04.01.1965 - 09.01.1965
Our Aussie Christmas get-together with the Doughty family in Jerusalem had led to further hospitality from the U.N. ‘downunder’ community in Damascus, and we arrived in Beirut feeling well fed and stocked up with duty free goodies. Major Doughty subsequently wrote a reassuring letter to our parents, describing the Christmas we had shared with them, and saying “they are still going strong, enjoying good health, and stacking up the experience of a lifetime…..their plans include a possible trip to Saudi Arabia, but personally I don’t think they will get visas for this country. No harm in trying.”
How right he was. Saudi Arabia was a closed country at that time and very difficult to enter, but we were hoping that a contact we had in the oil company Aramco would be able to facilitate visas for us and we were expecting some positive news on that score to be waiting for us in Beirut. Our plan was to then return through Syria and Jordan to the Red Sea port of Aqaba and then proceed to Saudi Arabia from there. However…..
Monday 4-1-65 & Tuesday 5-1-65
It seems as if the Saudi Arabian jaunt will have to be cancelled, as neither Aramco nor the Saudi Embassy has ever heard of us. I am not really sorry, as I don’t like the idea of doubling back, and we can’t really afford it anyway. We must wait a few days to see if anything turns up, but if it doesn’t, we will book passage on a ship to Alexandria. Got a good rate on Egyptian money, and applied for visas, which are bloody expensive. We were driven around Beirut this morning, and went up to the statue of Our Lady of Lebanon. Excellent view from there. Could see the Casino de Liban and much of the Mediterranean coast. Fiddled around a bit and went to see ‘Goldfinger’ this evening. I can’t stand James Bond, and it was so far fetched. I must pull myself together.
Spent the day fixing up just a little of the business we should be attending to. Got my passport back from the Egyptian Embassy, and gave it to the Libyans. Discovered that my blood type is A and that the American Hospital don’t need it. Won’t be making any money there. Checked with Aramco - nothing yet. Went to see ‘Spartacus’, another spectacular, but better than average. Spent a hell of a lot of money on the whole. Have been thinking of the future , and it is coming mighty close…….
No news at Aramco, so we have made our decision. Picked up the Libyan visa and bought tickets aboard the “Syria”, owned by United Arab Lines, which sails for Alexandria next Tuesday at noon. Finished writing our letters, and sent them across the world. Generally active, but uninteresting day.
Today began like any normal day, but about midday turned into one of the more extraordinary and rushed in my experience. At 12 we went to pick up our tickets on the “Syria”, but found the sailing had been cancelled, and the next available ship was not until the 17th, unless we wanted to go on the “Esperia”, which was to sail tonight at 8 pm. After much consideration and comparison of costs, that is what we decided to do. Eight hours to cram everything in. To make matters worse I had left my passport and traveller’s cheques at the Hostel, which didn’t open until 4 pm, so most of our business had to be done after that. We changed money, bought film, arranged to forward mail, rushed back to the Hostel, hurriedly packed our rucksacks, parcelled up our excess luggage to send on to London, cashed T.C.‘s, went back to the shipping agents to pay for and pick up our tickets, checked in with the Security Police, then Immigration and Customs, and managed to board the ship just after 6 pm, in time for dinner at 7, with a shower beforehand. It is amazing to think that something it would’ve taken us weeks to plan just four months ago, was decided and carried out in a few hours. The MN Esperia is an Italian ship, much smaller than the Galileo, but built on similar lines, so the atmosphere is very much the same. We have been given a two berth cabin for our 95 Lebanese Pounds and the food is alright, but there could be more of it.
Saturday 9-1-65 AM
As it turned out, we did not sail until midnight, 4 hours late, so we had plenty of time to spare, if only we had known. Looking back, yesterday was quite exciting really; we hardly expected when we woke up to be sailing for Africa that night. The seas are very rough and the ship is pitching and rolling a lot. I was a bit sick this morning, but nowhere near as badly as I was on the Galileo. Maybe the next sea trip I make I won’t be sick at all. There is an Australian couple on board who have done the same trip as us, but in a Volkswagen. There are also two vehicles on board that we have come across before. One, a Landrover, we saw in Isfahan, and the other, a Kombi van, we saw in Jerusalem. It belongs to an American couple in their sixties.(Interruption: just then a wave crashed over the railing onto the deck and splashed against the door of the lounge where I am. It really is rough, and the wind is so strong.) We are supposed to dock in Alexandria at 5 pm, but with the late departure and the sea like it is I don’t think we will.
So now Asia is behind us and we are on our way to a new continent, Africa. Ade says that from Bombay to Beirut we covered about 12000 miles in four months and for 200 dollars each (he keeps a record of everything), so it is not too bad. We have travelled in ten countries so far, have seen the highest point on Earth and been to the lowest, and have experienced all types of weather and terrain. Now we will see what Africa brings.