Fri, July 17,
JORDAN: Ferry to Aqaba.
J.: We wasted the whole day to get from Dahab to
Aqaba. Because Israel has access to the Red Sea and you can’t go to Syria
after visiting Israel (Syrians simply won’t let you in), we had to take a
ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba to avoid Israel instead of driving through 10 km
stretch of Israeli territory. Egyptian bureaucracy took 3 hours. We had to pay
again. This time 22 pounds each. Then we had to wait another 5 hours for the
ferry to be ready. The trip took 4 hours. We arrived in Aqaba ferry port after
sunset. At the border, a clerk in a change money window, asked us where we were
from. After hearing the answer, Canada, he stated: “I respekt yor kontry.”
It felt good to hear such words.
G: Jordan seemed to be a pretty modern country. Clean
streets, nice restaurants, bank machines, expensive cars and, of course, the
money: it took two CDN$ to match one Jordanian Dinar. But overall it was pretty
J.: We slept at the campsite along with some German
tourists. The camp had the worst facilities ever. (Night Fri/Sat 17/18).
Sat, July 18,
JORDAN: Wadi Rum.
J.: We left early in the morning, stopped in Aqaba
for breakfast but it was very difficult to get anything decent to eat there
other than some extremely puking sweet pastries. We filled the tanks and bought
water and set off to Wadi Rum. (The film Lawrence
of Arabia was shot there. Lawrence himself lived there for a few years.) I
didn’t like the idea of going through the desert, but Greg was quite
persistent. After few kilometers we realized that we lost a bottle of water (we
had 3 altogether). Later on we noticed that one of the remaining two bottles was
leaking. Add to this a very poor breakfast, temperature in the mid-forties,
desert, soft sand, no map (!) and 35-40 km of the desert track with no one
around, and you know what to expect from the next paragraph.
Soft sand of the desert track is only for the most enduring riders. The beginning wasn’t too bad. The track was quite hard.
a few kilometers, sand became soft, so it was easier to ride off the track,
right through the sand and occasional bush, rather than struggle with the ruts.
As soon as I lowered the speed, the ride became tricky, my bike began to wobble
from one side to another and a fall was inevitable. I was on the ground a bit
more often than Greg was. The worst was when the falling bike crushed the
rider’s leg. Then the other rider had to stop, turn around, get off the bike,
free the victim and help to lift the bike from the ground.
Turning point took place after few hours of struggling with the track. We run out of water. We were exhausted and didn’t know where to go. We were surrounded by astonishing rock formations. We stopped beside a huge rock. Greg decided to look around. I was trying to recover from temporary but serious weakness caused by the heat (approx. 45 C) and dehydration. I was so weak I couldn't stand. It’s possible that I had a sunstroke.
Greg came back after an hour or so. He spotted
Bedouins’ camp about 2 km away from us and went to get some water. Ahead of us
there was the most difficult passage: about 500 m up and down the hill through
the softest sand you could imagine. We went through this trap one at a time
pushing each other at the beginning. First gear, full throttle, 7,000 rpm. We
both succeeded without a fall. Yeah! I was exhausted. The Bedouins were very
friendly. They gave us more water and of course tea. We rested there for
half-hour or so and then kept riding. I fell a few more times. One time I was
going through small sand up and downs with 40-50 km/h speed. My bike was
literally flying in the air.
YES! Finally we made it!!!
After 35-40 km through the
desert, 6 hours and numerous (about 10-12 each) falls, we reached the village of
Rum alive, hungry and thirsty.
Our bikes past the test with an A+ mark!
We were driving until late that night to get to Petra
and we pitched the tent by the parking lot beside Petra archeological site.
Nights Sat/Sun/Mon 18/19/20 there.
Sun, July 19,
J.: Petra was the ancient capital of the Nabataeans—Arabs
who dominated the Transjordan area in pre-Roman times. The Romans took the city
in 106 AD. During the Christian era a number of Nabataean buildings were altered
for Christian use. In 12thcentrury the Crusaders moved in and built a fort. Then
it was forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1812. A narrow gorge (2-5m wide, 200m
high) leads to the entrance.
The Treasury (the Khazneh)
(approx. 100 BC-200 AD)
was carved out of the solid sandstone. A scene from the movie Indiana
Jones & the Last Crusade was shot here. [8000 seat amphitheater carved
in the solid rock].
