Marhaba from Jordan in the Middle East!
Welcome to the next update of Our Magic Carpet Ride. We both celebrated our birthdays in the last month and it was really clear to us both that there was nothing better that we would rather do on our special day than what we were doing. Travelling has taught us to be humble and not materialistic and to realise how very fortunate we are to be in the position we are in where we can simply ride and admire this wonderful world that we live in, like a couple of birds really!
A month ago we left Athens, Greece with our great friend Orestis (HU Community) as our Greek Guide and the best maintained Super Tenere motorbike on the planet! While in Athens we got our visas for Syria (US$32 each and a simple process). With Orestis in tow, we all had a wonderful time cruising around Ikaria, Samos and Chios Islands in Greece. We then crossed over to Turkey where the fuel is a huge US$2-50/litre. No wonder there was no one on the roads! The weather behaved as we crossed along the South Coast of Turkey heading for Syria. The days were long (over 400km/day as our average is normally 150km/day) and cold, but we were dreaming of warmer pastures!
Our goal is to see as many UNESCO sites as we can, so before we left Pat programmed the sites from the internet into our GPS. Yes, we have hit the 21st Century and now have a GPS and even an MP3 player so we play music through our Autocom Communication system while we are driving in the countryside, not in the city Mum and Mom!
We also have a Carnet de Passage for the first time ever. Its a bond to make sure we dont sell the bike in any of the countries we visit. The carnet made entry into Syria simple and saves us US$60 each time. We had to pay US$3 for tax for the bike and US$28 for insurance for the bike, all in U.S. cash. Fuel in Syria was a bargain at .85c/litre, needless to say we crossed the border bone dry! We found that all fuel stations in Syria would under pump the fuel by 5-10% thereby cheating their customers by 5-10%.
Syria was wonderful. It gets a bad wrap because of its long border with Iraq, which has not affected the people at all and doesn't affect tourists at all, except keep them away! They were all SOO friendly, always waving and smiling and passing us food from their cars as we are driving along!
We went to Lattakia, Syrias port; then UNESCO Ancient City of Aleppo; then wonderful Hama with its wooden waterwheels. Next stop was UNESCO Crac des Chevaliers-"the finest castle in the world"; UNESCO site of Palmyra 200km out into the desert; then UNESCO Ancient City of Bosra before crossing the border into Jordan. We were moving fast as we were in a hurry to get to the south of Jordan and Petra before it got too hot.
The first thing we noticed as we crossed the border was no other motorbikes. Until recently the King had the only motorbike in the country! Hence, we get saluted all the time and people treat us like royalty, which quite frankly we could get very used to!
Fuel in Jordan is slightly higher at $1.07/litre, we crossed full of fuel, such good little budgeters we are! "Welcome to Jordan" is the most commonly used English phrase and is shouted at us everywhere we go and everyone wants us to stop and have some tea with them.
We started Jordan at the University town of Irbid; next more ruins of the beautifully preserved Roman city of Jerash; then down the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea to have a float! We then drove down the Dead Sea Highway all the way to Aqaba in the extreme south of Jordan. From our balcony window we could see Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and half of Aqaba partying! Friday night is the big party night and our hotel was overlooking all the action which was good but not at 4am! We collapsed at Aqaba, we were exhausted from constant travelling (I can hear all your sympathy!!) and needed to stop in one place for awhile. Well, the Red Sea was the perfect place to chill for a few days and do some serious people watching (well, what else is there for us to do). We had a great time, met some lovely people, locals and travellers and caught our breathe! The dress codes for about 50% of the women is quite strict leaving only their eyes showing and as a tourist said "they look like black mailboxes". The other 50% had varied outfits from covered heads and long cloaks to tshirts, but always with long pants and dresses. The men could wear what they like even though half wore the traditional Arab garb.
Next stop was the amazing desert scenery of Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia fought the Turks for the Arabs in the early 1900s. We hired a 4WD and driver for 8 hours and slept in the desert in a Bedouin tent made out of camel hair. These things are boiling in the day and freezing at night, but with great sunsets and amazing stars at night in the desert.
The awesome UNESCO site of Petra was our next detination and with very high anticipation we were not dissapointed. Petra is half built, half carved into the rock and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world and for good reason, it is simply stunning. Do not live your life and not see it, its a MUST SEE. We saw it for 2 X 12 hour days and were exhausted at the end of everyday. There are not enough adjectives to describe wonderful Petra. We got to Petra at the right time, it was not too hot, about 26C during the day, early April.
Following the Kings Highway north we visted the charming 15th Century stone village of Dana; Shobak castle; ancient Crusader castle of Karak; UNESCO site of Um er- Rasas and now the wonderful Mosaic town of Madaba where the famous mosaic map is of all the Biblical sites from Lebanon to Egypt constructed in AD560. Madaba has been inhabited for at least 4,500 years and is mentioned in the Bible as the Moabite town of Medeba. Surrounding Madaba is the the site where Christ was Baptised; site where John the Baptist was beheaded and Mt Nebo, the site where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land and then died (at age 120!) From Mt Nebo we could see across the Dead Sea: Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho in Israel.
Tomorrow we are off to the oasis town of Azraq, 100 km east in the desert; then back to Syria, Lebanon maybe, Cyprus and East coast of Turkey and over to Georgia and Armenia.
Thank you for your continued interest in the life and times of patandbin and we hope to hear all your news too. See you all someday, somewhere soon.
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