lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:37 am

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There comes a time in our day to day, year to year, lives when we have to admit defeat. Most often it can be something small, a train that we’re unlikely to make in spite of all the rushing we do to the station, or large; a promotion that just isn’t realistic given your competition. This report is my personal tale of defeat.

Calling it defeat is me at my most pessimistic, but that is how I construed it at the time. My defeat was compounded by two factors; failing health and the uprising in Syria. Pretty much a sentence I thought I would never type in my life. This compound led to the surprise addition of a flight in the latter parts of ‘My African Safari’. That being Aegean TLVATH.


The more attentive of readers will know precisely where we are on this trip. But, if you are just tuning into this report series, let me enlighten. I am on a 14 month journey, or my safari in its truest sense. Beginning at Africa’s most Southerly tip at Cape Agulhas, South Africa, I am steadily hitching my way through the supposed ‘dark continent’ of Africa through a myriad of colourful, compassionate and compulsive nations. My simplistic approach and foolhardy travel method have exposed me to all but the most wonderful of Africans on my way up.


Briefly; Part 1 My African Safari (i) ; The Beginning (EZY/ QR) (by lukeyboy95 Feb 27 2012 in Trip Reports) was the initial ‘getting-to-square-one’ segment which covered an emphatic review of QR IST-DOH-JNB-CPT. The travelogue section within this covered the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. This section of hitching took about 6 months.


The next trench of aviation came by way of African Safari (ii) ;The Interlude QR LXR-DOH-KUL (by lukeyboy95 Apr 13 2012 in Trip Reports) which came under the guise of ‘an interlude’ to the overall trip. In that I left the trail (temporarily) to venture of to Asia for some flavoursome food and a good fix of aviation. Within that report I covered Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and arrived in Egypt just in time to make a QR LXR-DOH-KUL. In summary, the transfer turned into a disturbing debacle to which QR refused to warrant me with a reply. More fool them after publishing the report. Not intentionally, I had been building a little suspense about my failing health. Within this report, I shall aim to reveal all.


It should be noted that my report in this series have been as much a vehicle to express my delights at some of the countries of Africa and others, as they have been about aviation. A moderator will no doubt have kittens on this respect. But I have received good vibes from users about the travelogue sections. By virtue, for me a trip report is about the whole experience. And so; I gladly share mine with you.


In this report you can expect;

- Continuing QR farce on cancelled LXR-DOH-KUL

- The attempt to get to Europe (summary)

- Medical evacuation from the Middle East c/o Aegean TLV-ATH

- Travelogue (i) ; Middle East and Deteriorating Health (Egypt, Jordan, Israel)

- Travelogue (ii) Treatment, Continuation, Home and Conclusions (Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia Y Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Scotland.



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Welcome to my 11th Trip Report;


African Safari (iii); The Medical Evacuation, QR KUL-DOH-LXR & A3 TLV-ATH





Disclaimer
Despite a hailstorm of feedback that my reports are too long, I am throwing caution to the headwind and concluding my report in this series. The size of reports has been discussed to tedium on this forum, and is an unknown entity. Ultimately those with good internet connections and lots of free time don’t mind large instalments. Here are some handy hints for those against long reports;
- Press ‘back’ icon immediately before the damage is done
- Bookmark it and come back to it at the weekend with some Rich Teas, or a beer
- Open the folder, go and do something mundane, and come back when it is loaded
- Wait till you’re in a Costa Coffee hotspot, open page, hibernate your laptop and read later from comfort of own home



Etc. On with the report!


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Many thanks GC Mapper.


Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:49 am

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Continuing QR farce on cancelled LXR-DOH-KUL

I last signed off still in Asia, and now need to get back on track. Setting the scene; I had slept 17 hours, felt like hell, could barely move and was the focus of many of the SZB cleaners curiosity. I tottered over the pedestrian bridge to catch a bus into town. Sadly I couldn’t keep my stomach. With my QR flight scheduled for next morning, first thing, I would have to take affirmative action.


The consensus of users would obviously seek medical help, and this may become a common theme within the text of this report, the exasperated phrase ‘why didn’t you go to a doctor you arse?’ Well, my mind wasn’t clear, a doctor represented a hurdle likely to prevent me from flying the next dayand as you will see, I was in denial.


I dramatically burst into an Indian-Malay pharmacy in Kuala Lumpur, and ask for help; drugs. I’m at about the weakest point of the trip – lost, confused and sick. A motherly assistant hydrates me, sells me a smorgasbord of medication and motivates me on my way. Armed with restorative groceries, I find my way to KLCC, is it? KL Sentral at least. This KL Hub is where regular, often pretty rickety, coaches shuttle to main and Low Cost terminals of KUL. My bus doesn’t seem to depart according to any time, but my wait is minimal, so I am not fussy. The bus is from the 80’s so features luxurious reclines. I do so, and admire my last, rather glorious Asian sunset as the bus encircles the multitude of ugly flyovers to get us on the right route.


At KUL, the new terminal is ever inviting, and I settle in for the night. I am a seasoned airport sleeper (what a boast), so filter out repetitious security announcements and background passenger movement noise…but mostly KUL main terminal is still that night in contrast to the last sleep in the LCC.

With my flight scheduled for QR621 at 10:20, I decide 3 hours is enough leeway to give. The mind is caught between getting sufficient sleep to enjoy the flight, and leaving enough time to explore airside of KUL. The positive news is that after an affective intravenous of apple juice, glucose biscuits and energising fruits, I am feeling much healthier and ready for the flighty today.

It seems QR is less so. After a healthy queue time of 15 minutes, a petite Malaysian agent begins typing my vitals in…. vigorously. Her face almost immediately scrunches up in puzzlement, at which in default mode, she requests the credit card the reservation was made with. She is furnished with this, and the original itinerary. Whilst she furiously jabs away at the keyboard, I take a minute to admire her silk QR standard shirt, prim maroon briefs and general smart appearance… and is that a- “Sacuzameesaa… you please see my supervisiorheeaa” – I am gestured towards a moody looking lady. Because I found a previous trip report that randomly named personnel so intriguing, for the sake of argument I will now call this supervisor Rasmita. Rasmita seemed a continuation of the puzzlement earlier witnessed. The be all and end all was that my booking was sullied.


Finally Rasmita voiced it all “ Sir, it appears that your reservation has been automatically cancelled. This is because your connecting flight is no longer operating, therefore, you will not be travelling on today’s flight”.

Admittedly I am a little peeved, having being so prepared for the flight, and unprepared for the bad news. It is the first time I have even been denied boarding to a flight. Rasmita explains that she cannot pursue my quandary any further in lieu of the DOH based customer services opening hours. Qatar? Are you there? Global airline, destination across an array of continents, destroyer of the time zone…. And oh, we have to wait till Qatari time 0900am before I can proceed. The first of many farces.


I snooze a little off to the side, before Rasmita comes over and confirms my denied status. I will apparently not be getting on today’s flight. What is extraordinary is that Rasmita asks me to return for “ QR625 21:00 tomorrow”. Little explaining, easing or finesse goes into the new arrangements. I put my foot down and request accommodation for this delay. Another laborious set of calls is made to DOH HQ. It is almost begrudgingly that QR offers me accommodation. The worst is to come; I am told that due to a conference, I will have to be placed airside, and furthermore, in the worst hotel in KUL. Rasmita scribbles out all the required vouchers and syas QR have an agreement with Burger King, so as a result, you will only be able to use your food vouchers at the specified branch”.Of course! Here is one of the world’s alleged 5* Airlines, and yes, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Lunch, Dinner at Burger King. Pathetic.

To Rasmita’s credit, she opts to walk me to the Transit Hotel. None of it is obliging or apologetic. As ever in this transfer debacle, it is me who is the inconvenience. My small talk falls on deaf ears mostly. Rasmita had attempted to book me of a Cairo flight, but had summarised that the connection was too tight and apparently the inbound was a little delayed. Rasmita delivers me to the tawdry, tired, whiffy concierge of the KUL Transit Hotel. Reception formalities are completed, and Rasmita seems glad to close this chapter. How sad.


For those unfamiliar with KLIA Transit Hotel, I would encourage you to view http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_R...tel-Selangor.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT . Some reports state ‘like sleeping in an ashtray’, others are more Spartan and say ‘dump’. My opinion is purely this; Trip Advisor rates it as 2* property, it is very inadequate for Qatar Airways customers, the rooms are old-fashioned, cramped and damp, the staff are ignorant, unconcerned and lazy. But here I am. I have a bath, begin watching BBC News 24, and mute it to watch my intended flight pushback 8 minutes late with a great sense of injustice. I suspect I would not have made my connection in this circumstance.



Calming down, with a bath.






Sad times as the flight I should have been on pushes back – good view from room.




Not a terrible looking bed in all fairness.


So, you have over 18 hours in KUL, what do you do? The answers comes simply enough – I request numerous linen changes, I request a room change, I explore KUL in the most minute detail, I e-mail a very great friend to say ‘Sorry, QR *ucked up, and I won’t be able to see you in DOH on my transit visa – cancel the champagne brunch’ . I am most bitter about this.



Waking up in the middle of the night to see this beaute glide in (from my bed)



By morning, an Omani visitor has replaced. High on my list of airlines to fly.



Quickly replaced by….

Every so often I go and attempt to digest a Burger King, but after two meals, and sitting entombed by caterwauling elderly Australians, I lose my appetite. Little airside action to be had without AK about. So I spend my time in the jungle – a great idea, but equally great anti-climax – and flit between internet terminals, shoddy , cheap to purchase movies on the ‘cinema sofas’ and my foostie room. In all this time, I manage to pick apart KUL for what it really is; a galumphing white elephant, hugely underperforming, hugely underwhelming, anti-climax. This is obviously all in contrast to my initial opinions, but I feel much less enamoured after my time here.



At least KUL passes my ‘drinking fountain test’ – with this little dual-height belter!


Onwards and upwards. I am there for my QR flight 625 21:00 service. It could well be inbound from somewhere, but I lose track with QR in this area of the world. We board on time, pleasantly and all… But you get the feeling this is a night flight, and as such, the pizazz is removed.


At gate, QR625 –




That is fine with me tonight. I board, find my seat, get comfy, exhale deeply when a seatmate dumps his stuff down dramatically. QR625 should be a pretty straightforward procedure for the crew tonight; holidayed-out Europeans being the main customer, eager to sleep their luxurious hang-overs off, a choc-a-bloc flight calls upon a robotic form of service, and the lights will dim immediately, easing the cause for elaborate customer service. We push into darkened Asian skies 12 minutes after scheduled departure time. From a dimmed-down departure, nothing in the cabin really brightens up.



Onto active



Please someone, what settings should I put a DSLR on for night-time flight shots!?



Instant mood-lighting from the off



Spartan, but non-the-less appreciated amenity.



Dinner menu handed out.


Dinner = disappointment… The usual rigmarole plays out; hot towel, sweetened smiles, gaudy table paper cloth and some menus. The choice will be beef or fish. I take the plunge for fish. I find the presentation scrappy, the fish (and sauce) bland, and all is gloopy. The mash looks like a deflated soufflé, I struggle to identify leeks, the fish is tasty. The sides are uninteresting and presentation lacklustre. Pudding causes the greatest surprise with its radioactive hue of caramel sauce. It tastes fine. But in summary, the meal is a disappointment in relation to the calibre of QR’s other meals.



Disappointing dinner.



Alarming glow coming off the crème-caramel.


A little before landing, we offered a wrap-modelled thing, this time someone’s aunt’s Calzone. . . I am never that keen on these, but accept it regardless. I am mellowed out by a Gin and Tonic. We descend into DOH. I must emphasise, the atmosphere on this flight super sleepy. Perhaps it suited most in this sense, and I was happy to relax.



Wrap.



Calmer heads prevail – the calm of the cabin.





