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Old 06-12-2008, 10:58 PM   #76
silly torque
kiwi in NL
Joined: Mar 2008
Location: Netherlands
Oddometer: 67
"The Middle East comes across on the nightly news as a very scary place."

Thats the news media for you! the Media the world over sell doom and gloom. Thats what makes people interested ( or so they think) It's very sad but life.
Take everything you see on the media with a HUGE grain of salt. The downer is that a lot of people have no other exposier to places like that. Proberly more so with America, so little of the population travel it's hard to find or hear any other source of facts about places a little off the main tour trail (please this isn't a side swipe at the US - fact is only 11 % of the population have passports - though you folks from Co. are known for getting around a bit:) Realtiy is there is so much to see and do in the US i can see why so few go overseas!)
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Old 06-12-2008, 11:11 PM   #77
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Amsterdam and Paris are the limits of my European travel. Loved both cities. I am aware that the news is mostly bad. They haven't found a way to make the good news interesting enough to sell advertising. I have to admit that my passport is 10 yrs expired, but at least I had one !
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Old 06-13-2008, 12:53 AM   #78
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Incredible Report!
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Old 06-13-2008, 02:30 AM   #79
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Getting better and better

Do you have the GPS coordinate of Hadrian’s Gate Hotel in Jerash ?
In 20 years you'll only regret what you didn't do.

World Tour finished!
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Old 06-13-2008, 02:42 AM   #80
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Joined: Apr 2006
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Touring Petra
I’m told an early start is essential to avoid the coaches. So I pile out early, have second thoughts about wearing sandals and walk back 10 minutes later to put on trainers. (A day’s walking later shows this to be a good decision!).

Most people have seen photos of Petra so few of these that follow will be new. It did leave me with an abiding respect for the Nabatean people who built it, and were big traders with the Roman cities of Jerash and Palmyra that I had already visited.

I start my tour (with trainers on)

I met a Singaporean guy Rodney and we share his guide book and spend the day touring Petra. It also explains why there are a few pictures of me this time!

He suggests we ride donkeys to the monastery above the site...altho it's terrifying as they walk up very steep steps, with a big abyss alongside, it's a lot better than hiking in the midday heat and sun.

Apparently people climb up to the little 'ball' you can see on top of the roof....but I decide to pass

The site can be massively impressive when viewed alone, or a bit bizarre when there are hundreds of yellow-capped Italians who have not heard (or maybe understood) that the Petra Code includes ‘preserving the silent, peaceful nature of the site’ (!)..

I enjoy it so much, and am so tired by 2pm, that I decide to stay a second night so I can enjoy the town and make a second visit of Petra, visiting some more of the many attractive buildings and walks.

The policeman suggests I park somewhere safe:

and I avoid the dodgy merchandise in the town

At the 'High Steps' above Petra, a sacrifice basin cut in the rock

and a cat (not about to be sacrificed) basks and admires the view

while a donkey waits in the shade for the next load

On the way down, I end up taking a long hike down a wadi (river bed). Although it is dry there are lots of bushes growing and flowering

When I have finished my tour, I try to find a 'J' (for Jordan) or a small flag to put on the beak of the bike alongside the others. While I am walking around doing this, 2 local guys I have met try to solve the problem...

As their first suggestion had been a huge Jordanian flag sticker I am apprehensive when they say 'we have solved the problem'....but actually they have stuck a very neat Petra/Jordan flag (from a key-ring) on the beak and it looks great (unlike my subsequest attempt to reglue it with superglue after it nearly falls off...I manage to fix it at an angle!).

Later on, one of them asks (through an intermediary as he is diffident) if he can have a ride on the bike.

He wants to ride pillion so i agree -let's do it at 2.30.

When 2.30 rolls ujp the heat is furnace-like and I begin to regret my offer. Once we get going, he waves and calls to everyone in the shops we pass: Ah'mid it's me'...or M'hamid, look I am on a motorbike'.

In between this he urges me to ride faster...I tell him there is a car in front so I will not be doing this.

We ride out of town for a km and then return. He is exultant: 'this is the happiest day of my life' and invites me to drink whiskey with him in his shop. I thank him but decine as I am about to head off over the mountains and nto the desert toward Wadi Rum. Later he tells M'hamid the hotel guy that 'he senses I am a very wise rider' (probably means a boring old fart since i would not gun it up the main street!).

