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Getting Home

Egypt to Cyprus

You presumably have never been on a cruise and you never intend on going on one, so I’ll tell you what it’s like. It’s like going on a ferry, but the meals are included in the price (which is bigger). So it’s like going on a ferry and buying expensive meals. Also, if you go on a cruise by yourself then you have to sit on a special losers-table-for-one in the restaurant where everyone can see that you’ve taken two puddings to compensate for your lack of friends. On the plus side, I made it to Cyprus which is in Europe. People in Cyprus drink alcohol, they wear their hair out in public even if they’re a girl, they eat food in the street in Ramadan and they generally behave like English people. In fact most of them are English. That was nice for me, being a little England-starved as I was, but not as nice as actually getting home, so I went across to the Turkish side to get a ferry to Turkey. Something I didn’t know about Cyprus is that it is a country of its own and it is split down the middle by a green line where UN troops hang out and stop the northerners from bothering the southerners. The south is Greek and the north is Turkish and they don’t really like each other very much. The Greek Cypriot policeman at the green line (which goes right through the middle of Nicosia – the only divided capital in the world, possibly) asked me if I was going to “the occupied territories” and I said “Yes, I’m going to the Northern part.” He said “No, we call it ‘the occupied territories’ here. You see the Turkish have invaded our country and stolen our homes from us” and I slightly guiltily said “Um, yes, then I’m going to the occupied territories”. Although the Turkish bit is in the north, so I was right the first time as well.

 

Cyprus to Turkey

Despite the tourist information and travel agencies in the South telling me that there was no way of getting off Cyprus by boat and that I’d have to fly, there is regular ferry service from the North to Turkey going about 3 times a day. When I asked the Greeks if I could maybe, possibly, in the case of an emergency, get out of Cyrpus from the North they just shrugged and said “Whatever, dunno.” Although there’s not much killing and violence going on, there’s still quite a feeling that everything you say is politically loaded.

After I paid for the ticket, got to Turkey, bought another Turkish visa, paid a mystery €5 tax to a guy in a booth and got to an area where I wouldn’t need any more visas, I had €10 left. That was on Friday night and over the next four and a half days I squandered the whole lot on food. By Sunday night I had hitched to the Bulgarian border with Turkey, so I left Muslim territory just at the end of Ramadan. It would have been disappointing to leave before then because on Eid (or Bayram in Turkish, which is the Muslim version of Easter) they celebrate by giving away sweeties at petrol stations.

 

Turkey to England

On Monday I waited by the border for half a day thinking “Gru. This is going to take ages and I want to get home.” But then a Turkish guy with an English number plate saw my sign which said LONDON and he thought “I’m going to London, and furthermore, this guy could do some map reading for me.” He was not wrong. We belted it across Europe stopping only to: pay the Serbians £100 for special Serbia-insurance (Shah only had Europe-insurance which obviously didn’t include Serbia); have our car thoroughly searched by the Serbians (this stopped after half an hour because Shah had the brilliant idea of giving them two packets of cigarettes); sleep for four hours; pay a €150 fine to Slovenia for not buying a motorway card; swap drivers (I did a bunch of driving, probably legally – even the Serbians weren’t bothered by the fact that I don’t have my licence); pay tolls and buy petrol (loads of money); get on a ferry from Calais. We arrived in England at 1.30 on Wednesday morning when we parted ways, me to a tent in a churchyard and Shah to London. This morning I hitched on home.

Now I’m free for the rest of my life. I’m going to make a plan soon.

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Leaving Jordan

Here’s my plan: Amman – Aqaba – Egypt – Libya – Some other countries – Morocco – Spain and you can guess the rest. Pretty much no problem there, 800km a day and a few extra days for unforeseen circumstances, and I’ll be home in a couple of weeks I reckoned? Well this is how I started. Getting down to Aqaba, across the sea to Egypt and up to Alexandria was the work of two days. I cunningly used the night to cross the sea, saving time and meaning that I got a free night’s sleep. ‘Free’ in that I paid quite a lot of my 200 Euros for the whole thing and ‘sleep’ in that I slept on various floors, decks and benches for small stretches of time in each. But I was moving and that was definitely good.

