Archive for May, 2011

Jordan

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Jordan, a haven for travellers, and destination for holidaymakers, offering a mixture of spectacular landscapes, historical sites and coral reefs, good cheap food lots of hospitality and no hassle. The Jordanians are particularly friendly and i feel strangely truly ‘on holiday’. It has been the perfect place to relax and get our bearings back. After two days of solitude and reflection in the stony north eastern desert, flying kites, exorcising our bad feelings, and celebrating Easter, we went to visit Asraq, a small town with a large fort chosen by us mostly for its remote situation. We stopped to get fresh fruit and vegetables and to give Giulio his first haircut at a barbers shop. I somehow felt the need to refresh and renew, but being a mother and wife am no longer free to go and shave my hair short, everyone would hate me and it would have provoked a family tragedy…so i sublimed through Giulio. It was a good idea (apart from the haircut that lasted one week before being remodelled with Lucas electric shaver) After chatting and small talk we were informed that the haircut was on the house and then we were kindly invited for lunch by two young students in the ceremonial house of their Bedouin clan.

The following day, we faced the Pakistani embassy in Amman with reticence, and our presentiments were well founded. We were courteously invited to sit down and soon after just as courteously refused our visa (again…)

In a state of confusion we were led to a communal park on the outskirts of Amman by a taxi driver who didn’t really understand our request for a camping. Hmm… Stuck again, but no, after just ten minutes a young man approaches our truck, he has been sent by his mother to invite us to his house just a little further on in the countryside. We ended up staying four beautiful days with the Abadi family. The children were delighted to learn that there were no less than two newborn babies in the house, tiny tiny premature newborns that were joyfully thrust into their arms. Giulio looks very mature and says ‘me good daddy’ but is soon distracted by a watermelon, Lusira needless to say spends the rest of her time assisting the women. Outside there are fruit trees, olive trees, goats and chickens in a landscape that could easily be Umbria. In the morning the Dead Sea is just visible, whist at night we see the lights of Gaza. Luca brushes up his Arabic and discusses politics with the family and guests called in for their English skills, whilst i learn to fold vine leaves and prepare ‘diwali’ with the beautiful matriarch Miriam.

The Dead Sea is at times surreal and at times beautiful. The various parkings are crowded with families grilling meat, men covered in mud and women bathing fully dressed amongst plastic bottles and other rubbish, all to the sound of an ice cream van that plays haunting, Fellinian music…..Further on going south we see a clean spot with enticing emerald water. I float for a few minutes, but the kids aren’t convinced. Lusira is petrified because a German gentleman told us that small children can die if they inhale the water because of its high salt content and Giulio cries for twenty minutes ‘culo,culo’ he has a few scratches and the salt burns admittedly like hell! Petra is of course beautiful, despite the hoards of tourists and exorbitant prices. Here we meet Frank, on the road since two years and the first of many travellers we will meet going south. A lone women motorcyclists with years of travel through various continents , a young Dutch couple in a  beautiful old VW van bought in Namibia, freshly qualified students, business men, and  other assorted vehicles, including an old Citroen AMI 8.  Aqaba is a sort of junction and meeting point for travellers from all directions. We swap stories and information, exchange maps and plan routes. Computers are now part of almost every travellers baggage…and the wi-fi connection means that all can be seen dutifully updating web sites and blogs…not without difficulty. It is now 40 °C and the sea, the shade and doing nothing is a much more attractive option.

Tomorrow we leave for Egypt on the night boat. I hesitate to write this (our plans are so easily destroyed and revised) but here goes, after Egypt our plans are to go through Sudan and Ethiopia to then ship our truck from Djibouti to India…lets see if it will happen!

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Syria

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..Yes ,well i didn’t really know how to write this part, so perhaps it should be said that in retrospect i’m not too proud of the risk we took crossing Syria, but on the otherhand  I am at the same time  very happy to be where we are now…

So how does it happen that you find yourself crossing a country in turmoil you vowed you would avoid  with your  two young children?  My analysis is a process similar to the ‘catastrophe effect’ the consequence of a butterfly beating its wings and all that.