Remember that as there are no bikes in Jordan he will not have been on one before, which I think explains his great joy. Should have got a photo but I was already thinking about the ride to Wadi Rum...M'hamid keeps saying I should go later in the day as the heat in the desert will be too great whin I arrive, and this is (he says) the Jordanian summer. (Begs the question what it's like in July!).

As I leave Petra after a fantastic visit, I spot the Jordanian constabulary's finest, who is happy for me to photo him. (In gedneral I take photos of people only after checking they are OK with this, unless it's a group of people like a street scene)

Now for the ride across the mountains and down to the intense heat of the desert. I am keen to get moving, so leave Wadi Musa (Petra) earlier than M'hamid recommends.
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Old 06-13-2008, 02:57 AM   #81
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Originally Posted by aurel
Getting better and better

Do you have the GPS coordinate of Hadrian’s Gate Hotel in Jerash ?
I'll have a look...but it's easy to find as it is literally opposite Hadrian's gate which is one main entry point into the Roman site of Jerash, and a short walk fom town centre (it's a small town).

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Old 06-13-2008, 03:30 AM   #82
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Originally Posted by simondippenhall
I'll have a look...but it's easy to find as it is literally opposite Hadrian's gate which is one main entry point into the Roman site of Jerash, and a short walk fom town centre (it's a small town).

In 20 years you'll only regret what you didn't do.

World Tour finished!
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Old 06-13-2008, 03:49 AM   #83
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Joined: Apr 2006
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in the footsteps of Lawrence of A

Leaving Wadi Musa and getting the right road south was the usual...'take the road straight' which I repeat with lots of hand gestures esp as left and right often get confused here. Of course the straight road was anything but and so a little more Q&A by the roadside further on gets me sorted out.

I am wearing (unusually) a cotton shirt which soons starts to get i stop again and to general interest and amusemnt take my jacket and shirt off and put on a proper technical shirt with proper wicking. It makes me realise how important these are, especially as I am drinking litres of water a day.

As I descended from the mountains to Wadi Rum the heat intensified, and I was glad I wore only the biking jacket and not the trousers. The rroads are bloack and absolutely shiny and impregnated with oil, so i am (again) glad it is dry. Along the way I see the odd truck pulled over for a tea, with the drivers carefully sitting in the shade created by the truck. I start to wonder how much shade will be created by my bike if I need to stop - not a lot I fear, especially at the critical \midday hours.

The scenery became more desert-like as I approached the Wadi.

I ride into the little Bedouin town. A small boy reaches for a stone and I accelerate in case he decides to act. I soon tracked down Mohamed arrabia-He is the Bedouin who runs Sunset Camp and had been recommended by M'hamid atOrient Gate. After discussing prices I parked the bike and hopped into the ante-diluvian jeep (starter by wire, brakes by appointment only) and headed out with Ahm’d to the camp. He wanted to take the bike as he reasoned (correctly) it was in far better nick than the jeep– but the sand was heavy and the bike ride would have been a nightmare.

We stop at the village store where a huge jerry can of petrol is pured into the jeep tank, through a muslin filter.
The antiquated jeep

The drive across sandy trails was fun. When we arrived I met Brent (US) and David (Brazilian) and generally the company was excellent, even if the tented camp used more brickwork than Bedouin tradition leads one to expect.

We got an excellent dinner, which was unexpected, after we had sat out to watch the sunset across the sand. I slept out under the stars, waking at 5 as light dawned. Others were a little slower to wake and required some encouragement from the Bedouins!

Other campers

Below: Ahm'd, age 20 and worried about whether to take 4 wives (he has none at the present). His father and many brothers run the camp. Very keen my sons should come and be betrothed to Beduin women, so we get into a discussion about camel dowries! He's a great singer around the fire at night


Sunset amidst the clouds


The next day people went various directions. I decided to stay a second night, take a jeep tour, and chill in the desert heat. The English group decided to walk 25k across the desert to the Saudi frontier (without guide or much equipment).

Saudi this way (25km)

Brent and David headed on to Wadi Rum by camel and to Eilat.

