Sheila and Yair do the world
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  • Passing boulders

    Posted on June 27th, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    usWe set off to a three day hike in the mountains. We don’t have any real plan. We found a nice trail in one of our day hikes and decided to let it take us where it may. The trail climbs through some villages and up the side of a beautiful valley going towards one of the snow peak mountains of the Dhauladhar range. We see many monkeys, birds and butterflies. After about two hours we get to a big ravine where the trail seems to stop. We look around going up and down and can’t seem to find any continuation. We have two choices to either go up the ravine or down to the river bed. We try and find a way down but to no avail. We see gorgeous green pools down below about 400 meters but there is no way we can get there. It is moments like these when I most envy birds. So we try going up the ravine. I was hoping we could go up the valley and then maybe around the other side making it a more interesting hike, the trail ending put an end to that idea. I also was hoping that we might pass by water and get to swim, but we are headed up. After passing a few big boulders we get to one which seems impassable. It is here that I discover that Sheila, whom is suppose to be the reasonable one and stop me from going to far, is crazier than I am. She spots a crack filled with weeds that goes all the way up the boulder. Now we usually don’t like weeds, always taking them out of our gardens and yards, there is even a verb for it which is always derogative. But weeds have very strong roots and they are your most reliable bet when reaching to pull yourself up or balancing yourself. So we climb up the crack totally relaying on the weeds as a rope. We pass that boulder only to find another one shortly after, we can’t pass this one so we take a smaller ravine to the right. We see a big tree in the distance and decide to have lunch there. It is a very steep climb with Sheila needing to give me a knee and me pulling her up once and twice us having to take off the backpacks and climb a crack putting our feet on one side and pushing our backs against the rock for leverage. We stop halfway up the cracks and pass the bags from one to the other to get them over. We finally reach the tree. Thy say the difference between courage and stupidity is only if you succeeded or not. So for now we are courageous. After launch we keep climbing until we see a flat grassy clearing to the right. It has been a stiff climb and we decide to camp early. From the campsite we can see the snowy peaks on one side and the rumbling valleys below us on the other. I wonder how is it that one planet can be so beautiful. We walk around a bit and find a nice rock that sticks out, that is our balcony for watching the sunset. We also see what seem to be flags, we take a picture with the camera and zoom in to discover they are actually Tibetan prayer flags, technology. So we can either try and go to the flags and look for a trail there or back down the way we came, we will sleep on it.

    As the sun starts setting we see two mountain deer climbing up a grassy ravine. It is a lot easier with four legs and no backpack.

    usWe see a beautiful sunset and we dedicate our thoughts to Gene and the Threadgill family. This day has ended but it will be etched in our hearts and it left many great memories just as I am sure Gene left many fond memories with the people who shared his life. Gene, wherever you are, there a re two people on a mountain top in India thinking about you. And to Maggie and the rest of the Threadgill family our hearts are with you and we wish you the best.

    In the morning we decide to try and get to the flags. It was a great adventure coming up here but neither of us rally wants to do it again quite yet.

    We have to climb through the bush to get to what seems to be the peak and from there to the right until the flags. We go for about an hour through bushes and trees. It is very steep just to give you an idea I am walking with a 20 centimeter long stick and don’t have to bend. After an hour the slope is much less steep. Most mountains become more gentle and welcoming as you ascend them (excluding volcanoes which are rough till the creator) as if they are saying you came this far you can’t be all that bad. Our mountain aside from offering us spectacular views and nice gentle paths also gives us patches of strawberries. I know I have lost Sheila. She has this thing about picking berries, any berries. She says it is from her ancestors who were hunters and gatherers. Her motto is no berry left behind and unlike the child left behind equivalent she really doesn’t lave many of them behind.

