We entered Bulgaria hoping to leave behind the corrupt policemen we met in Serbia who would ‘negotiate’ your fine for anything they could think of.
We started driving around the Sofia ring road and… ‘WOOOOOWWWWWOOOOOOO’
A red light pulled the teachers van and our jeep over to the side of the road. One policeman went over to Tim and the other appeared at my window.
‘Hello…wish countre ?’
‘Ah… very good… you speak English? ‘
‘Can you come please’
It was freezing outside, I walked back over to the police car were he had got back into the back seat and left me standing in the fog.
I gave him all the papers he needed, insurance etc and…
‘Your lights on the trailer… they do not work… You will take your car to the next parking area and come with us to the police station in the city to pay a €300 fine. This will take about three hours…’
He left his words hanging in the air, staring straight back at me from the warmth of his car.
‘€300 for a broken tail light? That is too much!’
‘Come… we go see inspector and he will tell you…’
He had me by the balls, the taillight did work… it just wasn’t bloody connected!
Rule no. one, never offer a bribe… they don’t like that… you just need to get them in the situation that they are doing you the favor of taking cash for nothing.
‘This will take three hours?’
‘I have three young children in the car and my wife… they will freeze out here…’ with my best ‘poor little kids’ face on ‘and I only have €50 in cash…’
‘You have €50 euros in cash?’
‘Yes’ all smiles…
The three coppers had a chat whilst I shivered on the road.
‘Look… for sake of children… go and talk to your wife and come back with something for us…’I walked over to Penny.
‘Penny, what is the smallest euro notes you have?’
‘Bollocks… nothing smaller?’
I walked back and the fifty euro note slipped into the warm air of the back seat with a ‘Jesus, he’s given us all his money, nice one’ look… seconds later they were gone.
Tim had been told he had been trapped by radar for speeding and that they were not wearing safety belts. On demanding to see the radar machine the copper hassling them gave up and asked for no money.
On feeling rather peeved about the whole thing and still rather freezing, the kids thought the sign for the car park were I was supposed to leave the jeep was rather amusing and demanded I have my picture taken next to it.
Yes… I did the entire meeting with the coppers wearing that hat. I know… I know…
We made good time in Bulgaria and were through in one day without the need for staying over and changing money.
The next day we arrived in Istanbul. It was getting a bit warmer and sunnier and we felt we were on our way.
Claudia wanted a belly-dancing outfit.
‘Dad, when we meet Grandma in Egypt I want to be able to do a show for her in my belly dancing out fit. Can I get one on the journey?’
Claudia asked me this in October… and had not stopped mentioning it. There were no Belly dancing outfits in Croatia, she looked in Serbia for one… didn’t take long… but now we were in the Orient and…
When the going get’s tuff…
The tuff goes shopping!
£45 for a very average piece of tourist junk… I looked at the guy who thought he had me cornered by Claudia’s batting eyes.
‘Claudia… this stuff is not as half as good as the ones you can buy in Egypt and they will be more than half the price.’
We left him gutted.
Claudia knew I was right… and agreed with me afterwards the sales guy in the Istanbul bizarre was very slimly.
We had a whole day off in Istanbul; we had not stopped for five days and were still only settling into personal territories in the back of the jeep and game boy charging rotas etc.
The drive should now become more interesting as heading for the Syrian boarder was new territory for me and Penny…the kids… well, they didn’t really give a monkeys.
The middle of Turkey is big… and dull… and cost a quid a litre to travel through… but turning off the main raid for Cappadocia made up for it.
The town in Cappadocia were we stayed for the night
We slept in a room carved out of the stone, which was very warm and cosy.
Sasha on ‘rad’ duty and Penny packing.
We headed off from Cappadocia early in the morning and entered Syria around 9.00pm
Syria… is great.
The people are wonderful and diesel is like… free.
Damascus was interesting and cheap… which was good. Angus found a nice guy who made him an army blanket and opened his shop up especially to sow the seams down.