Some\of the dunes are pretty massive

My day was inconsequential, mainly seeking shade in which to read and trying to ignore the flies. When evening came a new group arrived – French and Italian, plus the Swede I met in Petra and a German mid-wife, and we chatted before dinner over sugary cups of tea. Matthias the Swede and I decided to walk to the adjacent mountain, and came across a baby camel and its family.

warm work walking

Again I slept outside..until around 12 the intense wind and rain (well, drops of water) drove me inside.

Breakfast on the rocks

In the morning the jeep was problematic (quelle surprise)

Next morning it was time to go…next stop Aqaba. This was a short ride of 1-2 hours, followed by a tour of hotels.

The Aqaba police keep a (friendly) eye on my bike while I check out a hotel:

I decided to go for the upscale Al Zitani for US$25 – and an underground garage for the bike.

My balcony had a good view of the Red Sea. That's Israel across the water.

I met Matthias and Anna the Swedes again and we went to lunch at the very crowded City Beach, where women bathed in full clothes. (No photos here as this is a conservative town! Indeed Anna got some looks for not having her hair covered). Then a taxi ride to the Royal Diving Club where I lounged the afternoon away, met 4 groups of people that I knew from various stages of the trip, and snorkelled amidst fabulous aquarium fish.

That evening I wandered the town, and got sold a much-needed hair-cut for 5JD. The place was buzzing, with people more active after the day’s heat had passed. A fun evenıng and a good way to celebrate the turnıng poınt of my trıp.

simondippenhall screwed with this post 06-13-2008 at 04:10 AM
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Old 06-13-2008, 05:20 AM   #84
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Thanks you.. most enjoyable read!

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Old 06-13-2008, 06:53 AM   #85
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Long way home or short way home

I am at the junction of several countries, here at the head of the Red Sea in Aqaba.

Saudi Arabia starts about 10 km away.
Israel can be seen across the water.
Egypt is a short ferry ride away.

I spend a pleasant afternoon at the Royal Diving Club in Aqaba with Matthias and Anna - eating ice-cream, drinking beer, and admiring women in bikinis. The latter two have not been a big feature of my trip so far, although there has been lots of ice-cream!

I am cogitating whether to head on to Israel or back overland. Simon from Italy, whom I met in Montenegro, had suggested taking the ferry from Turkey to Sochi and riding through the Ukraine, which would have been interesting.

However my Russian friends in Damascus explained to me patiently that Sochi is in Russia (remember the 2014 winter olympics?). And I won't have time to get a Russian visa. So that is off.

However the heat is intense here at the red Sea and will be, I think, in Israel. I am in two minds whether I want to spend a couple more weeks in the region in those conditions.

Plus the visit to Israel would mean getting another new passport (one of mine already has an Israel border stamp -not the one I brought on this trip naturally).

Finally I follow my instinct, and decide I will take the land route home.

Roughly, my itinerary will look like this:

North through Jordan
Into Syria again, but take the West Coast
Across Turkey (route unknown)
Into Bulgaria.
And work it out from there when I find a map.

Now I have resolved that, I have a clearer sense of purpose, and set off from Aqaba at 0800 the next morning.

Heading North

The ride North starts well, as I recognise the road back to Damascus. I gaze longingly at the turn for Wadi Rum, but that time is past. I also decide not to take the turn off for Iraq, even though the GS feels loaded enough to be a tank!

I decide to take the Desert Highway, supposedly less interesting than the circuitous Kings Highway but I imagine a quicker way North.

Another friendly Jordanian:

In the event it certainly deserves the title Desert Highway, even down to the group of camels being shepherded to the side to make a crossing.

Yet surprisingly it is cool; and as I have prepared for intense heat, and am wearing minimal gear, I don’t get comfortably warm until the middle of the day. I did not expect to be cold in daytime in the desert.

The Desert Highway is well named:

I head again for the Dead Sea, fearful of the extreme heat. However it is more bearable now, and I work my way up to the Biblical sites – Bethany across the Jordan, site of the baptism of Christ, and then up a fabulous road to the coolth and long-distance views of Mount Nebo. Here there are many visiting Christians, from India to Africa.

