Border crossings from Egypt, into Israel then Jordan
Late last night, we made a brief stop after the Suez Tunnel, Egypt to grab a bit of food. To our amazement in the carpark we met some other long-distance car travellers. The Zapp family (parents Herman and Candelaria, plus 4 lovely young children) set off from Argentina 15 years ago in a big old 1928 American car (a Graham-Paige, if anyone's ever heard of that) with a dream to travel the world in this dignified but ancient automobile. All four children have been born on their travels, and everything that this family of six needs to live is strapped to the car, including a tent on the roof, and kitchen strapped to the back. The contrast between their travels in their car, and our Challenge in our Touareg could not be more different, but we all felt we had something in common to share in that late night Egyptian carpark. What a pleasure to get a glimpse inside their astonishing life; but as ever, our clock was running and we had to wave them goodbye and get off into the night.
After taking the long route around the full Southern coast road of Egypt's Sinai peninsula through the night, we finally said goodbye to our two great long-term Egyptian fixers Hatem and Turbo at the border. They had travelled the whole 24 hours through their country alongside us through to reach Taba, the border point with Israel.
It took around an hour to get through the process of leaving Egypt; then we moved 100m through to the adjoining Israeli border. We were only entering Israel to travel 15 minutes inside the country to get to our exit point to Jordan at the Rabin border - our exit point was almost visible from our entry point. But nevertheless at 04:00 began a 2 and a half hour border procedure. We had to remove every single item from the car to be put through x-rays and inspection. The Touareg itself had to be x-rayed. Vehicle documentation, engine and chassis number verification come next. Passport checking took a further 45 minutes. Finally, after all this and with everything loaded back up again we could set off to cover the mere 10km through the seaside town of Eilat, Israel.
Eilat is a popular holiday resort in a beautiful location, at the far end of the Red Sea. Politically it's a in quite a hot-spot; from the Israeli beach you can see Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian beaches within a couple of km of you. We passed easily through the town much too early for the holidaymakers to be awake.
So came the exit control from Israel (which thankfully wasn't quite as demanding as the entrance procedure), and our entry into the Jordanian border control. Again, our local fixers from both sides helped to smooth us through the paperwork, and after another hour or so we were finally able to get moving properly into Jordan. All in all, about 5 hours of border procedures to cover the three countries, and no more than 10km travelled in this time. Frustrating for our progress, but it comes as no surprise.
We are now approaching the capital city Amman after a three hour drive North through the parched dry land of Jordan. Once we reach Amman, we are heading straight to the airport where our own Antanov 74 cargo plane is already waiting for us. With Syria way too risky to consider passing through, we have dispensation for the World Record to fly over the troubled country from the very Northern airport of Jordan over to Adana, the most Easterly airport in neighbouring Turkey.
We will drive the Touareg up the rear access ramp into the body of the plane, have it strapped down tightly, and take our places on the jump seats in the cockpit. Excited? You bet.
We will update you from the other end of the flight in Turkey.