1 Apr 2006 - Gharyan to Ghadames via Nalut
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Daisies on the edge of Jabal Nafusah View across the canyon from Nalut Warren like stores and emergency dwellings in Nalut castle 
Another 8.30am start, but at least the alarm calls worked today! The day was spent largely on the bus as we headed first west to Nalut then south to Ghadames, a total journey of around 550km.

The first part of the journey was through Jabal Nafusah, the westwards extension of the steep escarpement which we had climbed yesterday. Initially the land is fairly fertile, with olive and orange groves surrounding small farms a common sight, but it grows increasingly barren as you head westwards. By the time we reached a small cafe, complete with football pitch, there was a scarcely a living thing to be seen in the flat landscape.

At Nalut we spent an hour or so exploring a Berber castle, first built in the 12th century, and situated on the edge of an impressive canyon. Although described as a castle, it main purpose was a defensive structure to act as a refuge in times of trouble, with supplies and people being housed in a honeycomb of cells within the thickness of the walls. Must have been a tight squeeze.

Retracing our steps for a few kms along the road to Ghadames, we had a surprisingly good lunch in a room at the back of a filling station - no choice, but lentil soup followed by plenty of beef, veg and rice. As usual, though, Rebecca struggled as the only vegetarian in the group - a concept seemingly unknown in Libya.

From here we turned south into a sandy plain with scattered cliffs and mesas, but with little vegetation or human settlement except for an area of sand dunes and palm trees - our first sight of the sort of desert that people think deserts should look like. Interesting rocks here too, including some large fossil bivalves which I was sorely tempted to collect, but were really too large. Unfortunately no small ones to be seen.

After stopping for tea and ice-cream (what a luxury, the first in Libya!) in a cafe in the small village of Tghuttah, we turned west for Ghadames, heading towards the sunset.

Our accommodation was the Al Waha Hotel, a low rise affair on the edge of town consisting of rooms situated around a garden courtyard. After dinner, taken in the hotel, those who were interested and not too tired, headed out along the road past the hotel to try to escape the lights for a look at the sky. Not entirely successful - the 3 1/2 day old moon in the west hampered any chance of seeing the zodiacal light, and even after it set the town lights in that direction made it too difficult.

However, high up and in other directions, the view was very clear, so with my knowledge and Brent's pocket guide to the sky we had a naked eye / binocular tour of the zodiac, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter and the northern constellations. In the space of about 1.5 hrs we saw perhaps 10 meteors between us, several of which seemed to diverge from a radiant near the zenith. This does seem high for a sporadic rate, though I am not aware of any meteor showers being active at this time.


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