Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Into Israel

We forced down our free breakfast, although neither of us could stomach the greasy omelette this time around and instead stuck to our sugary pastries washed down with black Nescafe.  We fought heavy traffic the entire way to the airport and we were the last people to check in - so we had seats at the very rear of the plane next to the toilets, lucky it was only a short flight.

We arrived at Sharm El Sheik airport for the second time but realized there were no ATM’s in the domestic terminal (well, none that were working anyway) and we needed cash to catch a taxi to the Israeli border.  Dave managed to talk a security guard into letting him through security to get into the international terminal, however the guard held onto his passport and then insisted on some baksheesh before he’d give it back.  Dave just looked at him blankly and asked ‘Baklava? But I don’t have any baklava with me!’ and the bewildered guard threw back his passport…

Our little car at the Dead Sea
We were quite impressed with ourselves when we managed (after quite a long negotiation) to only pay 330 E£ to get from the airport to the Eilat/Taba border.  We had a deadline to pick up our rental car before 5pm, so we were a bit stressed the entire way that we wouldn’t make it in time, especially when our interviews at the Israeli border took about 10 minutes each.  We just missed the public bus into town by 5 minutes (there had been no ATM’s on the way through customs and there was nowhere to change money so we were stranded in Israel with no Shekels, fortunately the border guard let us back through to the Egyptian side as long as we wore a special sticker…. but only after we assured her we weren’t carrying any concealed weapons….). Since the bus only came once an hour that meant we had to fork out for another taxi ride to get into town.  We were quite happy with ourselves as it was 3.50pm, meaning we had an hour to get to the car hire place.  Sarah then glanced at the taxi driver’s radio clock and saw that it read 4.50pm… remaining calm, she enquired as to whether it was the correct time and he told us that there was an hour’s time change with the border crossing – that meant we had 10 minutes till the car hire place closed!

The taxi driver was really kind and lent us his mobile so we could call and tell them that we were on the way to pick up the car.  When we finally managed to get through the guy told us that their hours on the website had not been updated and now they stayed open until 6pm.  Thankful that we had more time up our sleeve we relaxed and enjoyed the ride into town. 

It didn’t take long for our next panic attack in a long day since we couldn’t find our drivers licenses…. You’d think that that would be something you’d have ready when you’re about to hire a car but it had slipped both our minds. So we were in the car hire office, which was getting ready to close, frantically searching our bags for the safe place that we’d stashed our licenses.  Thankfully we located them just in time.

Soon enough we were on our way, excited to have our own wheels for once and not to be trying to work out the public transport system and timetables.  With our map and GPS combo happening, and the fact that there really aren’t too many major roads in Israel, we easily made it to our destination for the night – Arad.  We’d hoped to find cheap accommodation once we got there as everything on the internet and in the Lonely Planet had been $100+ but once we arrived we realized that cheaper accommodation didn’t exist and we had to settle for paying $90 for a youth hostel! It was a lot more than we were hoping to pay and we were beginning to realize that Israel was going to be an expensive country to visit.  Thankfully the rooms were large, massive in fact, with a single bed in each corner - so we literally slept about 10m apart, but at least we had a private bathroom and a TV with interesting National Geographic channels in English…

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