To Greece

In Alexandria I investigated the possibility of getting a boat from there directly to Europe, cutting out the middle man of those other North African countries. It seems that legitimate ferries have been suspended for a while now but I luckily made friends with a man who worked in the cargo port who presented me with the possibility of crossing to Greece illegally in a container ship. The way he said it made it sound like there was literally no danger of anything bad happening, so I became persuaded. The plan was, he’d take me past the port police in his car and do some bribing (he needed 300 Egyptian pounds for the purposes of bribery, not for him, he was quite clear, but for bribing the others) so they wouldn’t mind. Then he’d put me in an empty container and close the door and I’d hand over 150 of the pounds. Then I’d wait (but I’d be able to open the door from the inside because you can when the containers are empty) and after a few hours I’d be hoiked into the container pile. Then I’d wait some more (he stressed the importance of taking water with me, food was advisable but water was essential) and the ship would start moving. Then I’d wait for maybe 24 hours and we’d arrive in some place in Greece I’d never heard of. Then I’d wait till the containers were all unloaded, wait a little more to be sure the coast was clear and I’d just amble out after giving the other 150 pounds to some other guy (this part of the plan was less clear). And if I saw any police I was to present them with sheesha tobacco and say ‘This is a gift from Egypt’ and they would be sure to kiss me on both cheeks and not to ask for my passport. That was the plan as it was outlined and I accepted. Before you get all hindsighty on me, I want you to know that I weighed up all the probabilities correctly, took a calculated risk and I made the right decision. However, he did turn out to be a con artist.

Jimmy

After escorting me to various travel agencies to establish the non-existance of my other options, all the time pointing out how people were saying Hello to him and that that proved he was a good person, we went to a bank because I was a little short of Egyptian pounds. I should mention that the total price of this enterprise in English money was going to be about 45 quid, assuming I didn’t end up in jail with a big fine. Just before we got to the bank he stopped me, handed me some sort of ID card and asked for the money so he could change it for me. I said No thanks, I’ll do it myself and he appeared to take umbridge. Still, he was anxious to maintain English-Egyptian relations so he put up with my little slight. In the bank, after a little struggle, he managed to prise my money out of my hand and he changed it for me. I kept my beady eyes on him and it seemed like I got the right amount of money back, however my obvious distrust was beginning to upset him. The next stop was the sheesha shop where I managed to persuade him that I didn’t want 10 packets but only 5 and I had to be quite forceful to be able to pay for them myself. And he still took the change for me and then counted it into my hand. By this stage my distrust level had gone up and his umbridge levels had also gone up. Did I mention that his name was Ahmed in Egyptian or Jimmy in English, and that he was slightly paralysed in one side? I should have because the last time I took against someone for having a gammy arm, he turned out to be really nice so I was well disposed to ‘Jimmy’ from the start. Specially since his paralysis made him dribble constantly, although in retrospect it could have been the prospect of ripping me off that caused that.

We went to a cafe (he wasn’t observing Ramadan because… he had some good excuse but all I can remember is that he liked to smoke – he surely had a better reason than that) to meet his accomplice in human trafficking and we took our third taxi. When he said “You pay” I started to suspect that possibly something was rotten in Denmark. You know something was rotten in Denmark because I told you earlier, but at the time I wanted to believe that he was just a friendly crook who wanted to help me in one of the coolest ways that anyone has ever tried to help me. But making me pay for a taxi, well, there’s a limit. In the cafe I decided not to have a tea this time because I could see the way things were turning. So I watched Jimmy drink his and then he said “I’ve got 60 pounds but I need another 40 so I can go and bribe the police”. That seemed a bit rich. I was meant to pay him when I was on the boat, not in a cafe, and I said as much. This, in his eyes, was an outright demonstration of bad faith, and he said as much. I think he raised his voice. I pointed out that I was quite scared and he went too far – he questioned my masculinity. By this stage I had spend 45 Egyptian pounds (about 8 quid or something) on sheesha tobacco so I was pretty heavily invested in the plan, but when I’m asked “Are you a boy or a man?” I feel obliged to take serious action. I said “Half and half” and as I was thinking “Maybe I should just cut my losses and bail” I noticed the guy behind the bar was catching my eye and shaking his head ominously. That was enough for me and I pulled out of our venture, but Jimmy thought that I owed him for the time he’d wasted trying to con me. Outside the cafe we created a spectacle which gathered a small crowd. He was shouting at me that I owed him 25 pounds for various imagined reasons (the tea, the taxis, some sort of commission on the money he changed for me in the bank) and insisting that we go to the police. The crowd were in favour of me just paying up because after all, it was only 3 Euros. When I refused they said I should just go to the police and that would be the end of it, but I was quite rattled by Jimmy’s certainty. I thought maybe he was chums with the police or something. Well I didn’t know what to think, voices were being raised. It was confusing. In the end I went with him to the police station and it turned out to be a pretty bold bluff. As we were walking along he came up with more and more implausible threats, ending with “You’ll go to prison for three years for trying to sneak into a cargo boat” by which time I’d stopped replying to him. He didn’t follow me into the police station, and that was how I dealt with the menace of Jimmy.