    We reach the grassy top. All day yesterday we saw huge raptors with white wings fly above us. They now land on a tree right beside us. They are vultures but their wings look just like eagles. We also see a shrine below us so we know we have a smoother way down. With all this we decide to climb to the top which seems very close now. It is a fake top but adrenalin has kicked in and you don’t feel tiered or hungry you just want to get to the top. Also we are on very good terms with the mountain now and the trail is clear and easy. After 5 fake tops we reach the real one. There is a Hindu shrine and Tibetan pray flags. We see the original river that we started walking on, the hill tops are all below us and there is just a small valley between us and the snow line. I again wonder how is it that one planet can be so beautiful. We decide to go to the snow line and then return through the other valley, looks like a circular trek after all. We cross the valley and a huge boulder field and start climbing to the snow line. We wash our cloth and feet in the ice cold river and rest in a nice patch of grass. There are herds of livestock here. Shepherds bring their goat sheep and even cows to graze here. There are little stone huts where they spend the night while with their flock. usFor the sake of privacy we decide to climb a hill opposite the snowy mountain. For the fifth time today I say “let’s climb a little more and then we will set camp”. It is worth it we are on top of the world now. It is the first time we are cold in India. We get right in the tent after dinner and the sunset.

    The third day we go down. We have reached an altitude of about 3500 meters. We go through Triund which is where people come up to see the mountains and some use it as a base camp before climbing to the pass which lies just above where we camped. The trail from here has many people and some shops selling cold drinks and snacks. It is not as natural as our way up but it is nice to have a trail under your feet.

    What a great hike this turned out to be with no real planning, rock climbing: check, circular rout: check, sleeping by a stream: check, snow line: check, easy descent: check, one of the best hikes ever.

    I keep thinking we were on the verge of missing all this if we had turned around and not climbed the first boulder. The lesson is always try passing life’s boulders you never know what great journey might lay behind them.

    A smaller lesson is be kind to weeds you never know when you might need them.

  • Wear no tear

    Posted on June 27th, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    India logic is a term I am going to start using to describe things that seem to make no sense but are the way of life here. Things like taking a bus somewhere and having it bring you somewhere else, taking a train that everybody says is 12 hours and ends up 24 hours or having a hotel owner quote three different prices for the same room in one sentence.

    On major India logic is that a little tear in a bill makes it lose its value, basically makes it worth its weight in toilet paper. We have a bill with a tear that is not being accepted by stores.

    Economies the world over are based on a certain system of trust. We go around with little pieces of paper which bear faces of people we believe helped the countries of which the federal bank who printed the bill belongs to. These pieces of paper have numeric symbols that represent what they are worth and as long as everybody is in agreement that is the value of the bill. Now I am oversimplifying, of course this is regulated by governments and there are financial institutions that run constant and complex calculations to determine the value of the different currencies. But in general, there is no way someone will give you a nice plate of rice with vegetable stew and bread for a piece of paper, no matter how nice the portrait, unless he agrees it represents something. As long as everybody is of the same mind that is what the paper is worth. Argentina thought their peso was worth a dollar, their economy wasn’t as strong and soon the world stopped believing it which made many Argentineans stop believing it which sent their peso down the drain.

    We all know there is a lot of psychology in economics. The exact same economy can be fundamentally strong one speech and collapse a few days later, adjusting in one sweep what all the little papers are worth. But we believe that despite psychology there is also some physical element of the value, based on how well the economy it represents is doing.

    Here in India it seems to be based on the wholeness o9f the bill itself. One tear will send the value of the bill plummeting. Is it better to base the value on psychology and notion of market performance or the intact form of the bill?

    You decide.

    Now we had many worn bills which where fine it is the torn bill that they don’t accept. I guess the term wear and tar wont work in Hindi as there seems to be a great distinction between the two.

    So now Sheila is going to have to put her crafty skills to work and try to conceal the tear. I will keep you updated.

  • Traveling with destiny

    Posted on June 22nd, 2009 Sheila Yair 1 comment

    shimlaWe are now in the mountains.

    We took a bus to kalka where the guidebook said you can take an unforgettable train up the mountains. The book doesn’t say anything else about kalka.

