DAY 74 – THE ROAD TO ALMOST JERUSELAM

Up early and had to stop Fouad’s maid from ironing my clothes. I’m not sure they could have handled the shock. I noted that this is as clean as my cloths have been since I left London. You could say that my hand washing skills aren’t what they could be. Or if you wanted to be a bit more blunt you could say that they were crap.

I have decided that my emails could be a little more quantitative so I am going to include a howmuchofabitchwasthatborderometer.

Made it to the Lebanese border at nine. The Lebanon to Syria border gets a measly 1/10 on the howmuchofabitchwasthatborderometer because it was so easy. Fouad’s mother had called the guy in the army in charge of the border to smooth over the fact that I didn’t have a visa. He’s a close family friend don’t you know. Then Fouad took me right into his office like he was his nephew or something and my passport was stamped and handed back in record time. It cost me 25,000 Lebanese pounds, which are 11,000 less than what the guy in Beirut quoted me. Fouad’s ‘uncle’ wasn’t at all happy when he heard this because it meant that someone in the capital was trying to pull a fast one. The Syrians were even better. I said, “Transit visa.” they said, “Transit visa?” I said, “Yes, transit visa.” they said “Only three days?” I said, “I only need six hours.” they said “Three days.” I said “Six hours.” they said “You sure? Three days no more?” I said “Yeeeeeeeeeess I’ll be gone this afternoon!” and that was that. One FREE Syrian transit visa in less time than it takes to have a piss.

The bus ride to Damascus was stopped slightly short of bus station after the drivers refused to pay the army NOT to search the bus. I didn’t know where to go and before I could ask anyone two strong willed Lebanese women from my bus put me under their protection. They guided me through the bus station to the right place while simultaneously putting all the sharks in their right place. Then they made sure that I paid the right price for my trip to Amman and took off. Top chicks those Lebanese women.

The trip from Damascus back to Amman was in another dream westie fixer-upper. This one was a beat-up old Chrysler. And the driver took full advantage of what was left of the cars original capabilities.

The Syria to Jordan border was much worse. The Syrian end wasn’t too bad and I was first back to the car. The Jordan end was a bitch though. Firstly my stuff was searched. Not really searched, just searched enough to make me unload my pack from the car, open my pack and close it again. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds. That done I headed into the disorganised circus called the Jordanian immigration building. Here I needed a ten Jordanian Dinar (about ten quid) visa despite only planning to spend a few hours in the country. Haven’t they heard of free transit visas? The exchange place at the border offered me exactly ten Jordanian Dinah for my 31000 Lebanese pounds. Coincidentally this is exactly what I needed for a visa, and he knew it. It’s also about thirty percent below the current exchange rate. When he also refused to give me a printed receipt I figured he was going to pocket the difference at the end of the day. Faced with such a blatantly obvious scam I told him to go and fuck himself. In those exact words. The second exchange and only other exchange place offered me eleven Jordanian Dinahs. At this stage I was beyond caring and also out of options since the visa guy only takes Jordanian Dinahs, so I dropped my pants, bent over (metaphorically of course) and took the cash. Add to this the fact that the customs building was packed with people and there is no organised queuing system and that the desk that supposedly deals with foreigners was processing a huge stack of other visas the whole experience took bloody ages. Based on all of this I have given the Syria to Jordan howmuchofabitchwasthatborderometer a whopping 8/10 (with 10/10 being a full cavity without the option of a firing squad instead).

Getting to Amman I discovered that I had to spend the night here as the border crossing into Israel closes at three in the afternoon. I needed some cash to pay for my ride from Damascus so I got a taxi driver to whip me up to the local ATM for two Jordanian Dinahs. When I got back I was negotiating an extension of my driver’s services to my old hotel when the group of four taxi drivers I was talking to suddenly all walked away from me. I was a little surprised by this and stood there like a silly tourist watching them go. And they kept going. Right across the road and further. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I noticed the latest car to pull into the car park had two cops in it. I had no other choice but to get my pack and flag down another (legitimate) taxi from the side of the road. I considered doing a runner with my original drivers two Jordanian Dinah but decided that would be a wanker thing to do so I tracked him down to his hiding behind a parked car. He didn’t even look up at me and as he hastily signalled for me to throw the coins in his general direction. Very amusing indeed.

Walking back from the cafe I decided to get some chicken and some sleep to make the border crossing into Israel first thing the morning. Well that was the plan until some people on the street started to scream at me. I had been in my own little world and was a little startled until I realise it was the Evil Fins (previously the Top Fins from Cairo). They railroaded me away from my cheap night of rest and recovery into a night of noisy debauchery where we sniffed tequila (I do not recommend this) and ended up drinking vodka until 4am.

Oh and my poo is solid again although sometimes it floats. That was quick.

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