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Und noch ein Zaun…

Der Grenzübergang von Mozambique nach Südafrika war nicht nur zügig und problemlos, sondern auch noch sehr angenehm, da wir die Grenze in dem Länderverbindungspark Limpopo/Krüger Nationalpark überquerten und nur zwei einsame Abfertigungshütten vorfanden. Was der Limpopo Nationalpark an wilden Tieren zu wenig geboten hatte, konnte der Krüger Nationalpark in ein paar Stunden wieder ausgleichen. Uns wurde die ganze Tierweltpalette präsentiert und fast alle Tiere waren von nahester Entfernung zu beobachten. Allerdings mussten wir dieses Vergnügen mit vielen anderen teilen, da der Krüger Nationalpark sehr gut besucht war. Etwas schockiert waren wir über die Campsites, die die Infrastruktur einer Kleinstadt boten, da diese für die Massen konstruiert wurden. Es gab Tankstellen, Geldautomaten, einen gut sortierten Laden, medizinische Versorgung, etc. Kein Wunder, dass jeder Platz vergeben war und wir uns irgendwo in die Mitte stellen mussten. Jedoch hatten wir von dort den besten Blick, die anderen Camper belustigt beobachten zu können. Zuerst wurde ihr Fahrzeug mit einem Wasserschlauch vom Straub befreit und danach der Platz mit einem Besen gefegt, damit anschließend ihre vollausgerüstete Küche über Stunden hinweg aufgebaut werden konnte. Das erinnerte uns sehr an die Stuttgarter Kehrwoche und hatte mit Natur nichts zu tun. Ganz zu schweigen davon, dass die Campsites einem Hochsicherheitstrakt glichen. Ein hoher Elektrozaun mit einem gut ausgebildeten Security-Service beschützte die Camper rund um die Uhr vor den „wilden Tieren“.

Nach zwei Tagen Krüger Nationalpark ging es nach Johannesburg zu unseren Freunden Sabine und Joe mit ihren beiden Kindern. Auch in Johannesburg leben die Menschen hinter Elektrozäunen mit höchsten Securitystandards. Die „weißen“ Johannesburger bewegen sich nur in eingezäunten Bereichen und halten nachts niemals an roten Ampeln an. Wir sind nachts erst gar nicht gefahren. Auf der Hauptverkehrsstraße vor Johannesburg wies uns ein Straßenschild darauf hin, dass in dem Bereich auch tagsüber besonders viele Überfälle stattfinden und man auf keinen Fall stoppen soll. Wir konnten aber nichts Auffälliges feststellen. Die eingezäunten „Gated Communities“ bieten alles was das Herz begehrt, wie sicheres luxuriöses Wohnen mit Seen, Hügeln, Tennisplätzen, Spazier- und Joggingstrecken sowie Einkaufsmöglichkeiten gleich um die Ecke. Was für ein Unterschied zu den Blechhütten in den Townships, die keinen Zentimeter zum Atmen lassen. Für uns war es eine angenehme Abwechslung, mal wieder in einem Haus zu wohnen, obwohl wir das Reisen mit unserem Auto sehr genießen. Vor allem wurden wir fürstlichst bekocht und verwöhnt. Vielen Dank noch einmal an die beiden.

Nach dieser schönen Abwechslung fuhren wir zum Kalahari Gemsbockpark. Das ist ein Transfrontierpark der sich über die Länder Südafrika, Botswana und Namibia erstreckt. Wir durchquerten wunderschöne Wüstenlandschaften auf der südafrikanischen Seite und fuhren zu einer der abenteuerlichsten Campsites auf der Botswana Seite. Matopi Camp 2 (GPS Koordinaten S25 14.985 E21 30.691). Nur ein Schild wies darauf hin, dass wir an unserem Campingplatz waren, der exklusiv für uns reserviert war. Es gab weder Zäune, noch Toiletten oder Duschen und schon gar kein Wasser. Da unser Toyota voll ausgestattet ist (sogar mit Buschdusche) genossen wir es sehr, mitten in der Natur ganz für uns alleine zu sein. Wir mussten nur gut die Augen aufhalten, da es unter anderem Löwen und Leoparden in dem Park gibt. Wir verbrachten zwei herrliche Tage im Mabuasehube Camp (GPS Koordinaten S24 58.415 E21 59.346) am Rand der Kalahari.
Die Rückfahrt über die nördliche Botswanaseite hätte ausschließlich nur mit zwei Fahrzeugen durchgeführt werden dürfen, da die einsame Tiefsandstrecke alle paar Wochen mal von jemandem befahren wird. Nach langem Hin und Her, ließ uns der zuständigen Herr auf der Botswana Seite aber doch alleine fahren. Schließlich fuhren wir ohne Probleme quer durch Afrika und die 100 km Offroadstrecke war dann auch ein Kinderspiel.  Wir übernachteten noch einmal mitten in der Wildnis mit Blick auf eine Pan, (Mosimane Camp S25 07.813 E21 24.663) auf der Herden von Gnus, Büffel und Oryxe friedlich grasten. Das nennen wir Natur.