Another famous building: the Monastery: 50m wide and
45m high, built in the 3rd century BC. One could ride a camel around
Petra. But this was rather a treat for “package” tourists, not for serious
travellers. By the way, it was HOT that day…
G.: In the evening we met a lonely Honda-Transalp
rider from Spain. Later that evening we had a dinner with Francisco in a local
restaurant and shared our travel experiences.
Mon, July 20,
Dead Sea Valley, Jerash. SYRIA: Damascus
JORDAN: Kerak, Dead Sea Valley, Jerash. SYRIA: Damascus.
J.: The next day we were going to get to Damascus so
we set off early.
We reached Kerak, then the Dead Sea. Kerak lies about
900m above sea level. You could see the Dead Sea from there. Going towards
the Dead Sea, we passed the Sea Zero Level. Hot, very hot.
The Dead Sea looked and tasted (!) quite disgusting.
It is 75 km long, 6-16 km wide. Salt content: 33%. No life. 394m below sea
level, the lowest point on earth. Still it was possible to have a swim or rather
a float. By the way, you would definitely learn where your cuts were …
Be prepared for a few minutes of agony…
Another archeological site from the Roman times. The Forum is unusual because of its oval shape.
South Theatre (1st
century AD; capacity: 5000 spectators) has been beautifully restored. The cardo, (Colonnaded Street) stretches for more than
600m. Some important
officials were visiting the site so we had a chance to listen to the Bedouin
wind band. Maybe I should have stayed there and start a career!
G: We arrived to the border in the evening. Nice
surprise: the crossing was pretty straightforward but a bit time consuming.
We reached Damascus late at night. If you travel by
motorbike especially in the developing countries, try to avoid driving at night.
In Damascus, a driver of a Pontiac Firebird (Kuwait license plate) offered his help in
finding a hotel.
2 nights Mon/Tue/Wed 20/21/22 in a hotel in Damascus.
We parked the bikes beside the Ministry of Interior Affairs, which was under
heavy military guard (free parking!).
Tue, July 21,
J.: We took the whole day to explore the city.
It is considered the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world. We visited Omayyad Mosque.
Inside it, there was St. John’s Shrine. The mosque (705-715 AD)
suffered badly during 1893 fire. What remains today is a reconstruction of that
We visited the beautiful Saida Ruqqaya Mosque built in 1985 in the Iranian style.
The mosque contains the mausoleum of Ruqqaya Bint
al-Hussein ash-Shaheed bi-Kerbala (Ruqqaya, the Daughter of the Martyr Hussein
All around the country we spotted Assad’s portraits (the “director” of Syria). In Syria there was almost as many pictures of Assad as Gaddafi’s in Libya.
Later in the evening we had couple of shawarmas (delicious and cheap) and went to a Hammam (bath house). The workers there washed us thoroughly, scrubbed our bodies with a metal brush
and gave us a
massage. At the end we were served tea. It was fun.
Wed, July 22,
Damascus, Palmyra, Crac de Chevelier.
SYRIA: Damascus, Palmyra, Crac de Chevelier.
J.: In the morning we set off to Palmyra. Few
kilometers before Palmyra, Greg rode through a huge pothole at 140 kms/h. He
dented the bike’s rear rim and damaged his bin clamp. Fortunately the rim and
the tire were still OK. We stopped at a nearest gas station. It took 2 hours to
fix the clamp.
That day it was hot: 45 C. We quickly toured the site
(met a Polish tourist, Maciek from Bialystok), had a meal and set out to the
Crac de Cheveliers.
Again we were driving at night and reached Crac de
Cheveliers around midnight. Slept in the restaurant. Night Wed/Thu 22/23.
Thu, July 23,
de Chevelier and ride to Aleppo.
SYRIA: Crac de Chevelier and ride to Aleppo.
J.: In the morning we toured the caste. Crac de
Chevelier = Castle of the Knights = ’Qala’at al-Hosn’. It was built over a
period of 100 years from around 1150. It
could house 4000 troops. The Crusaders were forced to surrender to Sultan
Baibars in 1271. It didn’t look much different 800 years ago.
G: It was quite an unbelievable experience to walk
around the castle. It seemed like it was just yesterday that the crusaders were
there. There were many signs of the Muslim presence, inscriptions on walls, etc.
The castle is a beautiful monument to the past conflicts. It could, however, be
better taken care of.