    When we got there we found out why. It is not a tourist town. There are only two hotels and it took me about half an hour to find them. The town itself is on a highway that is constantly busy. It takes you about 10 minutes to cross. Hence there is very little connection between the left side of town and the right side (Of course the hotels where on opposite sides). With luck we arrived the day of the weekly market, and it was on our hotel side of the highway. It was a huge market at least a square kilometer big. The first tear was cloth, shoes and house ware and the inner circle all food and vegetables. Punjab is the most agricultural state and one of the main suppliers of food in India. All different fruits and vegetables with lots of stalls selling snacks, pickles and other interesting and indefinable things. The market goes on till midnight so after sundown all the stalls had battery operated halogen lights, a sea of bright white lines.

    trainIn the morning we took the aforementioned unforgettable train. Now unforgettable can go both ways… this train climbs from 500 meters to about 2400 meters above sea level, it goes through 103 tunnels and over 24 bridges to do so. It is a big locomotive pulling 6 small cars that seem like a toy train (that is what the line is nicknamed). I decided to splurge and buy the A/C car seats. But all the 6 cars were the same, semi deluxe, a term which means just slightly above the chaotic normal seating. The views where amazing but the seats very hard and uncomfortable. After 7 hours we got to Shimla. It is finally chilly, the weather is great here and it is very refreshing to get out of the steaming hot lowlands. Unfortunately the whole country wants to escape the heat and Shimla is a big tourist attraction with the locals. It takes us a while to find a vacant room. Despite Shimla being a charming town in hilly pine forests, we stay here only one day as it is too hectic. We book a night bus to Kangra, semi deluxe of course. We ask twice to make sure we are on the right bus and board it. We have the front seats so plenty of leg room and we can comfortably stretch the night away. In the morning we ask the driver’s assistant if we are in Kangra but he just laughs and points to the horizon. At 7am we reach our final stop, Dharamsala. Not at all where we planed to go or the ticket we bought, India.

    Maybe it was destiny or karma or dharma or whichever of the other forces that prevail here but we got to Dharamsala.

    It is a beautiful little village in the foothills of the Himalaya, in the middle of huge pine forests with the backdrop of snowy peaks. It is also the home of the exile Tibetan community and the Dali Lama. I have already seen a couple of hills I would like to climb. It is very steep here so it takes some figuring out how to get to places. So I guess we will be staying here a while.

  • Welcome to India

    Posted on June 22nd, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    indiaWow so we are finally in India.

    The first thing you notice here is shit, yes I am talking about #2, doodoo, kaka you name it India has got it, and in mass quantity. You see it and smell it everywhere it hits you the minute you cross the boarder. With over a billion human anuses and who knows how many more billion animal ones working hard on a daily basis to fill the subcontinent up.

    On the other hand the number one cause of shit, food, is incredible here. Everything has such intricate and delicate flavors. You are tempted very 5 steps you take. There are stalls everywhere selling different things and even after a hearty meal you just have to stop and taste a few more things. My favorite so far is a chaat (snack) called paprichaat. It is chickpea and potato stew with tomatoes yogurt nuts and raisins. It is sweet tangy and spicy at the same time. I never thought I would boost a sweet dish but it is truly heavenly. Everything tastes so different it is undoubtedly the most complex cuisine in the world.

    There is a park in Delhi called the garden of the 5 senses but it seems that all of India is a garden of 5 senses. The smells, aside from the above mentioned you smell insent, spices and food everywhere.

    There is music from every corner, from the popish ballywood tunes to traditional religious music to the classical Indian music. Incredibly complex rhythms with ¼ tones scales that seem to come from a different reality. I have sat with some musicians and seen them play. I was playing a four string giutarish instrument, I played something Arabic sounding but then the musician took the instrument and played a classic raga. It was like me sitting in a car pretending to drive and then having him turn the engine on and go. For a western ear it is almost like hearing for the first time.

    Even the 6th sense, which I know nothing of, is probably well present here.

    But there is a lot of poverty and misery that accompanies these extreme sensory delights. It is hard to walk past all the beggars and crippled and not feel depressed.

    This is only my first impression, we have only been to the border and Delhi so I might have to delete this posting and deny all connection to it.

