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30 Mar 2006 - Jalu - Benghazi - Tripoli
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Repairing the blow out. Although a dual carriageway the approaching lorry was quite happy going the wrong way along it! Great Man Made River Pipes - 4m wide by over 1000km long. Courtesy of Brent - rather better than my failed attempt! Roof of mud mosque, Awjilah 
A long drive back to civilisation, followed by a night flight from Benghazi back to Tripoli.

On the way back past Jalu we stopped for a few minutes beside an example of the pipes used to construct the Great Man Made River scheme. Although normally buried, we followed these pipes for hundreds of kms, not just between Jalu and Benghazi but also later in the trip to Sebha. Standing in the pipes gives some meaning to their diameter of 4 metres, and gives you a clue to the desperate measures Libya has used to secure a water supply for the populated north. Not for ever though - it is estimated that the water will run out in about 50 years, at about the same time as the oil.

As promised on the way down, we stopped in Awjilah, not just out of curiosity but also to allow Mohammed, our bus driver, to get a replacement for a tyre that blew out on us in Jalu. Thankfully nothing too scary, just a loud banging as the retread came away and thumped into the underside of the vehicle.

Awjilah was alive with music and welcome messages to the visitors, with loudspeakers on buildings making it inescapable. After visiting a curious mud built mosque we went to the festival proper, where the welcome could not have been warmer. I think we were of as much fascination to the locals as they were to us! They were proud to show us around the old town and display the various foodstuffs, handicrafts, music and ceremonies typical of the region. It was just a shame that I had bought some eclipse souvenirs in the camp yesterday, when if we had known what was available here, I would have waited to buy some genuine local crafts rather than things imported from China.

Having to leave them, we retraced our steps of a couple of days ago as far as Benghazi. After Ajdabiya we picked up a police escort, lights flashing, for the last 100km to the airport - totally unnecessary but it gave a couple of bored policemen at a checkpoint something to do and made us feel important! Heading back to Benghazi the land gradually greener, and the quantity of litter increased too.

Flight back to Tripoli on Buraq air was uneventful, apart from Paul unwittingly leaving a bag at Benghazi, but with a few phone calls it was quickly traced and he could be reunited with it later in the trip. However, the journey to the hotel was a different story - rather than a short hop back to the city centre where we had previously stayed, and were expecting to go again, now we seemed to travel for ever along a diversion through all the back streets of residential Tripoli.

Eventually we arrived at a sprawling resort hotel some 20km west of Tripoli at around half past midnight. After collecting luggage and sorting out rooms it didn't leave much time for sleep before we had to be up again to pack up for an 8.30 departure to Sabratha tomorrow (this!) morning. However, poor Abdul had it worse - not only did he come with us here and would be with us again tomorrow, he went back home just yards from the airport where we had landed.

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