J.: We set off to Aleppo and reached the city late in
the afternoon. We toured the city and decided to spend more time there the next
day. Night Thu/Fri 23/24 in a hotel in Aleppo. We parked our motorbikes in the
hallway of the hotel.
G: In the summer it was hard to breathe in Aleppo.
The pollution was unbelievable. A nice feature of the city was the visible
Russian influence, more so here than in Damascus. Many store signs didn’t even
bare Arabic script. They were in Cyrillic alphabet.
Fri, July 24,
to Turkey .
SYRIA: Aleppo to Turkey
J.: In the morning we decided that we had seen enough
medinas so we skipped Aleppo and set off to cross the Turkish border. We stopped
at the fruit juice stand.
J.: In the morning we decided that we had seen enough medinas so we skipped Aleppo and set off to cross the Turkish border. We stopped at the fruit juice stand.
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Border crossing was easy. A Turkish border officer
asked for a bribe. Since it was only US$ 2, we complied with unwritten rules.
We were planning to reach Cappadocia, but were
unsuccessful in doing this. The gear shifter of my bike broke right at the border.
We stopped in the nearest town. The locals quickly directed us to a shop where
the shifter was welded in no time for free. Just like in Egypt, hordes of
curious kids surrounded us. They were very friendly, though. As the day ended,
we found a spot to sleep in the middle of the field near Nigde. Night Fri/Sat
Sat, July 25,
TURKEY: Cappadocia. Drive to the Med coast
TURKEY: Cappadocia. Drive to the Med coast.
J.: This region is famous for the fantastic natural rock formations of its valleys. Our LAST RECORDED PICTURE of this trip was taken here.
Greg’s camera with a film and two other films (Turkey: Cappadocia,
Olympus, Bodrum, trip through the Balkans, Poland) got stolen at the Amsterdam
Train Station at the end of the trip. Quite an unfortunate accident.
After seeing Cappadocia, we set off to the
Mediterranean coast. Excellent roads through the mountains. Overall, Turkey is a
great place for motorcyclists. We arrived in Monav and slept there. Night
Sun, July 26,
(at the Mediterranean coast) to Olympus.
TURKEY: Monav (at the Mediterranean coast) to Olympus.
J.: We left Monav early for Olympus. In Olympus we
placed ourselves in the famous Tree Houses (houses, rather rooms, built on the
trees), went to the beach, met a number of foreign and Turkish travelers
(backpacker type) (Pnesh—a Turkish girl’s name!). At night we went to see
the Eternal Flame on the mount of Olympus. We spent the night Sun/Mon 26/27
there (evening and half the night in a bar with Ozis, Kiwis and Turks). We had
really good time with the Tree House residents, but there wasn’t much time
left till the end of the trip, so we decided to leave the next day for Bodrum.
Mon, July 27,
Olympus to Bodrum.
TURKEY: Olympus to Bodrum.
J.: Another fun ride through Turkish mountains: some
highways, some very narrow and busy roads. We reached Bodrum and found a
campsite a few kilometers further in Gumbet. The plan was to go to Greece the
next day, but after reviewing the situation and time, we decided to stay in
Bodrum for couple of days and then to ride straight to Poland. 3 nights
Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu 27/28/29/30 in Bodrum.
Tue & Wed, July 28 & 29, 98. TURKEY: Bodrum (Gumbet).
J.: We tasted the “package tourist” way of
spending time. It was boring (Bodrum = Boredom). I was able to put up with rude
and arrogant English tourists for two days. Luckily there were some German
backpackers on the camp with whom we hang out. Everything was awfully expensive.
I really missed riding my bike these two days.
Thu, July 30,
TURKEY: Bodrum, Ephesus, middle of nowhere.
TURKEY: Bodrum, Ephesus, middle of nowhere.
J.: From Bodrum, we drove to Ephesus. Toured this
crowded place quickly (last ruins that year) and kept riding towards the
Bulgarian border. The night found us in the middle of nowhere, again. Not really
knowing where we were, we pitched our tent in an olive orchard, which we found
after a one-hour search. Night Thu/Fri 30/31 there.
Fri, July 31,
“nowhere” to Edirne.
“nowhere” to Edirne.
J.: In the morning we discovered that the place was
several meters from the cliff that lead to the Mediterranean Sea. A beautiful
view. Near dawn a flock of sheep passing by woke us up. Neither sheep, dogs nor the shepherd bothered us. We continued the trip to Edirne and slept at
another free “campsite” (night Fri/Sat July31/Aug1) in the middle of the
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