Weniger Natur bot dann wieder die Nossob (GPS Koordinaten S25 25.320 E20 35.770) auf der südafrikanischen Nationalparkseite. Die Nossob Campsite war ähnlich wie die Campsite im Krüger Nationalpark ausgestattet. Was für ein unterschied in ein und demselben Park in unterschiedlichen Ländern. Natürlich fehlte auch hier der beliebte Elektrozaun nicht, da sich die Südafrikaner anscheinend nur hinter Elektrozäunen wohlfühlen.

Am nächsten Morgen ging es nach Mata Mata um nach Namibia einzureisen und den Park zu verlassen. Unser Carnet de Passage wurde schon beim Kalahari Gemsbockpark Entrance Gate auf der Südafrikanische Seite ausgestempelt.

Highlights:

  • Die artenreiche Tierwelt im Krüger Nationalpark
  • Der abenteuerliche Kalahari Gemsbock Park auf der Botswana Seite
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and another fence….

The border crossing in the connecting National Park Limpopo/Kruger of the two countries Mozambique/South Africa was very pleasant because the clearance was done in two little isolated huts. Luckily Kruger National Park compensated for the missing animals of Limpopo National Park within a couple of hours. We were surprised by getting to see the whole range of wild animals even from a very close distance. The negative part was just that we had to share the pleasure with a lot of other visitors. Also a bit shocking for us were the campsites. They almost offered the infrastructure of a small town and were made for masses of tourists. For example there were gas stations, ATM’s, a well-stocked shop, medical treatment, etc. No wonder that every campsite space was occupied and we had to park somewhere in the middle. However this spot offered the best view for camper watching. The first thing our temporary South African neighbors did at their arrival was cleaning their car because there was a bit of dust on it. Afterwards they swept the floor in order to build up their fully equipped kitchen for hours. This reminded us very much of the weekly cleaning service in Stuttgart and was far away from being in nature. What a difference to other African countries. Not to forget to mention that the whole campsite resembled a high-security wing.  A high electrical fence with a well prepared security service protected the camper from “wild animals” around the clock.

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After two days Kruger National Park we visited our friends Sabine and Joe with their kids in Johannesbourg. Also in Johannesbourg people live behind electrical fences with highest security standards. The “white” people from Johannesbourg only move around in these fenced areas. Additionally they never stop at red traffic lights at night. We did not drive at all at night then. On one of the main roads close to Johannesbourg a traffic sign warned us about violent attacks in this area and we should not stop under any circumstances. However we did not notice anything unusual. The fenced “gated communities” offer every single convenience e.g. secure luxurious accommodation with lakes, hills, tennis courts, walking and jogging trails, etc. as well as a shopping paradise just around the corner. What a difference to the corrugated iron huts in the townships that do not allow only one additional breath. It was a pleasant change for us to live in a house again even though we really enjoy travelling with our car. We were especially spoilt from Sabine with the best cuisine ever. Thanks again to our friends.

After this nice break we drove to Kalahari Gemsbockpark. This is a trans-frontier park of the countries South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. We drove through wonderful landscapes on the South African site and arrived at one of the most adventurous campsite at the Botswana site which was exclusively reserved for us alone. Only a little sign in the middle of the most beautiful nature stated that we were at the right place. There were neither toilets nor showers or running water and luckily no fences. We did not mind at all because our Toyota is fully equipped even with a bush shower. We just needed to watch out for Lions or Leopards. The return trip over the northern track was compulsory for to two cars because of security reasons in the event of a car break down. Hardly anyone drives on that isolated deep sand road and there would be no help for weeks. However we convinced the responsible guy on the Botswana side to let us go alone. After all we drove through all the African countries without any difficulty and the 100 km off-road was an easy game.  One more time we camped in the middle of the wilderness with a marvelous view over a pan. We saw herds of wildebeest, buffalos and Oryx’s grazing peacefully. That was pure nature.

