Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Pilgrimage from Amman to Middle of Nowhere 04/09/08

Oooooh my God!!!

What the fuck am I doing up so early! It's 4am but knowing in another few hours I'll appreciate the effort I drag myself out of bed to pack the remaining gear still lying around the hotel room. Now this is really getting exciting! Due West to Jerusalem!!!

But first we need to taxi it back to the Roman Theater :) Which we do after a quick breakfast at the hotel, one of the main advantages of Ramadan for anyone silly enough to be up at this hour...4am breakfasts :)

The streets are almost empty and with map in hand Steph and I head off in search of our road to the border. It's great to have a walking companion again. It's been three months walking by myself and I'm sure I must be slightly mentally destabilized by the experience ;)

The temperature is perfect and with hardly any traffic the walking is great. Steph knew she would only be walking a few days so her gear isn't up to scratch. Her small backpack starts hurting straight away so I offer to carry her heavy stuff, the least I can do since she made the effort to be here :)

Trying to locate the same road we drove out on a few days ago we think we are in luck and head out of the city. Because of Ramadan none of the restaurants are open but at least we can still rustle together some nourishment from the mini-markets.

Seven or eight kilometers from the city we strike our first hurdle...the highway disappears within a small village. This isn't the road we drove out on! :(

"Where's the map?" Steph asks...

"I didn't bring it, we drove the road the other day and I thought we would just walk straight to the bridge"

"What do you mean you don't have the map!?! Didn't I ask if you had the map before we left?"

Laughing "Yes, you did. But that was only the map of Amman" :)

She doesn't look impressed...

Yep, the joys of a pilgrimage...and yes, obviously I haven't learnt anything from my last 6000kms :) But what it has taught me is I know I will be fine and I know I will get to my destination...

Just might take an extra few kilometers :)

Asking the locals doesn't get us far, all they want to do is send us back to the bus station in Amman but finally asking at a pharmacy we have some luck...

"Yes, go straight down here to Iraq Al Mere. Then ask there..."

So off we head. The temperature's starting to rise and the road begins winding up and down the small hills in front of us. Sweating more than two Sumo wrestlers in a Sauna we stop regularly before finding a great little resting place under a tree by a creek.

Crashing out I'm sleeping peacefully when suddenly a blood curdling scream rings out through the hills. Sitting bolt upright I realize the horrendous noise came from my mother and the two culprits are taking flight as fast as their legs will carry them...

Their reaction confirms their guilt and before I realize it, and still not knowing what happened, I make chase. Racing after them barefoot through the fields I slowly gain as they make it to the road and continue upwards towards the village.

They may be sixteen or seventeen but they definitely aren't fit. Sprinting up the hill I can see them tiring fast and know it's only moments before I catch them. They must realize the same thing, darting up a nearby driveway they turn to lob some rocks, briefly slowing me down, before tearing off again. The good news is they don't have anything in their hands so at least the didn't manage to steal anything.

A car with an old guy driving is making it's way down the driveway and being a small town I'm sure he will know them...

"Hi, do you know these two?"

He looks at me warily, obviously not sure what's happening, and he must have seen them throwing rocks at me so he knows somethings going on...

"No, why?"

"They were trying to steal from us. What are there names?"

Looking more uncomfortable "Sorry, I don't know"

"Are you Muslim? That is Haram! What are their names?"

"Yes, I'm Muslim. And it's Ramadan!" He points in the direction the two fled and spits on the ground "Ramadan!"

I stifle a small laugh. It's one thing to do something wrong as a Muslim in normal times but in the month of Ramadan it's a big no-no. I'm sure this guy must know them and I can understand him not wanting to give me their names. If I get the police involved it will be a big deal for the boys but also a huge problem for the families. I figure this guy is disgusted enough that word will get back to their them and things will sort themselves out. Wishing him well I set off back to the river to find out what happened, and if they did actually steal anything...

Steph laughing "Were you defending my honor?"

"Yes, I didn't know what they were doing but if it was bad enough for them to run like that then it was bad enough for me to chase them. What happened?"

"He grabbed my arse" Steph announces, impressed that even though our cameras and valuables are lying around in the open, the kids decided it was more important to get a feel of her bum than to make a quick buck from our cameras :)

I'm glad she's taking it well and can see the humor in it...little bastards! :)

Getting a little more rest and feeling slightly paranoid some rocks will come hurtling off the mountain side we make a move. The sun's now in full force and we take it easy stopping often.

Collapsing in an olive grove it's time again for a quick nap. As we wake, our next door neighbors pay a visit to find out what we're about. Quickly disappearing they return bearing water and figs and are happy to sit and chat...

"You can't walk this way. Its dangerous! There's nothing out there. Just desert"

"How far does the desert stretch before we reach some more towns?"

"Maybe twenty kilometers"

Twenty kilometers is doable. If we get a good chunk done this evening then start early before the heat we should be fine. Steph starts to look a bit worried though as we set off. I can understand, this is pretty wild country :)

Only a kilometer later and right on the edge of town a few young boys call us over to a little shop to shout us a Pepsi. I can tell Steph's starting to fray around the edges, firstly I've never seen her drink a Pepsi in my life and secondly as we go to leave she doesn't bother buying water...

Will half a liter be enough???

Knowing that she survived over 1000kms walking with me through Europe I let it slide, she's a big girl and knows what she's doing...

Looking out over the hills as we depart there's nothing to be seen as far as the eye can see. Nothing! No trees, no shrubs, no houses, no fences...nothing!

Steph shoots me a glance like she's about to strangle me for not bringing the map...ooops :)

The heat's still intense and even though it's starting to get late, with the steep up and down of the road the walking is hard. I can see Steph's struggling and for good reason, we've had a big day. Having already covered over thirty kilometers I'm happy to call it a night but Steph wants to keep at it. I figure she'd prefer to get as close to the edge of the desert and civilization as possible before tomorrow.

We now are in a funny situation. If there was a bus Steph would bus it out of here but not surprisingly she doesn't want to hitch by herself and we aren't really sure where there is to hitch to.

Kilometer after kilometer of desert finally takes it's toll, Steph cracks. There's been no traffic for couple of hours so I can't even hitch out with her. Darkness is falling and with no other options we set camp to wait out the night...

Just after dozing off I'm woken by a 4WD stopping barely 50m up the road from us...

Shit! I hope they're not hunting...

Steph's also awake and the tension in the air thick enough to carve with a knife. A minute goes by and they still haven't moved and I fumble around for my torch so if someone starts shooting I can let them know we're here.

Finally they depart but it doesn't even feel like I slept for five minutes before being woken again by the "tap tap tap" of a semi-automatic rifle firing close by...

We aren't getting much sleep tonight I'm sure...

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