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  #1  
Old 23 Jan 2012
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Libya to Sudan border

Hi, Is the Libya to Sudan border technically open now? It looks like an interesting alternative to Egypt and the ferry.
Cheers
Mark
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  #2  
Old 23 Jan 2012
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If only it was that easy!

It never was open before for escorted tourists - and I doubt very much has changed now. If anything it's more lawless down there.
There's no recognised track or border controls AFAIK, so the route was (is) frequently used by smugglers.
For tourists the only official border crossings for the last few years have been on the coastal frontiers with Tunisia and Egypt. I have not heard that that has changed but I have not yet heard of a tourist transiting from one side to the other. Does anyone know?

Ch
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  #3  
Old 25 Jan 2012
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What goes wrong?

Excuse mycomplete ignorance, but what would go wrong? Would the army roadblacks send you back? Or would you cross the border but without any passport stamps (and subsequent problems)? Or is there not track to drive on?
I was hoping that the rules about being escorted woudl be relaxed with the new regime. But what do these escorts actually do anyway?

News Reports, suggested they wanted to close the border to smugglers but not to trade or tourism.
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  #4  
Old 25 Jan 2012
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Quote:
what would go wrong?
Hi Mark, what indeed - that's what I thought on my first desert trip ;-) - I saw 2 places far apart, drew a line and rode along it...

I don't know this corner of Libya and have been away so don't know the latest situation out there, but this is my speculation:

It may only be 1000km from Kufra to Dongola but in all my years I have never heard of any legit tourist taking this route, although SE Libya-Chad or Alg-Mori (= as remote) have been done by adventurous individuals. In 10 years I struggle to recall it being asked on this forum.

Even the smugglers we encountered in the Gilf chose to risk cutting the SW corner of Egypt above Jebel Uweinat (more borders, extra risks) than go Sudan-Libya direct. That must say something about terrain/driveable routes or patrols?

If entering Sudan without paperwork was no big deal and solved with a quick packet of fags, you'd think people would try the technically easy and much less risky land route from Egypt to Sudan to avoid the ferry hassle. Iirc, never heard of anyone doing that either.

Quote:
Would the army roadblacks send you back?
Don't know what goes on down there now - it may be less disciplined local militias at odds with the new govt. As I say, I'd wait until we've heard of a regular tourist driving in and out of Libya, even just along the coastal transit route, before making too many plans for the south. I believe some may be engaged in this at the moment, and know others who are heading into the south (without cars).
My feeling is that while the new govt is trying to get to grips with the north (where most live) the south (where us desert tourists like to go) is being left for later. Life will go on down there, but you'd think the former fear of the state may take a dive, PGFs may be hanging out, while smuggling out cheap Libyan commodities (including weapons), and incoming narcotics and so on, may be having a heyday. This is all my speculation.

Quote:
Or would you cross the border but without any passport stamps (and subsequent problems)?
The entire 7500-km Maghreb-Sahel border line from Red Sea to Atlantic is porous, as I'm sure you know, with no more than a dozen actual border posts along its length (mostly in the west). Either you pay someone to take you, or you try and slip out of Kurfa unnoticed (or avoid it altogether) and be ready to face the music in Dongola, 1000km later (assuming you head for there; nearest town AFAICT). Chances are you will see no one along the way - there was a Libyan checkpoint at Jebel Uweinat back in the day - maybe still. But the way things have gone in Libya lately, it would not be a reach to assume you were a mercenary or similar slipping out with your stash, absurd though it may sound to you.
Sudan may be poor, but they're still fond of paperwork and may take a dim view of a tourist trying to slip in from Libya just to take a short cut. At worst it could mean your vehicle gets confiscated and you're extradited. We tried a similar stunt, 2000km across the north of Mali, from Mori direct to Algeria (without checking out of Mori, or in/out of Mali. Once in Alg, what's the worst that can happen, we thought? At Bordj Moktar they were very suspicious when by chance our Alg guide recognised someone and charmed his way in for us (that's what we paid him with an 80VX for...). And yet like you, all we were doing was driving around the empty desert, having an adventure.