In our case many small unrelated factors all pushing inthe same direction…a visa refused, a comment months before describing the beauties of Jordan in spring, the meeting of a group of twelve dutch campers heading for Jordan (well if these old pensioners are going, surley…) Our little radio crackles and gives snippets of information, but Syria isn’t the main headlines, it is Libia that’s under the spotlights. It’s cold and rainy, Lusira wants to see the pyramids. We’ll just take the small pistes in the east and cross as swiftly as possible.

There is no excuse really, but that’s how it happened. Infact the first day in the east was very beautifull and peaceful, but unluckily the small pistes on our Russian maps can’t be used as boarder crossings, and all other roads lead to Damascus. We came out unbruised but shaken (there were angry men on all street corners as our truck hurtled by…the kids were fortunately sleeping in the back, oblivious)

A lesson learnt , not to be repeated…. promise!!

(And no, to all our friends making sly comments..we don’t work for the CIA or any other organisation, and no we won’t be raising  the masses as we pass!!)


Turkey

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My first impressions after Greece was grey overpopulated, over industrialised and dirty. An impression accentuated by our troubled first night where there was outrageously load music and drunks in a small port outside Istanbul…it is perhaps for this that the next day, Istanbul surprised me with its exoticness, cleanliness, and unusual mix of old and new. It seemed to me surprisingly ‘Turkish’ – yes touristy (as all capitals) but pulsing with its own strong identity … tulips and outdoor exercise machines, tea drank at every street corner, cartons collected by young boys in huge bags on wheels and silent colourful side roads just a step away from the main arteries with underground workshops producing shoes, dresses and anything and everything else.

Our highlights were..getting to know our stable neighbours in the central parking where we spent 10 days (two Spanish students Ester and Toni living in camper for 6 months on an Erasmus course, and Memdu our other stable Turkish neighbour and dedicated owner of a pet shop looking for a simpler existence) and of course, taking Lusira to the ‘blue Mosque’ and a fifteenth century old Turkish bath on her birthday, where she solemnly washed and foamed me with soap in a perfect imitation of her larger Turkish colleges.

The lowlights were loosing Giulio for 3 to 4 horrible minutes before we found him heading for the park alone, and taking (again Giulio) to the city hospital after he was knocked out by a swing (again) in the park.

After our prolonged and pleasant stay in the capital, we headed east on small tracks into central Turkey heading for Cappodocia. Unluckily it was again the weather that dictated our rhythm and movements, but between the showers, we saw unexpected glimpses of small traditional villages with grass roofed houses, small cultivated fields, shepherds and. dung collected and dried in the fields for the bitter winters. In the morning we were bought fresh milk in a plastic soapbox still warm from the cows udders… But all is not always so bucolic and idyllic. After the enthusiastic reception of the previous evening, we become more forward and decide to ask directly if we can stay the night in someone’s field….we are unexpectedly and very rudely shooed away by a droopy faced woman in high orange wellies who clenched her fist in angry gestures much to Lusira’s indignation…the world is beautiful because it is varied!!

We reached Cappodocia under a grey sky and were again later rewarded with dramatically surreal landscapes when the sun finally graced us with its presence. The vastness of the area allowed us to choose some quiet sites where we freely roamed undisturbed to try and imagine ancient landscapes and to enjoy the change in colours and styles of the various caves . When the time came to leave, we felt a little cheated. It would have been nice to spend more time roaming the area…but i think at some time, everyone travelling overland has these dilemmas…it’s raining, we have been refused our Pakistani visas in Italy, Istanbul and Ankara due to a policy change…Friday is in a few days and we feel our only chance to go east is in fact to go west first….Syria?

….I’m updating in the next few days, but didn’t want anyone to worry, so just to say that we are safely in Jordan and enjoying great weather and Jordanian hospitality…new pictures and full story in the next few days .