‘Dad… I’ve never had anyone open their shop up just for me before…’ He was chuffed and so was the shopkeeper with his 50p tip.
Angus and Claudia making the ‘army blanket’ in Damascus
We would do anything to keep the cost of a room down!
Another 5.00am start, but with a Banana milkshake this time.
We drove through Syria in two days and spent one day in Jordan. We could have spent weeks here, but Christmas was coming and our guests were on their way.
We stopped and stayed in a Crusader castle in Jordan. It is massive, sitting on top a hill over looking the Dead Sea. The Lonely Planets tells you about a nasty ruler who used to put a wooden box around peoples heads before he flung them off the castle wall so they would still be conscious when they hit the bottom
Angus and Tim looking for where the prisoners would be hurdled off
As big as the grand canyon,
yet not a tourist in sight
Angus and Claudia putting together the ‘if we pass a McDonalds’ plan
We headed for the Egyptian border and caught a ferry across the Aqaba sea to Nuweiba. The customs took two and a half hours, but was painless and… well we forgot to mention the two whacking great big solar panels buried in the trailer;)
Angus on the ‘mother of all border crossings’ in Egypt
Penny with ‘Land Cruiser’ envy in customs
The next day at breakfast, Day shar voo on the Aqaba sea in Nuweiba with Angus.
Sasha on the beach at Nuweiba
Tim leading the way through the Sinai desert
A rare sight in the Sinai… somewhere private to have a pee!
One for the album…
We reached Cairo late in the evening on our second night in Egypt. We were going to stay near the Suez Canal but the kids remembered the Chinese restaurant next to the Windsor hotel and… nothing was going to change their mind. The next day Grandma arrived and was not too sure about Cairo and going out… but Claudia funnily enough was having none of it and told Grandma she was going shopping.
Sasha remembering her Arabic numbers whilst haggling in the Kala Kali in Cairo
Grandma keeping a low profile on the streets of Cairo
After three hours of choosing… Claudia found her outfit and performed to Grandma!
We had a three day rest in Cairo showing my parents the Pyramids and enjoying not getting up at 5.00am. On the fourth day we left for Siwa, a mere 700km, we felt like we were home.
I still don’t know why Sasha asked me to stop to take this picture…
The sign we had been waiting for
The 300km drive from the Mediterranean to Siwa is through open flat dessert.
When we reached Matrouh, we had half a tank of diesel and could not find anywhere to fill up. We thought we would be OK… and… well we ran out of diesel just outside of Siwa… 5,000 kilometres without a single hitch… until the last 15k.
If it had been our first time in the desert we would have freaked, (and we would have made sure we had filled up!) but we were coming home, and on seeing someone we knew, Penny got a lift into Siwa to get some diesel and we rolled into town an hour later
A long way to come for a game of football, but it was worth it…
We’ve been here a couple of weeks now. Dotty, Ali and Stu have come back for more.
Stu pretending to listen to yet another one of my big ideas…
Christmas day was spent in a very nice hotel called Taziry on the edge of the desert.
Before dinner my parents went off for a spot of off roading in the desert
‘Did we really just come down there?’
Everything was laid on and no one had to wash up!
Granddad smoking Shesha after dinner…
Everything went well until I took my parents to Alexandra a few days later. The radiator finally gave up big time with the fan falling off taking chucks of the radiator out with it in the middle of nowhere.
Broken down with my parents on board… 100 km’s from the nearest… anything…
5000km’s of trouble free driving and… I break down big time right out in the desert with my parents!
One could say that I was a tadge unlucky with this interruption, but then… 366 days ago we had a massive interruption to our journey… and as my hero, Ted Simon who wrote Jupiter’s Travels and got me into travelling always says…
‘The interruptions ARE the journey.’
It has been one hell of ride and it aint over yet.
Have a good new year and we’ll see all of you in September.