Bethany across the Jordan, the baptism site. This site was notably also for 3 young Russian women who wore very very skimpy clothes and evoked a lot of crude comments from the bystanding Jordanians - at one level, understandable because they were breaking the local Islamic norms, AND at an historic Christian site also. Another Jordanian said to me he was embarassed by his compatriots coments...more than I was, anyway.

The 13km road up the mountain to Nebo is absolutely fabulous and a trip in itself!

Mount Nebo

Magnificent views from Mt Nebo

Artefacts at Mt Nebo

Record of a Papal visit to Mt Nebo

Now it is time to head for the Jordanian border to Syria. Bypassing Amman proves to be much more difficult than expected, and I find myself battling city traffic. I toy with the idea of staying in Jerash as the road has been longer, the hotel there was clean and welcoming.

I am feeling hungry and decide to stop to buy some of the delicious-looking tomatoes displayed at many road-side stands. (The fertility of the well-irrigated land of Northern Jordan has surprised me).

When I ask for 2 tomatoes the roadside seller refuses payment and gives them to me as a gift. I eat tem there and then - they are delicious and full of flavour. I give him the Sochi Olympics 2014 keyring the Russians have given me, and he is very appreciative.

The tomato-giver:

I make good progress now despite very strong cross-winds (which seem permanent – the trees are bent over with its pressure) so I decide to go for Syria. As I approach Ar Ramtha it seems set to be a quiet evening. There are few people at the border post and it takes 10 minutes to clear Jordan.

The Syrian border-post has only one other passer-through and I feel I have made a good choice. I get VIP treatment – but still have to pay another Customs duty which with taxes seems to have gone up from $85 when I entered Syria before, to $110. When I question, there is some muttering about foreign exchange. The good news is that I get in in 60 minutes, and with little hassle – unlike my first entry where there was a lot of jousting for position. And not a German rallyist in site this time.

Nonetheless the day is moving on, and I have to decide whether to reach for Damascus, or stop on the way North. The intervening towns are few, so I end up legging it to Damascus and braving the rush-hour traffic to get back to my old hotel. Despite the heavy Damascus traffic it’s a lot easier second-time around to find the hotel.

I am received with open arms (seems everyone in the street remembers the biker gang!), and actually given a nicer room. It gives me the evening to dine again at Bait Jabri, and wander to souk.

The liveliness is energising, and there is always something new to observe…the water sellers and cigarette vendors, the same guy still trying to flog a stuffed eagle…can it be the same one as 10 days ago? Or is he selling dozens? Apparently the Syrians have an obsession with these, according to my guide, but it does not seem to translate into sales activity for this bloke.

Souk al hammadiye entrance revisited

Traditional transport:

Leaving Damascus

The next morning I go out for breakfast, and meet a congenial crowd young and old.

They are all very happy to be photographed except for the young boy below, as you can see!.

Then I spend 2 hours wandering round the alleys and doorways of the souk – it is completely different from the night before. I even spot an ATM…of course, it does not work!

Lots of interesting doorways.

When I get back to the hotel the manager (who was away last night) embraces me like a long-lost friend, kisses and all – maybe they don’t see many return customers?

Then it is time to continue the ride North..............

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Old 06-13-2008, 07:19 AM   #86
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You write well. Your pictures are magnificent.
I look forward to the rest of your trip.
Be safe. Enjoy your travel.
Your life is either a
daring adventure or
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Old 06-13-2008, 11:47 AM   #87
who's yer daddy??
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Fantastic report!!!

I was there a couple of summers ago (can you spot the GS t-shirt!)
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Old 06-13-2008, 01:33 PM   #88
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Excelent report! I enjoy your writing, thanks for sharing.

What riding gear do you wear? never seen it before.

The orange camo riding gear in one of your pics is Lindstrand´s STR. Swedish riding gear, Jofama and Halvarsson is within the same company.

Ride safe/ Mattias
-07 R1200GS Adv
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Old 06-13-2008, 02:08 PM   #89
Mr Baggins
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Adventure is a path. Real adventure - self-determined, self-motivated, often risky - forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind - and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” -
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Old 06-13-2008, 03:22 PM   #90
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Joined: Apr 2006
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[quote=DRglidarn]Excelent report! I enjoy your writing, thanks for sharing.

What riding gear do you wear? never seen it before.

Aerostich Roadcrafter 2 piece suit from US.

Had it 12 it!
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