Day 11: Nuweiba – Aqaba: Crossing From Egypt to Jordan
Tuesday May 31, 2011, 27 km (17 miles) – Total so far: 1,048 km (651 miles)
I woke much earlier than usual so headed down to the beach. I spent the entire morning reclining in a hammock, relaxing, listening to music and trying to catch up on my journal. A good start to the day. A late breakfast was had and after spending a bit too long chatting again I left a bit late. I had heard the ticket office for the ferry closes at 12PM so I had 35 minutes to cover the 12km there. I got some good exercise as I powered up the climbs and sprinted for the port. I ended up doing it in around 30 minutes so made it just in time. As it turns out though the office didn’t close at 12! Damn lonely planet and it’s out of date information!
It turned out that the fast ferry wasn’t running so the only option was the infamous slow ferry. The ticket for it costs a crazy $70US for foreigners but since AB Maritime have a monopoly on the route and there’s no other option for avoiding Israel except for flying, they’re able to charge this price. I booked a ticket and joined up with a big group of backpackers. Between us there was myself, 2 Aussie guys, a New Zealand/Swedish couple, a Spanish guy and 6 or 7 Japanese people! We were all soon through security and stamped out of Egypt. The bike needed to be loaded onto a high bus so I was glad of the help loading it on, depending on how much water I’m carrying the whole lot can weigh around 40kg! I stowed the bike below deck and joined the others in the search for a Jordanian visa. We had to hand over our passports and in return we got a slip of paper and were told we would be able to retrieve them in Jordan. I spent the next 5 hours chatting with the other backpackers. It was great to talk to some like minded travellers as we sailed towards a new country and it made what would have otherwise been a very boring journey fly past.
We arrived in Jordan well after nightfall. The difference between the 2 countries was already noticable. While Egypt’s port had been a ramshackle collection of sheds, Jordan’s was a well laid out collection of slick buildings. The dusty concrete floors and wooden benches of the Egyptian terminal were replaced with marble floors and rows of plastic seats. A long wait followed until we were able to collect our passports with our new Jordanian visas. It was close to 10PM before we were finished which meant only a total of 7 hours from boarding the ferry in Nuweiba and being able to leave Aqaba port. We all bid a quick farewell before we all headed our separate ways, some for Aqaba and some for Petra. As for me I had a night cycle from the port into Aqaba itself to look forward to. I pedalled out of the port and into a new country.
In the end the cycle into Aqaba was actually pretty easy. The standard of driving in Jordan surprised me, it was much better than Egypt. Nearly all cars were driving with headlights on and gave me plenty of room when passing. Even when I arrived in the city of Aqaba itself 10km+ later the city driving here was a world of difference from Egypt. It was still tricky navigating busy roundabouts in the dark but nowhere near as dangerous as it would have been in an Egyptian city. After a bit of going around in circles and asking directions in my slowly improving Arabic I found a hotel for 15JD and settled in for a night’s rest.