  • A bus ride from hell

    Posted on June 20th, 2009 Sheila Yair 1 comment

    There are two main border towns to get to India from Nepal. We look at the map and decide to take the one that is closer to Katmandu figuring that in India with the train things will move faster. we head to the station around 1pm. at the station we find out of course that things are not so simple. The rout that looks on the map to only be 90KM from Katmandu is actually up a very steep hill and only one daily bus does it. It leaves at 6am, out of the question. There is another bus that goes around the mountain leaving at 7pm and arrives at 5am, making it just as far as the long rout to the other border city. So we contemplate. We decide to do some internet and send some postcards and take the night bus to the original town, figuring that during the night there will be fewer stops and less people on the bus. in Nepal as in much of the third world most routs are traveled by private bus companies and to make more money a bus will stop at every corner it thinks it can pick-up somebody. The first stop is usually right outside the bus station making the real departure always about half an hour later than what is advertised. But we will avoid all this on the night bus.

    When we finally find an internet place we discover that there is a power outage. Now this happens on a daily basis and it even has a schedule. They tell us power should resume around two. We wait outside the internet place for about 3 hours no sign of power. The internet shop owner is not having a very profitable day. We decide to walk around, our night bus decision starts to seem not that smart, but we are sure power will resume soon. At 6pm we are tiered of walking aimlessly and waiting at the internet place so we go early to the bus station. We place our bags get our seats and wait around the bus. At 5 minutes to 7 the power comes back, we board the bus and leave Katmandu, looking back at the lit-up station.

    We make our first obligatory stop at the entrance to the station. The bus driver and his helpers yell the names of the towns we will be going through and after 15 minutes we are off, now this is traveling, usually they stop for half an hour. At the entrance to Katmandu the bus stops, again yelling all the locations. This is a very busy intersection where pretty much all traffic enters and leaves Katmandu. It is very noisy, nepali people love using their horns especially the truck drivers who have super loud ones, and filled with exhaust fumes. About every 15 minutes the bus driver pretends to be leaving and goes right back to his parking spot. They put a movie on, but even the locals are getting agitated. The movie is in Hindi and it is about a guy who keeps winning and loosing his desired lady, it is almost as tiring as the wait.

    Once the movie ends, yes the guy got his girl at the end, the crowd on the bus start shouting. I figure they are demanding that the bus leave. After two hours and breathing every muffler of every truck in Nepal we finally move. It is after 9pm and we are one kilometer from the bus station, but every journey begins with one step. We maintain this wonderful forward momentum for about 150 meters when the bus driver pulls in to fill-up gas. Now why we couldn’t have done this in the two hours we were parked I guess I will never understand. Now we are really moving no stops. We climb out of the Katmandu valley and start heading down in to the Trishuli valley. We have been on this road before during the day, it is a beautiful steep decent in to the valley floor where the road runs. The bus stops and we see a traffic jam ahead of us. We move very slowly and once the road turns you can see the whole valley below. We see it is blocked all the way down. And traffic coming up does not seem to move either. Now sometimes it is better to not know how long the traffic jam you are stuck in really is, here it is crystal clear. It is 9:30pm we are 6 kilometers from the bus station and stuck in a 10KM traffic jam. Who decided to take the night bus?

    The traffic jam seems to have no apparent cause. After a short while trucks start passing on the right lane (which here since they drive like the brits is the wrong lane). So now both lanes are clogged and it seems like no solution is possible. I hear a faded whistle in the distance. A police officer is making his way up walking, trying to clear the opposite lane. Who knows from how far down he came. Trucks start moving to the side and finally there is a path clear. We start moving slowly occasionally getting stuck in a small traffic jam caused by trucks who just decide to pass and get stuck between the oncoming traffic and the other impatient trucks behind them that also made a pass. Did they really think they would just drive 10 kilometers on the wrong side and pass the whole jam with no oncoming traffic?

    It is after 11pm and we are 16 kilometers from the bus station. But now we are really moving, no joke.

    At 2am we pull in to a town for our dinner break. Now I have seen this before in South America. Sometimes you have these highway towns that just never sleep. Literally not in the slogan way that many cities like to think of themselves. the town is bustling, all the shops are open there are kids and women walking between the busses selling snacks, water and fruits, all the restaurants are full and there are about 30 busses making their stop, 2am in the morning. We pull by one of the restaurants and have our last dhal bat. dhal bat is pretty much all you eat in Nepal it is rice with lentil stew and some cooked vegetable. It is very tasty but you get tiered of it quickly. With a full stomach we continue the ride.

