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Travel Journal

Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Friday, November 10, 2000 00:54:14

Istanbul to Bombay by ship 2000: 3

We arrived in the Jordanian port of Aqaba earlier than scheduled - about 5:00 PM. The Jordanian officials were very efficient and had the ship cleared quickly. After dinner we caught the free shuttle bus to the city and had a walk around. The larger Israeli city of Elat was easy to see only a couple of kilometres away. It is a nice place with relaxed shopkeepers who were not pushy, but were attentive when you wanted them to be. Everyone is very polite and friendly,

When we returned to the ship we arranged an early morning taxi, picked up our passports and turned in early.

In the morning things went amazingly well. The 4:30 AM wakeup calls were on time, as was the taxi, the flight and the rental car at the international airport in Amman. We drove first to the Dead Sea, then got lost trying to find the bridge across the River Jordan to Palestine. We finally arrived at the Jordanian frontier after lots of help from very friendly Jordanian people. There we were informed that to cross the border we would have to go through the military zone by shuttle bus both ways and that it could take four hours with all formalities. The border police offered to have a policeman accompany us in our car to the bridge so we could see the frontier and the River Jordan. After a wait in a police official's office, where coffee was served, the passes arrived and so did our escort.

The escort dealt with each of the army checkpoints on the road to the frontier bridge, and once we arrived the zone commander of the area joined us. Tim and I walked out onto the wooden bridge, gradually working our way across until we were standing on Israeli/Palestinian soil on the far side, in front of a gate backed by Israeli machine gunners. Cameras are forbidden in the area, but our Jordanian hosts took some photos for us with our cameras at the sign for the bridge.

The River Jordan was quite a surprise - with all it's fame we had expected something like the Mississippi, but it is narrow enough that a good broad jumper could clear it! There wasn't much in the way of a land of milk and honey on either side, but certainly no shortage of guns. There is a new major bridge and highway under construction being paid for by the Japanese, but there was very little traffic due to the current fighting and problems.

After returning our host to his headquarters we drove on excellent freeway to Petra, about two hours away. The Jordanians are excellent, courteous drivers who pull over to the right lane when not passing, allowing faster traffic to proceed.

At Petra we encountered typical tourist rip offs, including the people who rented us horses. We were to have paid for horses to Petra and back from the site entrance, but it turned out horses were only allowed about 1/3 of the way, and they never did show up at the appointed time to take us back. The site itself is spectacular. The photos in National Geographic and other magazines really cannot do it justice - it is a huge site.

When it came time to leave, after grumbling a lot about no horses and walking up to the entrance, the three of us tried to find Marilynn - without success. As our chance of getting back to the ship before it sailed diminished, an alternate plan was made for Tim and Jens to take the rental car back to the ship, then I'd find Marilynn and we'd fly on to Luxor. We decided one last search effort would be made, so Tim walked back down to Petra, Jens watched the top of the trail at the entrance, and I searched the shops and parking area again. I also got the police, who I had contacted earlier to see if anyone had been taken out injured. The police and I arrived where Jens was stationed just as Tim and Marilynn appeared from below - to everyone's relief. She maintains fiercely that the three of us were waiting in the wrong place and that she was in the correct spot!

A frantic drive through the back country got us back to Aqaba to pick up the rental car fellow at the assigned spot, but an hour late, then back to the ship. The purser was waiting at a freight-loading door, along with crew, who promptly shut the doors behind us and the ship sailed!

Overnight we made out way to the Egyptian Port of Safaga on the Red Sea. In the morning we boarded 22 busses with the rest of the passengers, and escorted by Egyptian police and troops front and back headed for Luxor. The trip was through an interesting variety of desert, from dunes and mountains to flat sand. Again there was lots of military and checkpoints on the road. We tied up traffic when we came into Luxor, as the police had closed the side roads as we went by. They are very determined not to have another incident like 1997 when Muslim fanatics massacred a number of tourists.

The temples of Luxor and Karnak were amazing - enormous! A sound and light show that was held in the Karnak temple at night was impressive. The following day we visited other temples on the West Bank of the Nile, and were into two tombs in the Valley of the Kings. While the monuments were very much worth visiting, battling through swarms of persistent vendors while participating in mass tourism at it's worst was really tiring. Each guide had a pole with the bus number of their group on it, and watching these various divisions stampeding into the sites made me wonder if there have been other invasions of this magnitude since the Romans. At every turn we were flanked by police with automatic weapons, and one or two even rode on each bus.

We now have two days at sea, with our next stop being Djibouti. From here we hope to get into Somalia.

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Last updated: 2011-Jan-04 07:44:32