Libya-tour 1999

 Sandsturm auf dem Dünenkamm

" Whether 110km/h are enough " for this monster-dune?, do I think as I ride on my XR600 in the 4.gear with full-gas towards a gigantic sand-mountain. Considerably high and orange piles up the mountain in front of me and moves closer quickly. And before I can think about how to descend from this height again, the suddenly incipient rise presses me into the seat of my Enduro. Already after approximately 50 meters, I must slow down on the third gear, because the approx. 40HP of the XR is not enough here in order to hold the speed. Again and again, I look at the sand-ground, that wipes under me to the rear. But on the unified orange underground it is hard to estimate the speed. The edge of the dune moves more and more near. Down with the gas, or after all not? And a moment later I ascend the summit of the dune, exactly with the last mobilised HP of the third gear. I stop the motor and enjoy the outlook of that good 150m high dunes amid the "Idhan Awbari" in Libya. Die erste hohe Düne ist geknackt!
The country with a surface of 1,8Mio square km is approximately 5 times as big as Germany.  Looking at these gigantic sizes, this kind of trip with a "Sportenduro" is only possible with either a considerable luggage-expenditure or with some Jeeps or Trucks which do carry the luggage..
Already in the advance of the planning a Libya-trip, I decided to go for a guided trip. Because the for the tour necessary rebuildings of the XR (40l tank, perhaps rear-tanks, luggage-system) would have been more expensive as the expenses of the tour themselve. From the " Fun riding a overloaded bike ", that is immediately zero with so much luggage, I don´t want to talk at all. Plus thinking about the of long approach, that my friend Peter would not surely has survived on his/its 350er Husqvarna.
From Rosenheim to Genova until Tunis and further to Libya until after "Darji" we left the five Enduros remained on the truck, together with the rest of the equipment. Consequently, we could save approximately 2000km. (That we have driven through Europe, Tunisia and Libya on tar-streets.)
As we finally leave the asphalt at "Darji" in direction "Idri", everybody is full of anticipation about the track of approximately 570km extents, which is lying before us. We, that are five motorcyclists, two jeep-drivers and our tour-guide Martin Hähle with a brand-new MAN L2000 4x4 Truck. Three of the five motorcyclists have a GPS appliance onboard, the TRUCK anyway. Only the two jeep-drivers don't have GPS-Receivers, what should already avenge on the first day. As we drive along an indefinitely appearing gravel-area, Hendrik drove with his Mitsubishi L200 in front too far. As he  finally stopped, also the TRUCK stopped at the same time. Both waited -each for the other one. As no one of them saw the other after 30 Minutes, Hendrik started to panic. He believed, to be behind the TRUCK and proceeded quickly. At this time, we motorcyclists were already 30km further away and waited at a GPS point for the rest of the vehicles. After a hour wait we drove back and found the TRUCK and the Suzuki LJ80 jeeps, but not Hendriks Mitsubishi. Quickly a plan was devised and we drove all side by side, on visibility distant, southward in order to look for Hendrik. As it finally dawned, we broke off the search and ignited an old tire in the hope, the astray gone Hendrik would see the black smoke.
After the plentiful dinner, we disappeared into the sleeping bags relatively early in the evening in order to find the lost jeep together with driver tomorrow. After all, he had 200l diesel with him, just as 20l waters. Only no food was supplied on board.
On the next day, nothing was viewable of Hendrik to midday, until we should catch up with the runaway. With help of his compass-clock, he had succeeded in remaining on the right track, however with the attempt to cross lava-rock field, he had catched two flat tires. Our good luck, otherwise he would probably have driven until further Algeria. With help of the two Müsli-bars, that had Hendrik found in the car, also an opulent dinner as well as the breakfast was him possible this morning.
Finally again completed, we exchanged the two flat tires with tire-mounting irons and continued the trip. One day after, we are now standing at the comb of this gigantic dune during Martin is preparing lunch at the TRUCK below us. As Peters footpad breaks off the frame, we finally return to the TRUCK in order to repair the damage with the brought welding-appliance -after the meal, of course.
