Syria south bound Jordan Syria north bound Turkey north bound
Saturday 10 February 2007, Canekkale
The Turkish border was easy with friendly staff. Our biggest problem was not knowing where to obtain the various documents i.e. visa and the International Green Card for car insurance. Once through we headed south taking a ferry across the Bosporus.
The roads are bad. They are not maintained very well and the camber goes the wrong way. Not nice when driving a high vehicle that tends to sway.
Sunday 11 February 2007, Ayvalik
The hills we drove through were gentle and green. We wanted to spend a few days in a campsite and deliberately went looking for one. Both available sites were closed. Ayvalik has many islands surrounding the harbour connected by roads and we found a small lovely harbour for the night on one of them.
The apartment blocks all have a different architecture. The majority also have a braai (bar-b-que) as a standard part of the balcony. The variety of architectural styles is so pleasant after the white square blocks in Greece.
Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 February 2007, Bergama
At Bergama we found a campsite open and with a washing machine - for me Bliss! All the accumulated washing was clean and dry by Tuesday evening luckily, as on Wednesday it rained most of the day. While I cleaned Pieter went looking for gas as one of our small canisters was empty. No gas was available so he also asked about a part for the generator. He was given a cup of tea and then taken all over the town, by car, searching for the part. No luck but what a friendly experience. Before we left town we went to a different area to ask for the part. This time we found a shop which actually services generators. Not only did we find the part but we also had the generator serviced.
Bergama itself has an acropolis with some standing columns which we did not go and see. It is however on the tourist route and the restaurant attached to the campsite did a roaring trade at lunch time with buses of tourists.
The only setback we experienced was the price we had to pay for the camping: 20 Euro per night instead of 8,50 according to ACSA information. Makes a big difference over 3 days!
Thursday 15 February 2007, Pamucak
Ephesus! The city where St Paul preached and St John lived and died so long ago. The city where the majority of Christians lived in the early days of Christianity when persecution was rife. The city that was declared the centre of Christianity by the synod in 449 AD. The area of Artemis, the goddess of hunting and the chase.
When we arrived we were one of the few visitors and the various vendors swooped upon us. We were told how much walking was involved, at least two kilometers from one end to the other. This increased to 3 and is actually about 1. Anyway we bought a book and took a taxi to the other end, up the hill, and walked down. The ruins are from the Roman period, 190 BC to 5th century AD and are along 3 main streets that go around a hill and onto the harbour. There is an Odeon (small theatre) and a grand theatre, temples, monuments and the library. The library is the structure most often photographed. The streets were lined with columns, of which the bases remain. The harbour silted up long ago and is now over 6 kilometers from the sea. The area between the harbour and the sea is a marshland and now has a small airport built on part of it.
We wanted to stay in the parking lot for the night but were not allowed. Instead we were pointed in the direction of the sea. Here the is a beach where many cars obviously drive. We sat and watched the sunset.
Friday 16 February 2007, Antalya
It was a pleasant drive through mountains with snow on them. Some of the mountains were interesting shapes, rounded or soaring up in small peaks. There was also snow on the side of the road. In Antalya there is a large mall called Migros. The food hall has the largest variety of take-aways we have seen, more than 20 outlets. There are only 2 US chains, Burger King and McDonalds. The others have salads, kebabs, chicken and stew. Pieter had fish an chips while I had a delicious stew.
Saturday 17 February 2007, Cubukkoyagr
We were obviously in honey, nut and orange country today, with bananas further south. We bought lots of walnuts and a large pot of honey.
The mountains here go straight into the sea with dry Mediterranean type vegetation. Italy is similar but the hills (mountains) are smaller and more gentle. In Greece the mountains do not go as high but are just as precipitate. The road itself wound through the mountains showing magnificent vistas over the sea. There were long stretches of tourist country - hotels, camping grounds, restaurants - all of them closed and deserted, it must be madness during the season. We even found a Carrefour and some genuine Gouda cheese.
There were also lots of Renault service points and dealers. Renault is very popular in Turkey
Sunday 18 February 2007, Iskenderun
Once again we drove through lovely mountain scenery, with fertile green fields in the flatter spaces. We tried to fill up with water from one of the many mountain springs but the flow was so slow that we gave up. Once we were out of the mountains and onto the highway we were able to pick up speed and actually managed 400k.
In Iskenderun there is no road along the beach front as the properties, mostly consisting of housing complexes with some security and lighting, go right up to the beach. Access to the beach is via streets ending at the edge of the beach. We found a nice quiet spot and settled down for the night. At about 11pm there was a knock on the door. The police wanted us to move. It was dangerous, there had been a murder recently. They moved us into a housing complex nearby and the next morning we were shown where we could fill up with water.