    At around 7am it seems like we are getting close to a big town. Just as I get excited about finally reaching our destination the bus stops. There is a road block. It appears the Maoists are blocking the road. Mao was probably the person responsible for the most death in human history, I find it a little hard to understand people who support him, but maybe that’s just me. There are 5 young guys who rolled a cement tube on the road and claim the road is closed. In Bolivia when there is a road block the whole village is out on the road, here it is just five young guys. No one in the bus argues even though we are about 40 people on the bus. We just turn around and start heading back. I look at Sheila, neither one of us can bear going all the way back to Katmandu. After half a kilometer we pass a big army camp. The soldiers are all out doing their exercises, I guess they are preparing themselves in case they are needed for anything… the bus turns and it seems we are taking a detour to bypass the block. We are going on very dusty dirt roads. After about an hour and a half the bus driver lets everybody down and says this is as close as we can get and we have to take rickshaws to the boarder. We are only 4 hours late which is quite surprising for all we have gone through. We get a rickshaw and go to the border.

    A trip to Birganj 340 rupees ($5)

    Dhal bat 60 rupees (90 cents)

    A night ride with Birgunj transportation, priceless

    “Ladies and gentlemen we would like to thank you for riding with Birgunj transportation we hope you enjoyed your trip and we hope to see you again soon”

  • Of litchis and leeches

    Posted on June 13th, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    nagarkotWe just got back from a three day track walking from Nagarkot to Katmandu. It is the off season now in Nepal the season of litchis and leeches. Litchis, good, you can get them in the market after you haggle down the special tourist price. Leeches, bad, you can get those for free on any trail in Nepal.

    To get to Nagarkot you need to take two busses, Katmandu to Baktapur, and from there to Nagarkot. Baktapur is known for having the oldest temple in Nepal and also for having an ancient section of the city, but we figure we don’t really want to see those and don’t think it is worth the time. The bus driver lets us off in front of the ancient temple, in Baktapur, figuring that is where tourist go. We realize we have to walk 15 minutes to get to the bus park (the term for bus station) where the bus to Nagarkot is. We are communicating with the locals only on a places name level and pointing hands. As we walk towards the bus park we notice the architecture is getting very interesting. The houses are along very narrow allies with meticulously carved wooden facades full of detail. The streets are coble stone and there are temples with even more elaborate carvings. This is by far the nicest village we have seen in Nepal. As we approach the bus station we look back to see a sign claiming this is the ancient part of town and there is a $10 entrance fee. In Nepal they charge an entry fee for pretty much anything that is of interest, but they usually only have one entrance collecting the fee while every site has several ways to enter. So you can visit somewhere without ever knowing you had to pay. We don’t see anybody manning this entrance, and we don’t look too hard. So unplanned we have seen Baktapur and it was worth every cent of the $10 we didn’t pay.

    We get to Nagarkot in the evening having to hike the last 5 kilometers due to our bus breaking down. Now you might think this is a streak of bad luck but a bus has a 50% chance of breaking down here, more so if the rout goes uphill.

    Nagarkot is a tiny town with half of it being hotels. It is on a mountain ridge facing the Himalayas and attracts many tourists in the high season who come to rest and enjoy the views. We get a beautiful room facing the mountains, in our case facing the deep fog. It is the monsoon season and is constantly fogy. We can’t see the famous Himalayan backdrop from anywhere in Nepal. Monsoon sounds so powerful. I always thought monsoon means this mythical rain with drops the size of humans but it really just means very rainy days for a few months. The beginning of the rainy season means that the weather will be nice until you decide to start hiking… it rained the whole first day of our hike. You get a little wet but it actually makes for very comfortable walking temperature.

