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|The serene rest of the Akakus Mountains
Sebha (Libya), July 10th 1999
Every country has its natural relatively unknown highlights. I mean the highlights that you will not find in the travel books, and you do not know why they are not mentioned. The Akakus Mountains in Libya is such a place. Probably it has to do with the fact that the Akakus Mountains are related in the very southwest of Libya, close to the Algerian border. You have to invest some long days in the bus to reach this beautiful area around the little village of Ghat. Taking Ghat as base point, you can make some beautiful trekkings in this area.
It is a general misunderstanding that you cannot travel individually in Libya. Libya is a great land to travel with limited but good infrastructure for tourists. The public transport is well organised and the roads are in great condition. The Libyan people are very friendly, making it a great country to explore. The trip from Tripoli to Ghat is long indeed, but if you make a stopover in Sebha the journey is not so bad as it seems.
Time for a lunch in the Akakus
|After we arrived in Ghat, we checked in, in one of the few hotels in Ghat. Electricity is not available most of the time, but some candles make electricity superfluous. The people in Ghat are not very used to tourists yet. You will get special attention from the locals and it is not possible to visit a local travel agency to arrange a trekking, because there is no local travel agency. As often, we start our search for a jeep, driver and cook at the hotel where we are staying. Within no time we have arranged our trekking. To get a good impression of the Akakus mountain area, you have to organise a trip by jeep. It is impossible to organise a trekking on foot. For this reason, it is not really possible to visit the area on a shoestring.
We decide to start with the trekking in two days from now. It gives us the possibility to explore Ghat, including its old city. On the day of departure, we first visit together with the driver and the cook the local market, to buy food and water for the trip. The English language is not common in Ghat. We did not manage to arrange an English speaking guide in Ghat for our trekking, making it necessary to speak with “hands and feet” and a smile on you face.
The Akakus Mountains is a combination of a yellow desert landscape (including sand dunes) and rough rock formations. The area is completely desolate, giving you the feeling that you are a real explorer. During our trekking we did not see any other tourists. Once in a while we pass a military checkpoint that guard the border with Algeria. However, the area is so extensive and rough that it is impossible to watch over all border traffic in this area. There are no roads in this area. The tracks that will originate after jeeps pass by will vanish when the next desert storm arrives.
The guide and driver take a short break
The trekking through the Akakus Mountains is fabulous. We travel by a Toyota Landcruiser (from the 1970’s). The car is in really bad conditions. This is the result of the economical boycott ton Libya. It is not possible anymore to import spare parts for cars. For this reason it is also very foolish to travel by air within Libya, because also the airplanes are in bad condition. Travelling through the desert area is an attack on the car. Especially the crossing of the sand dunes in a temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius is bizarre. After the driver managed to reach the top of a sand dune, he prepares himself to reach the following one. The tactic is quite simple. Just drive as fast as possible down the sand dune to reach a maximum speed, in the hope to reach the next sand dune in one time. The loose sand and high temperature makes this exercise horrible for the car. In case the car does not reach the top of the next sand dune, the driver drives backwards as fast as possible to get back on the previous sand dune as high as possible. After that, the same tactic is repeated. Sometimes it takes more than five approaches to reach the next sand dune. We do not dare to think about what happens if the jeep breaks down. A radio to ask for help is no standard equipment in the jeep. We reassure ourselves with the idea the driver has everything under control and does not want to die in the middle of the desert. During the trip we pass a wreck of an old jeep that did not survive the trip in the desert. The driver tells us that a two French people did not survive their individual trekking in the Akakus a couple of years ago. Their mistake was the idea that they wouldn’t need a guide.
Besides the absolute beauty of the area, also the absolute quietness impresses us. The fact that there is no wind, no trees and no birds, make this area completely quiet. We never visited a place before where it was absolutely quiet. Also impressive are the old rock paintings from prehistoric times that you will fin don several places in the Akakus Mountains. The fact that these rock paintings are not behind fences makes it extra special to visit them.