Unfortunately the Nossob (GPS coordinates S25 25.320 E20 35.770) campsite on the South African site was again far away from being in the wilderness. Similar to the Kruger campsite Nossob offered a well-equipped infrastructure. What a difference in one single national park but different countries. Of course the popular electrical fences were not missing either. Apparently South Africans only feel comfortable in electrical gated areas.

The next morning we drove to Mata Mata in order to enter Namibia and to leave the Kalahari Gemsbock National Park. Our Carnet was already stamped out at our arrival at Two Rivers Entrance Gate on the South African Site.

Highlights:

  • Marvelous animal watching at  Kruger National park
  • The adventurous Kalahari Gemsbok Park on the Botswana Site
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Autumn Feeling

Zimbabwe, once the economic African paradise that is now almost run down. A dream land of natural resources, fertile grounds, diverse beautiful national parks as well as service orientated and creative people. Zimbabwe, a political disaster without any future prospects for the population.

As expected the border crossing to Zimbabwe was done quickly and we drove to Victoria Falls village in order to see the 400 meter spray from a distance. Apparently the best spot offers Victoria Falls Hotel and we also agree with it. The view from the hotel terrace was spectacular. We enjoyed the spray shimmering in rainbow colors over the connection bridge of the two countries Zambia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately one night in the traditional colonial hotel would have been way too expensive for us therefore we were happy with “high tea” in the afternoon. The village Victoria Falls has craft shops or markets at every corner with art collections from the entire country. The Zimbabwe people are big art masters in African stone and wood sculptures and they produce something creative out of every material or fabric.

The next day we drove to Hwenge National Park and stayed at Sinamatella Camp (GPS coordinates S18 35.139 E26 19.101) on top of a hill with a fantastic view over the untouched wilderness. As the campsite was not surrounded with fences we had to be prepared again for some visitors at night. However we only heard the lions and elephants roaring from a distance. Hwenge National Park is known for its huge herds of elephants and we were lucky. When we woke up we saw already a big herd grazing further down the hill. And when we were cruising around many more Elephants were walking in front or next to our car every couple of meters. It must have been the elephant’s special walking day. The next day we were sitting on top of our Toyota for a “sundowner” watching lots of hippos and big crocodiles in a dam. We could not believe that locals were fishing in this dam the next morning, standing until their hips in deep water without any protection. They must have been either very desperate or totally crazy to risk their life. We stayed one more night at the Jambili Private Campsite (GPS coordinates S18 55.382 E26 53.221) and had a lovely evening with a couple from Dortmund.  Their Toyota is parked in Namibia and they travel in Africa every year for three months.

After four safari days we took a driving break at the campsite Worlds View Campsite (GPS coordinates S20 30.146 E28 25.575) at a Farm close to Bulawanyo. The view from there to Matobo National park was indeed stunning especially now during the cooler season. The colors were amazing because of the changing of the leaves (it felt almost like autumn at home). We were very surprised to be welcomed by a white farmer and asked him immediately how he managed to still keep his farm. Sadly, he is one of the very few white farmers left in Zimbabwe. Apparently one advantage is that his farm is located closely to the tourist spot Matobo National Park and the other one is that he does not grow anything. However he spoke secretly and he really hopes that he will not attract any attention. Approximately 200 farms have been expropriated only few years ago and in the meantime their land is almost deserted.  The farm ground is dried out and nothing grows anymore. We suspected that President Mugabe must have given these farms to friends or relatives that did not have any clue about agriculture.  As Zimbabwe is now producing very little basic food, everything has to be imported expensively from South Africa. The prices are incredibly high and not many people can afford this. A lot of people are unemployed and maybe this is one of the reason why poaching in National Parks is increasing enormously and the wild animals are getting less and less. The world view farm also has serious problems with poaches about once a month.

After two cold nights at the world view campsite we visited Matobo National Park. Matabo is known for their well-kept cave paintings which are approx. 60 000 years old. In addition Matobo is a very spiritual place, the old Bushmen visited regularly in the old days. Furthermore the park offers a lot of beautiful walking trails (but also with a lot of snakes). Only few tourists visit the park and it felt like we were the only visitors until we met surprisingly a German couple from Freiburg at a cave. Their Landcruiser is also based in South Africa and they travel with it several times a year through Africa. We could not stop exchanging stories and experiences and therefore decided to camp together at a lake with a spectacular view to the balancing rocks.