Monday 19 to Tuesday 20 February 2007, Aleppo,
The Turkish border is an absolute shambles. It is being revamped with new buildings and roads. We missed the customs control for the car. We had been told by some Germans also on their way through that there was a shed much further along where we had to show the papers. When we showed our papers we were told 'the computer'. Assuming this meant that the car details had not been entered properly at the gate, we returned and were assured by the policeman at the entrance that the details were correct. We returned to the small building driving around trucks going in all directions and squeezing between others. Again we were told 'the computer'. This time the man in charge said he would take us there. I went with him in his car while Pieter stayed with Grom. It was another small hut near where the passports were stamped that we had not even seen as it was hidden behind three lanes of massive lorry's! Of course it was lunchtime and I had to wait along with many others. The staff had to close and lock the door so they could have their lunch in peace. But they didn't take long and once the door was open there was a rush. It was almost impossible to get to the desk. Some one closer took pity on me and shoved my carnet under the nose of the man at the desk. He waved me to another man at the back who checked the details on the computer and gave me a signed paper. Then on to another small building nearby for the official signature from the man who had driven me through. I walked on through to Pieter. He had been waiting for some time and was a little worried. He could also see that the small office we had first gone to was now closed, so how would we get the required signature. So I explained that for some reason the staff in that office were now working further back and I had completed all the necessary paper work. We could finally go through to Syria.
The Syrian border took ages. We were helped by a 'tourist official'. This was absolutely necessary. But first we had to wait until he had completed the processes for Robby Clemens (www.worldrun.de) a German who was running around the world - that is correct - running! He was thin and tall with 3 large campers in attendance. Their problem was ownership of the cars. The same person owned all three and in Syria each person can only own one car, at least when crossing the border. In the end the drivers were given authorization for the vehicle they drove.
Eventually it was our turn. I gather that there has to be proof that the various fees (taxes, insurance, registration, diesel tax of USD 100) were paid for by foreign currency. We had to change the exact amount of dollars for Syrian Pounds. Our helper worked out the amount and changed the dollars, for which we received 3 receipts, each for part of the total amount. Then the insurance needed to be paid. We took the money to the insurance counter with the car papers only to find that the amount calculated was for a camper and of course we have a Land Rover bakkie (utility, pick-up). The receipts had to be taken back to the change counter, one receipt was changed to reflect the new amount and we were given some dollars change. Something else also went wrong with the amounts and another receipt was changed. In the end I could not keep track of what was happening and we both sat and waited for our helper to sort it all out without us. The German couple had started the whole process before us and they were still there when we left. Perhaps it was because they did not have a carnet and we did because there was an issue over import duties. Be that as it may, we were finally able to enter Syria. Reminded us of some of the border crossings in Africa.
MTN welcomed us on our cell phone. In the two years since I retired from MTN in SA they have moved into 21 countries in the Middle East and Africa. It was like a welcome from a long lost relative. Made me feel quite at home.
The country side is full of rocks. Land has been cleared to make cultivatable fields, although it looks as though soil has been imported as well. The people are dressed in a mixture of arabic and western clothing. There are a surprising number of red headed people, usually in the darker shades of red.
In Aleppo we parked right outside the citadel opposite Government House. Pieter asked the guards if it was alright for us to stay there for a few days and they said it was fine and 'Welcome'. Welcome is an English word everyone in Syria and Jordan knows. It is used in any context when the speaker does not know what to say.
Aleppo has been a prosperous city since 3rd millennium BC as it is situated on the junction of ancient trade routes. The citadel built in the centre of the old city is on a 40 meter high hill. The present structure is from the 13th century AD. It is imposing and very solid. The throne room has been restored and is magnificent. The walls and ceiling are covered in mahogany with inlays of ivory and lighter wood. There are also magnificent chandeliers.
The old souk consists of 10 kilometers of covered market with additional uncovered areas. We went walking through it and managed to get quite lost. The people we asked were very helpful even though some of them could not speak English, the majority do have some English. The goods for sale covered the whole gamut of house hold needs plus the usual tourist traps. Spices were arranged in colorful displays. The butchers had whole sheep hanging without any flies to be seen. Apparently there are never any flies in the market. There were also fruit and vegetable shops, clothing stores, carpet shops, linen shops and anything else you can think of. The take away food is cheap but the other items not, although cheaper than Europe. Tea served in a bar is relatively expensive 100 SP for two small cups. A whole roasted chicken with chips is only 200 SP.
