companion and our fortunes on any given day are inextricably linked to Mother nature and the assistance or resistance she provides.  A case in point – the final 145 kms to Sirte we had strong head winds the entire way resulting in a demoralising 8.5 hour battle that ensured the rest day we had been contemplating, was taken.  Two days later, we had a tail wind and knocked off 208 kilometres in a day.  With the weight we’re carrying it feels like you’re riding a motorbike in those favourable conditions (no Mum, I won’t buy a motorbike).

So, with more good fortune than bad, we have arrived in Benghazi, after 8 days cycling.  Stay tuned for my ‘Sights from the Saddle’ column which will become a regular feature of the Blog!

Jon

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46593233@N00/

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February 6, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Sterling effort boys! While I admit that i am possibly the world’s least reliable email-checker this flaw does have an advantage. I’ve just read the blog from go-to-woe along with the pics- great read and am now looking forward to checking in regularly.

    Also looking forward to further expanding my vocabulary by reading along with you two scholarly scribes- or do you prefer ‘cunning linguists’?

    By the way Sean- LOVING the beard mate- very jealous!

    Comment by Lachy | February 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. Nice work boys. Here are a couple of quick facts on Lybia for your viewers.
    – Pop 5.7mil
    – 90% of the country is desert
    – Lybia has one of the highest GDP’s in Africa (oil)
    – Government sanctioned Lybian terriorists were behind the 1980’s Lockerbie bombing killing 200+ people. (Cause of tension between Lybia and the West)

    Comment by Badger | February 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. Have your bikes acquired names yet?
    What about ‘Gortex Hunter’

    How many kilos have you shed Big Greasy?

    Comment by Badger | February 9, 2007 | Reply


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