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A trip to the Holy Land in search of a Japanese Film Crew….

Our Logistics Manager, Mark went to some lengths to get one of our trucks from Jordan to Turkey, in time for the start of the Silk Road overland trip earlier this month.  Here he tells us about his roundabout route through Israel and Greece, officialdom, Jordanian driving techniques and machete combat lessons!

Our Silk Road overland truck - 745‘Just drive the truck through Syria’ boss Steve said with a slight grin. ‘How hard can it be and as the truck is open sided, if you time it right, an RPG will just pass through the open windows!’

Our hearts truly go out to the people of Syria and we eagerly await the day we can return there with our expedition trucks, but in the meantime we had a truck parked in Wadi Musa, Jordan (the home of Petra) and it needed to be in Turkey.  The obvious route was straight north through Syria, but the current unrest and potential Civil war changed our plans somewhat.

Boarding an Easyjet plane with my colleague Andy Robinson (ex Mongol Fiesta challenge comrade) en-route to Amman, ensured it was never going to be a boring trip.

We arrived in Jordan and collected our hire car.  Our local agent, Omaish, said that dropping the Hyundai back at the airport with 5JD (£5) and the key in the ashtray would ensure we got back our deposit!  We hit the dual carriageway with the tyres spitting up pebbles off the car park and soon realised this was the only way to drive in Jordan – hard and without due care and attention!

Bleary eyed and slightly jet lagged we arrived at our Hotel some 4 hours later at 1am.  All that needed to be done was to have a Cuba Libre and get some sleep.

Our truck, known simply as ‘745’, had been parked at the bottom of a steep cliff below the Hotel since September and we were greeted with some very flat batteries.  No matter, our local helpful Jordanian, Riad appeared in his minivan, threw the batteries in the back, swung a full 180 degrees at full speed and smashed the front corner of his van into a concrete post.  With a shrug of his shoulders, he and Andy accelerated away to find a man to charge them up.

745 on the ship - she looks quite small there!The next couple of days were a blur, preparing the overland truck, driving down to Aqaba to see another agent (Ziad) to help with the exit of the vehicle to Israel (our only other hope of getting to Turkey in time) and generally getting paperwork in place.

All too soon Andy had to take off in the hire car and it was time for me and 745 to exit Jordan, but I was to enter Israel alone.  Andy was about to start our Silk Road overland tour from Istanbul to Beijing and he would be carrying a Japanese Film Crew who were going to make a documentary for a mainstream TV network in Tokyo.  As he would be passing through Iran, there was no way he could afford an Israeli stamp, so it was down to me.

The next 6 hours at the border passed slowly in the 40 degree heat.  I opened lockers, I drank water, I closed lockers, I drank more water and in the end I was asked if I was carrying weapons.  The man with the semi auto rifle complimented me on the machete I had on board for chopping wood and showed me the best moves to take down an opponent.  Always good to know!

After loading the entire contents of the truck on to trolleys and X raying them all, I re-stacked the trolleys and delivered the empty truck to a shed, where it disappeared for over an hour.

Finally at 3pm I was told to return to the shed – I presumed for more lessons in machete combat.  Thankfully it was to take back my truck to customs, where I was allowed to re-load it. Alone.  Thanks for the help guys!

The day was getting cooler (39.5 degrees) so I decided to press on until dark, and just south of Tel Aviv I found myself a nice quiet service area with only 20 trucks running their refrigerated trailers.  Pizza, coffee and chocolate was the order of the day and I gathered my thoughts in the cab bunk for the drive ahead, dozing off to the sound of air horns and loud Israeli truck drivers.

5.30am with a mere 3 hours drive to the port of Haifa.  All went particularly well, until I asked a lady directions to the shipping company’s office in the city.  It turns out I was parked outside said office, there just wasn’t a sign, but the lady sent me on a lovely tour of the city down some of the smallest roads I’ve seen for a while.  Bless her.  The pavement of a taxi rank made a super parking spot – at least the truck was the same colour as the taxis and I thought it might blend in!

3 hours of paper and legwork followed.  I reversed out of my taxi rank space and it seemed that the local police and a storekeeper had seen through the truck / taxi disguise.  No matter, the police had now stopped the traffic with their car and were more interested in the angry shopkeeper, so I tootled off to find a random man called Rami at ‘Gate 10, just near the big building’.

It’s quite amazing sometimes how you just know which ‘big building’ someone is talking about, and Gate 10, along with Rami were waiting just as planned.  More hours passed and a white linen trousered man called Rasheed appeared.  It would seem that he had taken over the customs chore from Rami and was now to be my escort to the ship.  He had obviously been to the Jordanian school of motoring as I had no hope of keeping up with him in his tyre squealing Toyota, so I had a lovely tour of the port before finally arriving at the ship.

Sunset at Haifa PortI was promptly loaded on the top deck and the 2 ‘wag men’ who insist you don’t look in your mirrors and concentrate solely on them, backed me in to the side of the ship.  After a burst of turrets at one of the poor Egyptians, I checked for damage, only to find the ship had lost more paint than 745.  Hoorah!  I was moved to another spot and they left me alone to simmer…

Did Mark and 745 make it to Istanbul?  Wait for our next instalment!

Ok, we’ll tell you now that they did because 745 is already on the road from Istanbul to Beijing!  You can join this trip in Bishkek for the final part of the Silk Road overland journey through Kyrgyzstan and China.

Posted in All Blogs.

2 Responses

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  1. Sarah says

    Truck 745 is our trusty Fanny! (Or Truck-a-suarus as Nev used to call it). Hopefully she brings as much excitement to the Silk Road trip that she did to us.

  2. admin says

    Thanks for your comments Sarah. Seems like 745/Fanny/Truck-a-saurus is doing a good job so far!

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