Wednesday 21 to Thursday 22 February 2007, Palmyra
The Mouhafazats (municipalities) of Hama and Homs have been inhabited from the stone age and like most of Syria have seen a range of rulers, Akkadians, Sumerians, Amorites, Babylonians, Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Seleucids, Byzantines and Moslems. They both have citadels and mosques. Pieter wanted to see the waterwheels (norias) on the river Orontes in Hama. These are large and made of wood, however we could not get really close and so kept moving onto Palmyra.
We had lunch at a restaurant, kebabs and salad. The kebabs are made the same way as in Egypt, minced meat molded onto a skewer. It was a change from bread and cheese.
On our map Palmyra is called Tadmur but all the signposts pointed to Palmyra. We arrived just before sunset. The site of the ruins was unbelievable. They seemed to rise from the desert and cover a large area, larger than the current town. There is quite a lot still remaining. It is not fenced in at all and it seemed there was free access. We decided to stop near the site for the night, but Mohammad saw us and said we should rather stay at his campsite, Al-Baider, where we could have a hot shower. 'It is just round the corner' he said. We looked around and wondered what corner he was talking about. There were tracks going in various directions but all of them leading to another part of the site. Anyway we followed him around the Temple of Bel-Tel and there was a gate almost on top of the temple walls. He opened it, removed the bat at the very top (2 meters up) and said 'Come, come'. Pieter started to drive through. He couldn't get very far though because there was an electric cable across the drive. 'No problem, use the other gate'. Pieter drove a few meters further along the temple wall to another gate. This time there was no problem, except we had a choice of only 2 spots before there was another electricity cable across the drive. Pieter chose the second one and promptly got bogged in the mud. It had rained the previous day and the ground had not yet dried out. After churning great holes in the mud he returned to the first site which had some gravel and was firm. We followed Mohammad to a building with a large kitchen, lounge, toilets and showers. He immediately offered tea, but we wanted a nice hot shower. When we realised this was actually going to be a bucket bath, we accepted the tea. There were showers with shower heads but no running water. Even if the water had been running it would have been cold! The toilets also lacked running water. Perhaps during the season it would be available.
We sat and had sweet tea in the lounge while we waited for the water to heat. The lounge was a typical Bedouin room. There were carpets on the floor and walls and cushions against the wall. There was a pot stove run on diesel to keep the room warm. I had the first shower. There were shower curtains and hooks in the hallway, but no real privacy for undressing. Mohammad bought the boiling water and a jug, then some cold water to cool the hot water. I started to undress in the hallway. When I was down to my underwear, Mohammad came with a brush to mop up the water when I was finished. I told him to scoot, just as well I can be calm. I noticed the next night he was the epitome of efficiency. I guess after the first time he tried he realized he stood no chance to get closer! It was absolutely fantastic to pour warm water over me, much better than using a wet washer as we do in the van. Pieter continued to drink tea and chat with Nader and Mohammad while he waited his turn. The conversation was all about sex. On and on until I came in. We also watched a video showing dancing and a large female singer who did not move very much but made the occasional sexy move, each time the two men went 'ooh'.
Pieter had never ridden a camel so Thursday was the day. Our guide and others hanging around insisted on lifting him up and placing him on the seat. It looked extremely awkward. Naturally they dropped him on the first try but eventually he was on and the camel was encouraged to stand up. It objected strenuously and almost toppled Pieter off. It was being asked to stand up where there was a great big stone under it's knee and with the added weight of a passenger it was just too painful. Once that was removed all went smoothly. Next it was my turn. I was having none of this awkward lifting up, so I swung my leg over the saddle and was fine. I had to ride behind the guide and discovered that a camel has a very wide back, my thighs were quite stretched by the time the ride was finished. Pieter took lots of photos even while still learning to ride properly. We rode through the entrance gates, up the main avenue (called the Long Road) where the remains of hot and cold water pipes ran and open toilets had been available every few meters, through the main square, past the baths and temples to some tombs. Here we dismounted and walked through one of the tombs. They are buildings where the corpses were placed in very small cubicles. Once a floor is full another floor is built on top. This time Pieter climbed on the camel without help, much easier. The journey back was over the same ground.
We then went into the Temple of Bel-Tel. This is a very large walled area with the temple in the centre. Again much of it remained. There were still traces of frescoes in the actual temple.