When I was pretty sure he’d gone I went back to the cafe to say thank you to the bar man. He met me on the street and said “Jimmy’s in there. He said you paid him.” Well that’s what you get for trusting someone who dribbles.

A Night in Alex

Wandering around in Alex (as they call it here), some old guy spotted me and asked if I wanted to stay at his house. I said Yes, naturally, and when I got there I noticed that he didn’t have anything. Some basic furniture, but no clothes, no cutlery, no food, no pen, no lighter. It was almost as if he didn’t live there. Then he gave me a key and said “Will you be going out?” I assured him that I would not be leaving my valuables alone where he could get his conman’s hands on them and he smiled aimiably and left me to it. It turned out that he was renovating the appartment and living in another one and that he didn’t have any intention of robbing me. In fact, he gave me a couple of sandwiches and was thoroughly nice.

Ghadaffi

I hitched to Libya the next day, found that I should have got a visa before I arrived at the border and headed back to Cairo. That’s a small detour of 600km or a day’s hitch-hike to me. That’s where I am now, having had a proper Iftar with a family like you’re meant to in Ramadan. Oh, it’s Ramadan. Did I mention that? Well I’ll expound the hilarious implications another time. Tomorrow I’ll encounter more beaurocrats from the pocket of that wacky funster, Ghadaffi and I’m slightly anticipating bad news. I wish I knew how to bribe people, I’m sure that would be the answer.

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From: Richard

To: Mikey

Date: Sat, Aug 29

The border crossing went pretty well, Mikey. Nahanael got through like a breeze while I was questioned on many things, and stopped and re-questioned. It wasn’t too bad though, and they never took my stuff or left me waiting. We were then forced to get a bus a couple of miles to drop us off outside the gates of the border area (if we’d attempted to walk out, we’d have been shot, apparently). Then we walked a few miles that night and slept in open desert near the road. The following day was really hot, and we spent a large chunk of it in an Israeli haven restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but got a goodly amount of walking done in the morning and evening. Then we approached some Bedouins, telling them we were looking for a place to sleep, and they had us sit round their fire, made us sugary tea, chatted, then we slept in two bug-ridden mattresses which resulted in insane itching all night long and virtually no sleep. Then this morning we pushed on to Jerusalem. All in all we’ve done a lot of hard walking in the heat, and Nathanael’s foot is really bad but my leg has healed. I’ve already had a look at the Holy Sepulchre, but I haven’t prayed or lit candles for your gypsies yet, and there are a lot of other things I want to do here over the next 2 days. But the pilgrimage is essentially complete now. So, here’s to that.

Oh and also, we bumped into that Luke guy in the street in Jerusalem. He and that Brazilian girl were apparently kept for 8 hours at the border. Nathanael and me are clearly liked by jews. Also, we’ve seen a lot of orthodox jews, and one told Nathanel off for using a camera on the sabbath, and many jewish schoolchildren here also throw things at cars driving on the sabbath.