To descend such a dune, is a particular thrill at the first time: The with a "Hillclimbing" comparable strongly falling terrain must be driven with gas as well, so that the front-tire doesn't sink into the sand. Then, a somersault could not be avoided. We drive the rest of the day on fast stone-tracks, always a few kilometers in front of the 4x4 vehicles. Here and there the tracks admit up to 140km/h, faster can my XR not run here. The two KTM pilots Jürgen and Bernhard add another briquette here and show me their exhaust-pipe - damn! Alle auf der Rohölleitung
Finally, we reach the " pipeline track ", a track beside the crude pipeline coming from the Libyan south, on which we unwind the remaining kilometres quickly. Arrived in Ubari, we sign our personal details at the police-station into a book. Finally, we buy some bread in order be independent for the next days again. Also the fuel and water supplies are replenished. The gas-tank for the motorcyclists and the LJ80 Suzuki jeep is at the truck and grasps approximately 700l gas. However one filling costs approximately 60 DM. Unbelievable, how much that would cost in Germany! Here, we save a part of the 320 marks, that we must pay at the border for the "carne de passage" for a motorcycle.
The Mandara seas are our next goal. Amid from big sand-dunes you meet at first the Mandara lake. We proceed to the more beautiful "Um El Ma ". that means something like "mother of the water". Here, also a camera-team of the ORF builds their camp on the subsequent day. Whether the cameramen have imagined themselves the loneliness and silence of the desert so, is not known to me. With Interest they observe the mobile activities on our side of the lake. Behind the Suzuki jeep, a rope is stretched and Jürgen hangs with the skis at it behind. Like with the Skijoring, only on sand. Also a Snowboard is in our truck, with which Hendrik is surfing down the steep hillsides of single dunes. Jürgen Schmid mit dem Snowboard hinten am Suzuki Jeep
After a warm night (it finally has more than plus 3C degrees at the morning) we start to work on our motorcycles. The air-filters of the motorcycles needs to be cleaned. My filter already for the second time. Against midday, we set off over the dunes in direction to "Um El Ress". This sea is away approximately 20km (conted in airline). Because of the arising sandstorm that is beginning right now as we reach the lake, we require for the to - and return trip more than 5 hours. And that for hardly 50 driven kilometres! We are very glad to have reached our camp before the break-in of the dark. Otherwise, an overnight stay would have been the consequence in the dunes without the accustomed comfort of a tent or sleeping bag.
We reach the next track-route only by taking the endless 450km approach on an asphalted road. Unfortunately the street is in a so wretched condition that the popped open surface of the asphalt out-shakes us the tooth-fillings. In the evening, we finally stand shortly behind the oasis "Al Katrun". From here, we leave in the following morning to the South-bypass of the Murzuk erg. 750km without care-possibility are lying before us. With at least three self-sufficient Sahara-suitable cars, it should be driven on this route, says our guide-book. A not quite harmless matter, if we consider to meet  other cars, in case of an irreparable defect of the truck.
Again and again, we hit soft-sand-passages, at which first the Truck sinks immediately down to the axes. Only with the help of all motorcyclists and the sand-panels, we succeed with it, to get the 4x4 back onto the ground again. Therefore the motorcyclists or the only 900kg heavy Suzuki jeep ar driving in front, because they are rescued more easily, if one of the hardly visible soft passages comes again. At an excavation of Japanese cultural asset, (the Mitsubishi jeep), the incomprehensible happens then: With the third shovel sand we dig out one bottle of French beer! The durability-date is not yet overstepped and so the gift of the desert is immediately drunk. How this bottle of alcohol, that may not at all be introduced to Libya, comes here, remains a puzzle. In the evening, the daily kilometre counter shows 260Km. Not bad, because more than 300 height-meters had to be done on sand.
A sandstorm during the night provided a constant sound effect in the tents. The fluttering of the tent-wall drowned out even the snore of our Suzuki driver Alex, whom one heard him sawing normally more than 20m far.
In the morning, we cross some steep dunes. We need to step down from more than 1100m sea levels to drive on approximately 800m down again. The TRUCK driver accomplishes true tricks with it, as he drives down the steep hills with profoundly sinking wheels. It would be extremely unsuitable, 300km far from each settlement to overturn the TRUCK.