Friday 23 February 2007, Damascus
The trip to Damascus is relatively short. We had tea on the way in a cafe in the middle of the desert. They showed us a photo of the cafe under snow! Apparently 2 years ago it had actually snowed there. We have discovered that there can be snow right down through Syria and Jordan - so much for our perception that these are hot countries. Of course most of the time it is hot. It is only cold for 1 or 2 months a year. We did some shopping in a mall in Damascus. It had a weird layout. The entrance was through a small under-cover parking area. To the right you entered and exited the supermarket otherwise the escalator took you upstairs. The supermarket wound around this foyer with another exit going somewhere else. I can only imagine that the supermarket started smaller and grew. Very confusing. The outside parking area was very busy with single lane two way lanes and cars milling around. We ended up parked at a petrol station for the night where the attendant insisted we park right out front, very visible and very noisy.
Saturday 24 February 2007, Border
There are many ruins in the southern part of Syria. Today we decided to take in a few and headed towards Sweida on the plain of Horan. It used to be called Suda because of the black volcanic rock in the area. This rock is still being used as a building material. Going over a speed hump we heard a crash in the back. We stopped to find all the spices had been thrown off the shelf plus the top cupboard with sauces had been opened and the contents spilled. The floor was a mess of sauce and spice. The wall above the sink had sauce dripping down. It took a while to clean up with many mutters about the catches. All the speed humps in the area are very dangerous. Several times during the day we had to stop to clean up the mess. Extra catches are now in place to ensure that all doors remain closed no matter what. Definitely good preparation for bad roads.
Two men road up on motor bikes and saying they were police asked us why we had stopped - must have been a sensitive area. We explained and once the place was reasonable went on our way. The rubbish had not been thrown out so as soon as we saw a skip, we stopped again to throw it away only to find that we had picked up a follower. Not sure what was going on we continued into Sweida and through heading for Qanawat. Our directions were poor and we ended up at the top of Mount Horan in a dead end. We passed some dirty snow by the roadside on the way, just to show it really does snow in Syria. This time we made use of our faithful follower and asked for directions. He led the way first to the museum in Sweida and then on to Qanawat.
We were the only visitors to the museum and had our own personal attendant to guide us through. Pity he did not speak English. The museum has several well preserved mosaics e.g. of Artemis, goddess of hunting surrounded by nymphs. It also has the usual array of parts of sculptures and column tops. Specifically there is a head from the roman era that Pieter was very taken with, very strong lines and dread locks. It looked quite modern.
Qanawat was one of the 10 most important cities in the area during Roman rule. The church dates back to the 4th century CE and was a centre of Christianity. Candles are still being lit there today.
We lost our follower on the border of the municipality. He was handy but it was irritating to be watched so closely. Pieter suspected he was a policeman, keeping an eye on us after the meeting with the two policemen earlier.
Bosra is famous for the fortified amphitheatre. The amphitheatre is surrounded by thick walls with arrow slits. All the passage ways led through and inside these walls. The entire population of the area could fit inside the theatre in time of trouble. There are living quarters as well but these take only a small portion of the space. A nice touch was the electric lights designed as ancient braziers.
Our overnight stop was at a service station about 500m from the border. The first time we have been so close. The cook in the cafe brought us coffee - very nice.
Sunday 25 February 2007, Ajlun
Exiting Syria was easy. entering Jordan was chaos. The people were very friendly but the customs section was disorganised and the staff did not seem to know their jobs. We ended up going back twice because they had not done part of the job. When I returned for the third time they were happy to see I was going to the Tourist Office which is tucked away behind Customs. Access is through the Customs Office! With maps and literature in our hands we were finally on our way. We decided to head for Ajlun as the map indicated a camp ground. Naturally there was none and we parked quite happioly in the main bus square on a lovely flat spot. So far Jordan had been so hilly any flat space has been made by man. Late that night the police came by and insisted we move for our own safety. It was raining heavily by then and torrents of water came down the steep streets we had to follow to get to our destination: a small steep parking area next to a hotel. Pieter did the best to get the car level but there wasn't much he could do.
Monday 26 February, Amman
Amman was cold and wet. It is also a maze of streets which made no sense to us. We parked the car and tried to find a map of the city. Eventually we took a taxi to the Department of Tourism on the First Circle. Amman is actually quite easy to get around as long as you know where you are in relation to the 8 major traffic circles. Armed with a map, the advice to park at the Abdoun Mall as there are no camp grounds and directions to a Land Rover spares shop off the 8th circle we took a taxi back to the car. We had asked for the place where the car was to be written down in Arabic as not all taxi drivers speak English. In any case we did not know the name of the place where the car was. This way our driver had no problem and found our car easily.
