Ubari Sand Sea – Libya 2008

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3 80 Land Cruisers
3 Land Cruisers 75 Pickups
Land Rover Carawagon 200 Tdi.

January 2008

A group of us had completed Derj to Idri just after Christmas ‘07. It certainly shook the turkey down and a few weeks without alcohol did us all the world of good. Idri to Germa, our final destination, had two possibilities. A long trudge east on blacktop, then round in a big loop south and west again would be the sensible way, but our desert driving was as good as it was going to get and we were running light having used most of our fuel and supplies. In the book Over the Dunes to Ubari (p.553) is described thus: ‘Many travellers find the final dunes at the southern edge the hardest to cross.’

Easy to see why. The dunes are big and run NE to SW and we wanted to go directly south. Picking our way out of Idri through remarkably lush greenery our guides took a rather convoluted route, but we emerged into a big inter dune corridor on the southern edge of town. From here it looked pretty easy. Cruise along at 50 mph on a wide inter dune corridor for what seems like eternity, the dunes offering no menace in the distance. Confidence boosted by a simple hop over some low dunes and into the next corridor. Easy. We bumped into an Franco/Italian mixed group in Tojos and a 130 Crew Cab Landy, which looked heavy. Swapped tales and departed with a wave and a ‘see you in Germa’.

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After than fateful meeting things got a little harder. The Tojos had to take several runs at a dune crossing. Their 4.2 engines had plenty of power, but the sand was soft and cut up into deep ruts, made worse by them digging themselves in. By my turn a combination of ruts on the summit and giving away 2 litres to the Tojos had me beached near the top. Three attempts still couldn’t get me over and for the first time ever in the dunes, I used the winch to haul me over, anchored to a Tojo on the other side. Thankfully the winch made light work of it and we carried on. Same again at the next crossing. The guides were taking the dunes at an angle to reduce the steepness. Seemed at odds with how I like to drive. I prefer straight up and straight down again. Reduces the risk of rolling. It seemed to work for them, but they had the power advantage. I tried, but just stuck near the top at a jaunty angle. Winched again.

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Next big crossing it was sweet revenge. One of the Cruisers stuck and I had to winch him back out of a hole. Made even sweeter by the driver being genuine Toureg and an accomplished driver. We stopped at a well and had a long lunch break expecting the Franco/Italian convoy to catch us up, but we never saw them again and suspect they were defeated by the first major dune crossing. I don’t remember any of them having a winch so getting the 130 over could have defeated them.

After lunch it was easier and faster. We made the big descent into the Wadi El Agile well before dark and meandered through the outskirts of town, scattering chickens and waving at locals to complete our 100 mile dune bash in time for tea.

Toby Savage

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