The time was upon me to tackle another land border. Regular readers will know that I described my border crossing from Egypt into Israel as the worst three hours of my life. Whilst I'm relieved to say I would not encounter a repeat experience, I would still face some problems of a different sort by the end of the day. Speaking of which, it all began in Tel Aviv and would thankfully end, as hoped, in Amman, Jordan's capital city.
To get to Amman from Israel there are three border crossings; a northern, central and southern crossing. I would happily provide information of these crossings but I have to acknowledge that my current target audience would most likely appreciate different text to keep them (and you) entertained. Also there are already some websites out there that offer helpful information so seek these out if required or message me direct.
Today I would take the most northern crossing known as the The Jordan River Crossing or Sheikh Hussein Bridge. To begin my journey I would first travel down to Jerusalem before then heading back up north to Beit She'an - though the second part of the journey was exclusively within the West Bank.
Both bus journeys were affordable and pleasant courtesy of Israel's very decent bus network; the Egged buses (pronounced Eg-ged). Well, all accept one thing was pleasant but that's my own fault for mentioning the lack of bad weather in my last post although my intentions were purely comparable and informational.
I was dropped off at the Beit She'an 'station' and it was from there today's challenge would begin. With no fellow tourists on the same bus and with minimal signs of life around this area I was standing, I optimistically asked someone in a small coffee hut for directions and to my surprise he spoke half decent English.
'That's the road', he says pointing to where I had guessed, 'but you cannot walk it as it's 10 kilometres so you should wait by the road and try to get a lift'.
From memory, that wasn't far off exactly what he said but he most certainly said 'you cannot walk it'.
Now, the one useful article I found with prior research suggested the distance was 5 kilometres. That's a big discrepancy and so to be safe, I did indeed wait by the side of the road as advised. However, five minutes and only a couple of cars later, I began to get restless and I know you know what this means...
As my mind is rarely ever idle, I had began to further evaluate the walk and tried to rationalise some things compared to my most physically demanding travel experience which was 'that walk' from Cairo to Giza.
I concluded that:
1) The weather had stopped raining and the ambient temperature was moderately cool, mid to low teens perhaps.
2) Looking on to the distant mountains of Jordan, the route could not ascend higher than where I was standing and so would hopefully provide a downhill path.
3) The asphalt was neat and flat akin to most Israel roads I'd seen and travelled on.
By comparison, 'that walk' in Egypt was undertaken in 30+ degrees, on the worst road/pavement conditions possible, with mad traffic alongside me. Oh and of course I had
no idea I was in for such a walk so I was mentally unprepared.
Justification = pass.
As such, I donned my backpack and wheeled luggage and began the uncertain walk. That said, the rain clouds looked really heavy so I was going to need some luck on route unaware of how long this would take. Here are those rain clouds and look, over there is Jordan! (Though the border is well before those mountains).
Within twenty minutes or so I knew I was on the right track having seen my first sign so feeling confident about this, I even stopped for an impromptu, not particularly flattering self-snap. He says happy to avoid using 'that' word.
Fast forward exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes later and I had made it to the Israeli exit point. Thank the Lord.
How did I feel? Surprisingly very good and not overly exhausted though I was genuinely relived to have made it and even more buzzing after accomplishing what was said to be earlier, not possible. It would seem that those three points mentioned earlier really made a difference and subsequently I was able to cover ground at an impressive rate despite my weighty luggage impediment. Mind you, I had some old Oasis tracks on which helped me strive forward.
That evening I was naturally curious to know how far I had walked and I managed to use Google to calculate the exact route as it certainly proved not to be a complex one. To my complete surprise, it returned this calculation matching my exact route:
Next time you are faced with a seemingly impossible task (think back to what that guy from earlier said), remember it could just as easily be a state of mind as I proved today and many times previously.
Several things to note here including how you have to pay an extortionate £20 exit fee to leave Israel. Also, it helps to be 'in the know' regarding explicitly requesting to not have yours passport stamped as an Israeli stamp can cause big problems in some Arab countries.
With the above sorted, I gracefully walked over to enter Jordanian territory open-eyed but not feeling particularly alarmed or worried. It was at the Jordanian border that I re-felt the laid back Arabic nature (despite their famously loud shouty voices) I had observed in Morocco, difficult-Egypt and in Palestine. This was also backed up by the casualness of border security including luggage scanning and visa entry. Subsequently I exited Israel and successfully entered Jordan in less than 20 minutes. Speaking of which the Jordanian government is trying new ways to incentivise longer travel in Jordan and one of the ways is by waving the visa fee if you stay for 3 consecutive nights upon entering by land border. The idea being they want people to stay and see more than just Petra and Wadi Rum.
In 2014, fees to enter Jordan rose to 40 JD (£40) and also getting a visa can be simple or complicated depending on your nationality, entry point and whether you are travelling as an individual or in a group. For example, the fee can be waived for tourists travelling in groups of five or more, staying more than three nights in Jordan or using a national tour operator or British company with a Jordanian ground partner. I'm happy to say I didn't have to pay anything.
I would then proceed to take a taxi to the next the next big city in proximity, Irbid. No buses run from the border so that was the only option at an expensive cost of 18 JD (£18 GBP). From Irbid, I would then catch a bus to Amman. These details have been simplified so if you're thinking of making this crossing, get in touch.
Having reached Amman, I reflected on my long day. Having faced long travel days in the past, this was no exception as I departed at 11:15am and arrived at my hostel for 20:30pm. By now, suffice to say I was completely exhausted and if that wasn't enough, I learnt throughout different times of the day I had some major problems surfacing:
So let's see, we have:
1) My trainers close to crumbling or splitting completely in half!
2) A single luggage wheel had split!
3) My laptop charger is only charging intermittently which is a problem when you rely on your computer for this travel blog! It would later stop charging completely! :-(
1) I have a spare set of trainers with me that Mother bought me for Christmas.
2) My wheeled luggage is still running along OK at this moment, just don't know for how long. Fingers crossed.
3) Sadly no saving grace on this one just some steely determination to try and get this resolved somehow as soon as possible. After the already charged battery would
drain, I could do all other tasks on my mobile and tablet. All accept blog that is!
That's this filler post over folks. If you have specific questions relating to the border or anything else, comment away and I'll get back to you.
The next time you hear from me I will be discovering Amman so stay tuned for the days to come...