As you can guess from the title I'm writing to you from Benghazi "Free Libya". I left Bristol about 20 days ago and flew to Cairo, ominously on a one way ticket. My plan was simple to join the Libyan Peoples Revolution and help what ever way I could (they don't like the words rebel or rebellion they call themselves 'revolutionaries')
My motives for joining are fairly anarcho-simple; join the revolution and help topple a dictator, an under equipped peoples militia against a totalitarian regime, a people sick of an underdeveloped neglected with a mega rich family ruling it from lavish palaces and in a small way for an adventure and excitement something you only seem to get in small amounts when it kicks off a riot or demo. I've been from Genoa to Copenhagen, Greece to Scotland and about half the European capitals in-between with the bloc and street medics in the last ten years, fighting for social change and not getting it. So when I looked at Libya and it ordinary people succeeding in liberating its second largest city (Benghazi) and then half the country there was no where else i wanted to be.
Getting there was the easy bit , I got an over night bus from Cairo to Saluum in the far West ($10) and a taxi the last 12 km to the border post. That was where it started to get real , there are about 250+ people living in the border complex carpark stuck in between Libya and Egypt all under plastic tents and tarps they are all migrant workers who left Libya when the fighting started none of them have money to go home or visas to enter Egypt. The guys I talked to were Ethiopian Christians who cant or wont go back to Ethiopia because of religious persecution they all like Libya and its people and want to go back there to live and work, apparently the money is quite good. Everyone at the border area were quite friendly, tents have been handed out,showers and toilets work (but they would remind you of ones at a squat party)
They jack free electricity off of lamp posts. The IOM (International Organisation of Migrants) hands food three times a day, the Red Cross register everyone and carry out health care clinics .But when I passed through some of the people had been there for two months with out a doubt they are still there right now. Couldn’t hardly keep from nervous laughter as I approached the Libyan side of the border, what exactly was I going to tell them? Beyond a passport I had nothing,no contacts in Libya, no one to meet me, no letter of introduction, no contract of employment. I decided at all costs not to lie because lies have a way of tripping you up later on . So I said I was a humanitarian volunteer hoping to imply that I was some sort of aid worker which I suppose I am. The production of an Irish passport seemed to calm them. They weren’t suspicious or hostile just mystified. They stamped my passport and wished me luck! So this is it, up till now it was all just theory, where to go? how to get in? Buying maps, packing bags, the torture of the two weeks notice I had to give at work. But I had done it, I got a lift to the next city Tobruk 180km away for $20. Sat in the front seat laughing , laughing at the mission ahead, laughing at the self doubt of the last three weeks, just happy to be doing it not thinking it.
I texted my main man in Bristol to keep him informed of what i was doing, before I left I bought two identical maps leaving one with him just so I would have some one in Bristol keeping an eye on me . Within 40km of the border vodafone reception gave up, that took the smile off my face.
I got dropped off at a posh hotel on the edge of Tobruk, it was going to get dark soon so I booked in ($80), big hotels are good for information , money exchange, fixers and interpretors .The next morning I changed Dollars to Dinar and got a taxi to Benghazi. Please note that there is no way to withdraw cash in this country no banks open, no cash machines working, Western Union has suspended all operations no one will accept credit or debit cards, if you don't have it in your pocket when you cross the border, your screwed.
I got to Benghazi after a 6 hour journey in a taxi, it cost me $105 which is about 3 times that of a bus but it went direct, saving me 10 hours travel time and it dropped me right to a hotel, bear in mind I have a 24 kilo rucksack (half of it is tools). He drops me at another posh hotel (my last) . This hotel is crawling with corporate media, satellite dishes on the lawn, journo only internet, Government press conference every two days etc.,I book in ($80) drop my bags and head into town to have a look around (and find a cheaper place to stay)....(Image: Benghazi Media Centre) Original Article