Wadi Rum, Jordan
I kept hitting snooze on my alarm and finally got up at 07:20. I walked to the restaurant in the Bedouin Resort and had some bread, cheese, tomatoes, and coffee. I then finished getting ready, packed my bags, and walked back to the restaurant to settle my bar tab and wait for the others to finish. At 08:00 (two hours earlier than scheduled to accommodate the German photographer who had a 13:20 flight out of Eilat), we started our jeep truck safari; we jumped in to a truck bed that had benches on both sides for us to sit on; we also loaded our bags in to the back of the truck; the old Canadian couple decided to sit in the front, shielded from the cold wind, but the four of us (the Chicago couple, German, and I) sat in the back. We then drove to the entrance to Wadi Rum. We continued on a dirt road for a little while before coming to Lawrence’s Spring (a watering hole who owes its name to the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ since they used it for shooting several scenes; also, the real T.E. Lawrence most likely used the watering hole as well when he traveled through here). We stopped at the “spring” (it’s really fed from rain water captured in the rocky butte nearby) and got out of the truck to walk around for a little while. I walked near the towering butte and then off to a tree with a donkey grazing nearby. In the distance, I could see a real Bedouin camp, albeit a modernized, more rigid, and less nomadic camp. After about twenty minutes of walking around, we gathered back in to the truck and drove to our next location: a large dune piled against a small butte. We exited the trucks again, climbed up the sand dune (at least the Chicago couple, German, and I climbed up the dune; the old Canadian couple took it easy near the truck), and reached the top of the butte, which offered stunning views of Wadi Rum and the surrounding desertscape. After spending a good deal of time on top of the butte, I walked back down the sand dune and waited for the others to finish. Once we were all back in the truck, we drove off, back through Wadi Rum, and to the visitor center – it was a very short truck safari and it was disappointing that we would not see any more of Wadi Rum. We waited at the visitor center for a van to come and pick us up to take us to the border crossing; once the van came, we got inside and were driven back toward Aquaba. On the way, we passed by remnants of the Hejaz Railway (the railroad network built by the Ottomans that connected Damascus to Medina) and we even saw an old steam locomotive with several wooden cars parked on the tracks with a Turkish flag (the small structure next to the parked locomotive must’ve been a museum). We soon reached the border crossing and easily made it through the Jordanian checks and Passport Control. Next, we walked to the Israeli side; I had my smaller bag full of electronics searched and later I had to wait on a bench at Passport Control while they checked on my passport; amazingly, they didn’t ask me any questions and they returned my passport with the entry stamp in it; also, amazingly, I wasn’t the last of our tour group to make it through the Israeli border checks; the American guy from Chicago had his passport taken from him for random checks and he ended up far back in the Passport Control line as a result. Once he made it through, we all got in to a van driven by a grumpy old Israeli man; he then drove us to the Eilat bus station, where the Chicago couple and I got out. We bought our bus tickets (I to Tel Aviv, and the couple to Jerusalem) and then the couple went out to enjoy the Red Sea, whilst I went to the hostel they were staying at in Eilat to book a bed in a hostel in Tel Aviv; I ended up using the wifi in the hostel to book the bed and it is a good thing I did so, because it was fully booked when I arrived later tonight. I then had some iced tea and a chocolate bar for fuel before walking back to the bus station to catch my 14:00 bus to Tel Aviv. As I walked out of the hostel (at 13:30), I saw a plane take off from Eilat’s small airport; this was the plane the German photographer was taking to Eilat and later on tonight I would find out that he beat me to the hostel by six hours. I then reached the bus, found my seat, and the bus departed northward; everything was running smoothly until about fifteen minutes in to the journey, the bus pulled over and we all got out and grabbed our luggage; one of the passengers told me that the bus had a flat tire (possibly one of the inner ones since I didn’t notice any flat tires); luckily, the replacement bus wasn’t long in coming (it took about ten minutes) and we were on our way again. For the first two hours or so, we followed the same road I had taken to reach Eilat from Jerusalem; we then reached a rest stop and I ran in to the Chicago couple there (they arrived before I did despite leaving fifteen minutes later due to the bus troubles I had); we talked briefly and all planned to link up on Saturday night when we would all be staying in the same hostel in Tel Aviv; they then left and soon the bus I was on left as well. We then deviated from the Jerusalem route and drove up in to the mountains; there was some lovely desert terrain we passed through before the sun set and left us in darkness. We stopped at another rest stop for a brief time and I bought some chips and nuts to silence my stomach. We then continued on to Tel Aviv before reaching the Central Bus Station. I exited the bus, grabbed my bags, and eventually found the exit to the massive bus station. I then walked out to the street and waited for the number sixteen bus to come and take me down Allenby Street and to the beachfront (these were the directions given to me by the American guy, in conjunction with having to walk two blocks north before reaching the hostel); when the bus came, I climbed on board, told the driver to let me off at the end of Allenby, and he followed my orders. Once off the bus, I walked to the beachfront and then two blocks north and found the hostel with the German photographer sitting outside, almost as if he was waiting there for me. I then checked in to the hostel, dropped my bags off, and then joined the German photographer for dinner. We walked east to Dizengoff Street and found a nice pizza place along the way; I had an antipasti pizza with some beer. We were then set on checking out the pub scene in Tel Aviv even though the German doesn’t drink (I don’t think he’s really German), so we walked along Dizengoff Street and each pub we passed was completely packed with human bodies; it was strange because if there is that much demand, why wouldn’t there be more supply? We finally settled on a pub where the bar was easily accessible; the German had a coke and I had a Samuel Adams draught beer; after finally being able to place our orders and after receiving our drinks, we walked out to the sidewalk just so we could have some breathing room. We then finished our drinks and decided to return to the hostel where it was quieter and pleasanter (honestly, I don’t understand why people enjoy going to crowded, loud, and expensive places to interact; just buy your drinks at the liquor store and enjoy them with your friends either in one of your homes or in a park with a picnic basket). On the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a store and while I was studying the wine bottles, the manager told me they don’t sell drinks after 23:00 (I guess this is a nation-wide rule; what a backwards country); after the German bought some ice cream, we returned to the hostel and I bought a can of beer out of the vending machine; we then hung out at the rooftop terrace before going to sleep.