A final summary of the whole overland trip.
Monday 7 March 2011 - Tuesday 12 April 2011
This was a great trip. It went to all the places I expected and I saw more Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Turkish ruins than you could count.
Egypt - Whilst it is in the middle of a revolution, it was a great place and the locals were genuinely friendly and glad to see you. "Welcome to Egypt" was the catch phrase for many people we met during our stay. Due to the lack of tourists we had the place to ourselves (well, almost). At Abu Simbel for instance, instead of over 100 coaches in the dawn convoy, there were only twelve or so. Again at the pyramids in Cairo, without the arrival of about 20 coaches from Alexandria (a cruise ship had tied up there), we would have had the place to ourselves.
At Luxor, all the cruise boats were tied up, with only the occasional one travelling up and down the river.
An estimated 90% of Egyptian men smoke. The taxi driver will offer you a fag, and will light up anyway when you refuse it.
There is a huge amount of stuff to see in Egypt as the country has been there a long time. Highlights were the pyramids, Abu Simbel, the Nile and the people. The people are friendly, especially at this time with no tourists around.
Jordan - A very expensive country, made artificially so by the very high value of the dinar. For example, the entrance fee to Petra is €50, making it one of the most expensive sites in the world.
There is less to see in Jordan, but what they do have is special. Petra is one of the region's highlights as is Wadi Rum.
Syria - A very inexpensive country, especially for food and drink. A really good chicken schwarma (meat filled pita bread) was only 25 Syrian pounds, about 50 cents. They do not get many tourists in Syria and they are really happy to see those who do turn up. This is to the extent that they will refuse to accept any money for things you are buying. This happened to us in Damascus in a sweet shop. He refused to take any money for the baklava type pastries we are buying, even though we offered him the money on more than one occasion.
We had to leave Syria a day early due to the demonstrations that we happening. By the time we left there had already been casualties in the southern city of Deraa. There were pro government demonstration in Aleppo whilst we were there and they seemed friendly enough but Oasis decided it could not take the chance.
One thing we noted in Syria was the number of people with red hair and freckles. They would not look out of place in Ireland or Scotland, but to see them in Syria (only Syria, not Jordan or Egypt) seemed a bit odd. If anyone has any reasons why please leave a comment. Thanks.
Turkey - An expensive country with prices getting towards European in level. The weather for most of the time in the country was cold, especially when camping. We did not see much sunshine during our stay there, with the exception of the morning in Kaş when the sun came out and we could sit buy the harbour and the morning in Ölüdeniz where the beach was most welcoming.
There is lots to see in Turkey with more Roman and Greek ruins than any other country in the region. The food in Turkey is also very good.
The scenery in Turkey is spectacular, as there are large mountain ranges (still with snow on them at this time of year), coastal scenery, villages and so on.
The total itinerary is very good but in my opinion it needs a couple of enhancements, namely a couple of days included in Istanbul with a city tour, and include the western desert oases in Egypt. If the truck is available then the oases are very easily reached.
The overlanding experience
The trip itself was well run given the issues with the location of the truck and the civil war in Libya. The trip actually started in Tunisia and would have carried on crossing Libya into Egypt. However due to the uprising / civil war / revolution (leave it you to decide what to call it) the original truck had to return back to Tunisia in a hurry and the passengers had to fly to Cairo. This meant they had a truck in the wrong place, but thankfully, like any well organised overland company, they had a spare truck sitting in Aqaba. The crew had to change as well and we got Dave and Nev for the second half of the trip.
Both Dave and Nev were experienced leaders. Dave had been doing all the Egyptian local transport trips before this trip and Nev had driven the length of Africa several times with Oasis.
There were a few issues with the truck, the major one being that it leaked. Dave's bead on the beach (open area above the cab) got soaked as did all our books.
Once we collected the truck, we were able to camp. A couple of the camps were in desert which gets very cold at night whereas others were in more sheltered places.
The hotels we stayed in ranged from quite nice to very average.
The group of passengers was very good. Thankfully, there were no dickheads on board spoiling things for everyone else. Of the eleven passengers, we had 2 x NZ, 5 x Australian, 2 x US, 2 x UK. We lost two passengers in Damascus as they had other things booked. The ages ranged from about 25 to 66 and everyone mucked in to help with camp chores. We had to cook off the truck many times and all the groups managed to produce quite decent dinners from what we bought in the markets and truck stores.
Fanny on a ferry from Çanakkale to Eceabat.
Fanny at Eceabat (and my tent).
The back of the truck showing the layout.
Cooking breakfast at dawn!
Fanny at the camp site in Damascus.