How was your hitch back?
Richard

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When the Israeli embassy told me I could wait for three weeks for a maybe, me and Richard made a plan. I abandoned the old plan of “either I come with you to Jerusalem or I head for home via Egypt” and came up with “I walk with you both to the border, then you carry on to Jerusalem and I go back to Amman to do some more waiting. Then maybe I go to Jerusalem later”, which we put into action at the nearest opportunity. When I say “you both” that means Richard and Nathaneal, the latter being another couchsurfer without fixed agenda who we persuaded to come with us for the final leg of the pilgrimage.
Passport Hilarity
On Wednesday afternoon (not quite the early morning we’d planned – faffing time goes up considerably with more people) we headed for the King Hussein bridge again, back down the 30km hill I’d climbed up a few weeks ago. Some way down the hill Richard noticed that the jacket which had been resting on top of his rucksack wasn’t there. While me and Nathanael were thinking to ourselves “I hope he can’t be bothered to go and look for it”, Richard made the further discovery that his passport had been in the pocket of the jacket. As far as he was concerned, that was a clincher and he resolved to find it. We set off back up the hill, retracing our steps and carefully examining the ground in case the jacket had got hidden under a pile of leaves or something. It hadn’t, in fact. It was just lying on the pavement, not far away from Kyle’s house where we’d started and very far from the spot down the hill where we’d walked to. So, a certain amount of extra walking was added and the only bonus was that Nathanael sensibly took a photo of Richard looking glum standing next to me holding my passport and looking happy.
Animal Welfare
Then on Thursday (after spending a cheerful night in a church – Nathanael hadn’t got a sleeping bag and none of us had a tent) we covered the remaining ground to the border which was, in an unlikely manner, open. I spoke to Richard before about him possibly becoming a vegetarian. He had some old-fashioned idea that by eating meat you were in some way partly responsible for them being killed and he didn’t like the thought of that, but then he didn’t like the thought of not eating meat either so he was in a bit of conflict. While we were walking down a hill we saw a sight that was, for Richard, life-changing. That sight was the ordinary workings of a small halal slaughter house which bizarrely had its door open to the road and consequently, to us.

We stopped and stared for a bit at the various processes they were using to fleece, gut, hang, clean and butcher about 20 lambs. Having seen an artisan lamb slaughter, I was fairly unimpressed. Pneumatic syringes were used to inflate the sheep so the fleece would come off more easily where I’d seen the Bulgarian master peel it off with his fingers; the guts were bundled together and shipped off to somewhere else whereas the Bulgarian had had an intimate knowledge of every organ; the workers had the slouch of the man who is paid by the hour and who doesn’t mind if blood gets on the wool and all in all it just seemed a little dreary. However they told us that if we waited for five minutes we’d get to see the actual killing of a cow and although Richard probably would have voted for moving on, me and Nathaneal felt we could spare the time and we stayed. It was pretty horrific.

Maybe most people know what a cow being killed looks like but I didn’t so I’m going to describe it for the benefit of anyone else who might be as ignorant as me. After dragging it in, which they didn’t find easy (R and N both later claimed that they could see the fear in the bull’s eyes – personally I thought it was behaving like bulls always do, which is stupidly), they knocked its feet from under it so it was lying down and cut its throat. Up till then the bulls resistance had been mostly practical – it was trying to get away from the people who were pushing it around – and for a few moments as the blood filled the floor it carried on in this manner which was silent. Then it started mooing out of desparation. Only after a decent amount of blood had gone, but once it started mooing it didn’t stop for a while. And when I say mooing, I don’t mean mooing in the traditional sense because that requires that the throat is attached to the mouth. This mooing was coming through the voice box so it was loud and recognisably a moo, but then out of the throat so it was a sort of coarse and hollow bray, the sort which doesn’t occur in nature but does occur in horror films probably.

It started mooing after its throat had been cut and I thought “That’s the sound of agony. Kill it properly. Kill it now, it’s horrible” but they didn’t need me to think that because they were going to do it anyway. After the blood was all on the floor they carried on cutting the neck until the head was off. The braying continued. The bull could take a full breath and then groan it all out several times without a head. The legs were flailing away as well. A minute went by without pause in the kicking or mooing. Another minute and there was a pause. The head, which had been set on the stump of its neck, open its mouth slowly while its dislocated eyes gave away nothing of what it was trying to say. Then it closed its mouth and that was about two minutes after decapitation. The legs started up again. More groaning, the kicking became more sporadic, the groaning got a little quieter and then suddenly back to full volume. After five minutes there was little enough movement for them to start work on the body, although even as they pulled it round I saw a muscle contract.

Afterwards I asked Richard if he really thought five minutes of fairly gruesome death was worth giving up meat for and he said “I’m a vegetarian.” I asked him “You mean, you’re not going to eat beef now?” and he said grimly “That’s it. I’m a vegetarian”. Later I offered him some bread and he asked me if it had any gelatine in it.

Vigil
I’m now back in Amman and continuing my vigil. Is it a vigil when you just wait around for ages for no reason? That’s what I’m continuing anyway. Hopefully Richard and Nathanael will reach Jerusalem tomorrow, but for all I know they got rejected by the Israelis and are on their way back here. Richard is armed with my stick, the candle from Romania and a list of people I said I’d pray for in Jerusalem. His return flight is from Amman so hopefully I’ll see him before he goes back home.