    In the morning we walk around town looking for the trail head, once we locate it we pack our bags and start walking. We start with a 3KM descent loosing almost a thousand meters in altitude. The map has no altitude lines so we have no idea on the nature of the trail. We soon learn that we will ascend and descend loosing and gaining hundreds of meters of altitude. The road twists and turns between mountains and huge rivers passing little villages, terraces and corn fields. It is barely passable by a 4X4 and most of the villagers relay on their legs for any kind of transportation. Since our map also doesn’t show any of the forks in the road, it just shows one straight easy to follow black line, we have to ask at each fork what is the way to Chisapani, the place where we plan to spend the night. Now in the villages it is easy but sometimes you reach a fork where you have to wait a bit until someone comes along.

    nagarkotIn these parts of Nepal, just like in space, distance is measured in time. No kilometers exist between destinations only hours. So we are told that Chisapani is 4 hours from here. The thing is we were told that about 2 hours ago. We keep hearing 4 hours from a few people at different times of the day. Can string theory prove this phenomena? I am not sure. Towards dark we decide to just camp at the next suitable place. We are joined by an old guy who walks with us. He keeps talking to us even though we can’t understand a thing. What I wouldn’t give to understand some of what he is saying. We find a nice flat grassy spot off the road and bid farewell to our companion. He keeps pointing up the road saying something but since we want to set camp before it is pitch dark we say goodbye. Thinking of the simple dinner and tent that awaits us we imagine that maybe he was telling us that his family is having a banquet and we are invited to feast with them afterwards he will set us up in the cozy new house his son just built. We set camp and have a can of beans with some bread instead. As we finish eating swarms of bats come flying down from the mountain headed for the valley. They fly swiftly without ever coming close to bumping each other or any rock or tree in their way. I have never seen such precision and quickness.

    We start off our second day. Chisapani seems closer judging by people’s reaction. After a few turns of the road we actually see the place a top a huge mountain. So the place exists, I was starting to have doubts. A local boy shows us a shortcut and walks with us a little, he says this will save us at least an hour. We are glad to leave the dirt road and take a little trail. As we reach Chisapani we discover it is just a few hotels. We also discover it is on the edge of Sivapuri national park and since we are on the edge of the park we have to pay the entrance fee. We pay the fee and decide to cut through the park. We take a beautiful trail that cuts through the forest going over a ridge and in to the Katmandu valley. We don’t see any of the parks famous animals, the mountain tiger being one of them, but hear tons of birds. We stop to camp at a clearing facing the Katmandu valley. We are at the last leg of the trip, only one more descent.

    We see a spectacular sunset and sunrise.

    At the entrance to the park there is a vertical village that lies along a path of about one thousand stairs, we are very happy we are going the other way as the people climbing, even the locals, seem very tiered.

    With shaking knees we reach Sundarijal, the village that is a few kilometers from Katmandu. We have about 5 somosas each to compensate for the long descent and simple basic diet we had for the last two days and get on the bus.

    Now all that is left is to count and categories all the different bites I got. The red ones, the big white ones, the super itchy tiny red dot ones etc.

  • Four capitals in four days

    Posted on June 3rd, 2009 Sheila Yair 5 comments

    or

    The thrills and frills of cheap travel

     

     

     

    borderSo we got a ticket to Nepal with air Arabia for $250. A great price though it required a departure from Jordan and a few hours in Sharja (United Emirates). Under different circumstances, this would not have worked, but traveling without an itinerary dictates a different set of rules and priorities. Any detour if spent wisely is a blessing.

    We left Jaffa early in the morning, after a hearty shakshuka breakfast in the flea market area. We went up to Jerusalem (the first capital) and from there took a bus to the Alenby crossing (also called the ‘King Hussein’ bridge), where according to an official Jordanian web site we should encounter plenty of busses and cabs to Amman. Coming up to the crossing something seemed wrong. The desolated abandoned feeling reminded me of a scene from the movie ‘Paris Texas’. We got off the bus and started walking the 500 meters to the crossing. It is one little guard both with a big gate in the middle of the desert. On our way we saw a cab driver sleeping in the shade of his car. As we approached he woke up, telling us we will need to use him to cross. He also said there is no crossing without a visa at this bridge, all this while quoting some high prices all in $$. I told him I want to talk to one of the guards first. As I started off towards the crossing one of the guards yells to me “Stop- only in a vehicle, only in a vehicle!” so I convince the driver to take me the 200 meters to the crossing so I can ask the guards about crossing. Sure enough there is no crossing here and the only place you can cross is Sheik Hussein bridge (the king bridge would not do).