Everybody loves a lavvy shot



Coming into the lively DOH.



I feel I took this photo with the sole intention of getting the Reg; major fail.



Standard operating procedure disembarking with QR



Secondary security screening


On arrival into DOH, my transfer is yet another nightmare. Despite being 10 minutes off an official transfer hotel voucher, and with my flight coming in anyways 70 minutes early, I am denied transit accommodation. I don’t agree with this. I am recognised by a transfer staff member who I overhear sniping “ oh, it is heeem, here to cause trouble again” to a colleague . There you go – a snippet of QR ground staff’s attitude.( Latterly, proof reading this report, it is hard to believe they said this, but I tell no lies).


Zonked, I head to the reclining seat rest area of DOH, which is always an unpredictable experience. This time a partied-out French man returning from KohSamui notices me popping a ziplicone (gold) sleeping pill, and politely enquires and then requests for one. In return he gives me a juice and a pillow. Who am I to begrudge a sleeping pill?


QR transfer is its usual ghastly self; crowded, noisy, watered-down chicken thigh curry and French fries complimentary meal with flat coke imitation (5hrs +transfers), assembly-line processing and a lot of piss and water on the male toilets and an overworked toilet-cleaner lethargically mopping up mess. DOH’s toilets should be shut down immediately… they have never once been a pleasant experience.



Transfer meals… revolting.


Piss covered floors in every toilet cubicle… disgraceful.


There enlies the problem with QR; their dismal transfer process. Treating a passenger as good as gold within the airframe is all in vain if they have to endure surging crowds, piss-filled toilet facilities and discourteous/ ignorant/ arrogant/ rude/ utilitarian/ unconcerned/ overworked QR staff. In one vexing exchange on this forum, it was insinuated that I was a BA Pom-pom girl. Well, whatever, but at least for the majority of times, if you’ve a customer service issue, BA(and others outwith my experience) respect your complaints with a bit of decency and concern. Here in DOH, you would be easier getting water from a stone.


I’m familiar with DOH on transfer. Whilst it’s never been a dream, it has also never been problematic. But the last spat with the staff has put my back up, and now I come to realise how dismal the experience truly is at times. So there is my warning. It remains to be seen if this can be rectified with the addition of NDIA, but for now it remains a thoroughly misaligned experience with the general QR ethos on customer care and standards.



But at least my flight will board soon… note my original flight to CPT also showing.




QR DOH-LXR. Back to Africa. QR518 07:25 On-time LF30%


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Jenny Coffey
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Nikiforov Konstantin




Today I will take my flight back to Africa. After all the mental and physical confusion of the random bouts of illness, it almost feels good to be heading back to the dark continent. At least it feels like some resolution is required. I still feel very far from home, and am determined to push on.

Over the Qatari dessert the sun rises. Desolate as it is, it holds enough gas to maintain Qatar’s wealth for many decades.



Transfer hoards easing as morning progresses.


Stairs at the gate lead down to the usual QR procedure. We’re guided forth to AHA. Despite ground staff insisting ‘it is full sir’, I find the load turns out to be barely 30% today. Infact, I wait expectantly for a wave of transfer passengers as part of an Egyptian diaspora visiting from somewhere. But the doors get firmly turned in, and we are set to go.



AHA in the early morning sun.


Breakfast impressive on this flight. Oh, AHA has personal TV screens and is much more resplendent than my outbound aircraft. Food options are great; between an exotic fry-up and an Americanised pancakes and custard option. I am allowed both, and both are delicious.



PTV Screens… I never review entertainment on flights; sorry!



Fine legroom given I’m lanky.



Prepped for pushback



Trademark Tiffany sookie-sweets… check



DOH scenes.



Onto Active



I can only imagine NDIA is out there in the haze somewhere… rapidly taking shape.



Ever-vexed by these shapes.


Here goes another culinary critique; The typically cooked breakfast was not too bad. It looks a little like a stramash, the sweetcorn being a strange addition, but it was tasty regardless. My only gripe is that the sausage looks pretty anaemic, and I don’t think QR have quite tuned into the ‘art’ of the sausage akin to the British and the Germans. The vine tomato is similarly not cooked, so discarded. But overall, it is tasty.





Rather tasty.



As a whole – the mealtray,



Mealtime views of Saudi Arabia (where I am based now)


When by more continental breakfast is brought along, there is little to say except it is sweet, delicious, and rather moreish. The accompanying fresh strawberries are soggy and sad looking. It is pretty heavy, the portion is good with both and likely to fill you easily.



Pancakes… very yummy.


Fresh fruit (always very fresh, though increasingly not that exotic by way of apples, grapes (mango? Papaya?Kiwi?)). Some upsetting spreadable cheese manufactured in Saudi Arabia, a pita bread, what-would-give-the-French-nightmares-of-a-croissant, a small tub of delicious humus (with a solitary olive and vine tomato plonked in) and finally a smint mint. I find this more than adequate for the run.





Crossing the Red Sea coast.


The run, meanwhile, is stunning. The gradual whisky intake, and comprehension of the obstacles to get home make for a pensive, reflective flight. All too soon the vast emptiness of Saudi cedes to the Red Sea, dotted by ferries. It’s a steady run in from here. The Red Sea is crossed, and the seatbelt light goes on and the cabin crew prepare for landing. Since landing represents the pinnacle of flying for me, I am often found to be hiding my whisky as the FA’s pass, so that I might nurture this on the stunning descent into my destination.



The Red Sea is crossed, into Egyptian airspace.


Gladly, today’s descent is right up there with the best of them. Fully aware of the harshness of the arid desert, we pass over the lush, wreathing, corridor of green that represents the great River Nile and all her life-giving-irrigated greatness. Whilst we don’t pass it as high as on the outbound, we do get a glorious view nonetheless. With my steady relationship with the Nile, it is class to see her from above. Landing is slick in the sultry air. The Egyptian airport ground staff are more alert than I would presume, and doors are opened and passengers disembarking rapidly hence.



Treading on the green carpet of the Nile River.





Crossing the Nile.



Turning off active


Interesting little ac of bygone times at LXR



Leaving my seat



AHA has a little sunbathing time before heading back to DOH


Within LXR, nothing too exciting to report. Except to say that as a destination that should be super tourist friendly, getting the visa is a protracted and repetitive process, only clear after tripping up numerous times and being forced to ask for assistance. Of course I represent a renegade here; a westerner coming in on a second visa within 3 weeks, travelling alone with a rat-a-tat rucksack, scruffy look and wearing an SLR. The questioning is impolite, unstructured, chaotic (he invites apparent friends to get their opinions)… but eventually I am stamped in. One interesting thing is that I am given the visa stamp and told to place it in my passport myself. Accordingly I have this page…



Welcome to Egypt


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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:57 am

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Right, Attempt to Get to Europe (summary)


The summarisation of this is a delicate dance with the Arab Uprising. Ultimately I stayed too long in one position on the geographical dancefloor, and cumbersome Syrian stamped on my toe. Israel offered the only form of tap dance medical advice, so was visited. However, they were suspicious and unwilling to help an injured dancer, the pain got so much that it was a threat to life, and the sanctuary of the European health-system was sought. I was treated for a sore toe for 9 days.


Sadly, the less metaphorical version of events was far less thrilling. I continued to journey up through Egypt, having in particular a glorious time in Sinai. However, the state of my health continued to deteriorate, and my quest to get back to Europe was fortified. The situation within Syria (which was integral to pass through in order to return to the European continent) was rapidly worsening. Assad made bold appearances in parliament, but international news agency’s portrayed absolute chaos. I was naïve, and suspected that the fast encroaching religious month of Ramadan might represent a ceasefire, a respite from it all. How wrong I was. On the 1st of August, violence intensified to its most detrimental yet, and on the 3rd of August, after 19 hours in a terse immigration interview room on the Syrian border, I was denied access and removed back to Jordan.


My travel plans descended into disarray. Back in Amman, I idealised about home and hypothesised my options. They were few, and in as many days, I entered the Israeli territories. I was severely reluctant to do this as it is my ambition to visit some of the countries petty enough to disallow Israelivisitors access to their own country.


I had tried to hitch a ride by yacht from Israel back to Europe. Many a thing conspired against me, chief amongst them being my health. Two events finally shook the sense into me; a girl sleeping in the same room as me noted that my breathing was ‘frightening’ during sleep, and a close Israeli friend trainee doctor looked me in the eye and said ‘Finish this stupid bloody thing Luke, you could easily die during one of your nightime fevers. Stop being a show-off’.

I was humbled and a little scared ; an hour later I had booked an A3 flight from TLV-ATH. For the ‘travelogue’ of this emotionally turbulent time, and encompassing Egypt, Jordan, Syria(‘n Border area) and Israel, please read the travelogue at the end of the report… but….


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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 11:08 am

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.....Back to aviation.





Flight sourced via SkyScanner, which I use often. My Skyscanner search would determine where I went. Air Baltic came out with amazing prices, but would deposit me in Spain in return. Thankfully a good flight with A3 reared it’s head at about 100 Euro 3 days before flight. Athens represented a positive destination within the scope of my trip; it was geographically very close to Africa (550 miles at my closest point within Africa). It was the European healthcare system , and I was super keen to try A3.


I ruminated, that this would be the worst flight I’d ever take. It represented a flight of failure in my eyes; it was the get-out-easy ticket in my disillusioned, bloodshot-from-the-illness eyes. I was a miserable little man. My Israeli friend took me to the airport late that night, stopping briefly at the supermarket to spend final shekels buying some wine, yoghurt and snacks for my night in TLV. It was quite an emotional goodbye, as he realised my personal pain of taking this flight.



Pulling up outside a fairly busy terminal, TLV.


Back to TLV. We’ve had an array of reports from this airport. Your likely to be going to a few key destinations if your departing here; Asia (The national service lot ‘escape’ in vast numbers to India, Thailand and Oz), Northern America (the strong ties that we need not delve into), mainland Europe or on a holiday flutter to the Greek/ Cyriot Islands. Of course there are others…



Air-side from drop-of point… blurred because I’m too scared to keep my camera out a long time.


Here is my honest, impartial account of Ben Gurion International Airport. I’m pre-empting complaints. Firstly, don’t act suspicious. The majority of Israelis I’d met relish laying it on thick when it comes to TLV airport. It’s pretty synonymous as being the safest airport in the world, given its country’s tenuous international relations, and as such, the security procedure is thorough. All fine and justified in my books. Then there is the processing time. My airline sends me an e-mail, enthusing that I be there 4 hours prior to my flight to begin procedures: Welcome to fortress TLV.



A steady stream of departures till 1am.


Brief bite of information; Read their Wikipedia page – I swear an IDF personnel may have edited this as it is littered with security boasts. What other wiki airport entry do you know that has a ‘Security Procedures’ sub-topic? Regardless, it is important to know that TLV is teeming with uniformed, and non-uniformed personnel. Everyone is on high-alert, and all is supervised. The mood isn’t tense, but it isn’t care-free.



The airports name-sake



Statue outside.


But TLV does well; handling 13m passengers and rising p/a. Ranking as No1 airport in Europe for customers (poppycock IMO) and bestairport in middle-East. The Facts and Figures are pretty. I will pass through unexceptional Terminal 3 tomorrow morning, which was built in 2004.


Time is my friend tonight, and with nothing better to do, I explore the fortress. Except, I am not within, and so I must play a tedious game of security checks along each corridor I walk. These are not light-hearted encounters either; curiosity caught the cat, and with one carpark deceptively named ‘the vineyard’, I plod off to investigate. Nothing in the name, so I return. Except, I am stopped by an overzealous security guard. He questions me so aimlessly, that I am a bit impatient. I ask him if I constitute a security threat, given he had just seen me walk past him 2 minutes prior, not go out of site, and return. He was extremely curt in his reply. It all seemed a bit absurd. This happened twice.



The vineyard.