Quote:
Or is there not track to drive on?
There must be vehicle tracks here and there, but I have never heard of a recognised piste or even gros porteur Merc lorries doing this route - as they do/did to north Chad or Niger. Have a look at Google Earth too; the terrain and dune orientation does not seem conducive to the SE transit.

Quote:
I was hoping that the rules about being escorted woudl be relaxed with the new regime.
So were we all ;-) but that seems a long way off, if it ever happens - in the south at least. I'm not convinced the new regime controls the entire country yet, or certainly not with the grip which the old one had.

Quote:
But what do these escorts actually do anyway?
In Libya they smoothed the way at immigration, made money for the northern agencies, paperwork or tax for the state, and hired local guides down south, when needed.
In other words nothing we could not manage in the pre-escort days, but that is the way it is in much of the Sahara these days. I also forgot to mention 'pour votre securite'.

Quote:
News Reports, suggested they wanted to close the border to smugglers but not to trade or tourism.
Well they would say that, but how can you properly manage a 4000-km border along 6 countries? Smuggling is a fact of life in the Sahara and it makes a lot more easy money than tourism, I suspect. Plus it's highly likely that in many places local authorities make a cut off it, so why stop it?

I have given a rather pedantic answer to help future readers make up their minds on this subject. I am sure others who know this area better will chip in soon.

Ch

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  #5  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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There's is a busy piste between Dongola and Kufra. Mainly trucks. I did not travel this route myself, but saw many trucks with destination Libya in Dongola some years ago. Official border crossing at Karabatum. Ten years ago these trucks also drove from Libya to Fasher. Do not know if they still do. Many Tora Bora (bandits) in the western desert in Sudan, they told me in Chad.

Plenty transport between Libya and Chad. Do not know if whites are allowed to cross now (they were not under Khaddafi).

I have the impression you can now travel without guide in your own car across Libya. But do not know if it is safe.
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  #6  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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From Klaus Daer, 1993 (Translated from German)
Desert conditions no doubt v.similar. Its the people who change.

