Day 15 - Off to Israel

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of Israel  , Jerusalem District,
Monday, October 15, 2012

It felt very early when the alarm went off at 5:30 but we jumped up, checked out and waited on the street to catch a taxi. After quite a wait we finally managed to get one and headed to the Jett bus station. We arrived at the station and saw a bunch of other tourists so felt like we were on the right track. Funny thing was after we had bought our ticket to the King Hussein Bridge crossing, all the other tourists climbed onto a different bus and we were left with locals once again. So much faith is placed in "the process" of getting from one place to another especially when you can't speak or read the language so we just went with the flow. We were very relieved when we were en route and started seeing signs for the bridge -shew!
It really is such an interesting landscape here. The airport area in Amman is so flat there isn't a hill in sight. Then as you drive towards the city it starts getting more and more mountainous and continues as you drive towards Israel. It is also very stark with white rock, sparse shrub and then palms and olive trees in some of the valleys. We saw caravans of camels and hills speckled with scrubby sheep as we drove towards the border crossing.
It was quite an interesting crossing. We arrived at the first departure stop on the Jordanian side. We went into a small building, had to hand in our passports at the first window and then it was passed to the guys in window two. We thought we had to pay a departure tax fee but no, they just kept our passports and told us to get back on the bus which was our original bus. Hmmmmmm. Which we did. About 20 minutes later an official got onto the bus and told us we needed to buy bus tickets. Everyone climbed off the bus, bought tickets for 4 Jordanian dinar (R48) per person and 1.5 JD per item of luggage. We then climbed back into the bus. The official then arrived about 15 minutes later with our passports and handed them out on the bus. We then left a few minutes later and started our drive across the bridge. It's not really a bridge but more of a well tarred road. We went through a few check points and then got stuck behind some trucks. When we finally arrived at the Israel side we climbed off the bus and found our bags just lying on the pavement. We picked them up and stood in the queue. As we were standing there these bag porter guys tell you to give them your bags and passports. Pretty scary but they take your bags and passports to a window, get a sticker for each and put the corresponding bar coded sticker onto your passport. They then pop your bags onto a conveyor belt that goes into the building and you really hope you'll see your bag again.
You then need to start the scanning, passport checks and answering questions process. It was quite quick and had a good flow although we didn't think all the scanning and checks were entirely necessary. Then we went through to collect our bags which were coming through on another belt. One of our bags came through fairly quickly and the other just didn't arrive. After a long wait Anton eventually spoke to an official who took him right into the baggage checking room where he found the bag just sitting alone on the one side. We were very relieved to get it.
Since we'd got through everything earlier than expected (it did take us from 7 to 11) we decided to contact the tour operator that was collecting us and ask for an earlier ride into Jerusalem. Not realizing Israel was an hour behind Jordan we ended up waiting close on 3 hours. The silliest thing was our lady taxi driver had actually arrived early but had been given the wrong name! So we both sat a few meters from each other for about an hour not realizing!
Anyway we headed into Jerusalem and our taxi driver was a fantastic tour guide really introducing us to Israel. It is a very interesting city with amazing terraced walls of stone surrounding it as you drive in on the highway. Our hotel is on the western side, the opposite side to the old city section. This is definitely a more fancy hotel to what we've been in and even has a pool! Yay! Funny observation is that there is no free Wifi in the rooms where as in the cheaper hotels there is. Here you have to pay for it.
We headed out straight away and walked into a neighborhood close by to get some water and food. We found a spot selling delicious looking rolls with hummus, salad stuff, tuna and an array of other delicious spreads. We nearly fainted though when the bill came to over 60 shekels, close to R150 for two big rolls, a big bottle of water, one iced tea and one flavored water at a street side sandwich shop. Fortunately they were the best, most delicious rolls we had ever eaten and made them last for lunch and dinner.
We then headed back to the hotel for a good washing, relaxing and recouping after all the travel. Tomorrow we are heading off for a half day old city tour, so exciting. We can't wait to start seeing this very special place.
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