I’ve become a standard tourist. At least for a few days. Since I left the Husky back, I can’t go wherever I want, whenever I want, however I want. The places I am in now, I am not welcomed as a traveler and guest, but just a simple tourist; a commodity. Business first; hospitality second. The freedom I have become accustomed to as an overland traveler is lost for a few days and I already miss it.
The transfer to Tel Aviv is straightforward, although I am slightly worried about the standard entry questioning procedure at Ben Gurion airport. Having stamps from Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and a visa from Sudan in my passport is not the ideal precondition to enter Israel. The interview with the border police officer goes as follows:
Response: “Good evening!”
She: “Your first time to Israel?”
Response: “Yes it is”
She: “What is the purpose of your visit to Israel?”
Response: “Motorcycle travel”
She: “Motorcycle travel? Where are you traveling to?”
Response: “From Haifa to Jordan to Egypt and hopefully down the East of Africa”
She: “???” (pause)
She: “And where will you get a motorcycle for this?”
Response: “I am shipping my motorcycle and hope to pick it up on Sunday in Haifa”
She: “You are bringing your own motorcycle from Switzerland?”
Response: “Yes I am”
She: “???” (pause)
She: “And this is like the best motorcycle?!”
Response: “Yeah, she is pretty great!”
She: “???” (pause)
She: “Welcome to Israel”
Pretty smooth a start in Israel, I exit the airport, immediately dropped into a much more humid, hotter climate than in Greece. I can’t help myself but think about how nice it would have been to go through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and gradually ease into new climates, landscapes, cultures and languages. Unfortunately, just a risk currently not worth taking.
It’s holocaust remembrance day in Israel. No loud music, no partying; all is about paying respect to the victims of the holocaust. I spend a quite evening at the hostel. I’m relegated back 15 years to the hostel way of traveling among backpackers.
10 a.m. the sirens go off across Israel, every pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle, car and bus stops; people get off/out out, look down and think of the victims of hostile attacks. One gigantic freeze throughout the nation. I’m dazzled by the unified participation. Such a diverse place; Israel is so multilayered and complex it would require much longer a stay, for me to really comprehend this country and its people.
I discover Tel Aviv, mainly Florentine and Jaffa, and take the train to Haifa in the afternoon. It being a Thursday, shortly before the weekend (Fr.&Sa.), the train is packed with young women and men in military uniforms, in all styles and colors, heading home for the weekend. I’ve arrived in Haifa and will be awaiting the Husky here. Haifa is much more calm a place than Tel Aviv. People say in Jerusalem they pray, in Tel Aviv they party and in Haifa they work.
It has now been 2 weeks since departure and I’ve at least touched ground in 11 countries. Time to take a timeout during the wait, catch up some sleep and watch a movie or two. One evening I go out and two female Israeli soldiers ask me about my views on the current situation in Israel. I confess that I am slightly confused, also not wanting to state an opinion of any kind. They are best friends and their views are so contradicting, I conclude I’m not the only confused one.
Sunday, the Middle-Eastern Monday; I have an appointment at Rosenfeld Shipping Ltd. The plan is to free the Husky from the port and get us on the road again. I arrive at 09:30 a.m. and am welcomed by Gidalina. She asks how my entry to Israel was and I tell her my story, concluding that the border police officer most likely thought I was crazy. Gidalina replies: “Well you are crazy!” and laughs out loud. Quite a character this middle-aged Jewish woman.
30min waiting, 30min paper work & payment, 30min finding customs office & security check, 30min waiting, 45min paper work and watching customs office type in information at a grueling speed, 45min waiting for feedback from port agent, 45min finding agent in port and security check, 30min security escort out of the port. Overall almost 5h, but not all that bad. It won’t get easier moving forward.
The only things that count right now is that the Husky is well, I have all my equipment back and we’re on the fly again. We are both enjoying it; we are reunited. We cruise up to Naharija and cross Israel to Tiberias.
This morning the Husky throws me a curve ball. She won’t start. It’s 37° Celsius and I have just loaded her. I strip off all the luggage incl. the holster. I check her battery, the fuses and reset the ECU. She wont budge. By dropping a screw down in between the components, I spend another hour fiddling around and reassembling her. After taking a break, I do another check of everything and suddenly she’s back to life. I think she’s paying me back for the days she had to spend on the ship and in the port. At least I now know the fuse plan by heart.
We make our way down to Bet She’an, one of few border crossings to Jordan. It’s getting hotter and hotter. I arrive at the border and take up the challenge of crossing over to Jordan.
#1 barrier: Passport check, receive paper; park the Husky
#2 hut: Pay passenger fee
#3 another hut: Customs; return temporary vehicle import papers, receive another paper
#4 back to 1st hut: Go through passport control and have a 10min informal chat with border police
#5 barrier: Passport check; hand over papers; exit Israel
#6 barrier: Stop; welcome handshake from the border police officer; park the Husky
#7 hut: Get visa and passport control
#8 another hut: Answer many questions about the Husky to a group of officers, unload all luggage incl. holsters, carry everything into the hut; send it through scanner, go through security control and install/load again
#9 another hut: Change currency
#10 another hut: Get insurance (Husqvarna not in system; I am now officially riding a Honda)
#11 another hut: Customs and vehicle import; get stamp in Carnet de Passage (first time I’m using the CdP)
#12 another hut: Receive entry papers
#13 barrier: Handover entry papers and passport control
Still around 37° Celsius; I’m drenched from all the walking and carrying. It is the first day of Ramadan. From 04:14 a.m. to 07:26 p.m. today no one is eating or drinking. These Jordanian gentlemen are nonetheless very open and friendly. One of the customs officers hands me water and insists I drink albeit my hesitation to drink in front of all these people who may not do so themselves.
Apparently it has been months since the last Swiss citizen has crossed this border, which may explain why many officers have no clue where I’m form and repeatedly claim I’m from the Netherlands. They send me off into Jordan, one of the officers shouting “Goodbye Mr. Rico!”.
I immediately delve into an environment I like. I like the vibe of Jordan. People wave and smile and I shake many hands within the first few hours. Stopping for gas, after exchanging a few words, the manager again hands me water and insists I drink, saying “you respect my religion; I respect yours”. This man introduces me to Jordan and explains what Ramadan means to him. I truly respect the open-mindedness and non-intrusive curiousness of the people I have met on my first day in Jordan.
The landscape is more mountainous here than in Israel. Rough and picturesque. We climb the mountains and cross to Amman. The fellow at the gas station had filled all gas tanks to the rim. Due to the change in altitude, the Husky spits a load of gasoline at me through the de-compression hoses. I’m covered in gasoline and get some into my eyes. Another learning; I must ensure the Husky is not fueled up to the rim.
Dawn is at the horizon and I take a break shortly before Amman. The clock hits 07:26 p.m. The sun has gone down. I instantly hear prayers from the mosque towers and boys run out on the streets, selling water to cars passing by. I ride down to Amman, dawn in my rear view mirror and evening prayers in my ears.
In Haifa I had had the opportunity to exchange some information with Kristijan and his wife, an Icelandic couple who were getting their GS 1200 into Israel. We have different sources of information and different insights. There are many uncertainties around the developments in Sinai and the Sudan as well as the according regulations for foreign travelers. Kristjan is planning on traveling down South as well and will be in the fortunate position, that I will always be a few days ahead. I can update him on the current situation in advance. The Husky and I will push ahead and scout the uncertain terrain. We’re eager to make it work.