Our next destination point was the Great Zimbabwe Ruins from the 13th century because they were conveniently on our way to Mozambique. We were impressed by the well-kept stone walls and we enjoyed especially the view from the king’s balcony on top of the mountains. Surprisingly at the attached Great Zimbabwe campsite (GPS coordinates S20 16.290 E30 55.843) we met the Swiss family we had exchanged several emails before our Africa departure in October. The Swiss family had left in July and drove almost the same tour as we did (however they could still drive through Syria). They have two lovely kids with the age of four and six years and the entire family looked so relaxed and happy. They enjoyed like us every single day of their trip. This also confirms that a journey like that can easily be done also with children.  Of course their small converted travel lorry offers much more comfort than our Toyota.

We continued our way to the (at this time of the year) very cold Zimbabwe mountain area Vumba Botanical Reserve (very cold means for African countries 25 degrees during the day and 2 degrees at night – at least always sunny. However we slept in our roof tent and were freezing!). We drove through beautiful landscapes that almost looked like a jungle with huge African trees and wonderful flowery plants. This area must have been a posh tourist area for rich people during Zimbabwe’s former economic heights. We could only guess how wealthy the country was by looking at these incredible luxurious villas and hotels.  As we were craving for warmer temperatures we only stayed for one night at the Ndundu Lodge und Camping (GPS coordinates S19 07.089 E32 46.548) and were heading off to the Mozambique border the next day.

In the entire country the campsites and accommodations looked a bit run down. Because of the unstable political situation there was no tourism at all for years. In the meantime the number of tourists is increasing however it is still very low.  This might be because in some countries there are still travel warnings for Zimbabwe. Additionally we heard from many people that successful enterprises will be immediately expropriated and therefore everyone is trying to keep their property on low standard. Furthermore some nations do really have difficulties travelling through Zimbabwe. For example South Africans were telling us that they had to stop at each police check point in order to get checked at every single part in their car and afterwards they had to pay a lot of bribe money.  We did not even have to stop once at the check points. Another thing we also noticed immediately was that how well trained, clever and quick the people were. Zimbabwe was not only economically the most successful country but it had also one of the best education systems in Africa. We had many conversations with locals and we could tell how desperate and helpless the people are. Hopefully the political situation will change soon that the population will be able to get some future prospects.

Our highlights:

  • The fantastic spray view from Victoria Falls Hotel
  • „Hunting“ for elephants at Hwenge Nationalpark
  • The marvelous view from World View campsite
  • The relaxing Matobo National park
  • The great Zimbabwe mountain ruins
  • The spectacular mountain area at Vumba Botanical Reserve
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Rainy Season

Zambia, a huge country with warm hearted people.  An untouched African spot on the way to find access to international markets. A country in the dilemma between traditions and free market interests.

When we crossed the border to Zambia we also noticed here how friendly the people are. No helpers, no money change shouters, only efficient handling. We were immediately out of customs after we got a visa, the required stamps and paid the carbon emission tax for our Toyota. Firstly we went to the ATM and then to the filling station. How relaxing life can be if diesel is available again at all filling stations!

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From Chipata we drove north-west to the South Luangwa National Park.  There are no campsites in the park therefore we stayed directly at the National Park at the Luangwa River in the Croc Valley Camp (GPS coordinates S13 06.010 E31 47.644). At our arrival the campsite manager warned us immediately not to leave any fruits like mango’s, oranges etc. in the car. It happens very often that some elephant’s walk into the campsite and smash everything into pieces in order to get the delicious fruits. Luckily we put everything immediately into our fridge because at sunset one elephant swam across the river and came to our campsite.

Early next morning we entered the National Park. Unfortunately after the first hundred meters it started to rain and with that the probability dropped a lot to see wild animals. Apparently also during rainy season the park is known for a spectacular fauna. But we realized that all animals are hiding away during rainy days (of course apart from crocodiles and hippos). Nevertheless we did not want to give up and continued our way to the north on the well prepared main roads that were covered with red stones. The side roads were impassable because the black soil transformed the track into incredibly slippery mud only with few drops of rain. Apparently the street workers must have run out of red stones because without any warning the well prepared street turned suddenly into the feared slippery black mud soil. It felt like ice rain back home! Our Toyota skidded and ended up in an over flooded mud ditch. And here again; we were standing totally alone in the pouring rain. However this time the conditions were a bit more challenging than in Rwanda: there were no Rwandan helpers and there was a slight probability that a wild animal might get close to us. It is actually not permitted to get off the car in the National Park but we did not have any other choice. The car would not move anymore and there was no help from someone else to be expected for the next couple of days. We could not help but rolling up our sleeves again and started digging. Nasty biting ants and disgusting worms were crawling up our legs, but no matter what we had to continue. And in fact it was worthwhile: after almost two hours of working heavily we were ready to go and managed to get the Toyota out with a lot of power. What a relief!  As we still did not want to give up we drove towards south searching for some animals. However the street conditions were really bad. The roads were either flooded or covered with the feared black mud soil. Fortunately we made it without getting stuck again but that was only with big luck and some skills. At least at the end we saw some animals.