Watching the arrivals hall was a colourful affair, with some orthodox Jewish and families arriving from all continents, and being greeted in an extraordinary way by family. I am quite a fan of this, as manyJews take it very seriously, and the whole family comes, furnishes bouquets and generally exchange helium balloons. These rarely make it home, and are dotted amusingly around the arrival hall’s ceiling.



Arrival Hall



Helium balloons on roof.



Vending machine for bouquets of flowers.



Utilitarian summarises customer service at TLV. The female officers are barkier and more disciplined than their male compatriots. As such, a female officer marches up to me as I attempt a photo of the check-in area (which features security screening) and snaps at me. To her defence, she shortly flashes a smile and says I can take photos of anywhere else… including her friend. Well. Every cloud and all…


For an hour, I head to a viewing/ eating/ shopping area that is landside, and offers perfectly good views of the tarmac. A café downstairs opens my bottle of Israeli red wine (fair quality for the price) and I nibble away on my snacks. This is good reflective time for me, as I consider the absurdity of the situation (flying from Israel to Athens in my own personal medical diversion).



Midnight snacks to get me to sleep


When I begin to get comfortable for the night, a police woman comes over to scald my choice of position – apparently this will be teeming by the morning…, but kindness lurks beneath as she points me to an inactive doorway that I can get peace at. I sleep well - given the din of screeching people checking-in.


I elect to wake at 05:30 this morning. I’m fully aware that this is throwing caution to the security procedure gale heading my way. Queues are massive, and in particular slow-moving. Even though this is annoying, I join it obligingly.

At the end of each of these queues is a security official. I suspect they are Israeli Defence Force personnel, given the integral role of screening customers. They’re effectively scanning your passport for activity, and deciding whether you’ll be subject to the ‘intense’ security screening. My IDF man is a weedy young thing, and I’m as humourless with him as he is with my passport. I eye him wearily as he delves into my passport ; he’s won the lottery. Sudan, closely followed by Egypt, compounded by a very confusing attempt to get into Syria. Rejected. Reattempt to enter Jordan. He questioned me for 20 minutes (extraordinarily) inall, and got a day-to-day picture of my life. I answered his question about Qatar entry stamp slightly incredulously… in that one of the world’s fastest growing airlines was based there, and it was likely that he received a multitude of passengers who had also visited. Perhaps not requiring a transit visa, but still…

I’m absolutely for rational security questioning, but this was all verging on the absurd.



Of course, Mr IDF applies a highest security sticker on my luggage. The luggagescreening pre-check-in security at TLV is a farce. The sticker is fair game, but poor English (two screeners speak loudly to me in Hebrew for a long time) and general abruptness of the staff is totally off. I’m verbally berated into one line, then the other.


When I finally reach the next trench of security personal, I am in for a battle. This bunch are much more relaxed, and when called forward, have a lengthy discussion about my personal items (where they came from, what they are etc). An extraordinary swab-fest begins. I am instructed to erect my tent so that it may be searched, my 6 pairs of tumble-down boxers are swabbed for explosives, and cavities of my rucksack arm-straps are violated. I am not too bothered, except that it is taking ages. So before even reaching my check-in desk, I have been subjected to 1.30hrs of security nonsense. As a ‘risk’, I am accompanied to check-in, where a sharp looking agent checks me in nimbly, and requests Miss IDF accompany me to outsized luggage.



Finally through, I take a glass of red to calm my nerves. Checked-in online via efficient Aegean webpage


There you go. I am through, but feeling like a closetthreat.All in all, procedures are not enjoyable – I feel really flustered by the end of it all. I sink the last of my wine, before heading through security into the Terminal 3 area. It is a modern, and teeming at this time, space. Aesthetically it is sufficient for its use; although it feels a little clinical and military at times. But security opens out to a beautiful terminal hall/ atrium which encourages people watching. It is alive with the full diversity of Jewish (and other) faiths that live around the world, many coming in on a pilgrimage.



Passing into the terminal



Opens up into a more pleasing space.




It is a bus gate this morning. It would appear that the majority of Greek/ charter-like destinations operate on remote stands. Which is perfecto for me. On a fairly full bus, we buck and sway amongst an eclectic selection of aircraft, until we pull upon a long line. Chiefly of which A3 DGA stands out gloriously as an A321, and in an attractive, understated Greek livery.







Boarding scenes





TLV-ATH

Airline……………..Aegean Airlines
Aircraft…………….Airbus A321-231
Flight………………A3 929
Registration……... SX-DGA
Seat……………….24F (Economy / Window)
Departure time......07.00
Arrival time……….09.00
LF: 60%............. Economy


Price……………. Approx. £83.00

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Photo © Mark Kwiatkowski
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Photo © Petr Popelar




We are welcomed fairly warmly onboard. It must be said, that still now, I am a rather inexperienced person to judge a European airline; that is that I either travel BA to connect to LHR flight , or am flitting about the place on budget carriers. Regardless, here is my impression.


Aircraft beautiful. Huge fan of A321. My seat is suave, subtle and sufficient in legroom for such a flight. The interior of this A321 is very nice and classy. The flightdeck is onto us briefly about delays in departure… yadda yaddayadda, I do not care. Eventually we push back 10 minutes late, and accelerate down runway at 07:20. A great overview of the airport as we straighten out to resume a path dead centre North West. We pass over the early scenes of the Israeli coastline. I am glad to see the back of Israel, not for dislike for her, but for the idea of getting a step closer home and resuming the journey. Flight seems to have a load factor of about 60%.



Safety announcements


Pursued by FDX



Israeli skyline



Up and away



An immediate turn provides a nice view of TLV



Crossing the Israeli coastline on this beautiful morning.



1hrs40mins cruise time is given by flightdeck, and all calm enroute is expected. 20 Minutes after roaring into Israeli skies, the FA’s distribute meal trays. I have to say that I think this is very prompt. Some words on A3 FA’s; they’re Greek. But that isn’t ultimately negative. They’re often more wholesome, westernised woman. Once upon a time, their short-sleeved uniform might have transpired them as pretty and obliging, but now it has the effect of making the ladies look bullish and a little intimidating. Matron… Still… I like the look. All FA’s are female, and all pleasant looking…
The meal is handed out. I was unsure what we would get on this segment. Pleasantly surprised to get a dinky tray of yumminess. It was a veggie breakfast dish of scrambled (we guess) and seasoned vegetables. I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.



The smart looking meal-tray


Critique; It looks like pretty dreadful. But what you have is a tasty bed of knowingly scrambled eggs, a soggy/ grilled tomato, and some branches of blanched broccoli. But it is really delicious in taste… and a good amount in all. Also occupying the space of the sleek tray is a generousGreek yoghurt, some decent quality honey, a crunchy roll, President butter, jam and a clouded plastic cup for tea or coffee…



With foil off.



Fresh orange and Tuborg tonic.


“Tea or coffee” – Coffee, please . 4 Sugars. The meal is a great event. The scenery is brilliant, and I am audacious enough to ask for a bit of a hair of the dog. Promptly a can of Tuborg is winded towards me. Hurrah. I was not positive that they would stock it onboard.. The FA’s also furnish me with another meal plate when I explain I am still a little hungry.



Comfortably sitting at the exit seat.



My perfect breakfast… Greek Yog and honey.


Great flight on A3. I can’t sing their praises enough. Although the FA’s are a little tepid, I think this product is miles ahead on A3. The meal is sufficient, the seat is comfortable, the overhead screens gradually furnish you with GPS updates on where exactly you are in the world. Great stuff….



Greek Isles coming into view.



Sitting comfortably mit beer


And all the while, the scenery intensifies; great wallowing, majestic Greek isles come into view, azure waters are intensified in my angst. The FA’s seem fine in getting me another beer for the arrival procedure. We come down over early morning ferries plying their way through white-horsed waters into the Port of Patras.



More Greek isles as we approach.



Overhead screens indicating end of flight.



Hawk-eyed FA’s preparing cabin for landing.





Part of our nice approach.



The EU!!





Thoroughly enamoured to this plane.


On arrival at ATH, I am knackered. But there is a wry sense of satisfaction to be waved carelessly across a border for the first time on the trip, and not be the object of suspicion and bureaucratic nonsense. I worked out that visas and associated costs counted for almost a third of the trip expenditure at £800+ .



Athens passes the water-fountain test.


Bus to centre of town. It is a nice, warm Greek morning, and I am delighted to back in Europe.


I have a nap in arrivals area, before heading to clearly marked arrivals area, purchasing an inflated ‘airport zone’ bus ticket and heading into town. Without exaggeration, the bus drops me not too far off SyntagmaSquare, and upon rounding a corner – I am faced with the following photo. Curiously, my Couchsurfing host was in amongst the crowd.



Well timed arrival into Greece.


The next day I was admitted to hospital with an advanced stage of malaria, to which I was treated for over a week, before being released to continue the conclusion to my journey – all of which you are warmly invited to view via pictures in the travelogue section.



Sad times.



.
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 11:13 am

.

Conclusions.


Qatar mucked up again. I was categorically not informed about the cancellation of my outbound flight from KUL which shows a major flaw within the company. Qatar had not intended to place me in accommodation, but after insistence, I ended up with a pretty shoddy lot in all fairness. Musty rooms and Burger Kings; Your 5* Airline.

But their flights were redeeming features. Service is slimmed down somewhat on overnight services with QR, and I would bare that in mind if you travel more for the experience than the convenience. I face yet another humiliating onslaught of ignorant transit staff on arrival into DOH. I felt powerless in all situations.

Meanwhile A3 came into my life in a most unexpected manner. By way of my medical evacuation to Athens for malaria treatment. Although never a flight has been taken by me in such morose and disheartening circumstances, A3 provided an excellent service that should sit proudly as a representation for them. FA’s were efficient and sufficient, and catering was all above expectations.


I’ll sign off on the aviation aspects of this journey.


Any comments or corrections always appreciated.



Best wishes,

Luke




Previous Reports

BA And Cityjet - Scotland To London (DND/GLA/LCY) (by lukeyboy95 Mar 31 2010 in Trip Reports)

An Indian Summer; The South – S2 And IT (Part 2) (by lukeyboy95 Jul 15 2010 in Trip Reports)

BA’s Nod To The Northeast – NCL-LHR 747 (by lukeyboy95 Jul 30 2010 in Trip Reports)

~A Promise Kept; To France For Chicken AF A380~ (by lukeyboy95 Oct 23 2011 in Trip Reports)

Part 1; The Rushes Run – BA Vs. Virgin Train 1st (by lukeyboy95 Dec 23 2011 in Trip Reports)

Part 2; To Venice For Filming With BA (by lukeyboy95 Jan 12 2012 in Trip Reports)

Pivo In Bratislava ; A Day With FR (by lukeyboy95 May 6 2010 in Trip Reports)

An Indian Summer; The North – BA And IT (Part 1) (by lukeyboy95 Jun 11 2010 in Trip Reports)

My African Safari (i) ; The Beginning (EZY/ QR) (by lukeyboy95 Feb 27 2012 in Trip Reports)

African Safari (ii) ;The Interlude QR LXR-DOH-KUL (by lukeyboy95 Apr 13 2012 in Trip Reports)

.
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
User avatar
OA260
Posts: 21145
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 8:50 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 11:35 am

WOW Luke I have been glued to this TR and been hitting the refresh button to see the rest !

Another amazing read and your summing up of TLV is spot on 100% . Having been there twice it brought back memories.

Im very glad A3 was able to rescue you in your time of need with great fare/service and two meals   Its great to see them offering this standard of service for a short flight. Having done both OA and A3 recently I find the crew on A3 not as good as OA but A3 win over the IFE . When it comes down to catering OA and A3 are split. A3 clearly won this time over the catering that OA offer on the same route . On other routes including Domestic OA has the edge. Still great to have two decent carriers in such a time of crisis in the economy. A3 contiunes to surprise with their international routes and LHR is performing at top place in terms of loads over BA and CY ( although they are reporting high loads too ) .