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An email

 

I left you thinking “What a massive loser, you can pretend you are ‘finishing’ the pilgrimage with the help of Richard if you like, but we all know that you’ve walked 5000km only to fail at the last moment.” Which was a reasonably fair assessment, but what you didn’t bank on was me getting this email:

 

From:    Amit the Israeli

To:    Mikey Lear

Date: Aug 20, 10:10

 

Michael Lear,

 

Please arrive at embassy at Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.

 

Amit,

 

The Israeli embassy – Amman

 

 

Yes, that’s right, I have friends on the inside and those friends have other friends and the result is that after a couple of weeks of waiting I have been actively summoned to the inner realms, the very place I was banned from until recently. The very place, in fact, where the people who could overturn the decision that was made against me were hiding. Summoned. Why would they summon me, right, unless they definitely wanted me to come into their country? What I naturally imagined and I’m sure you’re imagining too, is a humble and penitent delegation of Israelis holding flowers and chocolates and novelty oversized cards saying “We’re sowwy” and the president or perhaps a stand-in assuring me of an armed escort to take me to Jerusalem.

 

And all I had to do was wait for another couple of days. If you are the type of person who knows the day you’ll possibly be aware that Tuesday is today and that by now I should be on my way to Israel. So let me tell you what happened.

 

Richard

Richard arrived on the 20th which is the same time I got that email, so instead of us setting off straight away, we decided to wait for the fruit hampers because that way I could go to Jerusalem with him instead of ditching him at the border. While waiting we have done a lot of important things like walking around, attempting to go on the roof of a hotel and getting rejected by a friendly security officer (by the way, that was the answer to last week’s quiz – I violated a hotel by walking into a courtyard and up an outdoor fire escape through an open employees’ door – clearly not a crime), making pancakes, meeting another guy who’s staying with Kyle called Nathaneal, frying bread and eating it with sugar, reading Noam Chomsky books and improving the world generally. Our plan was – get to the embassy at 8am on Tuesday, leave for Jerusalem at 8.45am with written apology and fresh visa in pocket.

 

Israeli Embassy

The police at the embassy, totally out of character, let me in without asking any questions. They didn’t even get to my two red lines. The first stage was over with minimal difficulty by 9.30. Then I met some real Israelis which was quite exciting who said “You need to go to the British embassy” which is a pretty standard lie, so I wasn’t bothered by it and I showed them the print out of my email from Amit. They let me into the inner zone where a whole load of real Israelis dwelt. A small cluster of hours and one “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do, the Ministry of the Interior won’t budge on this very serious issue” later and I was eyeball to eyeball with Amit. He obviously recognised that since he’d invited me there it would have been a bit rich to say the same thing, so instead he said “Well we’re going to have to write a letter to the Ministry of the Interior about your case, and they may change their minds. But it’ll take a couple of weeks, maybe three.” Delightedly I said “Great! Only three weeks of waiting! Joy! So, do you think they’ll let me in then?” and he said “Maybe.” On further pushing he admitted that it would be a minimum of one week and there was a 50% chance that they’d change their minds.

 

50%

50%. That’s not a huge % to risk a three week (estimated) wait on. Plus it was a prediction made by someone who is an expert in getting people to leave his building but I saw how he dealt with this Jewish guy in front of me in the queue (British and thinking of moving to Israel), and it was much less friendly. My conclusion is that I still have a smouldering ember of hope left. In the meantime I’m going to give my stick, candle and list of people to pray for to Richard, walk with him (and Nathaneal, who seems to have some spare time) to the border and then come back and chill out for a while. And I feel great about that – doing nothing for no reason is something I haven’t done for a while. To clarify, for the natively non-English, that last sentence was ironical. To be explicit, my exact feeling about waiting here indefinitely to be told eventually that I still can’t come to Israel is: GHAAArgh!