Against afternoon, we reach huge dunes, from which some do overstep the 200m height. Of course, all motorcyclists must immediately try the ascent. For this hill, my XR has unfortunately too little power, so that I still stand after the fourth attempt 30 meters under the summit, while the first KTM pilot waits already above at the peak. With this wonderful scenery in the background, we build our camp for the night.
The last day of the Murzuk bypass brings long, soft sand-levels, that are replaced at intervals by stony plateau's. Again and again, high, orange dunes stand by our lefts. As we finally reach the "Wadi Mathendous", a stony canyon, only little time remains in order to marvel at the prehistoric rock-engravings in the canyon. Abfahrt ins Wadi MathendousWe still had to drive approximately 30 kilometres today on an uneven stony track. We are finally forced amid such a stone-desert then to sleep. Proceeding the track would be too dangerous in the dark. Furthermore, it begins to rain.
With whole 3 degrees and drizzle, the new morning greets us. With the rain-stuff mounted we get going. The many stone-scraps on the way are very slippery through the wetness. However, already after few kilometres we drive from the stone-track down into a Qued and follow it. A wide valley opens before us with on both sides steeply falling rock-walls and a sandy ground. Almost like ordered, the sun begins to shine. A dream photo-scenery. Half an hour later, we have asphalt under the wheels again. With the Check of the vehicles, a broken plate-spring is diagnosed at the TRUCK. After we fix the spring with an instep-belt abruptly, the trip continues along the pipeline track in direction north. The at the start of this track situated oil field with sentries is simply bypassed a few kilometres, after the local workers had prohibited us a direct pass through. We meet up at km 2 of the pipeline again with our 4x4 vehicles, that had driven to Ubari, to get gas and water. Together, we drive along the Oilpipeline northwards. Again and again, high dune-mountains are to be mastered. Also the cars must over the sandy obstacles, there is no other way. Occasionally, a few especially high dunes appear, are a new challenge for the motorcyclists. Again and again, the next dune is another couple of meters higher or another couple of degrees steeper than the so far already driven. Only too stupid that I with my XR have to watch the highest of these summits of something below the peak. Although on the way with almost a flat tire and sitting at the rear fender, I don't get enough  Grip in order to ascend the whole hillside. Oh God, please drop 10 HORSE POWERS down on me from heaven!!! Somewhat later we find many wood-beams, which we take some as firewood. At the evening, sitting at the camp fire, we drink one of the smuggled  5liter kegs beer and the experiences of the day then are given to the best. Dünensurfen ist einmalig!
In the next morning, again many dune-kilometres expect us. However, Jürgen must take from midday the jeep. His KTM pissed off. The inner bearing of the clutch-basket is out of order. In order to avoid a bigger disaster, the KTM is taken onto the TRUCK. Well, I smile: "My rice-stove (Honda) is not the fastest, but it holds longer ". Jürgen now hunts Alexs jeep over the dunes, so that now the beside him sitting passenger Alex the face colour many times gets lost. Somewhat later, we even meet up with a VW-bug (beetle), with license plates from my hometown! The driver is confident to master the coming dunes with his HP-weak vehicle. The partly flooded lowering of the following wide levels have been started on vehement showers of the last night. Hendrik dares a pass of one about 100m long and approximately 50cm deep lowering, that is filled with brown muddy water. Eagerly, we all wait for the L200 to get stuck in the middle and the two passengers have to start with the  empty-creating of the interior.
But nothing like that happens. The jeep obeys savely through the mud and with visibly pride in the driver´s face Hendrik smiles at the other side of the small lake over to us. Today is our last overnight stay in Libya. Already tomorrow, we are on the way to the Tunisian border, to catch the ferry in Tunis to Geneva then in one and a half days later. During the packing of the motocross-boots, a small heap of orange sand trickles out of the boots. A last greeting of the Sahara.
We all start the remaining 2000 kilometres of the home-trip on four wheels again.

Abendstimmung in der Wüste, Foto: P.Schlegelmilch
Christian Frankl