Funny your friend was in the protest march at Syntagma   Looks like a normal friendly gathering that day ! Sadly you only see the more less frequent violent ones on TV . Ive never encountered one myself.

Sorry to hear you were in hospital. BTW Id be interested to hear about your Greek hospital experience ? Not something I would relish but maybe thats my own pre conceptions. In fairness my Uncle recently was at the local state hospital and was treated very well by a wonderful staff and Doctors. I always have private medical insurance just in case. I presume yours was the same ?

You have certainly changed my perception of QR and the DOH experience. Not sure what I think about it all now .

Anyway Luke thanks for a wonderful report. Im glad that fate brought you to A3 . Sometimes its always the way .


Regards

Philip  
 
henrikg
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 5:30 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 12:10 pm

Hi Luke

Thank you for a very well written and interesting trip report!
I tend to agree with you regarding QR. Did six segments with them last summer and while I was quite impressed with their product on board, the transfer in Doha did drag down the general impression.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
The worst is to come; I am told that due to a conference, I will have to be placed airside, and furthermore, in the worst hotel in KUL. Rasmita scribbles out all the required vouchers and syas “ QR have an agreement with Burger King, so as a result, you will only be able to use your food vouchers at the specified branch”.Of course! Here is one of the world’s alleged 5* Airlines, and yes, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Lunch, Dinner at Burger King. Pathetic.

While the accomodation problem due to the conference is beyond QRs control, food vouchers only on Burger King sounds horrible.

Sad to hear about your medical problems, hope that you've recovered by now.

Regards
Henrik
 
planejamie
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:41 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 12:11 pm

Wonderful series of reports, I will certainly think twice before booking QR now (I'll go SV instead). I'm glad you made it back safely and had a positive recovery, Maleria can have the potential to kill so you were quite lucky there!

Also, interesting that you now live/based in Saudi, which city/school (I think you mentioned being a teacher)?

Maybe if you fly back to the UK from Saudi on SV you could do a report on them! (you'll be pleasantly surprised by them)
 
PlaneHunter
Posts: 6512
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 3:17 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 12:25 pm

Hi Luke,

amazing report, it really kept me entertained!

You were indeed lucky, as pointed out already. Malaria can kill you - there shouldn't be any comprises in terms of health. Just recently I decided not to fly home as planned because I wasn't fit enough and it was a good decision. Sure, lots of hassles now (money lost etc.), but still better than a permanent health defect.

As for QR - I cannot believe how you were treated again. Don't stop sending letters and complaints.


PH
Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 12:50 pm

.







.
This section of text and pictures picks the journey up fairly much in Luxor. In line with the previous travelogue, I will categorise things according to country whilst providing a narrative of the physical movement northwards and inclusion of any representative photos from the country. Happy days!


Egypt


If you cast your minds back, my last portrayal of Egypt wasn’t all sunlight and buttercups. But that is to be expected after your nation has just been through the maelstrom of an uprising against a dictatorial government regime. The brief, but perplexing, anger at Westerners has thankfully dissipated, leaving in it’s wake an army of tourism-based-income Egyptians hell bent on giving you as much hassle, haranguing and bad banter as possible in your short interface with them.

From Luxor I took a train northwards to Cairo. Egypt has a pretty efficient train system running the length of inhabited Nile basin. Extremely cost effective, and given the roguish behaviour of some Egyptians, I elect to this as opposed to hitching. But things don’t go well on that journey… I get a hellish fever, am totally delirious, have no idea of my surroundings, drift in and out of consciousness (sleep) etc. I vividly remember that journey as one of the worst imaginable.


My hostel had a pleasant view down onto the turmoil of Tahir Square.


Cairo was so loud. The extent of the noise was a revelation – not one person spoke at a normalised volume, and in an attempt to out-decibel one another, it all spiralled out of control. Still, Tahir Square was still abuzz with protest at the new military juntas handling of the situation.


Tahir Sq


I visited the Pyramids. I hadn’t intended to, but a crook let me in for about a dollar in the back entrance. He asked him for a tip, and I sang him ‘Flower of Scotland’ (My patriotic second national anthem) as a gesture of thanks which left him and his cohorts a little vexed.


Against duress I struck this pose!



I sang about this in ‘Jospeh’ when I was 9



Admittedly spectacular apart from aggressive touts.



With nationalist fervour almost everything was painted with the Egyptian colors.



Good Egyptian food...


Determined to conclude what I had originally set out to achieve on this trip, I make my way up to Alexandria. Alex is calm, Mediterranean, a little bohem and Francophone on the edges and generally much more chilled out than Cairo… some good medicine for me. Over a glorious sunset into the Med at Fort Qaitbay, I toast an illicit beer in a plastic bag to conquering the length of Africa – day 330 of the dairy reads ‘Yes. I made it’.



An illicit hitcher on my final train to Alexandria.



Fort Qaitbay



Sunset over the Med.



Nice old tram in Alexandria.



Alexandria.


Though the Nile Delta is vast and dispersed, the main outlet of the great River Nile lies at a small fishing town called Rashid. It’s more common name of Rosetta might ring some bells; it was here that the sacred and revered Rosetta Stone was happened upon. I visited this site, had a gander round the nice old town and got lost a little before marking another ‘Nile’ moment where she enters the big blue. Beautiful.



Mosque that marks spot of Rosetta being found



Pretty old door in Rashid old town.



Fishing boats heading out of the Niles largest outflow into the sea.



Across the Nile


My general intensions are as such; cross Senai, hop on a ferry over to Jordan, hop-skip through Syria which is rapidly descending into turmoil as I travel and the reach the sanctuary of Turkey for the final push home.

I’ve always harboured an ambition to see the Suez Canal, and I am not disappointed to watch the staggering sight of supertankers, great fortresses of steel, glide surreally through the arid desert. Should be noted though that Senai as a whole is fairly unstable, and Egyptians are majorly cautious about the security of this economic gold nugget.


Suez canal activity. Pictures strictly prohibited so this was on the fly.



And endless stream of ships despite the recession.



I resume normal hitching service in Senai – it is all great actually. I got charged a nominal amount, but they were a fairly pleasant bunch, and took me almost all the way – namely to the port of Nweiba, from were a local farmer took me the remaining hop to Dahab. Dahab is hailed as an ex-hippy commune. Steadily becoming more mainstream, and attracting the gaudy Sharm El Sheik crowd more frequently.

The highlight of my time in Egypt, and one of the highlights of the trip, was a trek I did alone along the coast from Dahab. For all the crowds, you only have to walk 1km out of town to have the entire dramatic coast of the Gulf of Aqaba to yourself.


Beginning my coastal trek


I walked two days along a path most frequented by camels, out to a ghost Bedouin town Ras Abu Galum. The first evening I set off, I was enchanted by the waters of the Gulf. They were so utopian in colour and appeal, so starkly contrasted to the fragmented, desolate coast – teeming with glorious reef and fish. I slept outside in a disused café that night, and watched the tremendous sunset over the reddened, mysterious mountains of Saudi Arabia. Slept deeply under the stars…


Reddened mountains of Saudi proved alluring...



Sleeping out under the stars



Morning swims. I was reading out the midday sun in shelter that day, when three Bedouin men arrived with camel. Introductions made, they were three brothers, come for a ‘break’ and to do some fishing. They warmly invited me to stay on for some food when they had caught fish, and offered to share their water and delicious sweet shai.



Camels pass in the morning.


I stayed with them two days; the day made of sweet shots of golden chai, the haul of fresh fish shortly grilled and served with lime and plain rice, sunsets and sunrises, the occasional French tour group passing in a camel caravan and in keeping with the locals, much hashish. It was a great experience indeed.


The delicious tea they offered throughout the hot days...





Fresh fish!



Lunch fresh from the ocean.



Some dish being made by night



Some adopted Bedouin brothers!



Simply cooked fish...



Ras abu Galum





The staggering and deadly dive-site of Blue Hole... sadly the Sharm lot had already got there (note all the jeeps). It was like a Jacuzzi snorkelling above all the divers!


Latterly headed back, stopping at the ghost resort of Tarabin (once an Israeli holidaymaker hotspot), I eventually make my way by ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba.


Friendly local giving me ride to ferry...


It is all HIGHLY ABSURD. Although, Aqaba is easily reached by land from Egypt, you have to pass through a sliver of Israeli territory. Since I do not want my passport besmirched by an Israeli stamp (or moreover, an Egyptian exit at that border) (since many countries will disallow you entry on seeing any trace of a visit to Israel (absurd), I am forced to take this ferry. Free for Egyptians, and all Arabs it seems, the extortion of $80 is charged for Westerners. I’m utterly pissed at this…


Anyway, it is the first day of Ramadan, and the Egyptian pilgrims are out en force for the journey. I wanted to say, whilst out in the heat of Nuweiba port, I was smoking a cigarette – a lorry driver honked his horn, and I suspected I was in trouble. I went over, and Abdullah is beaming, and gesturing me into the cab. He explains that he will not see me outside in the heat, and insists I sit with him. He furnished me with cold green grapes (his cargo) and a glass of water. This is the true hospitality of the Middle (or Near) East.


Abdullah and his hospitality.


I take the boat. It is hellish, truly hellish. Let me quickly explain. My fevers, the illness, reoccurs exactly every 72 hours at a reliability that you could set your watch by. It happens at night, so I never truly recognise the seriousness of the situation. It happens tonight. The pilgrims help themselves to my food and water whilst I am
asleep… grrr.


Ferry and coaches for pilgrims to Mecca.



A little like Ryanair boarding.... Hajj



Jordan!



Well here I am, and a free visa to boot! Aqaba is hot and sticky, but the people of Jordan are genuine, mostly trustworthy and very endearing. I hitch pretty easily out of town and find myself rapid ascending the great, unanticipated mountains of Jordan. Shopkeepers invite me into fill my waterbottles with cool water… it’s that convivial!


Mountains of Jordan provides surprising scenery


An army officer gives me a great hitch back down into the sultry lands as I make towards the Dead Sea that night. He’s fantastic, and insists on buying me soft drinks… He drops me off in a totally deserted stretch of road on the staggering banks of the Dead sea, with the warning that it is a military area. Later, and a good illustration of the warmth extended to me, a wealthy Palestinian family furnish me with cold, frsh fruit, crisps and water for my night under the stars.


My deserted stretch of the Dead Sea


Since I was young with a terrible skin condition, the dead sea has always gone down in my imagination for it’s therapeutic and surreal properties. At sunset, I clamber down to the untouched crystallised salty shore and plop in. The buoyancy is staggering… another highlight of the trip is enjoyed. I do get a little water in my eye… and fu*k it stings! You've had your warning. I sleep in a storm drain under the road so as to avoid military curiosity that night.







Sequence of sunset on the Dead Sea.... this part of the coastline is deserted.


Reading...


Next day, I make my way to Amman. Amman is deceptively at altitude. As a city, I find it a little disappointing. But it is a living city, not a showpiece, and it’s contoured streets are an allure. For the most part I obey Ramadan, trying to keep to only water or the delicious Hibiscus drink that is dispensed, and bread if my hunger is too much…


Central Amman.


The tidings on BBC World News and Al Jazeera isn’t good news. I had anticipated that the Holy Month of Ramadan might signify a temporary calming in the violence in Syria. However, according to the law of the sod, it serves only to fan the flames as the resistance use it to consolidate forces, and Assad’s cowardice aims to crush them with brutal force. Back in the fruitful slopes of the north of Jordan, one hitch brings me into contact with a contemplative, insular man of precious words called Mr Taisir. He invites me home to his family for the afternoon. Despite it being Ramadan, he insists on my eating. I’m the object of the families curiosity, and they’re all wonderful.



