Israel to Europe

Posted: December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Darren Writes 20th Dec 2011, pics by me

Our Cargo ship bound for Savonain N. Italy from the port of Ashdod was running a couple of days late. However, on entering Israel we had purchased bike insurance valid thru ‘till 26thNov only, which was the original departure date of the Grimaldi vessel. In respect of this our bike import papers also ran until this date and caused the legal problem of them being in the country. There were a couple of options but the most sensible, which of course, would be the one for us, was to take and leave them in the port and the other side of customs. There was one problem with this idea and one that scared me more than what most of the African continent had thrown at us. An option that could leave us powerless and frightened. Public transport! Travel by bus!

The Israeli people can be quite hospitable, as described in the last update but put a uniform on one and give him security detail and it can make for quite a contrast. Be patient, polite and keep good humour – just don’t laugh out loud. I couldn’t help myself. They can be more ridiculous than believable. It took a few hours having our bikes and possessions searched. ‘Do you have any weapons?’ Seems like a fair question. ‘I have a leather man tool and an ornamental knife from Tanzania’ I replied. I had already laid some pepper spray on their desk. The knives were removed and then my pannier was x-rayed. ‘I will ask you again. Do you have any weapons?’ ‘Hmmm, Russ, can you think of any thing?’ We scratched our heads. I don’t know if we were just tired or simply used to our axe being a tool, not often used a weapon and so by us not thought of as one. Then another of the security found a retractable utility knife in the bash plate tool box behind the front wheel of my bike. ‘This is a weapon!’ ‘Well yeah, there’s that too.’ I blushed. ‘I will ask you one more time. Do you have any more weapons?’ Just the phrase made me want to laugh but I managed an expressionless face which did turn a little sour after he told me he wasn’t going to be so nice next time. ‘But you haven’t been nice the whole time.’ I complained. He searched my tank bag and pulled out the pepper spray that I had returned. With a face turning to thunder whist his thumb and index finger dangled the new potential threat toIsrael, I couldn’t help the corners of my mouth rising and letting out a little laughter. Whilst he was not impressed, my protests of the ‘weapon’ having already been declared didn’t help because that would just have meant that he was stupid for missing it in the first place.

To make things more difficult, I had left my passport in Jerusalem and so Russ only was allowed beyond this point to ferry the bikes into a warehouse. He was gone a good couple of hours and left me in a declining state due to the contemplation of the forthcoming public transport journey back to the hostel in Jerusalem. It seems like he got the raw deal though, as we had missed some procedure to leave our bikes in the warehouse and eventually they were left in the car park inside the port. He had done lots of waiting too, though with bursts of running to collect the second bike and try and sort some paper work. It was getting dark.

We left the port and our bikes and carried away a particularly odd carrier bag of weapons. The 10 inch blade from East Africa, an axe and the pepper spray were not allowed in the port but they couldn’t care less about us travelling back to Jerusalem with them. We then walked to a bus stop. We waited for a bus and then we actually got on a bus with a bus driver, other passengers and everything else cliché about a bus. It was 2 miles into town but as it happens, once we arrived, we got off the bus and then the bus drove away. And there it was, we had just survived our first bus journey. It actually turned out to be good introduction as the next bus would be for much, much longer and I’m talking a good hour and a half and we would have to go through a shopping centre to get on it too. We needed something to take our mind off the ordeal. After working out that we had to go through a shopping centre we approached the security to enter into the mall. More baggage checks and metal detectors. ‘I have some weapons’ I confided in the guard. He wanted to see. He was a nice older chap and kindly suggested I kept the weapons in the bag, not to take them out and to declare them to any other security. It had taken a little explaining on my behalf but I didn’t want to just chuck them away but instead give them to some of the hostel staff, I had come to know. We then got on bus number 2of the day. This was endured by watching a movie on the lap top Russ was carrying though I couldn’t tell you what the movie was called.