SUDAN
10) El Geneina - Nyala - El Fasher:
Good, wide track to 154km away Zalingei, Nyala and from there on excellent paved road.
In Nyala, all other facilities, possibly with fuel problems. Continue north on hard, wide, not to miss Santander slope towards El Fasher.
El Fasher: market, possibly fuel.
11) El Fasher - Mellit - Karabatum - Jabal al Uweinat (Libya):
ATTENTION! The entry to Libya on Jabal al Uweinat, thus coming from Sudan, is permitted by the Libyans only Arabs! The refusal of entry may have dramatic consequences. The Libyans also Europeans refuse to leave from Libya to Sudan while the Sudanese have no objections to their entry.
ATTENTION! From El Fasher to Karabatum to 900km deep, soft sand, but no dunes. It must be reckoned with very high fuel consumption on these very large distance. The MERCEDES 290GD took over 40l/100km. From El Fasher on Wednesdays and Sundays, a truck convoy moves in 5-day journey to Kufra.
Exit from El Fasher in the north to deep sandy tracks over gigantic, reddish, very shallow, vegetated sand fields. After 36km at N13 ° 58 `32", E25 ° 27 `47" village of Umm Marah low supply capability. Continue in deep-worn tracks in the sand in the 35km distant Mellit N14 ° 07 `39", E25 ° 32 `06".
Mellit: Good water can be taken by a motor pump from wells. Surprisingly large city with a relatively good supply option market, fuel, customs, police, security. This must be done from Sudan after refueling the exit formalities. Fuel, as well as many supplies come by truck from Libya. It must be here the entire fuel for the route to the remote Kufra 1.300km be bunkered and this fuel-eating sand at 800km ride. If the fuel is scarce, despite precaution, so you can try to buy something Libyan truck drivers.
30km you will reach the village behind Mellit Sajah, N 14 ° 18 `40", E25 ° 45 `26", well, small shops. Further 46km later at N14 ° 36 `08", E26 ° 02 `18" Madu village. Of these, 58km away Malha, N15 ° 05 `25", E26 ° 09 `36". Do not miss the north east approximately 80m deep crater with salt lake of Malha at N15 ° 07 `39", E26 ° 10 `32". He is in a location easily visible from the volcano and the nomads of the region serves as a warehouse for salt and drinking camel herds. It is possible to travel by jeep up to the crater rim.
Malha of the unmarked route leads after 44km in a village near N15 ° 23 `15", E26 ° 03 `16" and after another 38km to Harra, N15 ° 35 `17", E26 ° 14 `52, a kind of truck resting place is. Harra 100km north end of the vegetation and can be reached on isolated bundles in the deep sand track to the Wadi Howar 160km at N16 ° 57 `26", E26 ° 04 `04".
From Wadi Howar, many, much diverging, after long stretches windswept track bundles through deep sand north and continue for about 400km to the Sudanese police base Karabatum, N 20 ° 13:49 `, E 25 ° 30.13 'the last 100km before Karabatum are not continuous sand but also on long distances gravelly and stony ground. In Karabatum registration is required, the passport will be registered, available water if necessary. Here also pass the four-wheel drive trucks and buses that run in about 5-day trip from Kuftra Karabatum about 600km away in the Dongola. The runway there is reportedly much less than the sandy track to Mellit.
One of Karabatum 200km long trail leads to the Libyan border station Al build up our camps N21 ° 52 `10", E24 ° 48 '22 "at the foot of Jabal al-mountain build up our camps. Where entry formalities are done. There is a small business with key food staples in place and if necessary can be acquired by the police or petrol from diesel trucks Libyan oil. The entry and exit is allowed since 1992 to date only Arabs, but not Europeans or black Africans! 8km east of the water must be fetched directly at the foot of the mountain in rocky waterhole Ayn al Ghazal, N21 ° 48 `50", E24 ° 51 `29". On February 3, 1994, the International Court of Justice in The Hague said the controversial between Libya and Chad Aouzu Strip to Chad. Libya then this strip of land under UN supervision until 30 May cleared. The internationally recognized border is now as it was in the IGN map have always drawn. An entry from Libya in the north-Europeans, but Chad is still not possible
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  #7  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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Karabatum
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Libya to Sudan border-kara.jpg  

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  #8  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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Close up of Kara
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  #9  
Old 27 Jan 2012
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simpler than that

There is little to physically stop you doing this.

The problem is that, should you do so, the person/company sponsoring your visa is going to get in a world of trouble. Indeed, any tourist agency will probably lose their tourism permit=go bust.

Safe travels, Sam.
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  #10  
Old 27 Jan 2012
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Libya - Sudan

I would be very wary of attempting this at present. Smugglers notwithstanding, the Darfur rebels supported Ghadafi and made a couple of raids in the direction of Kufra during the revolution (though the exact extent and numbers are highly speculative). Authorities on both sides would be jittery about any unannounced and unauthorised traffic. I know that some people have reached Uweinat from the Sudan in late autumn last year (with permits from the Sudanese authorities), but they carefully avoided the border with Libya, and could provide no info on whether there is any Libyan presence there, or the posts have been abandoned.

If the Libyan border posts are still manned, the question remains of by whom, and with what allegiences...

If the posts have been abandoned, then the vacuum will quickly be filled by someone. The wells of Ain Dua and Ain Ghazal provide the only reliable water along the entire route from Kufra to the Darfur or the Nile - I cannot concievably see those being left unattended for long. Whoever controls that water controls the entire route. Knowing the various 'interests' roaming the region, I would not be very happy with any of them taking up residence there.

Assuming that you would be able to tackle the route, there would be some interesting explanation to be done on either end. Libya is full of checkpoints and roadblocks, only people with clear and legitimate authority would be allowed to pass in any direction. Coming up from the Sudan, you'd likely experience some delays, possibly involving a small room with no furniture and bars on the windows, and no, you cannot call your lawyer...
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  #11  
Old 29 Jan 2012
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Andrasz, Chris and Sam already pointed out the main concerns. All I can add is that at the beginning of 2010 there was Libyan border-post at Jebel Aweinat with quite lively traffic on the well established piste to and from Sudan, mainly 6x6 Mercedes trucks.