Grandness of Jordan



Nibbling on my lens cover


I find out he is a farmer, and later in the evening we walk amongst his land. He gets me to taste test for the best plums, sweetest grapes and juiciest apples as he is unable to given the sun has not yet set. I am privileged that evening to witness and take-part in a families Ramadan routine. Rugs are placed outside, the children set up the TV and the evening call to prayer begins. The wife and daughters brings out a glorious spread, which, when the time is right, is set upon by all gathered. It is so wonderful, I am reminiscing right now. Oh!





Breaking the fast... Ramadan. Extremely privileged to be invited into this family.


Following this, everyone lounges, lazes, chats, neighbours visit, copious coffee is distributed… this goes on into the night. Fasting isn’t so bad when you follow this routine, as you eat all night, sleep the first portion of the day, and really only don’t eat for 6 or 7 hours. And, like the heat, there’s the feeling you’re all in it together.

It’s funny, maybe it is a sign, who knows. But I watch the great film ‘Into the Wild’ as Taisir and friends debate passionately on some subject through the night. Something in the film strikes a discord within me. It sounds weird, but a great many similarities can be identified – a traveller (the main protagonist, Alex Supertramp), so ensconced and insulated in the moment of travelling, and sustaining the motive, that he overlooked he was killing himself. Watching the scenes of his wasted body in Alaska causes a fat solitary tear to roll down my cheek. He dies, and it was his selfishness and obsession of the travelling that caused it. My body is wasted, I’m a shadow of my former self, I’m too obsessed in the objective of my travelling and in a moment of dread, I consider my parents loosing their boy. It is an awakening...

The next day I attempt to enter Syria. It’s all tenuous and futile. One border is closed, and at the second I do Exit Jordan and turn up at the vast, showy immigration hall of the Syrian Arab Republic, Assad stoutly staring down from numerous propaganda portraits. I had met Greeks and Germans in the past week who had successfully made it across the border, so hold a bit of hope.


Hitching towards the Syrian border.



So close. Yet....


An immigration officer has a long, protracted interview with me. I heard ‘Inshallah’ so many times during the whole course of this procedure, that I now knew it truly was in the hands of the gods. I was told to wait 8 hours as the head honcho in Damascus was ‘napping’. In the officials office, I saw a News piece of absolute chaos, unprecedented marches and riots “Which country is this?” I queried the officer to which he blithely flicked a hand behind him and said “ah yes, it is 5km north of here in Deraa”.

I can only trust it was fate’s funny way, but at midnight, I was abruptly shaken awake, handed my passport and bundled out the building. Suddenly no-one wanted to talk, the mood had entirely soured. And so I was back in Jordan, and facing the biggest upheaval of my trip. That was August 15th, which went down as a cataclysmic day and official ‘Game Over’ on the objective to get home without flying.

Except, I’m a stubborn....




Israel


There was one more chance. A stab in the dark, but I had little to loose at this point. My plan was to enter to Holy Land (an uneasy decision given visa repercussions), and attempt to find a yacht/ cruiseship / freighter that might be able to take me the hop to European territory be it Turkey, Greece or Cyprus.



Crossing into Israel... It took me 5 hours to get over the intimidating border.

I decided to make the most on my unscheduled deviation into Israel. I had always wanted to visit the land anyway, and this seemed as good a reason as any. I spent some nice days in Jerusalem, took a fantastic daytrip into Palestine to visit Christmas royalty Bethlehem, or as I found out, the not so Christmassy Arab market town of Bet Lahem! Palestinians were really friendly, and I was invited in and fed and watered by a wealthy family. Of course, they were keen to let me know of their plight… Some fantastic, political and religious discussions glowed on, and it was good to get the all sides of the debate I supposed...


Old streets of Jerusalem.





The wailing wall at sunset.



Torah



A fascinating incite into the Jewish religion.



What my wail was about...



Nativity Church at Bethlehem.


For Jerusalem, I descended down into the heat of Tel Aviv. Israel is generally superb for hitch-hiking (affectionately known as ‘tramping’), and it was one of the first times females had picked me up. But Israeli females know how to defend themselves. On these hitches you could be guaranteed of an impassioned account of their country and it’s future. It was all illuminating and fascinating and I even had one old man who had been in Auschwitz pick me up.

I liked Israel, but I felt the hot blood of the people, every so often, an aggressive, defensive shade of passion. One great example of that spirit was in the tented protest cities in Tel Aviv – these were superb places to chill out at night, enjoy the talents of the people – I even pitched my tent there one night.








In and around the tented cities.



Busy beaches at Tel Aviv







Scenes from Tel Aviv’s impressive city airport which features amazing approaches over the shorefront.


I spent time in Benyamina, visited Haifa (where by a week I had missed the last ‘cruise’ of the season to Limassol (not that I would have been able to afford it)). No ferries were leaving. I walked the marinas like a prostitute for 3 weeks – Hertzliya, Haifa, Tel Aviv… I talked, I networked, I posted on sailing forums, I pleaded… but something was conspiring against me. The winds were also bad for that time, and few sailing boats were leaving to Europe.



Literally a shadow of my former self...


I celebrated a fantastic birthday (given my undertones of despair) in Tel Aviv, turning 23. The next day, on the 20th of August, marked a full year since I left home. Increasingly I was feeling trapped, and my poor health gnawed at me. For your consideration, I couldn’t get treatment in Israel since the initial cost was exorbitant, and since health insurance works on a reimbursement system, it wasn’t possible.



I turn 23


Two things tip the balance. I doctor friend discovers my drenched (from sweating) bedsheets after a fever night and implores me to think hard, and another person has a talk with me after listening to my raspy, alarming breathing during my sleep. And mum and dad. What would they say? I cede;


On the 25th August I book a flight through Skyscanner for Aegean airlines in a weeks’ time, flying into Athens. I’m deeply upset and disappointment, the goal of the trip is over.

[/font]
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
ThomasCook
Posts: 677
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:43 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 12:53 pm

Hello,

Great report! You sum up QR well! I have never quite understood their '5* rating' (bought?). Doha alone is more then enough to bring them down to 4* at the very most. I experienced EK for the first time in the last few weeks and found them much more palatable. DXB, whilst not perfect is a world away from DOH and just the little things like smiling staff, metal cutlery in economy alongside an excellent Y class bar which included Baileys, Cointreau, Drambuie, Tia Maria etc is more then enough to rank them above Qatar! I had first hand experience of the terrible ground staff in Doha as well with one literally shouting at me due to me being 'the last one to board' (albeit another bus full of pax arrived after me!). I had ordered and paid for a birthday cake to be given to my partner onboard which was literally just brought out and handed over by saying 'this is for you'. No happy birthday! Not what you would hope for. I very much think QR over hype themselves and rest on their laurels.

I just need to try EY now.

Great report anyway and hope your better now!

ThomasCook
A380 Crew
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 1:06 pm

.







So I flew.

Geographically, I hadn’t taken too much of a short-cut, but it was really upsetting for me. It took me a good couple of months to realise that aviation is now public transport . I think the ethos of ‘overland travel’ might have been in its prime when aviation encapsulated exclusivity. But ultimately, as we trundle on into the 21st century, it is a positive progression to accept aviation as common-place as the age old bus. So eventually I began to see it not as cheating.



Welcome to Greece






As I think I mentioned earlier, it was a surreal arrival into ATH, noting gaggles of idle Greek taxi-drivers sooking on frappes in the delicate midday sun. It was foreign, yet in a first for me, coming back into the Eurozone felt palpably like ‘coming home’.

The next day I sat sheepishly in a nuclear-bunker lookalike Greek hospital on the outskirts. Within an hour of checking my vitals, and running blood tests, I was bundled off to a ward and placed twixt two old, fating geriatric Greek men.


A sad time on the trip... being treated.


I take value from everything on a trip, and see the positive in most experiences. So, I observed. I observed my fellow patients old Greek wives sneaking in delicious, and slightly inappropriate food out of view of the nurses. I watched as men who had been in the prime of their life, the breadwinner and summit always, lost all self-respect. I watched as my hospital meals got increasingly inedible. I watched as the status of my malaria type got more and more puzzling for the 14 doctors that huddled and debated around my bed every morning. I admired the weakening high of my extraordinary dosage of anti-malarial I was administered (flown in from Thessaloniki no less), I watched as my saline drip was constantly injected by nurses into the wrong vain and left my arm swollen like a caricature, I watched the medical staff nervously – tentatively branching out with a bit of new english each day.


Hospital food... I had an illicit stash of salt.


The hospital was abysmal according to hygiene, organisation and resources. But I am eternally grateful for them treating me and nursing me over a week or so, back to my usual plucky self. I also have to thank a ‘couchsurfer’ (look it up), who translated, brought in his laptop and generally acted as a go-between between me and my parents (who were worried).

When I finally hobbled out of hospital, cured allegedly, I went over to a newsagent and had a sweet Amstel beer. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. That night, in a salute to Greece for their medical services, I had a mosey around Athens, demolished some shouflaki. But plainly something was amiss in this capital.

Bulgaria


I really won’t beat about the bush for each European country.

Bulgaria, well the parts I saw, was a fantastic little country. The capital was charming, communist (hangover) and full of hope for the future. I really enjoyed this. The landscape here is still quite harsh and brutal (industrially). I hitched to the border with an old man in a clapped out Lada, who was delivering fresh rolls. He insisted on me
taking some.


Church in Sofia



European national anthem indicating Bulgaria’s pride to be in it.



The start of the absolutely delicious Balkan food





Macedonia





I ought not to include my perceptions of countries that I spent less than 3 hours in. But, with such an evocative, mountainous border, I had to mention that it was a very friendly and sincere country. Jordan, a truck driver that generously picks me up and transports me down the nerve-wracking bends of the road from the border, is a true spirit of a man. Our conversation is made of clumsy misunderstandings, but he insists on stopping and buying me some bread, meat, and juice to eat. Extraordinary. Whilst he continues to Skopje with his load of milk for Milka chocolate, I skoot north.


Jordan who was transporting milk got me to the border



Arrival into Serbia.


I cross the border and slit into Serbia for all of an hour. I am fascinated with Serbia, and am pleased to say that my little time their fills me with good vibes. More on that later. A trucker drops me off at the village which my wikitravel printout suggests will present a road that wiggles over the surrounding mountains into Kosovo.



Kosovo




UN checkpoint into Kosovo


It takes me ages to get the lift, but eventually a couple in an old, battered VW car pick me up, and we wind our way over the hill, past the UN checkpoints, and into the much maligned territory/ country of Kosovo. Since I observe the cultures and mentality of Kosavo-ans are fairly unique, I will thus far refer to it is a country. A young man called Kastriot picks me up on my run to the capital Prishtine, and invites me back to stay with his family. Amazed to learn that their family has no water, no electricity, no phone… you’re talking astounding living conditions given the European status.


The people of Kosovo love a good pepper.


His family are revered by for being so utterly welcoming and generous, tears of compassion came to my eyes when I had to leave. They were such a good bunch, and very honourable and approachable Muslims.


The family that invited me to stay....


Hitching out of Prishtine proved to be a confusing affair. I eventually see a bus, and take this to Pej. I relax on-board. From the flat-scrubland of Kosovo, Montenegro rises up intimidatingly into craggy summits. Little wonder that hitching out there is a palaver. It takes me at least a day to get 200km.



.
Montenegro


With hitching, the day’s events become peaks and troughs. Troughs develop were no-one will pick you up,, your mentality and mood is low, you are tired, your pushed against time…. These can get quite deep. By contrast, the peaks can be great; the foothills of these begins as soon as you see the break-lights confirming a stopper. Getting in the car gets you on your way to the peak, and the unexpected development of a hitch (destination, person, where it leads you) ultimately causes a peak of basic enjoyment that eclipses even the longest trough


Climbing up into the mountain border crossing into Montenegro.


