New Mode of Transportation
Trip Start May 22, 2009
197Trip End Feb 16, 2010
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Funny how things have changed in the travel world for us. Cycling is very slow and solitary business. We spent many months seeing the road and the land…and each other. Now we’re filled with cities and sites…and people! I didn’t think it would be that different, but it is. I find that I am more tired now than I was before. We’re always going out for dinner or drinks with others and I don’t have as much time for reflection on what I’m seeing. But at the same time, since I’m a bit more in the ‘tourist scene’, things aren’t as deep to reflect on either.
But we are certainly reveling in our new mode of transportation. No longer do we have to worry about maps and directions. Getting dumped off at the bus station you usually have almost everything you need: information, buses, taxi’s, cheap accomodations. And if not, there are several other English speaking travelers who just got off the bus with you that you can wander around with. We are now part of a community of travellers we were separate from before. Mind you, I was glad of that, but it is nice to have some simple comforts after so long on the road.
We’re also enjoying the freedom that it’s giving us. Bicycles are slow. After such a long time of missing sites because it was too long to get to, we can now go wherever we want without worrying about having time to get to a campsite before dark. With transportation so cheap and being in tiny little countries, an hour on a bus or taxi will get you almost anywhere!
But it’s good to learn a different style of travel, and this has it’s own finesse as well. I think it’s good that we’ve already experienced so much as it allows us to be a bit more relaxed in many ways. I’m not doing as much planning, and don’t need to know everything in advance. Maybe it’s because people are so helpful, I’m not sure.
Take for instance the other day. Heading out on a day trip, we needed to get to the bus station. Amman has about 4 different stations scattered around, and I’d heard horror stories about how they were continually changing. At our hotel we wrote down the name of the station we wanted in Arabic and went to discover what a ‘service taxi’ was. Buses and taxi’s are obvious choices for transportation, but the ‘service taxi’ was a new one to us. Getting directions, we wandered down a back street to an area where white colored cabs were gathering. Service taxi’s are like taxi’s, but they have a specific destination and route and almost always fill to capasity. So they are like a bus, but much faster - like a taxi, but much cheaper. However, finding out where they are going requires sticking your head into each and asking the drivers where they are going. And doing that before the crowd of locals pushing ahead and getting in before you is a little difficult.
Arrival at the bus station is a breeze. Just walk up to anyone and state the name of the town you want to go to and you’ll be pointed in the right direction through the mass of busses congregated together (there must have been 50 at this one station). Sometimes waiting can be an hour or more as the driver waits for the bus to fill (why would a partially full bus leave?), but there are lots of guys going around selling cay and ah-way so the time goes fast enough. At the town, I had no idea how we would get out to the sites, but within minutes we ran into a cabbie and negotiated a good price - he would even wait around and drive us back.
At the end of the day we did a similar bounce around from station to station and bus to bus until we found one going to Amman. However, it wasn’t going to the station we had left from, and no one seemed to have enough English to tell us where it was going. But it was a start, so we took it (we haven’t even bothered with a map of the city - how much we’ve changed). But at the end of the line, I showed my little Arabic squiggle for ‘downtown’ to the driver and he pointed us towards some city busses across the street. Number 60, 61, 121, 124? So many busses were going by and stopping in this area we didn’t know which one was right.
Stopping to chat with a local, he again reassured us that these busses would go downtown and even offered to help with a service taxi if we wanted. After setting off towards the busses, we realized that he’d followed us through about 10 lanes of insane Middle Eastern traffic to make sure we got on alright. So number 61 it was. We hopped on to see where this would take us!
It seemed to be taking a different route than others we’d been on before as nothing seemed familiar. But then Brian notices part of a ruin site that we’d passed before, so we hopped off and start walking around trying to find our way to the hostel. No problems. Simple, right?