Friday, 20 February 2009

Everything stops for tea.

A Christmas gift from Mr. Combo turned out to be far more useful that he probably ever imagined. The ‘Leicester Coffee Shop’ has enjoyed an unrivalled reputation for producing expresso coffee in far flung reaches of the Sahara for a number of years, but for 2009 the Coffee Shop was able to broaden the menu to include tea. This 1 pint Kelly Kettle boiled water in under five minutes thanks to a plentiful supply of dry twigs and a stiff prevailing wind. It’s design is similar to a Thermos flask, but with fire replacing hot water. The water jacket is around the centre, therefore getting most value from the fire within. With both gas rings covered by expresso machines this proved to be faster and easier and gave various people something to do. Mustafa, seen here transfixed by the machine wants to order 20 to sell in the Tripoli Scout Shop, that he runs. Thanks Ron.

Pictures show Steve Baker with the first brew up in Libya, Professor Mustafa Selem transfixed by the smoke, Dr Kevin White on the edge of Lake Gabrun and Ian Reeds stoking the fire heading North in Tunisia.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Homeward bound.

The long drive back up to Tripoli went smoothly and as a farewell David took what was left of the team (others flew back last week for teaching commitments) for a slap up meal. A fleet of taxis whisked us out of town to a collection of fish stalls and open barbecues with restaurants behind them. The deal was you selected a few fish, they were weighed and you were given a table number. Once seated - we waited about 20 minutes as it was busy, there was a salad buffet to keep us amused, whilst the chefs gutted and grilled the fish. Being within feet of the Mediterranean and busy it all looked fresh. I shared a big Gilt Head Bream, in the middle of the picture, with my pal Ian. Delicious. Just lacked a glass or two of Chablis, but that’s not far away now.


The whole of North Africa, is kept moving by Peugeot 404 pick up trucks. Grey in Libya, Biege in Tunisia. All of these must be at least 35 years old, but show no sign of giving up just yet. I have long been impressed with their sheer stamina in the face of eastern competition (slowly making an advance now). There are not hundreds, but thousands, probably tens of thousands, of these battered Peugeots to be seen daily carrying everything from workers, building materials, crops and livestock. The drivers of modern cars call them ‘scorpions’, as you never quite know when one will jump out and sting you. Whilst I was having a puncture fixed by a group of excited Nigerians one pulled up. I exchanged greetings with the driver and his two companions and gestured that I admired his truck and would like to sit in it. He offered me the drivers seat. Pulling the door open it fell off. Fantastic! A full half turn of the steering wheel before any movement of wheels and two good pumps of the brake pedal prior to any pressure. The steering wheel - from a BMW, was welded on. There were no dials at all and the wiring was a mass of twisted wires hanging below the dashboard. I watched in awe as he twisted two together for ignition, then flashed another pair for the starter. They have evolved into motorised wheelbarrows and with pattern parts now being made in North Africa will probably be lumbering around for many years to come.