After one day break and cleaning we continued our journey. We wanted to take the road directly along South Luangwa National Park however a British guy stopped us after 15 km. He said that even though the landscape is very beautiful, we can only take this road during dry season in July or August and ideally with two cars.  Only few cars can make it alone in dry season but the road is impassable during rainy season as the rivers are flooded. The British guy and his wife live in the middle of the forest at South Luangwa National Park and founded a small NGO some years ago. The project is mainly about preservation of flora and fauna in the South Luangwa area. Poachers are harming the National Park sensitively and tree chopping for fire wood or charcoal outside the park makes the surrounded forests and its old trees more and more shrink. The British couple is creating awareness among the population and they educate young children already in school. The project is solidly sustainable and was awarded with the World Prize for Sustainable Energy of the European Parliament Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. Please have a look at their website for more information  http://chipembele.org/.

As we did not want to run the risk to get stuck on this road until July (in spite of the beautiful landscape), we turned and used the main road to Lusaka. In Lusaka we had to run some errands and noticed immediately that we were getting closer to South Africa because the variety of goods was almost like at home – however the prices were incredibly high. We haven’t found out yet how the locals can afford these products because their average income is really low. We drove 15 km outside of Lusaka to stay one night at the Pioneer Camp (GPS coordinates S15 23.732 E28 27.045) in the middle of the forest. It was really worthwhile to drive out of the city to this idyllic place.

Our next stop was the farm Moorings Campsite (GPS coordinates S16 11.624 E27 32.600), which is conveniently located between Lusaka and Livingstone (Victoria Falls). The core product of the farm is maize in addition to their pigs and cows. We met the Swiss couple Tatjana and Michael. They started travelling through Africa six years ago and settled down on the farm about three years ago. We heard interesting and exciting stories of their experiences.  The campsite is one part of the farm and is usually quiet and peaceful. However when we arrived there on Good Friday we were surrounded by drumming and happy singing. The local farm workers with families and relatives celebrated the Easter holidays with singing, dancing and drumming almost continuously from Good Friday to Easter Monday.  We walked on the farm several times and as we were curious we participated on a service at their farm church on Easter Sunday and took a video of their activities. The locals were happy to see us and integrated us immediately into their community. Luckily we did not need to sing.

After the Easter holidays we drove to Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Sambesi River has grown to a huge raging torrent during rainy season and we were very impressed to see the masses of water plunging 110 meters down the rocks over a width of 1708 meter. However we were not able to see to the ground because of the up to 400 meters high spay that looks like fog. The Spray is visible even from approx. 30 km distance. We were drenched immediately by the spray and it felt like a tropical rain shower. It was great fun to wander along the falls and to cross the bridge on top with the best view point. After we were dry again we drove immediately to the Zimbabwean border, which is right behind Victoria Falls. As the entire area around Vic Falls is very touristy we did not want to stay one night longer on the camp site. Besides the fact that we were fed up with the helicopters, that were continuously cruising around and making terrible noises. The helicopters offer tourists a beautiful Vic Falls view for 15 minutes.

We enjoyed Zambia a lot in spite of rainy season. The country has everything to compete with the international market. It has many mineral resources, a variety of great national parks in every part of the country and a beautiful landscape. Additionally the people are warmhearted and friendly. Nevertheless we very often felt like we were still in an untouched African country. We can only recommend Zambia as a travel destination.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful South Luangwa National Park
  • Different Easter vacation on the farm Moorings
  • The fascinating Victoria Falls
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Welcome to Middle East

Getting out of the strict organization, out of security controls and getting into the orient. Bargaining, hawker’s on the highway, men with long robes, women with scarfs, luxury limousines parking next to goats, people living with goats, donkeys, camels and at the same time many luxury hotels and resorts. Hospitable, friendly and honest habitants. Diving into a fascinating country with a vast variety of contrast’s.

On the 23rd of October early in the morning we crossed the border to Jordan. The Israel departure was easy, without any troubles. We handed in the custom papers, paid 100 Shekel (approx.. 20 €) and after 15 minutes we already left Israel.

