Friday, December 17, 2010

Eilat, Israel

Check out the layers on the rock.

The morning ride from Wadi Rum, Jordan to Eilat, Israel had a little more stress on it that I would have liked. You can't get a visa at the border so I had to go to the Egyptian consulate where you have to drop it off by 11am for same day service. Smartly, Betty had got hers in New York City before leaving for the trip. Since we had over 100km to cover, we wanted to leave early. Unfortunately, we did not able break camp until later than I would have liked. We had 5.5 hours to get to the consulate instead of the 6 I was hoping for. That wasn't the end of the world, but it was going to make everything a little bit tighter. Luckily, Wadi Rum is the highest wadi in Jordan, so we were going to be on a mostly downhill ride to Eilat at sea level. If we didn't stop for breaks, we should be alright.

The ride down to Aqaba took us through more great desert scenery. Instead of being sparse though, the mountains began to crowd in. Soon we were riding in fully lined valleys. Once we cleared the mountains and were approaching Aqaba, a major headwind kicked up. We were struggling against it. It gave two kids a chance to throw rocks at us. That was Betty's first experience with it. She handled about as happily as I handled it my first time. As we were approaching the city of Aladdin, magic carpets, and genies, we took a hard right back toward the Israeli border. The headwind continued.

Welcome to Israel!

We got to the border around 10:15am. I felt like we were easily going to make it. Then, the border security stated asking me about Syria and Lebanon again. I thought that stuff would not be an issue this time because I had already crossed into Israel once since then. Betty cleared the border while I answered questions and waited. Then, I waited just a little bit more and a woman came out to welcome me to Israel. It did not take nearly as long this time. Alos, this border was not staffed with a majority of young people like the last two border crossings.

Eilat, Israel is a major resort town.

Entering Israel, felt like returning to the homeland again. I loved it immediately. Maybe it was the taste of western culture. Maybe it was the kinship with other Jews. I still don't know. I just know I was happy to be there. By this point, it as almost 11am. We had about 10 minutes to bike the 3km to the city and find the consulate. I think the headwind was finally a crosswind, but it was still making our life miserable. After biking up a huge hill, we made it to the consulate at 11am. It didn't look like they actually closed at 11am because they wanted me to wait until my visa was processed. My crappy guidebook might have been wrong again.

A fun advertisement at a roundabout for their Underwater Observatory Marine Park.

How do you define happiness (photo by B. Cremmins)?

Instead of waiting, Betty and I went to find her some coffee and me some ice cream, preferably Ben & Jerry's. It took a little bit, but we were able to find a market that sold B&J Cinnamon Buns ice cream. Yum. Betty made the wise choice to ditch coffee and go for ice cream instead. We headed back to the consulate to enjoy our sweet treats. Before we even finished our ice cream, they had processed my passport. We were clear to enter Egypt.

I loved that these dusty cars probably got that way while they are waiting to clear some customs hurdle.

Egypt would have to wait though. I was happy to be in Israel again. It was really hot and I didn't see the need to bike in the heat. We stopped in an Internet cafe to waste some time. After a couple hours, we hit the road again. Unfortunately, our motivation was gone. We had already biked 100km and just didn't see the need to bike much more. Instead of clearing the border when it wasn't busy at night, we would head over early in the morning. We found some potential campsites on the beach about 1km from the border and then went back to get Thai food. The Thai place was closed, but we ate at the adjacent hotel's restaurant. The food wasn't quite what I was looking for, but it was good enough. Also, the hotel had free Internet that we could poach to look for dive shops in Egypt. Looking for shops on the Internet was the same as it was in Australia, very frustrating. I wasn't getting anywhere and eventually gave up.

Eilat, Israel is a kite surfing center.

We went back to the rocky beach that was going to be our campsite. An hour into sleeping, Betty woke up in a worry about the water. She thought the tide was coming in and we were about to get wet. The tide wasn't coming in. A large boat farther out in the Gulf of Aqaba arm of the Red Sea had gone by and we were just catching its waves. Yes, they were coming within a few feet of the tent, but we were fine. I had trouble falling back to sleep and the two or three times that I made too much noise, Betty shot up and worriedly asked if the water was still getting closer. I kept telling her it was fine and to go to bed. It reminded me of when I was camped in a place I thought I might get bothered. At every sound, I would wake up and worry about getting harassed. After doing that for enough nights, I stopped worrying and slept better. It was interesting to see Betty doing the same things I had done for so many months at the start of my trip.

It wasn't the best day in Israel, but I still enjoyed it. Betty and I were able to get a lot of errands done and were ready to tackle the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.

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