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Dead Sea
There’s no question in my mind that you must be on tenterhooks. I can’t think of a more appropriate use of the word in fact. And the reason you’re on tenterhooks is because you want to know how I’m going to end up definitely getting to Jerusalem against all the odds in a miraculous manner. I’ll tell you, but you’re going to have to read an account of my holiday first. Since I was doing so much waiting around and since I didn’t have any money, I thought I’d go on holiday to Petra and Aqaba. Aqaba’s 300km away from Amman so I couldn’t do it by walking, but who walks when they’re on holiday? No one. So I set off by foot and decided that if anyone stopped and asked me if I wanted a lift, I’d accept. On the first day I got to the outskirts of Amman and stayed with a very interesting person who, among other things, had rejected Islam and tried to built a Green City and had studied all 300 or so religions and had experienced astral projection. He took me to the Dead Sea and told me that if you parked there for more than 15 minutes, the Israelis on the other side spot you from their satellites and they phone up the Jordanian police and tell them your coordinates and then they come along and hassle you. A point I mentally noted as relevant to my plan to swim across the Dead Sea.
 
Police Hospitality
In Petra I spent the night with the police because I was being arrested, I think. Well they never said I was being arrested but they certainly behaved like I was and they even tried to claim I’d broken some law. I discovered that Jordanian hospitality reaches its lowest ebb in the hands of the police. They gave me bread a few hours after I asked for it (I was on holiday so I didn’t mind asking for food) and a fallafel in the morning and let me sleep at 5.30 in the morning on the concrete yard outside the police station. They kept saying that it wasn’t safe to sleep outside at night and after a while I came to the conclusion that their solution was to just keep me awake until it was day again.
Petra
Petra, maybe you’ve never heard of it, is a town which is made entirely of caves. It’s totally incredible. These wingnut oldentimes guys must have arrived in this rocky desert and thought: If we just dig huge holes in these rocks then we can live in them! It’s genius!
And then it sort of became fashionable and the kings and such dug absolutely huge holes in the rocks. You can pay to get in and be among the tourists or you can go to a place called Little Petra which is effectively the suburbs and then you’re all by yourself except for a couple of Bedouins who have sneaked into the caves to live there.
 
Bedouins
Speaking of which, I later met some Bedouins who are totally rad. They live in tents, that’s part of the rules. But since tents are kind of a drag, lots of them have houses as well and some even live in the city, but the put a tent round the edge as a reminder. Anyway, these Bedouins I met, they were selling trinkets by the side of the road to tourists and they invited me in for tea,meal,bed except when I say ‘in’ I mean into an open tent. One of them told me that in the winter they go down into the valley where it’s warmer and they do a bit of farming. Also drug smuggling. Apparently there’s a market for drugs in Israel and Egypt and it’s hard to get across the border so the Bedouins, who like dangerous work, rise to the challenge. It involves waiting till the wind gets up and “if there is an Israeli soldier 3m from you, he can’t see you” because of all the dust in the air. And they know the area pretty well so mostly it goes well for them, but sometimes one of them gets shot or has to shoot the Israeli soldiers. He had friends who were in jail for 15, 20 years and he made it sound as if it wasn’t the kind of jail where you get a pool table and library. I asked how much it would be if you didn’t have any drugs and he said “mmm… maybe 3 months”.
That’s a relevant story actually because, combined with the other one about Israelis spying on me with satellites, it made me think that I’m just not up to the illegal crossing. I’m no Bedouin I suppose.
 
Aqaba
I went to Aqaba, that’s a town I would happily not go to again but might end up in quite soon. Full of tourists and such. Someone pointed at a port and a bunch of houses and said “They’re knocking all this down. A sheik from the United Arab Emirates is building a complex here and they’re moving the port down the coast”. It’s that kind of place. Small investigations led to the discovery that I can go to Egypt from there, which might be my only way home.
On the way back to Amman (where I am now) I decided to hitch-hike for the first time in ages, with a sign and all. I got picked up by a truck driver who bought me a shawarma (actually three shawarmas, which is what you get if you order a “Sooba”) and bananas and orange juice… round here if you’re given a lift you’re normally given at least a drink as well, but I suppose since this was a really long lift he had to up the trimmings as well. They have lots of conversations with each other while driving round here, conducted through the limited vocal range of the car horn, and the fruit of one of these conversations was that the truck who was driving past us stopped in front of us. We stopped too. They got out and lowered the ramps at the back so we could drive on. I was in a truck and we were being picked up by another truck. It was totally awesome except that the ramp was too steep or something so it didn’t work.
 