In Montenegro, I had a long, deep trough. I waited, I walked, I smiled, I cursed, I changed clothing. I did everything, but to no avail. My one little thrill was when I saw a young man walking towards me in the hot sunshine. As he passed, his face broadens into a smile, he hands me an ice-cold litre of Coke with “For You!” and keeps on walking. Amazing.

As is the farmer who brings me a plastic bottle of beer, and a loaf of bread that night as I think I am camping secretively in his field. It is all too much, the hospitality, the kindness, the warmth. I am cold that night though… it freezes for the first time, and I realise my African clothing inventory is grossly inadequate for this beautiful, mountainous terrain.


Sunrise and another long day oh hitching ahead in Montenegro


Up there with some of my best experiences of the trip, is the next cock-up. Since I only use a camera pictures of ‘Goggle Map Directions’ as my basis for hitching routes, it is a bit of a shock to turn up on my recommended route this morning and find out it is a single-track nemesis of a road, twisting and turning up into the perpetuity of the grand surrounding mountains.


Going up the single-track mountain road in the back of a truck – alot of fun.


But, as ever, here I have thrilling hitches; in a builders old red VW, on the back of a timber truck careering around corners, thumping into apple trees and getting fruit dumped on me. All happy days… Specifically, that is the mountain pass between Andrejavica and Kolasin for those of you that know the area. A double-trailer wood-truck takes me the final push.


Nostalgia and nationalism are stirred when I see this thistle whilst walking


I’m sucked into Podgorica, a capital I never knew existed. And spat back out on the road north towards
Pluzine. I’ve not the keyboard for all the proper accents in these place names.

Sleep in bushes off the road, dinner of delicious plums from local farmer.


Typical ‘on-the-road’ dinner...


I begin the push to the border of Bosnia the next morning before sunrise. I get a lift fairly easily. The scenery is staggering – infact this area rockets to the top of my Europe pile. It is all gorges and stunning vistas over mist-filled lake valleys. And when you see the lakes, they’re invariably azure and breathtaking. I get a hitch with a meat delivery driver, a tipper-truck driver, and two business men. I’d never expected this views as I make my way towards one of the world’s most beautiful borders.


Mist sitting in the valley...



Stunning road at Pluzine





This bridge transcends the border to Bosnia




[b]Bosnia y Hertz



When you’re a child, the repeated name of somewhere can become synonymous in your mind, especially if on the news. And so it was that ‘Bosnia’ and ‘Sarajevo’ occupied a stark part of my childhood recollection.

Thus I wished to challenge the stereotype, and visit. I crossed a staggering border point bridge over glacial waters, to the sound of booming laughter of immigration officials. Little dismayed to find to road on the Bosnian side is a single-track. However, strike gold when a pretty young blonde thing picks me up and takes me all the way to Sarajevo. She was superb. Sarajevo is a wonderful city, really chilled out and rather bohem I was pretty addicted to the Burek snacks (meat, potato or cheese? ) which are delicious filo pastry fast foods weighed in a no-nonsense fashion.


Serene and beautiful Sarajevo.





Some nice traditional food...



2 litre bottles of beer in the park



At the market



How the Burek comes



Sunset over Sarajevo. .


From the outskirts of Sarajevo, a thrilling, elderly couple pick me up and drive me to Tuzla. I sleep happily in their car, and they’re so sweet – insisting on buying me lunch at a café.






From Tuzla, I hitch North-East towards my intended border-point back with Serbia. Except nightfall is neigh, and I plan to make camp. I mention this to my final hitch of the day, but he warns ‘ No, no, do not go into the woods around here – many mines still dangerous. Find a house’. With this shrill reminder of past times I march along the road till I find a farm.

Despite wanting to just pitch camp on a sliver of land, I am unsurprised to hear hospitality get the better of the two old farmers whose land I am on, and I am invited up for a massive dinner of roast pork, chicken, heavy bread and salad. I watch in adoration as the farmer’s wife makes rakia (the firewater spirit from any sort of fruit, but tonight, with blackberries). Staggering. I am massively grateful for the kindness.

Next morning, I am again invited up for devilishly strong coffee, apple sponge and shots of rakia with the hardened master of the house. I am so thrilled. I leave elated.


My farmer hosts amaze me with their warmth.


But Bosnia YH has one last trick up it’s sleeve when one of my hitches to the border hears about my story, and insists on dropping by his fathers grocery shop, and that I take ANYTHING I wish from the shelves. This was extraordinary, I was literally speechless.


I eat my picnic of foods from this revelation of hospitality on the bridge over the river Sava marcating the border between Bosnia and Serbia .


My gifted spoils on the bridge to Serbia.




Serbia


Almost instantly picked up by someone once I have cleared Serbian immigration (read; close scrutiny of Kosovo passport stamp). My run into Belgrade is brilliant, and I can appreciate was a vast, mostly flat country Serbia is. Belgrade is industrial, brash and leaves the eyes affronted after the subtle quaintness of the preceding Balkan landscape.


Belgrade Train Station


That night I journey out to Novi-Sad. It should be noted that; the Serbian railways system is disastrous, and I experienced the first rain I had seen since the Hoobab in Sudan, some 4/5 months prior. Definitely the longest this Scot has gone without rain.

Novi-Sad a nice little place to rest. Confusing little bugger if you’re trying to hitch out though. I couldn’t figure out the traffic flows to save myself. Finally, a roads-worker came over and took me to the right slip-way towards Budapest. I get two rather kindly Romanian-German residents heading to Berlin in their VW People carrier. Let it be noted that Romanians were some of the best people to pick up hitch-hikers on the journey.


A sad site in pretty Novi Sad



Rain finally catches up with me



Bit puzzled to find my hitching spot has been dug up...




Hungary



Crossing into Hungary might as well be considered passing into Western Europe nowadays, a gush of Turkish, Slovakian, Romanian etc. haulage lorries combines before the border. The gruff passport agent gives me the biggest scrutiny since Israel. The speed of the traffic suggests I may have to rethink my ‘turn up and hope for the best’ approach to hitching adopted thus far.

A thrill to be back in Budapest, which I hold in very high esteem as being my favourite European city after Palma. But it is summery, and that forint is a lot stronger than it was, and I do feel strangely aloof to be amidst ‘Eurotravellers’ of which I was proudly one some 5 years prior, receiving my A-Level results on a platform at Keleti station.


Considering a trade-in of the backpack


I regroup with the very Israeli man that scared me into getting treatment back in Israel. He is over here studying medicine, and so gives me a very enjoyable insider’s snippet of the student life in Budapest. He uses my marine biology background as a valid reason to attend his nervous systems tutorial in the morning and I get the surreal opportunity to hold a real human brain. Later that day, I bathe away in the relaxing Turkish baths for 6 hours, for all my sins. Glorious.


Budapest ballroom dancing




Parliament



My favourite foods of Budapest


Hitching out of Budapest represents a challenge. When I do get a hitch, it is an amiable couple and I notice bleary-eyed that the male driver is making 202 km/p/hr on his speedo. In a state of disbelief when dropped off, I failed to realise I had forgotten to take my diary out with me .

It is a horrid moment, whereby I mostly go completely cold, begin repeating “no, no, no, please… no” to myself as I go through my baggage in vain. I’ve no idea were my racer-driver hitch has gone. My dairy contains everything; every emotion, thought, gram of creativity, anger, longing, affection, every activity, every valuable name of the hitches – it is my companion, and I vow I will not leave Hungary until I have traced it down.


My diary



15 minutes of cold sweat panicking later, my man drives into the petrol station forecourt, and returns my diary. I think the dramatic, awkwardly long hug lets him know my gratitude.

I sleep in the manicured forecourt of a petrol station in Gyor that night, before snagging a very lucky lift with a foxy young lady named Emese the next day.



Austria



Emese is divine, and it transpires, a police officer in Hungary. But by the weekend she has a job in Bruckensdorf across the border in Austria. I decide not to enquire further for fear it might be a naughty appointment here.

The start contrast between Hungary and Austria is quite unbelievable. And for a while, I by into the fairy-tale format of Austrian towns. Really, it’s all to good to be true. That morning, a grumpy builder picks me up and takes me in past the airport to the outskirts of town. It is a sunny Sunday, and I watch as Austrian Airline heavies lazily float up into the air. Rather lovely.

Vienna is a nice surprise, and a little bonus on the trip. Although, I find the limited shop opening law on a weekend a little archaic.


Vienna



Briefly, the procedure for hitching is that I check the “hitch wiki” website for the specific city I wish to hitch out of. That tells you how easy/ impossible it is likely to be, and what reasonable public transport can take you out to a safe/ convenient juncture to get the lift you wish.


Vienna



Austrian beers...


Today’s random trail finds me at a petrol station, in the mist, in a place called ‘wolf in der au’ beside a roaring freeway heading towards Saltzburg. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for someone to figure I am not a rapist, and I soon get a lift.



It’s a thrilling ride(s) across Austria. As the mist lifts, so the glorious, verdant rolling landscapes of Austria is revealed. I get a great clutch of friendly people picking me up too. I spend the afternoon humming ‘Sound of Music’ as I potter about the highly touristy – highly picturesque town of Saltzburg, drink a delicious couple of Stiegls by the river, mosey through a garden and hitch at a perilous intersection to a motorway. The calibre of motorway systems has once more gone up a notch.


One of my favourite statues... this reminds me of the people of Africa...



Scruff in the Pristine gardens of Austria







At a service station on the border.




Germany


At a service station marking the border of Austria/ Deutschland I get a hitch with a super friendly trucker called Kostas. He is a total legend, and plays me a dazzling array of Balkan folk rock, produces from his fridge a gastranomique delight of wholesome foods… all as we steadily trundle adjacent to the glorious alps on the way to Munchen at sunset. Getting from Vaterstatten Rastazzen into Munich central took no less than four hours.


My ride into Germany


Munchen highly brilliant. It was September, so I’d not pencilled in the possibility of Oktoberfest, but pay no heed to the name, as it was on. It was absolutely brilliant; I’d feared the worst sort of tourist envisioned German beer debacle, but was pleased to see it was still full of frivolity, cheer, fantastic beer, oompah bands and all the trappings.




One of the Beer tents...







Super nice stereotypical Bavarian couple!




I’ve my longest, most dreaded hitch here. The time for my trip is soon running out. I have to be back in Scotland within 10 days. It is about 790km to Utrecht, and I’ve ambitiously banked on completing it in two days. All is compounded by the fact that I do not know whether to try and route via Nuremburg or Stuttgart.

I ought to allay my fears, as Germans were some of the most trusting, intrigued and benevolent hitches out there. Furthermore, their captivating and much anticipated autobahns generally meant the journey flew past. I had all sorts of manufacturing management peculiarities pick me up; from drill bits, to the foil on muller yoghurts.. . these German managers and engineers seemingly had a place for a hitching drifter in their car and I was supremely grateful.
The first night I got as far as the Rhone Valley. My hitcher enthused I should camp up in the valley, which was the Black Forest. I did so, and had one of the most spooky nights alone in a random patch of the Black Forest overlooking the valley with a comforting campfire.



My tent in the middle of an eerie patch of the Black Forest


Next morning, fog made hitching hellish. But luckily, some honourable businessmen in a Porsche (no less) offered to get me to Belgium.


Amazing fog over the autobahn this morning...



My eventual saviours...




Belgium

I soon find my road heading towards…



The Netherlands

No, no, I am not in the Netherland to end the final days of the trip in a heady daze of cannabis. I am here to visit some friends who I had travelled with in Uganda. I find them in Utrecht. We visit the docks of staggering Rotterdam, and a cracking day at the North Sea beach close to Harlem.



To my mind, the Netherland seems like Utopia. It feels more storybook than any place I have visited. Perhaps that was because the place was basking in some highly rare October sunshine.


Kayaking on the heavenly canal systems...



