Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Our Man in Jordan....

This is truly the second reason why I did not go on His Adventure....

I'm in an i/n cafe in Petra, Jordan, after a very looong day. That's the good news. The bad news is that getting here from Nuweiba was a true nightmare.

Yesterday, Monday in Nuweiba by my abused memory, we packed up and left our beachfront hut and arrived at the ferry ticket wicket at about 10.00 a.m. Tickets purchased without any problem, things looked good. We then rode the bikes to the entry gate to the ferry departure compound. No one spoke any English, but they pointed us towards the first step of the Egyptian departure experience. Sun is getting hot by now. The compound is large with many buildings, parking lots and internal roads. Very few signs in English. There were a large numbers of freight trucks, buses and hordes of Mecca pilgrims sitting on carpets or the dusty asphalt. There were lots of Port Police and Tourist Police but no ferry personnel to advise us of when our ferry was expected or where in the maze we were supposed to be for loading. There were two ships docked, but we couldn't find out if we were supposed to be on either of them. Anxiety steadily mounts.

Meantime we had to clear immigration, return our license plates & driving licenses and get our carnets (financial bonds to ensure that we'll take our vehicles with us) signed and stamped. We spent the next three and a half hours walking from office to office with pieces of paper for stamps and signatures under the prime heat of the day. There's no food available 'cause its Ramadan, but we have some munchies and can buy drinks. Back and forth we walk, getting more and more tired and frustrated. We finally finish the process by 2:15 p.m. but still don't know when our ferry will arrive or where we're supposed to be. We begin to doubt that we'll get out of there that day. Finally manage to find a Tourist Policeman who speaks some English and points us to the right place, ... we hope.

The ferry should arrive in an hour.

We hear this said a number of times. Dusk arrives.

We snooze as best as we can.

I find an English-speaking Egyptian who is in one of the few cars. Its his first time also but he confirms that our location is right. Ferry arrives at 8:00 p.m. and we look for loading signs for a couple of hours. Loads at 10:30 p.m. We're directed to park the bikes in a pool of slippery diesel oil. Confidence building moment. We migrate to the upper deck, shoulder to shoulder with the walk-on pilgrims. Ship leaves at about midnight on a beautifully smooth sea, thankfully.

All the benches are taken by the time we reach the top deck, so we find a corner of deck to stretch-out. No real food since about noon, and none in sight. I must have snoozed from exhaustion, but I don't remember it. The decks were covered with sleeping/eating/talking people with no clear path to walk through. Toilets had long line-ups and the smell was gag producing. We munched a few dates and managed to get a cup of tea. Even at 2:00 a.m., the noise level was high.

Ship arrived in Aqaba at about 4:00 a.m. and I picked my way through the bodies to get close to the exit stairway. I was trapped there, standing squashed like a sardine for almost an hour before there was any movement. Finally, the pushing mass started to move slowly down the single staircase. Things started to improve once we got to the vehicle deck as it was almost empty by the time we got there.

Morning light barely visible as we started the immigration, vehicle registration and insurance process all over again in Jordan. To our relief, the Jordanians are much more efficient than the Egyptians and although it still took over three hours, it was a almost hassle-free. By about 8:30 a.m., we were on the road to Aqaba in search of food. Almost anything would do, but, nothing was open! After reaching the end of our endurance and patience with each other, we found a luxury hotel with a beautiful outdoor cafe with a full breakfast buffet. We indulged like the refugees that we were, and looked like! Almost 24 hours without any substantial food, and almost no sleep.

But, we're in Jordan and, so far, its much better than Egypt. Cleaner,much better maintained, good roads with drivers who aren't homicidal. We went to see the majesty of Wadi Rum and it was indeed impressive. Had a wonderful ride through the stark mountains to Petra, at times at 5,500 ft. and cold. We're in a basic-but-adequate hotel, with T.P. and me sleeping on the roof under a shelter and open to a view of the town, mountains and the stars. I think its $8.00 Can with breakfast. Tomorrow, we're up early to get the colour of the first light on the ancient places. Then to Amman. We are checking the political situation in Syria and if it looks doubtful, we can reroute through Israel then by ship to Turkey, as confirmed by four very nice Israelis that we talked with today. This is already tooo long, but the past two days have been rather ... filled with experiences!

And we all say, "Amen!"

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