Tuesday 27 February to Thursday 1 March 2007, Petra
We pickt up some spare parts at Ammar's who has a shop specializing in Land Rover parts, mainly for the convenience of the army who runs close to 1000 Defenders according to him. He mentioned then he also had a workshop and that proofed to be very handy, later. After that we were on our way to Petra. A site I have wanted to see for some time.
We parked in a paid parking area where they allowed us to stay overnight. It was level unlike the street parking which, once again is very hilly.
The archeological sight is basically tombs with a market place, an amphitheatre and a temple. Many of the people lived in Wadi Musa where the modern town of Petra stands. Going through the Siq ( the narrow canyon through to ancient Petra) you can still see the remains of the water channels, one carved from the rock and one with pipes. The Nabateans were very good with water management, both flood management and storage for the dry months. The treasury was impressive but there are only a few rooms hewn out of the rock inside. We did not take a guided tour as it involved a lot of climbing up and down. We also did not see the high place or the Monastery with their views over the country side. It was more than enough to walk to the museum and back, even that took a few hours. Of course we could have taken rides. Horses from the entrance gate to the start of the Siq, a carriage through the Siq, camels to the museum and donkeys to the high place and the monastery. The government has carved out various concessions for the Bedouin, these include the shops selling souvenirs, snacks and meals.
After such an active day we decided to stay another day and get the washing done. We woke to the rain and the cold. I took the large items to a laundry up in the town using a taxi. They are reasonable and the roads are quite steep. When it was time to fetch the laundry we were both so miserable with the cold and wet we decided to have a look at Valentine Hotel. The owner had said we must come and stay there if we could not park overnight in the parking area. He seemed very nice and the rates were not too bad. There was a gas heater in the common room, definitely a deciding factor. We liked it and booked in.
What a lovely warm welcoming place. Hot showers were available, but only during certain hours to try and save on water. The owners were friendly and the guests were wonderful. Everyone congregated in the common room and adjacent dining room. All were travelers. By this I mean people who had done more than one trip somewhere and had spent quite a bit of time traveling. The backpackers had between them been to every country in the world, many of them working there. Another group were teachers in Amman. They also had traveled to several different places. The talk around the dinner table consisted of stories about all these places. Always nice to meet other people doing the same as us. It was like living with a large family. We all ate dinner together. This was a typical Bedouin buffet with lots of salad, rice, meatballs and lamb. Then we all watched the movie together, an Indiana Jones movie part of which featured Petra. Then we all went to bed at the same time. Next morning we had breakfast with quite a few who rose at the same time as we did.
Friday 2 to Thursday 8 March 2007, Aqaba
The municipality provides a campsite on the south coast with water and electricity for free. Aqaba itself has little to offer, but the sun and warmth after the cold was delightful. It is being developed along the lines of Dubai so in 10 years it will be unrecognizable. There were already 3 campers there and during the week more joined us. Janet and Mario and four children have a business in Switzerland creating vehicles for traveling including a unit much like our own. They had a large truck with double cabin and space for all six inside. They have taken 4 months off to travel around the Arab countries on the Mediterranean. Jakob and Doris, Swiss, are retired and their next destination is Egypt. Rassie is Rumanian and one of the band of lone male wanderers. Claudia and Stephan are German and taking an extended holiday. Yasmine and Moogie are a mixture. Yasmine is from South Africa and Moogie from Germany. Moogie has been living in his truck for six years, visiting South Africa more than once. Yasmine joined him about three years ago. They have driven up from SA but instead of going through Egypt they went from Sudan to Saudi. They had a wonderful time in Saudi, possibly because Yasmin is a Muslim, although not practicing. It was an interesting group. Unlike many of the people we met in Europe, these are all well traveled people.
Mario mentioned to Pieter the Land Rover 130 (Double cab) is fitted with stabilizers. He suggested they may fit the 110 (our car) as well, which may help to stop the swaying caused by the height of our unit. (If we had been traveling to the East instead of to the West, we would have been blown off the road as a result of the combined working of the steep camber and incredible strong side-wind we encountered in the North of Jordan. ) A few phone calls and one, a used stabilizer, was located at Ammar's, in Amman. Time to leave the warmth and head into the cold.
Friday 9 to Saturday 10 March 2007, Amman
The drive was uneventful. Near Amman we saw many people enjoying a day in the outdoors. They had picnics and sometimes a fire. All of them were on the verge of the main road where the verge was about 10 meters wide and has trees and grass. I guess in a dry country like Jordan you use what is available. The air was cold but no rain thank heavens.