Triumphal Entry
Now you know about my holiday, roughly speaking. I may have mentioned that Kath’s sister’s friend’s friend’s dad is the Israeli ambassador in Jordan and that she’d asked her to ask her to ask her to ask him to ask him if he could help and that it was possible that he would be able to. Get me legitimised or something, get rid of the red lines in my passport, or maybe downgrade them to blue. Well I haven’t heard from him yet and honestly my hopes are fading. I cryptically mentioned that I might go back to Aqaba and I’ll be more frank about it now: I think I might not ever get to Jerusalem. Soon I’m going to admit defeat, try to get to Egypt and then, I don’t know, get on a boat or something back to Europe and hitch home.
But it’s not quite defeat. Some mean people have suggested that I change the name of my blog to Mikey’s Pilgrimage which I never had any intention of doing. Richard was solely responsible for the inspiration and initiation of this pilgrimage and consequently for a change of the course of my life and I don’t want to make it seem like that was less essential than the middle bit that I’ve done by myself. But now it seems he might play another role as last-minute saviour. Here are some emails:

From: Richard [almost whole email]
Date: Aug 11, 10:38pm
I read your latest blog entry. I want to help you get across the border. … Because I could make my way down there on trains within a week. I want to do this. So say the word, and I will.

From: Mikey [snippet]
Date: Aug 13, 3:15am

you could basically do the whole conclusion in the same way that you did the whole introduction. I’m suddenly quite excited by the idea. Then, ideally, we’d meet up somehow and get back to Blighty together. What do you think?

From: Richard [snippet]
Date: Aug 13, 1:02pm
Alright. That’s a very interesting offer. I would feel bad about being the one to do the last stretch, considering I let you down by bailing out so early. But if you’d rather me do it than no-one do it, I’d like to do it, because I owe you a lot, and I agree it would in a sense be you, or us, completing our pilgrimage, in a sort of relay fashion, even though you did all the hard work.

I’m confident I’m going to get there, about 90% confident. I’m going to try and get everything sorted as quickly as possible, and I’ll make it my target to be there about 10 days from now, and certainly no later than 2 weeks from today. I hope you can wait that long, and if you do get to Jerusalem by then, I’ll meet up with you in Jerusalem.

Richard

From: Richard [snippet]
Date: Aug 14, 12:13am

OK. I’m going to be arriving at Queen Alia airport at 15:00 hours on Thursday the 20th August. It’s all booked. Where do you want to meet? We have all week to decide.

I’m really looking forward to it now, I’ve never been anywhere near that part of the world. I have all week to prepare. I think it’s fair to say I’m definitely coming now, unless the airline (Austrian Airlines) screws up.

See you soon,
Richard

If you couldn’t be bothered to read all that, the gist is that Richard’s going to fly out here and hopefully take the baton for me and get to Jerusalem. Obviously he has to get past the Israeli border but I have accumulated a lot of border wisdom recently and I feel like I could tell Osama how to get through by now. First, shave that beard.

In the meantime, I’m doing some more waiting. If you like you can entertain yourself by guessing the “crime” I committed which meant I had to write a statement for the police in Petra.

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Route

  • From Dara’a in Syria I crossed the Jordanian border successfully to
  • Ramtha
  • what Googlemaps called Neaime though I never saw it spelt like that anywhere else
  • Ajloun up a hill
  • Down the 20 to Al Gore
  • Down Al Gore to the King Hussein Bridge, or in Israeli, the Allenby crossing
  • Backwards, up a huge hill to Salt
  • Amman where I have been staying for almost a week, visiting Rabiya and Abdoun where the Israeli and British embassies are.

More Loafing

I haven’t got any more news to tell you really. A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend turns out to be the Israeli ambassador in Jordan or something and it seems just possible that this tenuous connection might be enough to get me a hearing or something where I can perhaps clear my name and my passport. A girl called Alex, who I haven’t ever met or heard of, has written to people for me and started something moving though I don’t know what. Now, entirely on the basis of this pretty small hope, I’m staying in Amman because it seems like the most useful place to be if I suddenly need to have an interview or something. I’m staying here and doing nothing, walking around, exploring some hotels, talking to Kyle. Not quite nothing but it’s on the borders of nothing.

However my spirits are high. I’ve quite recovered from the misery of a week ago and I’ve even done a couple of solids to celebrate. It’s been particularly comforting to find that a whole bunch of my friends and family (by which I mean you, unless you’re one of the people who found my blog by searching for “pretty feet” on google, and there are a surprisingly large number of you) have been writing to me and offering useless advice and such. If you don’t read the comments on this blog, you should read Lil’s. She’s put a link to a site which she thought might be useful, and I reckon she probably wins the competition so far for most useless advice. By all means see if you can challenge her.

Now for some more waiting.

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