Less than a week before leaving for this trip, Peder sent me an e-mail from Norway.
“Dude, I can get a two-week all expense paid trip to Turkey but I have to leave NOW…wanna come?”
Unfortunately I couldn’t join him on account of the Birthright trip so he invited another Norwegian friend instead. Still, this meant that he’d be in the Middle East at the same time as myself. And at the last possible second, he managed to arrange a flight from Turkey to Israel.
Japan, Brazil, and now Israel. The world is our oyster.
Peder showed up Friday afternoon, grabbed the last bed in our Tel Aviv hostel, and joined us for Friday night out.
But this was no ordinary night out. Some of our soldier friends had invited us to a “soldier party,” a massive outdoor rave on a kibbutz called Ga’ash, well outside the city. We were the only foreigners in the entire place – another once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Or maybe twice. It depends how long I stay 😉
Interestingly enough, most Israeli jobs are 6 days a week with their only day of rest falling on Shabbat – Saturday. Even five day-a-week jobs, the vast minority, don’t give Sunday off – instead, it’s Friday. This means that in Israel, Sunday is like our Monday. I didn’t know this when going out Saturday and was surprised to find the city not nearly as busy as expected.
This is also why all the big parties fall on Fridays, and why the beach is PACKED on Saturday but barely inhabited at all on Sunday.
Now I know.
One of the conditions of Peder’s visit was that he had to be back in Turkey to catch his flight home in just five days. If we wanted to make it to Petra we had to be efficient. So first thing Sunday morning we woke up, ran around to a few travel agents to find him a cheap ticket back, and hopped on a bus for Eilat – Israel’s southernmost city, a resort town on the Red Sea and the border crossing with both Egypt and Jordan.
That was the single most uncomfortable bus on the face of the earth. I don’t know how they managed it, but it would’ve been more comfortable if they’d tied us into knots and wrapped us in velcro, attaching us to the ceiling of the luggage compartment. It was almost funny, trying to arrange ourselves so many different ways as to allow ourselves to get even five minutes of sleep.
The result: failure.
We arrived well after dark, and after washing my one nice shirt and hairdrying it on my body, we rushed down into town to meet Kara and Annie for dinner and drinks in their five-star hotel.
Walking from Eilat bus station to the hotel strip, the city felt to me more like Las Vegas than anything else. If time permitted I really would’ve liked to spend a day or two there, just to get a sense for the place, but unfortunately time was a luxury we did not have. After checking into a cheap but very nice hotel a bit up the road from the coast, we caught some quick Z’s and woke up early to grab a cab to the border.
“Border crossing to Aqaba, please” we said.
We exited the taxi and walked over to the security officer.
“Hey, is this the border crossing with Jordan?”
Damn! The stupid driver thought we said Taba, the name of the Egyptian border, instead of Aqaba, the first city in Jordan.
We paid another 50 sheckel fare back to where we’d come from and and walked across the border to Jordan.
(Note: This post was originally part of the previous, later split into two.)