Man relaxing in industrial docks of Rotterdam





Cliché in pretty old part of Rotterdam



I’ve heard this is ‘the Dutch thing to do’ bitter-ballen? And beer!



Heading into Amsterdam


On the beach, I etched ‘Almost Home’ with the base of a beer can; For I almost was. Across a hazy stretch of the North Sea, was the UK, and home and all it’s trappings. And it was utterly surreal, and a bit of a headf*ck, that after all the time, emotions and ethereal experiences of the last 14 months, I was now on the doorstep of home. Except, how to cross that threshold?





Well, Hoek van Holland would provide my first option. On the 3rd of October, I did my final shop in Albert Heijn (which I have a great fondness for) and headed to the port. There Stena Hollandica sat, like a wall I had to surpass. I waddled along to the freight entrance (as my only hope of boarding would be with a lorry driver). I sat there for 9 hours; watched Hollandica depart dramatically in hoots of foghorns for Harwich, and attempted once more for Britanica. The freight systems were all wrong – it was just the trailers going on. Thus, I decided on affirmative and radical action the next day; I would attempt to hitch to Calais.


So close! The ferry I had tried to hitch onto...



A tease!


That night, thoroughly dejected, and in mental purgatory, I pitched my tent in the sand-dunes at the entrance to Rotterdam harbour. I will never forget the gentle roar of industry that night, nor the brutish merchant ships filling the darkened channels.




Night scenes at the stunning entrance to Rotterdam harbour


I woke at 3am that morning. The weather was telling me to get out; I could see it has clouded over, suggesting a little hostility. I am sorry Netherland, but I blackride(not proud of) into Rotterdam centre, blackride a tram to an intersection, and attempt hitching. I am extremely lucky, as it is still twilight, and a young lawyer picks me up and drives me to Antwerp. The next hitch leaves me a little bemused, after the young Caribbean driver of the polo Lupo insists on searching me, buys me a coffee, tells me he is a ladies man, drops me randomly off at the BRU Airport and gives me a crumpled £5 note ‘to get some breakfast bra’.




My only map




Belgium/ France



From the airport, a fantastic car-transporter driver called Danny (dropping off brand-new hire-cars) offers to take me partially to Zebrugge. Delighted by this, and he is a good guy too. I get a further hitch from Brugge towards Oostende from another lawyer, and then , whilst hitching with euphoria, get collected by my first British car. He is a marine surveyor, a Yorkshire gent, and takes me all the way to Calais.


My lift from Brussels airport...


Calais is less town, more impenetrable (snigger) force-field of the UK border. A boy on legs has no place here. I politely ask Sea France (now defunct) and P&O for the fare to purchase a ticket. It is pure extortion at £85.00. The mind boggles on their pricing for this run. So, I initiate plan B, and ask a vulnerable looking man if I may come across with him with plenty[i[ “I’m no drug-peddling mule” [/i]precursors. The man says “OK”…. But I am in for a big surprise.

Ahmad, is 92. He has just driven 5 days from Cyprus in a van carrying ‘organic matter’. A Polish lorry crashed into him, so there is no passenger-side window, the registration plate is spray-painted on. It is mental! He’s also plainly quite senile. But still, I am grateful for the ride. Calais throws me into a depression about getting home. Of course, you enter the UK on French soil, so officially I return home on 4th October 2011, 409 days after leaving the country.


Sweet old Ahmed and his battered Transit.



Entering Britain in France...



I love ports and harbours... here are two P&O ferries docking



Bye-bye France!



The White Cliffs of Dover (a sort of sentimental homecoming site) come into view, and we dock.


Sure enough, UK Customs tap suspiciously away at Ahmad’s van for half-an-hour. He offers me a lift into London, and I feel strangely attached to this old Cypriot Brit amalgamation. He drives over a couple of roundabout and mounts some curbs... but he is such a kind man. At his flat I open his mail for him, and help him in with his stuff. I had meant to be dropped off at a pre-Orbital service station, but got sucked into London.


Nostalgic Ahmed looking at photos of his young self.


From Brent Cross, it’s a straightforward few hitches up to Newcastle. Mostly hippies pick me up in the UK. I pay a surprise visit to my sister in the Tyne, before attempting the final push on the 6th October. Not all simple, takes me a long time to hitch out of Newcastle, the wind is bitterly cold, somewhat mocking my threadbare clothing supplies. I’d hoped to scurry through Glasgow without being spotted, but a friend sees me! I think their a little shocked by it. . .


Hitching back home



Good to see London Underground still has a sense of humour...I fell for 'Please put your finger on the button sir' hook – line and sinker



Haha... not a familiar site at Brent Cross...


I must document the final few hitches of the trip. For it was an epic process for me, it seemed to draw on the distance and the challenges of the trip. These were the final few steps. I had been nervous, that my own home land would be my final hurdle, but as a moody rain-shower began, it took me less than 30 seconds to get a lift at Balloch roundabout. The same fortune was repeated twice, until I was on the road-end of my home town. I danced and laughed; it is the only way to express my elation. ...Like a damned fool, but a fool that was nearly home.



At the border of Scotland!



Almost home... I had dreamt of this landscape...



My roadend! The final sign saying ‘Home’!


At 7pm on the 6th of October 2011, the Ritchie family of Colintraive pulled over at my hopeful behest. I don’t think for a minute they believed me when I said I had just hitched from Cape Town, as they all nodded rather casually. As a final gesture, they drove a few miles out their way to get me the final push back to my house. I thanked them, and walked along the darkened shorefront to my house in the cool night air. I was home, 411 days after biding my parents adieu, and with a tapestry of rich and rewarding experiences, meetings and encounters. I rang the doorbell…



The blur of the Ritchies... my final (approx 325th) hitch...


The last mile. The final reflective walk to my house. . .



Home sweet home



Epilogue

So, there you have it. My adventure is over.

24,668 miles , 37 countries, 325 hitches and one bout of Malaria.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you for giving me an audience for my tale through Africa. The majority of people share only a fleeting interest in my adventure, my journey, my safari. But I’ve loved getting my thoughts and experiences down on this forum, and it allows me to look back with a great fondness.

I was never so elated, never so thrilled, never so fulfilled than during my African trip. The beauty for me was that, at a time in my life where I had the least (a naff tent, some bread to nibble, a thumb to put out), I got the greatest satisfaction and joy. This can undoubtedly only be put down to those that helped me on my journey. For it is not me that got myself home, it was those along the route that did it – through hitching, through conversation, through whatever interactions we enjoyed.

I reiterate, I’m no good Samaritan, but I do hope through the writings, that a clearer light may be shined upon some of the world’s least understood nations. Africa made me reticent about Europe and all it’s material wealth, but to it’s credit, I also received extraordinary hospitality right on my doorstep (particularly in the wilder Balkans).

So I bring this to a close, signing off until my next adventure!


Luke


.



[Edited 2012-05-19 06:25:24]

.


[Edited 2012-05-19 06:35:21]

[Edited 2012-05-19 06:41:22]
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
User avatar
OA260
Posts: 21145
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 8:50 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 1:16 pm

Hey Luke amazing photos amazing adventure. You could make a BBC series with all that !

I rarely enjoy the destination more than the flight report but you really have made me log on just to see that !

Cant wait for the rest . Your trip through the Middle East/Africa is such an experience and you really get the true culture of these places. The food breaking the fast where you joined the Family looked delicious.

Hoping to see the rest soon , maybe in a few hours ?   No pressure !
 
CXfirst
Posts: 2889
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:13 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 1:25 pm

Amazing set of reports. I have enjoyed them immensly.

Don't be disappointed about needing to end your trip. Few people would have gotten as far as you did, and with malaria, no one can blame you for stopping, in fact most people would have felt it was reckless to continue as far as you did! But no matter what, this must truly been a trip to remember and cherish.

As for the malaria, did you take any medication while in Africa or did you just risk it and not take an preventive actions?

As for the aviation part:

QR ground service seems shocking, hopefully they've just not decided to fix transit due to the new airport, why spend money fixing something that will be replaced soon.

Aegean looked really good. Just getting a meal at all these days is good, let alone 2 tasty meals.

-CXfirst
 
User avatar
OA260
Posts: 21145
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 8:50 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 3:59 pm

Love the next part you must have been posting while I was  

I read your comments with a smile , you explained the Balkans very well. Your Greek hospital experience was amusing too but having drugs flown in from SKG ? You must have been a VIP lol...

Loved the journey in the UK too .

A brilliant read start to finish and you have raised the bar once again in your reports . We are all humbled  


Regards

Philip  
 
Knightsofmalta
Posts: 1687
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2005 10:51 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 4:01 pm

Hi Luke

I don't quite know what to say. You entire series has been such an entertaining and fascinating read. But this last installment had me literally hanging on your every word. Your text is witty and funny to read. At the same time though, you never show any lack of respect or sincerity in what you write for the people you are describing.

Thanks a lot for posting, it was a real pleasure.

Cheers,
William
 
jetlag73
Posts: 74
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:20 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 5:06 pm

Hi Luke,

I don't know what to say...Amazing !
Write a book, bring your story to Discovery Channel, be the host...

Mate, you just blew my report skytrax 5* rating !

Hat's off

Enzo
 
AddictedMAN
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:02 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 8:16 pm

Hi Luke,

Thanks for posting such a detailed report of your trip. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it from start to finish. Aviation and Non-Aviation.

I have transferred at DOH in the past, and thankfully all went well. What happened to you is a disgrace to QR. They should be ashamed.

It's good to see you looking fit and well despite your bout of Malaria.

Take care,
James.
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 9:07 pm

Salam.. greetings...

Thank-you for an already very kind set of comments on the last in the series. Great to get some feedback... now I will cover some of the comments in an attempt to stay up to date!


Hi Philip! I will reply to all three of your very generous comments!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
WOW Luke I have been glued to this TR and been hitting the refresh button to see the rest !

haha... it was gradually coming through...

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
your summing up of TLV is spot on 100% . Having been there twice it brought back memories.

I am glad of this... I thought it might evoke a bit of defensiveness (I am still braced) but it was how I saw it!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
glad A3 was able to rescue you in your time of need with great fare/service and two meals  

Exactly... it was the perfect fit airline... the only thing that could have been better would have been Turkish!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
Still great to have two decent carriers in such a time of crisis in the economy.

Precisely... may they weather it.

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
Funny your friend was in the protest march at Syntagma   Looks like a normal friendly gathering that day ! Sadly you only see the more less frequent violent ones on TV . Ive never encountered one myself.

I think as you'll see in following photos... there was an uneasy tension in the air. But my friend helped explain and justify their protests a little more. He was a real socialist!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
I always have private medical insurance just in case. I presume yours was the same ?

Well. Yes I did. But I couldn't afford the payment (and reimburse) system. But e111 healthcard for Europe did the trick

Quoting OA260 (Reply 5):
You have certainly changed my perception of QR and the DOH experience. Not sure what I think about it all now .

hmmm yes... it is funny that. I now prefer Emirates after latest experience...




.

Hi Henrik

Quoting henrikg (Reply 6):
Thank you for a very well written and interesting trip report!

It was fun to write!

Quoting henrikg (Reply 6):
I tend to agree with you regarding QR. Did six segments with them last summer and while I was quite impressed with their product on board, the transfer in Doha did drag down the general impression.

absolutely... they have been very reluctant to address it I feel.

Quoting henrikg (Reply 6):
ood vouchers only on Burger King sounds horrible.

yep!

Quoting henrikg (Reply 6):
hope that you've recovered by now.

Fit as a fiddle! Many thanks....



.

Hi Jamie...

Quoting planejamie (Reply 7):
Wonderful series of reports, I will certainly think twice before booking QR now (I'll go SV instead).

I am off them for the timebeing.

Quoting planejamie (Reply 7):
Malaria can have the potential to kill so you were quite lucky there!