On Saturday we had stabilizers fitted to the Land Rover both front and back. It makes a huge difference and reduces the swaying dramatically. Pieter can now go back to driving like the mad flying Dutchman (Not really!).
Sunday 11 to Monday 12 March 2007, Wadi Rum
We had heard a lot about the beauty of Wadi Rum and had to see for ourselves. On our way back to Aqaba we veered off to the left and drove some 10 km to reach the entrance. The area borders Saudi Arabia. A wadi is a narrow valley where water once flowed, sometimes it still flows. We went off-road as soon as we could into a narrow offshoot and spent two nights completely alone away from civilization, what bliss! Every moment was magic. The protected area is large and consists of several wadis and rock formations. Bedouins still live in the area following a traditional life style. We had a cup of tea with a man, his wife and son who were resting in the sand along a car track. I would have loved a photo but our camera was full. Right after we left them we got bogged down in the sand, right up to the difs. Out came the shovels and the sand-ladders. Much to our surprise it took us just a mite over 10 minutes before we had freed the car and were on or way again. It had been the first time we ever had to use these things in dry sand ourselves! There were patches of purple flowers giving a colour wash to the ground. There was damp sand 30 cm down as it had snowed there is December.
No doubt the maps are good but they are two dimensional and the three dimensional reality is very different. The second night we wanted to stay near an arch called Al Fruth. We could not find the arch but did find a good spot to camp. Next day we saw some Toyota 4x4s carrying tourists and followed them. We had gone right past the arch without seeing it!
Pieter also did his bit for the environment. There were lots of sardine tins and other rubbish near a fire place. There was also damp ground. It looked like some one had camped there the previous night and left all the rubbish behind. Pieter buried it all. However there are signs at the entrance asking people to keep the environment clean. You would think the locals would do their part. There are very few tourists on their own and tinned sardines seem to be a popular local fare.
Tuesday 13 March to Monday 2 April 2007, Aqaba
The weather in Aqaba varies from hot to cold but never freezing. The wind blows constantly sometimes very hard. The best days are when the wind is light and it is warm. Another pair of travelers turned up in a Land Rover with a tent on top. Graham and Claire have just started their African Adventure. They spent 3 cold windy evenings in our van looking at our African Photos. We gave them lots of encouragement. In return they gave us a new sense of adventure. It really is time to move on. We will not be seeing as much of Eastern Europe as we thought. Once we have picked up some mail items in Bulgaria we will definitely head east. But only once it is warmer up north!
We had been alone for over a week before Mado and Jean-Paul arrived. We had met them briefly at the Syrian Embassy in Athens and since we were both going to Jordan had hoped to meet them again. They have a Toyota Landcruiser turned into a motor home, somewhat similar to our outfit. They are headed for South Africa and once again we passed on our knowledge. We had a wonderful 4 days with them having braais (bar-b-ques) and lots of laughter. They had solved the problem of space and weight on the back wheels by mounting 2 spare tyres on to the front bumper. Pieter decided that we could also do this but with 1 wheel. Off we went to Aqaba to find someone who could do the job. Pieter asked at a garage and one of the young men said he could show us the way. He hopped in the car and guided Pieter. The first place could not do the job and after going to several different workshops they eventually found a place where the work could be done. The young man hopped into a taxi to go back to his work place. All of this with no desire for a reward or even the taxi fare back. Jordanians are truly wonderful people. The job was finished by 9:00pm. The people at the garage were very good and did a professional job. They had lots of laughs with Pieter while they worked. There is now more space underneath and the 2 diesel jerry cans from on top plus the chairs that were stored on the back bicycle rack are now underneath.
Our call to start moving again came with a notice to say that from the 4th April we had to pay for the campsite. The advert for Aqaba 'Turn sand into gold' holds true even for campers.
Doris, Jakob and Rassie returned just in time for us to say goodbye. Aqaba has been a place for meeting great people, Jordanians and travelers alike.
Tuesday 3 April 2007, Fifa
We headed up the Rift Valley to the Dead Sea. This road is obviously very sensitive as we were stopped by police several times and had our passports checked. The mountains are once again in various shades of red, browns and some green. Makes for interesting driving. The Israelis have cultivated the valley all the way to the Dead Sea, while the Jordanians have only started with grapes, dates and fruit trees.
