Before leaving Damascus we took Brenda to a garage to investigate the infernal squeaking, and get the oil pressure checked. The Damascus Toyota garage was an impressive marble affair, and the mechanics did a fine job of fixing the squeak and reassured us that the dashboard is faulty, not the oil pump. During the 5 hour wait we got really hungry and asked the manager if we could get some food nearby. His response started "Yes, but this is going to be dangerous" which when said by a Syrian should set off alarm bells in your head, and you should not seriously consider undertaking any actions suggested. However driven on by hunger we followed his advice and ran across the motorway (6 lanes of thundering traffic) to get to the shops on the other side. This might seem like an act of madness, but in fairness it was the best Falafel we'd ever eaten.
On entering Jordan, the first difference we noticed is that whilst Jordanian people are equally friendly they are obviously more relaxed around westerners than the Syrians and don't go in for the same level of formality in their greetings.
Our first day took us into northern Jordan where we were stunned by the beauty of the wild flowers with valleys of terraced wheat fields covered in splashes of colour. In just a couple of square metres you can easily count 10 different species of flower including poppies, daisies, orchids, violets and irises. It was a joy to set up our first wild camp in a secluded spot surrounded by flowers. We fell asleep that night to the sound of prayer calls from rural mosques echoing around the valley - a wonderful sound.
As we drove down into the Jordan valley we passed close to the border with Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (formerly Syria). There were police check points every kilometer down the road - most of them just wanted to see our passports and have a chat, but one particularly bored chap did a search of our fridge!
Next we headed up into the hills around Ajloun, where we had hoped to walk in a nature reserve, however Jordan has a policy of high cost, low impact tourism so we balked at spending £20 to do a 2 km nature walk. Instead we took a stroll just outside of the reserve fence, where we came across a Jordanian family having a picnic. The man attracted our attention by claiming that he would show us a crocodile in the bushes (!), but to our relief it was actually a small tortoise. We were invited for dinner at their house that evening. Mousa is a retired military Colonel and his wife, Summa is an English teacher. They have 6 children including a very amusing three year old boy with a penchant for violence. He was armed with a pick-axe and a kitchen knife when we met him and was able to steal Nick's hat without much resistance!
The next couple of days took us down from the hills to the Dead Sea, 500m below sea level. The sea water is 30% salt and incredibly easy to float on - cue plenty of posing for photos. We camped there at a public beach resort where the life-guard enthusiastically smothered Nick and me in mud. Sadly the camera was out of reach…
We are avoiding Amman (Jordan's capital) as there have been protests there - all peaceful so far but we don't want to take any chances. The situation in Egypt is still a bit volatile with no policing so we plan to take our time as we head south through Jordan.