Iron Butts Pursuit – 5 March 2010, ride like an Egyptian

DJJ and GH with Transalp 
By Danny John-Jules
and Graham Hoskins

Today can only be summarised with two words; generosity and openness.
Our day starts are steadily getting quicker and more timely. We were away as dawn broke and headed straight out into the desert. Just to put the speed at which we crossed Libya into context, our travel advisor who biked this route last year took five days, we did it in just under two. 

The majority of the morning’s ride was taken up with a 373 km run along a dead-straight road which cuts across the north-east corner of Libya, saving us a few kms of coastal road. This straight highway takes you through the desert towards Tobruck (means top rock) and was apparently built by Rommel’s German forces in the Second World War to give him access to the coast. We saw what we thought was the original track running alongside our tarmac but my historical notions and images were shattered when I found out it was only where the government had laid a huge water pipe!

It was then onto the Egyptian border where we were assigned a Tourist Policeman, who walked us through the whole process – about three hours. He didn’t speak English but there were plenty there who did.  It was at the border itself that we had our first taste of the incredible Egyptian hospitality that was to come. Getting a little peckish, we were guided to a square serving hatch in one of the building walls where snack bars and drinks were being served. Danny was sniffing as he thought he could smell his favourite snack, soup. Once they realised we were after real food, the family running the snack shack shared their own food with us and refused any form of payment. I have read other overland adventure books where they talk about the biggest generosity coming from those who have the least and we were really starting to see it.  The hospitable welcome continued when we were invited to drink with one of the gas station attendants and his pal.  Danny even managed to blag a cup of tea from one of the traffic police who stopped us at a road block.

We were determined to spend at least one night under canvass so we pushed on from the border into the night, finally stopping about 30km east of Marsa Matrough in Egypt. The tents were duly set up in the headlights of the bikes, about 30 yards from the edge of the road. We saw a torch wobbling towards us.  My immediate reaction was to think we’d be thrown off the little makeshift campsite but that just about as far away from the truth as you could. With no English whatsoever, we were invited back to the Bedouin’s house for sleep and food as he thought we’d be too cold in the tents. Caught between not wanting to offend him and our desire to camp, we stood and negotiated for 30 minutes with him. His mate arrived and joined in the silent hand gesture conversation. Finally, an older guy arrived (these people were all arriving in trucks and pickups straight off the dual carriageway) who we discovered was the Boss and owned all the land around us. Now, if we had been almost anywhere in the UK and you pitched up on the edge of a farmer’s land, you’d be greeted with a shotgun and hoofed off, toute vitesse. We spent 2 ½ hours in the company of these generous people without exchanging a word of English.


Garmin is supporting Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules and team mate Graham Hoskins in their quest to ride nearly 7000 miles by motorbike for Sport Relief. Their ‘Iron Butts’ Challenge will see them circumnavigate the Mediterranean Sea, covering three continents and 14 countries in 15 days guided by a Garmin zumo 660 sat nav.