Then the engine overheated. We had been smelling boiling water for a while but when Pieter checked the engine he could not see anything. After removing some covers and the air inlet, the problem became obvious. A small length of hose connecting two pipes of different dimensions had a hole. It was now so large the water was spurting out. Naturally it was the one piece of hose that was not among the spares. Pieter unsuccessfully tried to make something. Eventually it was getting too late so we went up a side road and found a nice place to park for the night. There was some dead wood around and we made a campfire for Pieter to sit beside and contemplate possible solutions.
Wednesday 4 April 2007, Amman
Pieter managed to replace the pipe with a short piece of water hose pipe we had. Our desire to swim in the Dead Sea gone we passed by. There are many potash mines in the southern part of the sea. The wide section of salt encrusted rocks show just how much water the sea has lost. This is a concern of the government but I do not know what they are doing about it. A solution will require the co-operation of Israel (and the Palestinians?).
The temporary repair of the cool water problem worked well until we started climbing the hills to Amman. The road rises from 397 meters below sea level to 924 meters above in 30 kilometers. We made it almost to the top and about 30k from Amman before the hose gave in. Pieter phoned Ammar to bring the correct part. Without his help we would have been in pretty deep trouble. So, travelers, make a note: Ammar from Ammar Trading can be reached at cell +962 7 8888 8005 for Land Rover Spares. Once he had brought it to us and Pieter had fitted it we were on our way again. Again Jordanians showed just how helpful and friendly they are.
Thursday 5 Apri 2007, Bosra, Syria
We were not expecting any trouble leaving Jordan. We had been told about the 5 JD per person and vehicle departure tax and were prepared. We were not prepared for the extra 20JD for the vehicle. I have a receipt but do not know what it was for. Then we were told we had overstayed and it would cost 1.5JD per person per day, some 300JD! We objected strongly as we had renewed our visas in Aqaba only to be told this was for the visa not the overstay. Eventually the official rang Aqaba (!) and confirmed that a visa extension meant we could stay longer in the country. We left Jordan, a really friendly country, without further problems.
|Cost per litre diesel||3.25||0.32||0.30||0.45|
|Camping per night||81.20||8.00||7.55||11.36|
|Days in country||39|
We did expect some delay going back into Syria. We did not have a Jordanian visa in our passport when we applied for the Syrian visa in Athens and consequently only received a single entry not multiple entry visa. We had gone to the Syrian embassy in Amman and had been told that they only gave visas to Jordanian residents. After some consideration the official at the border said we could have a visa but first we had to change foreign currency. By the time we returned with the cash he was busy with a busload of Spanish tourists. Processing of a large group takes quite some time, especially as the one Cuban national had a visa problem. Eventually we were through immigration and went onto customs. Same story as on our entry in February. We had to change foreign currency for the road tax, diesel tax and insurance. At least this time there was very little confusion. The only incident was with the insurance man. As usual I was attending to the admin, although Pieter came along. The insurance man shouted at me in Arabic. Not understanding I asked him again how many USD I should change. Again he shouted at me in Arabic. Pieter came charging up on his white horse and demanded that he be polite to me, spoke in a reasonable voice and in English and explained how much had to be changed. He seemed to be very embarrassed and mumbled that the man at the exchange counter would tell us how much. It is the first time I have come across such rudeness. In Sudan I was merely ignored. After this the rest went very smoothly.
We missed the turnoff to the highway to Damascus and ended up at Bosra staying near the fortified amphitheatre.
Friday 6 to Saturday 7 April 2007, Homs
We had been told that Damascus was very beautiful so we decided to have a look see. Coming in from the south-west we ended up going past a market. It was very busy and colourful. The traffic was chaotic with more stopping than starting and the very dusty hills are covered in apartment blocks. Eventually we arrived in Damascus city centre. It is the usual city centre. I suppose the main attraction for tourists is the old city around the Omayyad Mosque. We were not really interested in seeing another old city so we passed on through to Homs where we stopped beside a nice little park. It was lovely to see the spring flowers both here and along the roadside. The park prooved to be very popular with the locals and many people came to have a walk, sit and chat. There is also an internet cafe nearby. When Saturday dawned cold and wet we decided to stay and do some work on the internet. Something finally went very wrong with my laptop power supply so we could not receive our mail but we could research visa for Georgia and Armenia. I also wanted to copy information down. They use Microsoft Office. I opened Word and tried to copy down some information. It did not work and I realised it is because I wanted to copy English text into an Arabic document. The software could not translate it into a right to left document. I did manage to copy down info from my bank account. It also goes from right to left with column A on the very right. It was rather funny. Naturally my laptop could not read the file.