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In Jordan we went through passport controls and got vehicle insurance for one week (24 JHD, approx. 25 €). We couldn’t trust our eyes, after 20 minutes we were in Jordan! That was so relaxing after the challenging arrival at Israel port 10 days earlier. GPS’s are not allowed to bring to Jordan. Therefore we did not have one and asked people to find our way to Aqaba. Because we did not bring maps either. The first thing we did was looking for a petrol station because diesel in Jordan costs only 0,51 JHD (approx.. 0,53 Euro). It is pure pleasure filling up our tanks in Jordan with this price (we have two tanks, altogether 220 liter!).

We drove directly to Petra from Aqaba and arrived at the Ammarin Bedouin Camp in the afternoon. The Ammarin Bedouin Camp is beautifully situated in the middle of bizarrely shaped rocks. These present a fascinating landscape (GPS coordinates N30°22.912′ E35°27.032′). We can only recommend this marvelous place: friendly Bedouins, clean bathrooms and an incredible silence. Far away from muttering generators (camping in Israel), aircraft noises (camping in Eilat) or lovely Muezzins next door, that get you out of bed with an incredible shock early in the morning. No smelly garbage’s next to our roof tent and especially no one that looks at us as we were from another planet. We just enjoyed ourselves at this place for 3 nights.

As we really had a tough program in Israel, it was time to relax for one day on the 24th of October. So, we had a good night sleep, run some errands and did some sightseeing in Little Petra in the afternoon, which is also a charming place. In Little Petra we bumped into Tom and Susi. Small world, we met Tom in Venice at the campground two weeks earlier and Marc, who also belongs to their group, in Wadi Musa just few hours earlier. The three of them are also on their way to South Africa with their motor bikes. Their blogs are under 321offroad.com. We had a lot to share (routes, tours, experiences, etc.) and we got stuck at a Bedouin tea place in the middle of the rocks in Little Petra. Back at our Ammarin Bedouin camp, we were sitting at the fire place and talking to the guides in the evening. They told us that apparently the unstable situation in Syria, Egypt and Libya affects the tourisms in Jordan very badly. At least the Bedouin Camp was almost empty when we were there. Good for us but bad for the Bedouin business. Apart from the sightseeing highlight Petra we did not see many tourists either.

After a freezing cold night we visited Petra on the 25th of October during the day. Firstly we were a bit shocked by the entrance fees (55 Euro each); however we must admit that every cent was worthwhile to spend. We have not seen anything comparable yet (and we both have been travelling a lot). Even the Acropolis seems to be insignificant compared to Petra. It is unbelievable that almost 100 000 people used to live there in the old days. Disregarding the masses of tourists and the locals that are trying to sell something, Petra is a magical place. The contrasts between the rugged landscapes and the partly very well kept buildings that are mostly chopped out of stones, make you feel like diving into another world and time zone. The local Bedouins still live in Petra’s rock caves. During the day they are trying everything to convince the tourists using their means of transportation (horses, donkeys, camels). One guy called his super speed donkey Ferrari und was quite successful with it.

Back at our Ammarin Bedouin Camp at the fire place in the evening, we talked to two tour guides from Amman. The two of them are a perfect address for outdoor equipment, tips and information about outdoor vehicle equipment and Jordan. The  address is No1 4×4 8, Salim  Bin Al-Harath Al Bayader Industrial Area. Arman. Tel. 06-581-6174. E-mail no14x4@gmail.com.

On the 26th of October early in the morning we drove from Petra to Wadi Rum for off-road driving. Finally deep sand, finally wild camping, finally campfire. The people at the visitor center in Wadi Rum welcomed us friendly. Entrance fee per person 5 JHD and  20 JHD for our car (altogether approx. 33 Euro). The price included one dinner at the Bedouin camp and breakfast. However we preferred to cook by ourselves in the wilderness. Therefore we went immediately towards east in deep sand. Wadi Rum is a mixture of rugged mountains, deep canyons and in between high sand dunes. The nature offered spectacular sceneries that changed every few minutes even more beautifully while we were driving.

Lawrence from Arabia lived here for a long time and described the landscape fascinatingly.

The significant feature of the desert is not the vastness, the bright sunlight or the sparkling stars. But the significant feature is the dead silence. Nothing, quietness, no bird, no cracking, not even the slightest noise. Like that we spent the first night at the campfire in a siq (canyon). The temperature went from 30°C during the day down to 7°C.