Abraham Hostel

We arrived in Jerusalemand had another x-ray to go through and so I declared my bag of weapons. This time the security didn’t know what to do and after some time and phone calls he made similar suggestions as the previous security and allowed us to pass. Next was a tram. Public transport number 3. I wasn’t sure how much more we could take and though it seemed to last forever whist travelling on it, it was soon over and across the road was the Abraham Hostel – a fantastic hostel with some lovable staff and owners. We had come all the way back to Jerusalem ‘cos it was a good place to hang out for a couple of days and also because it was the hostels birthday. Inside was a party started.  Time to relax.

Of course the next couple of days were spent here and though reasonably relaxed, the idea of busing it back to Ashdod lingered in the back of my mind. The journey back to the port, however, was more of a dread in consideration of going though the security again and sorting out all the paper work required and hundreds of pounds for the privilege. After all day of this we eventually were done and just to wait for the ship to come in. We met another couple who were to travel the same ship as us and looked forward to our onward journey out of the Middle Eastand into Europe. Before midnightit eventually arrived and after the morning had started the gigantic hunk of metal set sail towards Italy. Barbara was the 5th customer on board. We were on our way home to our own continent.

The draw bridge on the gigantic cargo ship

The Italian Grimaldi company, according to Marco, an Italian we had met in Jordan, had a bad reputation. Ok, it was a few days late but after all it was a cargo ship and the food was fantastic eating with the Captain and his officers. The steward was all that could be expected from a Neopolitan in his kind, firm way of making you want to explode after the 4 courses served at both lunch and dinner. However, I had to agree with Marco when a couple of days before landing we were told that the ship wasn’t going to Savonain the North of Italy but to Salerno in the south. This was going to set us back a couple of days and a 1000km. On the bright side it was one day to Florence and a visit to this beautiful city and a ‘hi’ to Marco. We stayed under his hospitality for a couple of nights. The next day we would try and ride from there, over the Austrian Alps and to Munich where we had another couple of friends we wanted to visit.

Florence is beautiful

Daniel and Anika were a couple we had first met in Cameroon. We joined them to Caribe on the coast and later met them in Brazzaville and then arranged to meet in Namibia and finally in Cape Town. They were some of the very few that take a west of Africa route and did so in a van, returning 6momths ago to Germany. Passing over the Alps was the worst part of this leg with heavy snow obscuring our visors and making them mist inside. Of course it was quite cold for motorcycling too and something of a contrast to the dunes of the Sahara and the hot humid jungles of central Africa. It was something we were very unused to. All this was worth it though to see Daniel and the next day Anika too. A couple of nights were spent at Daniels and a beautiful meal made by them was very much appreciated. An early start from Munich to Dunkirk would take us 570 miles through sometimes wet and other times freezing conditions but within a day’s reach of home and our loved ones. 570miles was incidentally the furthest we had managed to travel in a day, with 450 in Saudi being the previous record.

A cheap F1 room and some goodies from a French supermarket would be our last night for over a year outside of our home country and our own beds. Or at least we hoped. By this point we had told family and friends to expect us by Saturday afternoon but Russ had a continuing problem with his fuel filter. A problem that he had to keep clearing to be able to continue, it had become worse since Florence and particularly bad on the journey to Dunkirk, sometimes needing attention just minutes after fixing. It’s a strange feeling being at the end of something so long and knowing after 13 and half months the last day and just 250 miles would be the end of a great journey of exploration and adventure. But our families and friends were around the corner and were soon to be embraced as well as a few bottles to be opened in celebration. We were both very much looking forward to our home coming.



  1. Regine says:

    We are wishing you a happy and healthy return home guys!!!

    Oliver and Regine
    (Somewhere in the Australian bush)

    “I know that my work is done” – song comes to my mind when reading your last posting 🙂

  2. Mark says:

    Merry Christmas in arrays and Happy New Year in Advance to you guys Darren and Russel

    Greeting from Bamenda.

    Mark kiku

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s