Where would we be without the police of North Africa? A long way back from where we are.They direct non-convoy traffice to the side of the road, they block the traffic at crossroads so that we can roar by, honking horns and waiving Palestinian as well as, in our case, Welsh flags (Rich lives in Snowdonia.) In towns, they help us run all the red lights and take left turns against the traffic flow. They are smartly dressed, well-mannered and, at least to us, patient.
Moreover, they lead us into service stations where we fill up at their governments; expense, and into restaurants where we nver pick up the tabs. At night, they park us safely for our stay in government guesthouses which may be spartan, but are generally clean.
Yet all their whining sirens and flashing blue lights don't fool us. Though we average fifty miles an hour and the convoy can stretch out over several miles, we understand that this is internment in our vans to keep us from the people of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, because these governments fear the people. They can't keep us completely away, of course, and then we see the people look casually at us, then look with curiosity, and then, on understanding, break into big smiles and lift their hands thumbs up or in V signs as we go by. These are the countries that pay lip service to Palestine by paying to disappear the convoy through their landscapes. They don't really much like Palestine. They wish it would go away so that they could get on with whatever buying and selling and business as usual they're up to..
It's only when we come into Libya where the business of the government and police is to present us to as many of the people as possible that we understand we have until then been in that rather comfortable sealed train from Zurich.