Sunday 8 April 2007, Aleppo
Ebla was prominent from 2600BCE to 2240 BCE and ruled northern Syria, Lebanon, parts of southern Turkey and parts of Iraq. We passed by just to see. It was built in a bowl made from large earth ramparts. Apart from that it is a lot of stones - rubble as some call it (Pieter). We did not stop and go over the site. The small village we had to pass through was much more interesting. It had narrow muddy streets and lots of friendly people.
We had met Julie, a French teacher at a private school, in Petra. We contacted her when we arrived in Aleppo and spent a lovely afternoon talking to her and some of her friends. She also took us to a technician who opened the laptop, checked it out and came to the conclusion that it was the power adapter that did not produce enough power. We seem to have had a lot of trouble recently with our Targus adaptors! We purchased a new adaptor and, joy of joys, the laptop now works beautifully. It charges using the inverter and does not die on 210 volt. This means we do not need the Targus adapter with the 12 volt plug anymore.
|Cost per litre diesel - including $100 diesel tax||4.71||30.88||0.46||0.62|
|Actual cost per litre||1.01||7.00||0.10||0.14|
|Camping per night||43.19||300.00||4.48||6.01|
|Days in country||10|
Monday 9 April 2007, Kilis
After having lunch with Julie we headed for the border. It was all very easy though lengthy. The Syrian Immigration Officer had trouble entering our details. He seemed new to the job and found it complicated as we have an Australian passport issued in London, a Dutch passport issued in Pretoria SA and a South African car. He had lots of fun with it though. On the Turkish side as we had to buy more car insurance which involved first finding the man who could sell it to us!
Tuesday 10 April 2007, Karadayi
Drove through mountains today. It was very scenic and not too winding a road. We parked for the night by a small dam under the snow capped mountains. The wind was decidedly fresh.
Wednesday 11 to Friday 13 April 2007, Ortahisar
We admired Mount Erciyes from a distance. This is just south of Kayseri, Caesarea in Roman times. We arrived in Cappadocia to spend a few nights in a camp ground in Cappadocia. The campground is just above Meskenderin Valley, a lovely place to walk through. I took the steep footpath into the valley, almost fell a couple of times, only to find there was a car at the bottom. It was obvious I could have saved myself a lot of trouble! Oh well, it was a good exercise for my knees.
Saturday 14 April, near Kirsehir
Today was a day for sightseeing around Cappadoccia. This area is noted for its strange rock formations. Originally volcanic the wind and rain have carved out strange pinnacles. In some places they look like termite mounds. The inhabitants then carved homes and other buildings into the sandstone rocks. Goreme was developed by St. Basil between the 10th and 12th centuries as a centre of Christianity. There are many churches, all quite small with frescoes on the walls. The church with the best frescoes had an additional entrance fee. Apparently they are very vivid as the church has only one small window and therefore little light. No photographs allowed though.
Underground cities were also built in the area and used by Hittites, Romans and Christians. They were an effective defense against persecution. They cannot be seen from the surface. The entrance is a hole with stairs leading down. These days there is a building over the entrance though. I went into Derenkuyu. It has eight floors and is 55 meters deep. There are enough ventilation shafts, chimneys and wells to support a population of 10,000. There were stables, kitchens, sleeping areas, a church, a school, a bathing pool for washing children and wineries where grapes were crushed and the juice directed to a lower storage area. The best was a confessional. It was a semi circular passage and very dark at the back. Presumably the priest went in one side and the confessors in and out the other. The passageways are single file only and some go down a few floors in one long descent. They can also be very low and we all had to bend double in some areas. The chambers were higher thank heavens. I came in just after a family of Turks with a guide and tagged along. I just may have got lost otherwise, although there are arrows and the occasional label on the features. This group laughed a lot and obviously had a lot of fun.
Sunday 15 April, near Bolu
Snow! In April! We had been warned about this, but had hoped not to face the reality. It snowed on and off all day. We decided not to stop at Ankara but to take the highway and head straight to Bulgaria where it is apparently warm.
Monday 16 April, near Kirklarele
We woke to a cold wintry morning. It snowed lightly until we descended to sea level. Coming down to Bolu was very misty. There were flashing yellow lights all along the roadside and they were very necessary. We must have missed out on some spectacular views. The weather had greatly improved by the time we arrived in Istanbul, which has lots of traffic and no parking like all other major cities. We passed through but will return on our way to Iran.
|Cost per litre diesel||11.57||2.17||1.18||1.60||
|Camping per night||106.16||20.00||10.83||14.74|
|Days in country||18|