One big arch and lots of paintings

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The day starts around sunrise with breakfast and coffee and then a short walk to get us started with the day. The daily routine in camping life starts to become still more familiar and we tend to do the things the same way everyday.

Walking across the dessert to see whats around

After our early walk we drive for a short while and gets to a giant arch. I have seen pictures of this arch it is really big it is almost the same size as the biggest arches in Arches National Park in Utah. There are several arches in the area but this one is by far the most impressive we see on our trip.

Look how small the guide looks – the guide is the tiny black dot a little bit to the left of the centre of the arch. He is a normal size Arab man.

The topic of the day is cave paintings. The area in the south western corner of Libya is world famous for being one of the best spot in the world.

The other places are Australia, France, Spain and the south east corner of Libya. The paintings are from a time when the Sahara where a green area with the kind of wildlife you will find down in Kenya today. When we drive through the sand dunes and through an area where there from time to time is no sign of anything green as far as the eye can se – then it is a bit difficult to imagine an area with dark green pastures and big game wandering abundantly around the streams with the elephants protecting there off spring against lions and giraffes walking around high above the rest.

Scenic lunch stop in the Sahara

The paintings describe the changing climate over time – the old paintings got the elephant whereas the new painting shows the arrival of the camel from the east.

The later period also have some paintings of the horse and the oldest know painting of a chariot several hundreds year before the chariot were invented anywhere else in the world. Hence this dessert civilization at the very end of the world was indeed a very advanced civilization at the front of the technological scene 2 millennia ago.

Every site with the cave painting is really small but they are all pretty close together so the drive from one site to the next is always short only a few minutes maximum 10 to 15. We drive to one peculiar site where the paintings are all missing – they have been removed by a group of French tourist – bloody French. The French tourist had brought with them some liquid that would dissolve the paint on the rock and then a piece of close to get the painting printed on there jersey. In the process they managed to destroy a 12 thousand year old painting which had survived the changing climate from a time with lots of rain to the current dry conditions with only rainfall every 2 or 3 years or less.

Sahara scenery

This destruction of the ancient rock art led to the Libya government introduced a complete ban on individual tourism in Libya today you are only allowed to travel with a local Libya guide approved by the Libyan government. Furthermore group more than four needs a tourist police (TP) in addition to the local guide – his function is to protect the historical sights. Why you need a TP if you are more than four is a bit of a mystery to me would it be easier to destroy the antiquities if you are in a small group of say four friend? I guess this is one of the strange regulations in Libya you really should not think too hard about because you will never ever learn to understand the argument.

After having spent the day looking at rock art we head for camp – once again they find a splendid camp just under a big sand dune. We set up camp. Must of the happy campers put up there tents within a few meters from the cars but I decided that tonight I wanted to sleep alone in complete seclusion from the rest of the world lost in the dessert with no sign of civilization or humans anywhere to be seen. Given we are a group of 27 in total I have to compromise a bit on the total seclusion from the rest of the world – behind the next sand dune will have to do. I start walking away from camp to find a good spot to put down my swag for the night. I find a nice spot behind the first sand dune and then realize maybe this spot is not quite perfect given it could very easily be the men’s toilet for the night.

Old man in the dessert – supposedly he is 107

Therefore I decide to sleep two sand dunes away from the main camp – I walk over the next sand dune and find the perfect spot to camp – there in the bottom of a group of sand dunes is a nice level spot protected against the wind by sand dunes on all sides. This is perfect – I put down my swag and walk back to camp.

Current camels

Just before dinner it is time to walk up one dune to watch the sunset once again – always good with a clear sky it gives you a guarantied sunset – not like at home where you are more likely to have a guarantied cloud cover.

Sand in the sahara

Then it is time to cookies – today the whole cookie eating process pass without any major incidence and there are no casualties hence we don’t need to rush anybody to the local hospital – which is a good thing given it is half a days drive away minimum.

The sand shaped by the wind

Finally the highlight of the night. Dinner time. We are getting soup – you can’t have a main meal in Libya without soup. And then the main course – they prepared a surprise for us today – it is camel and macaroni. The bread to go with dinner is getting a bit old we have been carrying it around the dessert for a few days by no and it is pretty dry. The same goes for the camel meat – camel meat living in a box on top of a pickup truck have a tendency to get dry and though and it is not quite as tasty as it used to be. But it is still eatable and everybody gets there meals and get full.

After dinner we spend some time around the fire and talk for a while but the wind means everybody want to go to bed early.

Setting up the cars in a square as a fort

Now I realize my big mistake. I put down my swag two dunes away from camp – but I did that in daylight when it was easy to navigate. Now it is dark and the moon is not getting up for another hour. All the dunes looks a lot more alike in the dark than they did during the day – but I got no choice but to start looking for my camp site. I start walking I am sure it is in this direction – but no I am lost and walking around any more in the dark can get you really lost in this area – so I head back to camp. I go out again from camp trying again to find my campsite. And this time around I got more success there behind the second sand dune is my swag – I role it out and crawl into my sleeping back and go to sleep – just before I go to sleep I remember one thing I should probably set my alarm given the main camp is unlikely to wake me up in the morning – I can’t hear a sound from them this night.

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