Drive All NIght
Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
8Trip End Oct 27, 2006
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After finishing a hard day's work, I rushed home to do some last minute preparation, then slept while Dawn organized things and got us ready to go. At 10 we left to meet up with friends; however, one friend forgot some things at his house, but we coordinated by having me go to Starbucks while he rushed home to grab his missing items. Finally, at 11 PM we were on the road. We drove through the night, winding our way through small Saudi towns looking for the right exit to keep us heading to Jordan.
Daylight saw us in the middle of nowhere, driving down a highway that led us to the north. Parallelling the highway was a pipeline - we are not sure if it was oil or water -that followed the road above and below the ground until we parted at some point. In the town of Turaif, in the far north of Saudi Arabia, we came across a beautiful mosque which had to have been the largest in the region
From there we turned north-west and finally made it to the border. End of the story, pass into Jordan, right? Wrong. First, we went through the preliminary customs check - passports, multiple exit-re-entry visas (which you pay for!) in the passports and valid, istimara (ownership papers for our Trooper). From there we were sent on to the second stage - actually passing out of Saudi into Jordan. Oops - all the computer systems were down! We parked in line and waited, where I met Mahmoud, a Lebanese guy working at Kinkos in Kuwait. We had a great conversation until finally the border agents came back out.
All during this time and after, people were trying to cut their cars into line. Well SHOCK OF SHOCKS, the agents came out and told the people who cut the line that they had to go and get in line AT THE BACK! One guy in particular really had trouble with this concept. He went into the booth to rant and rave at the agent, then came around and tried to cut into line again, then came along the line of cars ranting and raving at each driver to let him in. It was quite a show! In addition to the ranting and raving guy, there were also two accidents that we saw - one where a driver backed into another one trying to turn around, and another where a guy in a big SUV tried to cut into a line and ended up smashing another car's side panel
Everybody who got through was making a mad rush for the Jordanian check point a half-mile down the road. As I was driving down, a huge deisel truck was trying to squeeze into the truck lane by - get this - coming in and blocking the car and bus lane to the Jordanian checkpoint. I cut around him by driving onto the rutted sand and back onto the pavement. Apparently he succeeded in blocking the lane, because after me there were not too many cars coming along.
We unloaded our SUV and had the guy check out our items. He gave us the paperwork we needed, and we drove up into a huge chaotic parking lot where we had no idea what we were to do. Going with the flow, James (our friend, who was in Jordan 17 years ago) and I dashed into the ruksa office (mandatory car insurance needed to drive your vehicle in Jordan) to get our insurance and change our Saudi riyals into Jordanian dinars. 29 Dinars (about 50 bucks Cdn) later, we had the ruksa. But...we still needed to get our passports stamped and, as a helpful Jordanian man pantomimed to me, to get our car status finalized. James took the passports for our group of seven (two nurses from Dawn's hospital were travelling with James) and I took his and my insurance forms. Lining up was interesting. There were about 80 men (no women) squeezing into 3 lines (but you couldn't tell that!) to get to three windows to have their papers processed. Not quite sure what I needed, I joined the line and waited. And waited. And waited. During this time they opened another window, upon which 30 of the 80 men rushed it, almost resulting in a fist fight between an older gentlemen and a younger one who was in the new line but then got popped out like a ballon held underwater and then released
After this amusing interlude, another helpful Jordanian gentlement told me what I needed. I phoned Dawn and asked her to bring down my passport and the paper I had been given by the Jordanian man who checked the Trooper. I was set! Or was I?
Nope. 20 JD later (about 35 dollars Cdn), I had more papers, but had to go to yet another booth for a stamp on them. Come on - this was becoming a farcical scene from a bad movie! Finally, I bullied my way to the front and got my stamp. Yipee - now out to the Trooper, motion the guy parked behind me to move so I could get out, and we were on our way (James having done the passports in 1/4 of the time it took me to get our papers stamped). Finally, we passed through a final checkpoint where ALL of our papers and stamps were checked YET AGAIN, and we were in Jordan.
The drive down the highway to Amman was uneventful, and 19 hours after leaving Riyadh we arrived in Amman to scope out a hotel. We had hoped to stay in the Rio hotel, but seeing as how nobody knew where it was, we drove around until finally a co-worker of James, a vey nice Jordanian man names Qassim, showed us two hotels he has booked tentative reservations at. After seeing one (gross!) we accepted rooms at the second one. After meeting Qassim's family (very nice people), having coffee, and following him around Amman to find a restaurant that was open (this WAS Ramadan, remember, and to boot, the night before Friday, which is to Muslims what Sunday is to Christians). We had a great time over dinner and then went back to the hotel to sleep. Ahhh....and here ends the first day!