    Now I have a thing about finishing a country’s currency before I leave it. It is a little game, a test of precision you might say. A few days before I leave a country I will start taking less money out and calculating my exact expenses. So having 15 of the local currency and taking a cab for 10 and buying a sandwich for 4.5 right before I leave is a great success. The less money left the higher the score.

    So here we are in the middle of nowhere in the occupied territories with only 5 shekels (a little over $1) and no water having to somehow get to a different crossing 110 kilometers to the north. Not the best situation. Our only real option is to hitch-hike. Luckily after about half an hour someone stops and takes us to the town close to the crossing.

    Never judge a country by its border crossing. We cross into Jordan and are greeted by very unfriendly officials who speak very little English. All they are interested in is the entrance fee. They refuse to stamp my American passport claiming I left Israel with the Israeli one. I wanted to enter Jordan with my American one since we are flying with Air Arabia and stopping at the U.A.E. which does not allow Israelis in. We start thinking of heading back to Israel but decide to continue as planed. Getting out of the crossing we find that there is no bus and we will have to take a cab to Amman, basically going back south the whole distance we hitched-hiked. The trip is beautiful going through lovely little villages and amazing landscape. We see a beautiful sunset and I wonder if it is a going away present from Israel or a welcome gift from Jordan.

    We arrive in Amman (the second capital). It is late and dark now and all we have is a name of a hotel we found on wikitravel.com. The driver spends 20 minutes trying to find it with no luck. Nobody seems to have heard about the place. We finally find it and it turns out to be a really nice hotel with very friendly staff right in the center of the bustling shuk in the old city. We go out and have a great jordanian dinner. We regain the upper hand.

    Even the Jordanian tourism board will admit that Amman does not have many sightseeing attractions. We do two out of the three official ones. We go to the Citedal, a hill top where Amman started, an archeological site with Nabatian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins. We have a great lunch at the busy shuk and see the coliseum.

    We go back to the hotel and take a cab to the airport which is about an hour away. Now is the real test, will they let me on the flight with my Israeli passport?

    At the airport they ask me twice to take out the Israeli passport but the airline ticket counter doesn’t seem to mind and we take off to the east with me as an American.

    We arrive in Sharja (the third capital) at 11:30pm and find out our connection flight has been canceled. The agent at the check-in desk says the next flight is at 1:30pm and no worries we can get seats on it, yeah thanks and what about the 13 hours we have to spend at the airport? I wanted to be one of the first Israelis to be in Sharja but 13 hours is really stretching that achievement.

    Sheila immediately puts on her “I am very disappointed” act and scores us a complimentary stay at a 2 star hotel. We are now on our complimentary cab riding in to town. Now I thought I would be the first Israeli to visit Sharja airport but now I am going the whole way in, stamp on passport and all. The hotel is very nice, by far the fanciest we have been in this whole trip, and definitely beats even the finest benches back at the airport.

    In the morning after our complimentary breakfast we decide to take a little walk. It is like walking in a frying pan and all we see are long highways with palaces on either side and dunes for as far as the eye can see. Needless to say we are the only people outside and every fancy air-conditioned SUV that passes us has a puzzled face looking out at us. It is amazing what a little oil can do to a country that is all dunes. We stay out for only 30 minutes and return quickly to our hotel.

    We go back to the airport and board the delayed flight. Air Arabia is one of those air lines that pretty much sell you only the seat, nothing else is included. You can buy some basic food at airport prices and they will show you a movie in the destination country’s language, no subtitles. Maybe it is some sort of preparation they give you.

    At 6:30pm, four days after we left Israel, we arrive in Katmandu (the fourth capital). We are greeted by a sign warning of swine flu. It has four countries in print and then just about all other countries in hand writing, the sign says you should go to the health desk if you came from one of the countries. Sharja does not appear there, so we say we came from there.

    All in a days work…