27. 10. 2011. Viktoria got her first lesson in deep sand driving and she managed well. Dune’s up and down almost without any problems.  The Toyota also managed very well. We don’t have any troubles with the car so far apart from a small battery management problem from Sterling. It stops working from time to time and is not charging the second battery properly. Hopefully the problem will be solved soon.

After five hours and over 60 kilometers of driving through fascinating landscapes and sceneries we stopped at a huge mountain with a beautiful view for our place for the night. This place was a bit livelier then the one yesterday because we got some visits from local Bedouin’s – with camel, without camels with jeeps or with desert hunting dogs. All of them were very pleasant and accommodating. We opened a bottle of champagne (we brought with from Germany) and had it for sundowner. What a perfect day!

At this stage we would like to highlight that we were always welcomed very friendly and accommodating in Jordan. We felt from the first moment until the departure very comfortable.

On the 28th of October 2011 early in the morning we had to say good bye to our small paradise Wadi Rum in order to go back to Aqaba. We arrived at noon and bought immediately the tickets at the AB office in the center of Aqaba (GPS coordinates: N 29`31,7951 E 35`0,393975) for the ferry to Nuweiba, Sinai-Egypt. Departure of the ferry 18:00 h and 16:00 h arrival at the Aqaba port for check-in.  Great, what a fantastic time, we thought! In order to keep us updated we needed to look for a pace to get internet access. The Mövenpick Hotel in Aqaba was kind enough to give us free internet in their hotel lobby. Sitting at the hotel lobby we felt like in another world, far away from the backpacker and outdoor scene. Deep frozen up to our bones because of the freezing cold Mövenpick Hotel aircon and after three hours of hard computer work we went back to the turmoil and crush of Aqaba.  Sharp at 16:00 h we were at Aqaba port however nobody was working there at the check-in. The departure of the ferry was all of a sudden postponed to 23:00 h or maybe 01:00 h in the morning inshallah. At the end we drove with our car on the ferry at 01:30 h and the ferry left almost on time (with 9 hours delay) at 03:00 h in the morning. This was a first sign that we were getting closer to Africa. At the Aqaba ferry terminal was a big mess of people with huge luggage’s yelling  at each other and having big arguments. The whole of Aqaba city (as also is Eilat in Israel) is a duty free zone. Therefore it seemed (at least we had the impression) that the entire middle east shopped in Aqaba and used the ferries. The incredible big pieces of luggage could never be carried by one person alone. Therefore there were big empty lorries for carrying the luggage on the ferry. However the people had to fight for a space for their luggage on the lorries. What a disaster and mess… Therefore all the yelling and arguments.

We will tell more about the ferry trip in our next blog.

Altogether we can say that Jordan is an absolute fascinating country. Everyone should go there once in their life.

Our highlights were:

  • The unspectacular entry to Jordan
  • Beautiful, fascinating landscapes and sights in Petra and Wadi Rum
  • Off road driving in Wadi Rum’s deep sand
  • Wild camping in dead silence and under the stars of Wadi Rum
  • Very friendly helpful and open minded people
  • Chaotic situation at the Aqaba ferry terminal
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Driving through Holy Land

From Ashdod via Tel Aviv, Rosh Hanikra, Kafar Haruf, Ein Gev, Banias (Jordan Springs), Jerusalem, En Gedi, Mizpe Ramon to Eilat.

Looking back to our first week in Israel two things were remarkable for us. Firstly: apparently there are only public holidays and Shabbat days in Israel (or maybe we just were there at the wrong time). Secondly: The people in Israel appear to be insensitive to noises as well as they love to be continuously surrounded by loud music. You can also tell because they bring their muttering generators to the campsites.

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Now one by one: We arrived on the 13th of October in Ashdod and it was a public holiday. Nobody was working and the entire port was deserted. At least the ladies and gentlemen from the immigration and police came to our cargo ship and examined us for hours. However at the end they told us that we are not able to leave the ship at least for another day not even without our car. We were not suffering too much to stay for another day because the ship has become some kind of home for us after one week. So we stayed on the ship together with the crew.

The next morning we drove happily and energetically with our car from the ship, but we were stopped at the customs all of a sudden.” Sorry, no one is working today because it is Friday, there was a public holiday yesterday and there is Shabbat tomorrow.” Great, we had to leave the car at the port for another two days. So we decided spontaneously to take the bus from Ashdod to Tel Aviv because we did not want to stay any longer in our new home. The bus drive was very pleasant however the bus terminal in Tel Aviv was just a mess. Tel Aviv has the worst bus terminal that has ever been created by a human being! We walked the last 4 km to Old Jaffa because we did not want to stay any minute longer in this disgusting building. Luckily we still got a room in the Old Jaffa Hostel. It is nicely situated next to the old Jaffa market and has a lovely terrace. In the afternoon we visited our cargo ship companions Tessa and Giora in their beautiful house in Old Jaffa. They have a fantastic terrace overlooking Tel Aviv and a view to the mountains of Jerusalem. When we were visiting them we realized that we will miss their daily stories about their life and their time in Israel.