The best attempt to avoid the car being taken by any unofficial body is to travel with a modern, full-of-electronics car that would be useless in the Sahara, but this still doesn't prevent you being robbed by anyone patrolling the vast area or imprisoned by those who can't really understand a foreigner would be at these times really travel the area between Cyrenaica and Darfur purely for tourism.

And something else - up here someone offered an option to sneak out of Kufra unnoticed or avoid it completely. The first is impossible, the latter would mean you have to actually avoid all the checkpoints from the Mediterranean southwards which I also find impossible (except if you mount a hang-glider on you car so you can avoid the strategically located check-points by jumping off several cliffs), not to mention the incredible fuel-autonomy you would need (825 km road Ajdabiya-Kufra + 300 km Kufra-Jebel Aweinat + all the rest). An alternative would be over Waw an-Namus and Rebiana, but still - I don't know which agency would sign its death-sentence to do all this for you.

Or to which agency you would be ready to sign a death sentence by escaping them. At the moment there's no tourism in Libya, they have much more serious issues to solve first. I would reckon tourism is on their priorities list somewhere close to their space program.
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  #12  
Old 30 Jan 2012
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Encouraging....?

Putting all the responses together is quite encouraging. I had not intended to evade border controls. So in answer to the main issues:

1) Is there a route from Libya to Chad?
Yes. Moderately well travelled with a recognised border crossing.
2) Is it open?
It is open to Arabs. The Libya side only was not open to Europeans, but it is unclear what the current rule is.
3) Is it safe?
Probably not. Political control, local rules, local militia and criminality are serious risks.
but....
There is a regular convoy that makes the route.
That seems to leave open the strategy of trying to get written formal permission to cros the border. Then staying with the convoy between towns. If an area seems safe, we can explore locally and then join the next convoy to continue the trek. Is this a mad idea?
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  #13  
Old 30 Jan 2012
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Originally Posted by Mark hadley View Post
Is this a mad idea?
Yes. That is exactly what it is.
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  #14  
Old 30 Jan 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
I have given a rather pedantic answer to help future readers make up their minds on this subject. I am sure others who know this area better will chip in soon.
Then I enjoy a lot pedantic reading. This and the subsequent post are really a pleasure to read, even for someone like me who doesn't have a clue about this topic. Congrats to all those who "chipped in".
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  #15  
Old 31 Jan 2012
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Originally Posted by Mark hadley View Post
Putting all the responses together is quite encouraging.
I think I can safely say that the intention of all the posters here with first hand info was quite to the contrary.

Quote:
1) Is there a route from Libya to Chad?
NO! There are a number of diverging and converging unmarked tyre tracks in the desert, that don't really qualify as a piste. It is over 1000km of uninhabited desert, with no towns, people, etc. A couple of random trucks (Not convoys!) passed down that route every week before the Libyan revoultion, nobody has any idea what is going on now. As for the Sudan route, there was practically zero legitimate traffic since the Darfur events heated up. There have been a number of semi-confirmed reports that the Karabatum post was held by the Darfur rebels, and the route was used to supply arms (provided by the late great gardener) to the rebels.

Quote:
2) Is it open?
See above. As far as I know, nobody aside citizens of Libya/Sudan/Chad have been able to make a legitimate crossing there in the last 10 years.

Quote:
3) Is it safe?
Rather academic in light of above...

Quote:
That seems to leave open the strategy of trying to get written formal permission to cros the border. Then staying with the convoy between towns. If an area seems safe, we can explore locally and then join the next convoy to continue the trek. Is this a mad idea?
Kuno summed up the answer quite nicely... However if you do give it a try, there will be a lot of interested ears, some may even be willing to pay for a pint or two in return for the story, assuming the remote possibility that you will be able to tell it.
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Last edited by andrasz; 31 Jan 2012 at 09:12.
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