Location: Marsa Matruh, Egypt (N31 21.563 E27 13.410)
Miles travelled: 597 miles (over three days)
Weather: 30ºC – Hot, hot, hot
Today we mostly listened to: Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol
We haven’t been able to update the blog for a few days because of the lack of internet facilities in Libya, but it’s been an eventful few.
We left Ajdabiya and headed on the long desert road to Tobruk. The landscape was dry and flat and for long periods of time we didn’t see another car on the road. Apart from a short coffee stop courtesy of our camping espresso maker (thanks Ali) we motored through to Tobruk and all was well with Monty. We stopped at the Commonwealth War Cemetery on the outskirts of Tobruk around 4pm with the plan of spending half an hour there and heading on to a nice camp Bedram knew on the beach close to the Egyptian boarder. As you would expect the cemetery was very well maintained, peaceful and brought a lump to my throat as I wandered around all the headstones.
As we left the cemetery we noticed that Monty was making a funny noise again and after much debate between the three of us we decided to see if we could get it looked at in Tobruk before going on to the Egypt border. The whole time we have been in Libya we have probably seen about 2 Landrovers in total. Every other car you see is a Toyato pick-up truck or Landcrusier so we didn’t hold out much hope of finding a suitable mechanic. As we got in to Tobruk though we suddenly started to notice a sight that made us warm and fuzzy inside, Landrovers everywhere – okay really old and knackered ones, but they were everywhere! It turns out that this is a legacy of the glorious British armies time here. When they left in the late 60’s they left their vehicles behind and the residents of Tobruk have been using them ever since. Perhaps Monty wanted us to hang out in Tobruk – afterall he is a desert rat.
It was getting too late to find a mechanic so Bedram took us to a restaurant for some delicious fish and where we were joined by his friend Mousa (the chief of the Tourist Police in Tobruk no less!). As we sat and chatted he told us that his father had fought in the RAF during WWII for the British (just like my Pop Muskett). He then insisted that we all go stay at his ‘farm’ just outside of Tobruk. We agreed, thinking we would camp in the garden, but when we got there he then insisted on us staying in the house. Well you cant say no to the police in Libya so again we agreed. It turns out the house wasn’t really a farm at all. He said it was his family house, although he resided somewhere else, but as far as we could tell it was like a pub with no alcohol. Every night from 7pm – midnight Mousa and his friends sit around in the lounge of the house drinking tea, smoking, watching TV and chatting. At the most there were probably 12 men in the room at one time (and me!). at around 12, they all leave (presumably to return to their homes) and the servant clears everything up ready for the next evening. The topic of conversation that night as far as we could make out was Monty and the strange English people that had come to stay.
The next day we took it to a mechanic and whilst it was being fixed we were invited to lunch by another chap – Mouse (the second) – a friend of the first Mousa. Whilst the boys had lunch in one room I was invited back in to main of the house to meet Mousa (the second’s) wife. She didn’t speak a word of English and as my Arabic is still pretty ropey we spent two pleasant hours communicating through sign language. I watched her cook lunch (fish, lamb and a rather nice casserole type dish). She showed me around her house and put lots of perfumes and lotions on me. She then wanted to look at my arms – she thought it rather strange that I didn’t wax them. When I indicated that I waxed my legs but not my arms that was even stranger. We ate together on the floor sharing from the same plate with her little daughter – it was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Before leaving she gave me some gifts – earrings and a couple of hair clips – maybe she thought I needed sprucing up a bit.
One other thing I have noticed about Libya is that even though the streets may be filled with litter and no-one seems to mind that, the houses we visited were absolutely spotlessly clean – in particular Mousa (the second’s) wifes kitchen. She runs a tidy operation indeed. It also seems to be ingrained in Libyan culture to look after guests. Mousa kept saying to us that it was his duty. They took no money from us, yet fed us, ferried us around and let us stay with them. Tobruk really isn’t a pretty place and there isn’t much to see there but I felt so glad that we stayed two nightss getting a real insight in to how some Libyans live – and it doesn’t seem to be half bad!
I have not included details about Monty and the mechanical bits – I’ll let Ric update you on that shortly. After leaving Tobruk we headed to the Egyptian border, apprehensive about how long it was going to take. We were also incredibly sad to say goodbye to Bedram. He looked after us so well and we will miss him a lot. Bedram – your next holiday needs to be in England, come stay with us!
Yes, Monty is letting us down again! I’m not sure about below the Sahara but in North Africa Land Cruisers are king.
We were only 16Km from the Egyptian border when Monty started making a “funny noise”. We’ve learnt before that it’s always better to go back to what you know rather than forward to the unknown so we headed back to Toubrouk. As Charlie said, there are tons of Land Rovers there so we assumed it’d be extremely easy to get the issue fixed. Whilst at the farm on the night of our arrival Mousa collected a couple of Mechanics and bought them to the house (at about 9pm) and after much musing over what the problem might be they decided they had no idea but it was probably linked in some way to it not being a Land Cruiser.
The next morning we took it to the Mechanic and after fiddling around he removed the Transfer Box (essentially the second gear box) and added a different one that he had laying around. This took one day and unfortunately had only one effect, it gave us two wheel drive rather than four wheel drive. The Libyan contingent thought this although not an ideal outcome, still a good one. I didn’t and told them to put it back together with my old transfer box.
So, to fix this problem that’s been plaguing us since Italy we’ve put in a new clutch and new prop shaft, we’ve swapped out the transfer box and the problem still exists. This means it looks like a problem with the gear box, probably the bearing. We’re now trying to get to Cairo as delicately and quickly as possible to get a new gear box fixed at the dealership there. The car now sounds like someone is stiring a bucket full of nuts and bolts under the footwell.
The reason we didn’t stay in Toubruk to fix Monty is because, although they have loads of land rovers they’re all Series Models (1960/1970s) and all Petrol. Ironically if we were in an older car we’d probably be in better shape. If we were in a Land Cruiser though we’d probably be in Luxor a few thousand pounds richer.
The Egyptian border took 2.5 hours to get through – not too bad we thought. It is incredibly inefficient going from one office to the next and I think they make it like this so that it is almost impossible to do this without having a fixer – a whole industry would go under if they made it simpler. We ended up paying our fixer 100 Egyptian pounds (about £10) and we thought it worth it as we had to sort out insurance, plates, the carnet etc etc.
We’re now in a hotel in Matour. On to El Alamein and hopefully Cairo today….