Tel Aviv is a wonderful city and we really enjoyed ourselves. Nonetheless we had to get out our car from the port in Ashdod. Therefore, we were heading off to our agency Grimaldi Lines in Ashdod (Alaluv, GPS Koordinaten N 31,827 E 34,653) on the 16th of October very early in the morning. To get our car out of the customs we needed insurance for the car. So we tried for about two hours unsuccessfully getting the insurance. Unfortunately all insurance employees were on vacation because of the public holiday week. Before we were almost giving up, our agency recommended us to take some kind of a customs helper. His name was Chacho. Chacho was expensive (80 Euro!) however we really needed him because without him we would still be sitting at the port in Ashdod. Via his connections we got a vehicle insurance for one month within short. In addition he escorted us smoothly through all administrational port duties, e.g. customs, port agent, security, police, etc. etc. He even approached the managing director of the Ashdod port in order to convince him to get one last stamp for our departure. Unfortunately the responsible person for that only worked until 14:00 h because of the public holiday week! Finally at 17:30 h after another detailed check of our car we got out of the port.  At this place a big thank you to Chacho. Whenever someone needs support at the Ashod port with a vehicle, we really recommend getting in touch with Chacho no: +972-507206901.

As it was already pitch dark at 17:30 h in Israel we decided to drive to a campsite north of Tel Aviv. It was beautifully situated directly at the see (Yanai Beach Campsite N 32,3875 E 34,8644).

In between just a quick note to the camping situation in Israel: Campers in Israel drive to the nature with minimum 20 plastic bags, foam mattresses and a generator. At their arrival the first thing they do is to put a plastic cover on the existing tables and turn on their muttering generators for their home fridge they brought with. Not to forget to switch on local music and bright halogen lights. Apparently only one type of camping tent in different sizes exists in Israel because every single one looks the same. No wonder that we were the center of happening with our car tent attached to our roof whenever we arrived at the camp grounds. People came to us and were asking astonishingly and even took photos from us and the spectacular car with the roof tent. We almost had the feeling that the people had never seen this kind of car roof tent before and we felt very exotic. However we had very nice conversations with the people. Surely we will not create any clichés , but camping in Israel is totally different to Europe or Africa.

Coming back to our trip we continued our journey to the north of Israel right at the Lebanon border. In Kfar Rosch HaNikra we took the cable car for 250 meters in order to see the caves at the chalk rocks. From there we went to the national park at the Sea of Galilee. We stayed one night in Ein Gev (this place is not recommendable – a lot of garbage and not very nice). The next day we drove to the Golan Hights to the Jordan springs in the northeast of Israel. Ein Panias is a wonderful place and was founded by the Greeks. There is one of the three Jordan springs that joins together with the two other springs and forms the Jordan River. The water pours in huge quantities just from the ground and is collected in antique water basins. After our sightseeing tour, we camped close to Ein Panias on a lovely camping ground directly at the Jordan river. (GPS Koordinaten N 33,2227 E 35,6118).

As we both knew Jerusalem already and it was impossible to get accommodations right at the spot (because of another public holiday at our arrival as well as Shabbat two days later) we decided spontaneously to skip Jerusalem and go directly to En Gedi.  We stayed directly at the dead see. And again, as soon as we arrived people came to us from all directions and asked us about our tent and our tour. We had some interesting conversations.

On the way to Eilat we stopped at the big crater at Negev desert in Mispe Ramon. It was really worthwhile to see. Especially our Toyota got the first time a sandy off-road tour. The night was freezing cold and windy; therefore we were heading off the next day to Eilat. Eilat is right in the South of Israel and reminds a little bit of Miami style beaches with tons of tourists. On the next day we were heading off to the Jordan border.

Altogether we can say that we really enjoyed travelling through Israel.

The highlights of our Israel-Tour were:

  • The challenging arrival at the port in Ashdod
  • Passionate, interested und helpful people
  • Beautiful landscapes
  • Short Distances (Israel is really small)

The travel blog from  Tanja und Cederic from Israel. (In German only)