7 February 2011
Total Distance: 18604
Distance covered today:260km
Start: Moon Valley Hotel, Petra, Jordan
Finish: Palace Hotel, Amman, Jordan
We left this morning on the so-called Kings Highway. The King of Jordan is a very popular man, 49 years old and one can't drive 10km without seeing a poster of him alongside the road. This road follows the escarpment from Petra all the way to the capital Amman. The landscape is very hilly and reminds us of the Karoo when it is very dry. Small bushes, few trees and a rugged rocky landscape which looks quite barren. Some 60km before Amman, we headed down the escarpment from some 800m above sea-level to over 300m BELOW sea-level. Yes, we are now at the lowest point on earth alongside the Dead Sea. There are rivers flowing into the lake but no outlets. Evaporation is quite rapid therefore the salt content is very high and one cannot sink in the water but floats. It was very cold when we drove past and thus did not go for a swim.
The coastline is pretty rugged with the mountains dropping straight down with often no plains between it and the sea and if it has, then one finds endless tomato fields - row after row and we have never seen so many tomatoes in our lives before. All sun ripened and the taste off course exceptional.
We arrived in Amman early in the afternoon. The traffic is incredible chaotic and size does matter. People change lanes, stop for no reason and make u-turns in the busiest of streets. Amman is a place where old meets even older. It is built on numerous hills and it is one of the oldest permanently settled cities in the world. The hills are nearly vertical and so are the houses. It is relatively cleaner than Egypt. Each street is littered with stalls stacked one next to the other and the fruit markets are divine with the best possible fruit and vegetables on can imagine.
8 February 2011
Total Distance: 18784
Distance covered today:180km
Start: Palace Hotel, Amman, Jordan
Finish: Palace Hotel, Amman, Jordan
We got up red-eyed as we had basically no sleep due to the fact that the council decided to lift up all the tar on the road outside our hotel and until 4am massive machines roared outside our window and jack-hammers did not help to improve a splitting head-ache.
We headed to the Syrian border but before that we stopped at one of the Middle East best preserved Roman City in a town called Jerash. It is not massive, it is larger than life! It took about 30 minutes to walk from one end of the Roman city to the other. They have rebuilt huge parts of the city yet 90% is still to be done. There is a hippodrome where chariots raced, 2 massive amphitheatres where we had a lucky strike by entering when a band of 4 locals played doodle bags and drums to show the acoustics of the structure. There are arches, pillars, paved lanes with the marks of the chariots still visible. To have seen this at the prime of its time, would have been great.
Afterwards we headed to the Syrian border. The Jordan side went relatively quick and after paying another substantial tax to leave the country, we headed to Syrian side. The official took our passports and disappeared for some time and came back with the short instruction: you cannot come into Syria. After struggling for more than an hour, it became clear why. We left Nuweiba in Egypt on the 4th just before midnight and arrived in Jordan on the 5th. Because of this day's difference they believed we have been to Israel. No matter what we said or even that we will call the shipping line to confirm our story, they refused it point blank and said we must speak to the Syrian embassy in Amman. Back at the Jordan side back to the old routine of checking in and what a mission to explain what has happened. Notwithstanding that we had to pay tax again to enter the country!!! Just before 8pm we drove disheartened into Amman. Another sleepless night in a hotel where the machines were still going strong.
9 February 2011
We called the Syrian Embassy and they have told us in no uncertain terms, they will not give us a visa - I suspect that they got a call from the border. And now?? Now we have no choice but to head back to Egypt. We have made a number of phone calls to ensure our path is clear to the Libyan border. It is confirmed that the border has opened again and we have spoken to the couple who will join us and they are heading to Cairo with no problems.
We are in a situation where we have to put our heads down and take the good with the bad and work all angles. Sitting down and crying over something we can't change, won't help. Rest assured again that our lives are more important than the tour and if feels threatening, we will move away from it.
We are now in Aqaba and according to the boat company the boat will leave at midnight. If all goes well (and it will) we will be Egypt in a few hours. The plan of action is to get as quick as possible to the western side of the country to as close as possible to the Libyan border so that if the situation gets worse again, we are able to head straight into Libya. Our agent in Libya is meeting us on the border on the 13th. We are not superstitious! We will spend some 6 - 7 days in Libya and then Tunisia before shipping to Italy.
At this stage we have to follow each avenue available to us - even if they are slim. Syria is dead, Iraq is not an option, driving south home again, well...