Baghdad to Amman
18.12.1964 - 19.12.1964
Friday 18-12-64 and Saturday 19-12-64
We finally got a truck for Amman in the afternoon, though the driver seemed none too happy about it and none too friendly either. Apparently all the drivers thought we were British and the British are not well liked hereabouts. When they found out we were Australians their attitudes changed considerably. We indicated to our driver that we had no more Iraqi money left after we paid him, though he probably didn’t believe it, and it was interesting to watch his attitude towards us vary throughout the trip. He didn’t speak English and we offered him some of our pistachio nuts to break the ice. He really went through those nuts during the trip, and it was a big bag that Farshid’s mother had given us in Tehran. In return he gave us a lolly each and half an apple, after he had spent three quarters of an hour eating dinner while we sat in the truck. When he stopped for the night he told us to sleep in the back, which was open to the stars. We knew it was going to be cold, so after blowing up our mattresses we got into every piece of warm clothing we had and bedded down in our sleeping bags. Even so, about 6 am I awoke absolutely freezing. When I got up an hour later my sleeping bag and the exposed parts of the mattress were covered in ice. Any wonder I felt cold. We left our bedding in the back to thaw out when we got moving. At this point the driver must have been feeling a bit sorry for us as he bought us breakfast, sort of. One serving of bread and eggs arrived, which Ade thought was for him alone, and by the time we realized that one serving was all that was coming, there wasn’t much left. I was furious, as I was starving, and all I got was a few egg scraps and a bit of crust. I felt humiliated, as well as hungry, and it was a real low point of the trip. It was our own fault, as we shouldn’t have left ourselves so short of the local currency, but we’d had to pay more than expected for the ride to Amman and there was nowhere for us to change money.
Back on the road we got another apple out of the driver while he continued to munch our pistachios. We were approaching the border. I thought of all sorts of wonderful plain ordinary food I would like to have and of how I would like things to be when I reach London, and so forth. The driver wanted us to get a carton of cigarettes across the border for him and we agreed. Through into Jordan without any problems. We had lunch which we paid for with the very last of our Iraqi money (we had in fact kept a tiny reserve), and kept on going. The driver began to brighten up as he was in home territory. Towards evening I had gotten over my breakfast sulks and we were all feeling brighter. The Jordanian soldiers in Arab army uniforms look immaculate: khaki with red trimmings, silver knife at the belt and red and white tasselled kuffiyahs. As we approached Amman we were all quite happy. The driver had a wife waiting for him at home and was graphically describing in sign language how he was going to spend the night. I was happy because I was in the Holy Land and I could sense it. The desert as we approached seemed to change and the myriads of small, smooth, rounded rocks stretched off into hazy blue hills, just as I remembered from photographs I had seen. I was in Jordan. The last hour of the trip, from Al Mafraq to Amman, we sang carols and other songs, much to the enjoyment of our companion. The countryside was beginning to look biblical. It was the Holy Land, Christmas was approaching, and Jerusalem was only 50 miles away. I kept reminding myself of this and I was elated. We got a few cigarettes out of the driver, finally, and we all parted good friends. He took the rest of our nuts with him - what the hell! We located the Haifa Hotel (on our cheap list) fairly easily, and found where we could change traveller’s cheques in the morning. I was feeling great. Back to civilization again: money in my pocket tomorrow, a bed to sleep in, food to eat, things to buy, do, see, hear and feel. I went to bed still feeling elated.