So this is how I remember huge chunks of the Libyan desert – seemingly endless rough gravel plains, extending as far as the eye can see in every direction.
What this photo actually shows is a stretch of the Libyan-Algerian border about 90 miles (140 km) south of Ghadames. Libya is on the left, Algeria is to the right, as if you couldn’t tell for yourself! The Land Rover serves to show the scale of the ‘gravel’.
If you had a reasonable imagination your could picture the landscape as rolling grasslands. When you did that, ancient stone-age art that some would see from time-to-time depicting lions, giraffes, antelope and other animals started to make sense. Personally, I never saw any but we had a sister crew working a further 250 miles south (east of Ghat) where they reported several findings.
The long wheelbase 109″ series 3 Land Rover was a true classic. It remained in production from 1971 through 1985! Although the Series III came standard with upholstered interiors on the doors, we used to specify the older, plain doors from the prior Series IIA. Less to go wrong so lower maintenance costs. One key to it’s off-road capability was the design decision to place the front wheels as close to the front of the vehicle as possible. For the longest time I thought only the British could fit a desert-bound vehicle with black plastic seats. Then one day when some locals stopped by in their Land Cruiser, I learned that the Japanese thought that was a good idea too. It wasn’t.
Our Land Rovers were not air conditioned. Air conditioners were also just extra, expensive, things to go wrong and our Land Rovers were under-powered as it was without an AC dragging off more horsepower. I recall one co-worker complaining about the lack of AC so the mechanics removed the top halves of the two doors!
One upside of being under-powered was it was difficult to go fast on the highway. I’m sure, particularly given my later experiences in South Africa, that we’d have had far more wrecks if we’d had more powerful engines. It also forced us to take the less adventurous routes in most cases, saving wear and tear on the vehicles also, not that we didn’t keep the mechanics fully employed!