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Published: October 21st 2013
"You want adventure? Libya is the real one" advised our fixer Masoud with a big smile. He was helping us complete the various formalities at the border, while at the same time giving us our first insight into life in post-revolution Libya. The clear message that came across was that there was real excitement about the potential that a Gaddafi-free Libya held for the people, but also frustration at how slow progress was. As a far as safety was concerned, he felt that the main issues were between Libyans (different provinces / militias), and as tourists we would be welcomed.
And welcomed we were. At the outskirts of Tripoli we were met by half a dozen guys on Harley Davidsons, and escorted into town as the sun set. It was the start of a week of "this is freaking awesome" euphoria.
Once in Tripoli we parked up for what was to be the first of many juice and coffee sessions (Libya is officially alcohol-free). Then once refreshed we rode right into the middle of town and were treated to earthen jars of oven-baked baby camel (jarra) at a restaurant right next to a massive Roman arch (the Marcus Aurelius
arch). The Libyan Minister of Defence was sitting at the table next to us apparently.
For the first few days we literally didn't spend one dinar. Petrol, coffee, food, accommodation was all covered by the bikers. I managed to buy something from a coffee shop once, but after a few minutes a biker found out, the shop owner was scolded, and my four dinar were handed back.
Tripoli is full of life. After the control exerted by Gadaffi for 40 odd years, the Libyan people are finding themselves. For instance, motorbikes used to be pretty much non-existent, now in the evenings you'll see guys in t-shirts standing on their bike as they do a wheelie down the entire length of one of the main streets.
On that note, I had been told that Libyan drivers were some of the worst in the world. It's not really the case, it's just that they don't leave much room for error, which can be an issue when you average 150km/h. The burned out wrecks on the sides of all the highways attest to this. One of the guys I met was telling me an anecdote about his friend being shot
in the shoulder while they were driving their Hilux during the war, and because he didn't know about it until he felt the warm blood dripping down his arm, they figured the shooter was close to the road (close = fast bullet I presume). This meant they were able to track down the sniper in a nearby house. But unfortunately after surviving this and other close calls during the war, he was killed in a car accident once the war was over.
After a day off in Tripoli we headed out for a ride into the hills with the Harley guys. A lot of fun, and hard to convey in words, but check out this video
for a taste of it. Then it was to the coast for a swim in the Mediterranean. Beautiful water, hot sun, but a slightly surreal experience as there were militia guys armed to the teeth on the hill overlooking the bay. Baywatch: Libya style.
After a night in Khoms we spent a morning at the ruins of the Roman city Leptis Magna. There was no one there. A Roman city, protected by the shifting sand for hundreds of years, and only recently uncovered.
It would have been a brilliant place to explore even if there were other tourists there, but wandering around the empty ruined city was an incredible experience. We were going to check it out for an hour or so before riding to Misrata, but ending up staying there for 5 hours. A highlight was the Colosseum. So cool that we got excited and made a short gladiator film...
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