North Africa Tour ´99

Libya - Mandara Lakes


Some small lakes in the middle of nowhere, the most known of them named Mandara, Gabroon and Um-el-Ma. All people I met agreed that Um-el-Ma is the nicest. All these lakes are lying in a huge, wonderful field of incredible sanddunes. The best place to start a trip to the lakes are the camp sites in the small nearby village called Germa. Taking the direct route is only 17 km, but somestimes it´s better (or even necessary) to the longer, but easier route, which is in this case 34km long.


manra2.jpg (4289 Byte) The evening I arrived, I met two german couples with an 8tons MAN and a 12tons Magirus on the campsite. They were on their way to Capetown. The day before they had been to Mandara and a laptop connected to the GPS in the Magirus traced the route they had taken. So I copied their waypoints to my GPS and decided to take the same route the next day.
Their route was close to the "easy track" listed in the "Libya Bible" and is aprox. 34 km long. The entry is easy (see above). Also the end of the first, three km long slope looks easy, but I came never any closer to Mandra with my Mercedes. After more than 6 hours of digging and carrying sandladders, I gave up ! manra.jpg (4263 Byte)
sandb1.jpg (6747 Byte) Conti Titan, quite useful in Central Europe, but in the dessert it´s for sure the wrong tyre.

This the only situation, when you appreciate the low temperatures in December. 'Sandladders' should be on top of the car, not under them. There they go, all my calories....

The next day I found a tour operator, who offerd me to join a guided tour for a 'very special, low price'. But the film team, which had rented all the vehicles of the group, was not amused to let me join them. A strange guy, called Kurdi, offered me to help, but we had to get another car from the next village (40km) first. kurdi.jpg (4792 Byte)
mandra6.jpg (2981 Byte) His friend, who owned an old Toyo Pickup, accepted to drive me to Um-el-ma. He took the difficult, but shorter way straight through the dunes. Driving like hell and jumping over the edges of the dunes, I really started to get more worried about me than about the Toyo.
After an hour drive you suddenly see Mandara lake appearing in the dunes. Incredible to find any water here. Being dried out and the surrounding spoiled by some left cottages, the first fascination vanishes immediately. mandra5.jpg (3109 Byte)
mandra2.jpg (5883 Byte) But Um-el-Ma, a smaller lake about 3km north of Mandara, beats everything. Never seen a nicer place in the world.

It was really annoying to leave after 2 hours, especially because 3 italian couples, I met two days before, managed to get up there with "ridiculious" cars like a 4x4 Iveco Camper !!! Of course, they stayed up there several nights, grrrrr......

mandra4.jpg (5104 Byte)
mandra3.jpg (5715 Byte)
toyo1.jpg (7799 Byte) Yes, the Toyo was the best.
This old, legendary 3B engine is still fascinating me           
toyo2.jpg (7736 Byte)


Page updated on 23.08.2000

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