Τhe hour of the departure came. Even though beautiful Dahab constituted a destination of relaxation –from opinion of locomotion-, we didn’t manage –again - to rest due to the diving courses. However, it was worth it!
Around 9 am, we set off to the harbor of Nuweiba after we enjoyed our breakfast viewing the Red Sea. The 70 km that separated us from it formed a marvellous ride between impressive mountainous volumes. Substantially, it was the continuity of the first route in Egypt that we had followed up to the crossroad of Saint Katherine. The good situation of the paving in combination with the minimal traffic made the riding enjoyable.
As much as I didn’t want the ride to end, we reached the harbor. The tickets were the first thing that we had to arrange. Ploumisti stood in the line and I stayed with the motorcycles. I observed the children with the screwdrivers in their hands. They “attacked” any vehicle that reached the booking office in order to remove the provisional Egyptian plates, against tip. Contrary to what we have heard, the situation was not so tragic in the waiting lines. There were many people that tried to by-pass them, but they enjoyed the disapproval of those who waited, along with the booking employees.
We managed to get through the booking office after one and half hour. (127,5€ per motorcycle & rider). We headed for the harbor immediately afterwards. We didn’t know (…and who did???) the ship’s departure time. We once more faced the bureaucracy and inagility of the Egyptian custom, consuming the biggest reserves of our patience. The “help” came once again from the familiar employee of the tourist police. After overloading with 20€ per person the economic “customs” budget , we got out of trouble at around 1.30 pm and left right away for the ship.
We were forced to wait for 30 minutes under the sun till the Egyptian and Jordan servants made a deal and all the vehicles got into the ship. The second surprise came when we got onto the ship’s lounges which were full of people… we couldn’t find a single seat! Fortunately the solution came from a supervisor who put us – along with the rest foreign tourists – in A’ class.
On board, the time went by pleasantly and comfortably. We reached the harbor and got out first because of our seats. We arranged the custom’s procedural without delays and discomfort. We had begun to learn the “tricks”. We found easily the Desert Highway and followed the route to Amman.
The sun had begun to set off. The heat was tolerable. The wide and of good quality Jordan motorway helped our comfortable riding. Initially we met mountains. The landscape was later replaced by immense, level, without vegetation valleys. Desert. The sunset colors created an astonishing result!
When darkness fell, riding got difficult due to lack of lighting , right road-lining and reflectors along the road. We continued for many kilometres but tiredness accumulated. We decided to spend the night somewhere beside the road. We ended up setting our tent at a gas station 100km roughly before the capital. We tried the frugal yet tasty sandwich of the nearby canteen.
That night, the police kept us “company” who had set up check point next to the gas station. Of course, the noise of the passing vehicles didn’t stop all night. However, the tiredness that had overwhelmed us made the noise sound like a lullaby instead of nuisance…
We woke up early in the morning because of the heat, even though it was cold enough during the night... Desert conditions. We prepared the motorcycles and took off. Our aim was to pass Amman avoiding that way the traffic jam and the delay. The ride up to the capital was comfortable. The many humps (with warning signs) and the police check point for speed control were the unique delay.
Amman allocates a complicated regional street. We avoided the center moving westwards. We change plans and directed towards Az Zarqa (Northeast of Amman). We preferred to go northwest towards the known Jarash. The way proved to be beautiful, as it passed through small pines. In Jerash we stopped at the impressive theatre that the city accommodates. It constitutes one of the most famous Jordan concert spaces. The visiting ticket costs 8 Dinars. We were running out of time so we decided to enjoy it externally.
Following the signs to Al Matraq (and not the signs to Ar Ramtha) we followed a desert helical way that passed through a region with rural residencies and points that provided impressive panoramic view. In Al Matraq we delayed a little bit until we found the motorway that linked the Jordan-Syrian borders (Jaber) with Amman. The locals sent us to the old borders (Ar Ramtha). We finally made it.
We finished relatively fast in the borders. We didn’t pay in the Jordan ones, while we paid in the Syrian ones approximately 15€/2 motorcycles for our entry in the country. An employee made a “mistake” debiting us with the car price and not the motorcycle one. The issue was regulated instantly and effectively by the supervisor. The rest procedure included: checking, stamping of the passport and polyptych and filling a tab with our personal data. The temporary vehicle insurance applied from our first entry in the country.
The route, approximately 160 km was familiar, following the Syrian motorway. The collateral strong wind escorted us till Damascus, making somehow difficult our riding. There was much heat but it was tolerable.
Unfortunately the capital’s regional street passed through the center of the city! We crossed a part of the center following the signs to Aleppo και Homs. Cars, tracks, heat, blares, lack of signing, nervousness… and all of these with the gasoline running low.
We managed to reach the north part of the city. We met gas stations and the sign to Palmyra (240 km). Initially the road was narrow, of bad quality, without lining and with many tracks... Fortunately things changed after 10 km. The road “got into” the Syrian desert. The road shaped a straight line up to where we could see. Occasionally we met small settlements. The landscape was dry and inhospitable. The same road led to Iraq, as it was confirmed by the upstream forthcoming vehicles – full of dust - with the Iraqi plates.
Approximately 100 km after Palmyra, we run into «Cafe Bagdad 66». It was a fancy small cafe. Its Iraqi owner has accomplished to decorate it in an astonishing way that every professional decorator would envy! Many – mainly foreigners – passers-by prefer it. We had been informed about the existence of the cafe from Kostas and Despina who had visited the area about a year ago. It allocates 3 Bedouin-type rooms for those who wish an alternative stay... Unfortunately, we had made a reservation at a hotel in Palmyra before we got informed about their existence. The owner of the cafe, being godly, considered it bad to cancel the reservation preferring his own rooms.
We enjoyed the beautiful sunset. We were impressed when we found out that we were on 1000m altitude! The owner showed us winter photos of the area and his snow-bound cafe!!! The night had already started to fall when we took the road to Palmyra and cold made perceptible its existence! The collateral wind had got stronger and made our riding difficult in combination with the bad quality pavement, the complete lack of lighting and the presence of many tracks.
We were getting into Palmyra around 10 pm. The impressively lighted archaeological site made us forget the discomfort we had suffered. We found Hotel Citadel (800 S£/double room & breakfast) easily enough. A very simple, frugal, lodging with absolutely the essential.
We decided to eat something and the hotel owner proposed to us the restaurant “Casa mia”.The kitchen was extremely Syrian even though the name reminded us of something Italian! The only relation with Italy was the fact that the sympathetic owner, Mohammed, had attended his post-graduate courses there. In a not so popular neighbourhood - crossing the small fancy restaurant’s door - you got the feeling that you enter an oasis!!!
Ploumisti knows Italian and that gave us the handle to start a conversation and get to know Mohammed better acquiring familiarity. «You get to feel the restaurant like home…», he said to me at one point.
The evening went by with local kitchen, desserts, hookah, tea and of course conversation. We made an appointment for the next day as we wanted to use his personal computer, of the few in the city...
We went back to the hotel exhausted. The 588km that we had covered were remarkable yet exhausting. It was worth it…