Yeah... I was foolish and I can recognise it. I have been having alot of sad feelings about the whole episode. I was careless.

Quoting planejamie (Reply 7):
Also, interesting that you now live/based in Saudi, which city/school (I think you mentioned being a teacher)?

haha... yes. I am an English Instructor. I am based very close to Riyadh Gallery which I think is on the Northern Perimiter Road. I am based out of ALFAC Al-Faisal Academy. Does your father live out in the compounds? I am in a horrid little apartment but so far really enjoying the experience of working here. I love the heat! Like being back in Sudan.

Quoting planejamie (Reply 7):
Maybe if you fly back to the UK from Saudi on SV you could do a report on them! (you'll be pleasantly surprised by them)

I know... I would love to try them. But a nice whisky is too important sometimes! Perhaps I will have a different attitude after my contract here!



.

Hi Udo... many thanks for the comment! You know how valued they are...

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 8):
amazing report, it really kept me entertained!

Good I am glad... hopefully you saw the rest which I laterally posted. now....

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 8):
there shouldn't be any comprises in terms of health. Just recently I decided not to fly home as planned because I wasn't fit enough and it was a good decision. Sure, lots of hassles now (money lost etc.), but still better than a permanent health defect.

Yes. I think you have to have the benefit of the doubt that I was not really thinking straight in all my decision taking and got far to ensconced in the trip. To such an extent that since returning I have been having quite alot of stress about how bad I let it get. I am a bit ashamed. Health is not something to be trifled with.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 8):
As for QR - I cannot believe how you were treated again. Don't stop sending letters and complaints.

But what good does it do? I have some stupid customer service assistant replying the same old crap. All copy and pasted. They seem totally disinterested. I have written in person too...


.


HI Mr Thomascook. I considered buying shares in you not the other day!

Quoting ThomasCook (Reply 10):
Great report! You sum up QR well! I have never quite understood their '5* rating' (bought?).

I suppose it is... and it is thrown around far too liberally. You don't hear SQ trumpeting it in the same way.

Quoting ThomasCook (Reply 10):
oha alone is more then enough to bring them down to 4* at the very most.

I would agree. The WHOLE experience has to add to 5*

Quoting ThomasCook (Reply 10):
I experienced EK for the first time in the last few weeks and found them much more palatable. DXB, whilst not perfect is a world away from DOH and just the little things like smiling staff, metal cutlery in economy alongside an excellent Y class bar which included Baileys, Cointreau, Drambuie, Tia Maria etc is more then enough to rank them above Qatar!

I couldn't agree more! I have just done the same recently and I was an instant convert. The meal was also superior to Qatar (bigger and better starter). The crew were personal and of course the bar was much better. They give miniatures which I think is great too... I am a convert!

Quoting ThomasCook (Reply 10):
terrible ground staff in Doha as well with one literally shouting at me due to me being 'the last one to board'

Yeah... they have a terrible attitude. It is amazing what they get away with. I plan to forward this TR to their customer service.

Quoting ThomasCook (Reply 10):
I very much think QR over hype themselves and rest on their laurels.

Agreed....



.

Hi Philip!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 12):
Hey Luke amazing photos amazing adventure. You could make a BBC series with all that !

Haha... I think a camera crew would spoil the magic. Much of the fun was in the disarming nature of travelling by myself!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 12):
I rarely enjoy the destination more than the flight report but you really have made me log on just to see that !

haha... it won't always be like this!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 12):
Your trip through the Middle East/Africa is such an experience and you really get the true culture of these places.

I hope so... even just a little bit.

Quoting OA260 (Reply 12):
The food breaking the fast where you joined the Family looked delicious.

This was such a fantastic experience. They were WONDERFUL! The wife was lovely and spoke good English.

Quoting OA260 (Reply 12):
Hoping to see the rest soon , maybe in a few hours ?   No pressure !

.....!


.

Hi CXFirst

Quoting CXfirst (Reply 13):

Amazing set of reports. I have enjoyed them immensly.

I am very glad about this... many thanks for the comment.

Quoting CXfirst (Reply 13):
Don't be disappointed about needing to end your trip. Few people would have gotten as far as you did, and with malaria, no one can blame you for stopping, in fact most people would have felt it was reckless to continue as far as you did! But no matter what, this must truly been a trip to remember and cherish.

I know... in hindsight I see how foolish it was. But as a solo person you often don't have that person to ground you. . .

Quoting CXfirst (Reply 13):
As for the malaria, did you take any medication while in Africa or did you just risk it and not take an preventive actions?

I DID! Haha... I get this question alot. Let me put it in bold incase any other's should be interested...

I began my trip on larium anti-malarials. Once a week. These were fantastic and brought about great vivid and trippy dreams. However I was recommended not to be on these for an extended period of time so swapped to more local - and much cheaper - proguanil at twice a day. I took these for over 6 months all the way into Ethiopia. Since official medical advice (and Lonely Planet Health Guide) suggested that the Sudan and Egypt were non-malarial hotspots I ceased taking my medication. I.e. it was only found sub-Saharan. It appears it is the lesser known of the malaria types and thankfully not so lethal. It's unusual 72 hrs cycle is what caused me to ignore it for such a long time. Here it is - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasmodium_malariae

On top of this I carried deet and a mosquito net. But there is only so much defence you can employ...


Quoting CXfirst (Reply 13):
why spend money fixing something that will be replaced soon.

I guess this is their attitude! It stinks...

Quoting CXfirst (Reply 13):
Aegean looked really good. Just getting a meal at all these days is good, let alone 2 tasty meals.

Exactly... it was really impressive. Hopefully they keep it up.


.

Philip! You again... !

Quoting OA260 (Reply 14):
but having drugs flown in from SKG ? You must have been a VIP lol...

Well... I definitely think I was a mystery. I thought with all the merchant industry that Greece would have been more prepared for my case.... the great irony was that when the medication finally came they found out it was PAST it's 'USED BY' date... crazy!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 14):
Loved the journey in the UK too .

Yeah... it was a nice little bonus. Especially my Cypriot friend!

Quoting OA260 (Reply 14):
A brilliant read start to finish and you have raised the bar once again in your reports . We are all humbled  

haha It is me who is humbled by the comment.
.



Hello William.

Quoting Knightsofmalta (Reply 15):
I don't quite know what to say. You entire series has been such an entertaining and fascinating read.

Thanks for the kind words... positive comments help with the production!

Quoting Knightsofmalta (Reply 15):
But this last installment had me literally hanging on your every word. Your text is witty and funny to read.

Great... I do wonder if anybody even reads the lengthy text any more....

Quoting Knightsofmalta (Reply 15):
At the same time though, you never show any lack of respect or sincerity in what you write for the people you are describing.

I should think I am probably just reflecting some of the warmth and respect that was shown me. I am glad you rightly perceived it as such...

Quoting Knightsofmalta (Reply 15):
Thanks a lot for posting, it was a real pleasure.

Once in a lifetime... although... Papua New Guinea to Scotland? Next year? haha... I am not yet adventured out!




.

Hi Enzo.

Quoting jetlag73 (Reply 16):

Hi Luke,

I don't know what to say...Amazing !

Well... I can say many thanks for an encouraging response!

Quoting jetlag73 (Reply 16):
Write a book, bring your story to Discovery Channel, be the host...

Mate, you just blew my report skytrax 5* rating !

Hat's off

Enzo

You see Enzo... although I never seemed to bump into many people - there are alot of others tramping around the world. I am one of a large group. But I love doing it and you are a good audience!
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
JL418
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:20 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:27 pm

Luke,

Although some previous misadventures made me opt out of airliners.net, I couldn't resist the temptation of writing a couple f lines to thank you for this trip report. I bet that some will say that this report is too long, or doesn't feature enough airline photos or that you're biased towards QR: well, sod 'em. This was a fantastic read and is, along with the two previous instalments, one of the best pieces of travel literature ever published on this forum.

I appreciated enormously your writing style, the vividness of your prose and the prejudice-free view which emerges from your tales. On a final note, I'd like to quote your epilogue:

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Epilogue

So, there you have it. My adventure is over.

24,668 miles , 37 countries, 325 hitches and one bout of Malaria.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you for giving me an audience for my tale through Africa. The majority of people share only a fleeting interest in my adventure, my journey, my safari. But I’ve loved getting my thoughts and experiences down on this forum, and it allows me to look back with a great fondness.

I was never so elated, never so thrilled, never so fulfilled than during my African trip. The beauty for me was that, at a time in my life where I had the least (a naff tent, some bread to nibble, a thumb to put out), I got the greatest satisfaction and joy. This can undoubtedly only be put down to those that helped me on my journey. For it is not me that got myself home, it was those along the route that did it – through hitching, through conversation, through whatever interactions we enjoyed.

I reiterate, I’m no good Samaritan, but I do hope through the writings, that a clearer light may be shined upon some of the world’s least understood nations. Africa made me reticent about Europe and all it’s material wealth, but to it’s credit, I also received extraordinary hospitality right on my doorstep (particularly in the wilder Balkans).

I wish there were more 23-year old fellows capable of expressing themselves in the way you did.

Best,

Fabrizio
 
adamspotter
Posts: 1191
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:06 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:36 pm

Hi Luke,
I'm speechless. As I hadn't read your first 2 parts yet, I read those first before reading this 3rd and last part. It has taken me quite a few hours but all I can say it was well, well worth it!!
What a fantastic reports! Beautiful and excellent pictures! Amazing stuff!
A more than entertaining read, every word in all your 3 reports!  
Thanks a lot for taking the time to post and share all of it!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
I’ve heard this is ‘the Dutch thing to do’ bitter-ballen? And beer!

yes, thats the good stuff hehe

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I did my final shop in Albert Heijn (which I have a great fondness for)

haha, I actually work at one of those supermarkets as a manager  

Once again, thanks a lot

cheers,
adamspotter // Brendan
 
Flightsimboy
Posts: 1411
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2005 12:49 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 10:39 pm

Hi Luke,

I am going to deliberately skip the Qatar and Aegean series of reports and get straight to Cairo. You know that it is these sections of your reports that grab my interest. Sorry but just being honest. Sorry QR did not live up to your expectations of a 5 star airline.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
I had tried to hitch a ride by yacht from Israel back to Europe. Many a thing conspired against me, chief amongst them being my health. Two events finally shook the sense into me; a girl sleeping in the same room as me noted that my breathing was ‘frightening’ during sleep, and a close Israeli friend trainee doctor looked me in the eye and said ‘Finish this stupid bloody thing Luke, you could easily die during one of your nightime fevers. Stop being a show-off’.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Except, I’m a stubborn....

Believe me you are hardly a show-off, you are a world traveller and honestly thanks for being "stubborn" and continuing with your pursuits....who knows how many of the great pics we would have missed!! But honestly don't play with your health this way next time. Better to have a few destinations less than perhaps not be alive to do those trips another time!!!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
This section of text and pictures picks the journey up fairly much in Luxor. In line with the previous travelogue, I will categorise things according to country whilst providing a narrative of the physical movement northwards and inclusion of any representative photos from the country. Happy days!

And now begins the series of pics into Egypt, Jordan and Israel....Another great series of photos from all the places you visited, capturing the vibe of each place as you passed them..And I will be commenting on just these for now, just so that you do not begin pulling your hair in replying to my comments below  . Again, a job well done, and the pics are brilliant. Please you must consider compiling all these into a coffee table book...and get a job at the BBC...You could well be our times great traveller!!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Tahir Sq


I visited the Pyramids. I hadn’t intended to, but a crook let me in for about a dollar in the back entrance. He asked him for a tip, and I sang him ‘Flower of Scotland’ (My patriotic second national anthem) as a gesture of thanks which left him and his cohorts a little vexed.

The great pyramids...and the allure of touts

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Sleeping out under the stars

Amazing how you can rest your little head and fall off to sleep anywhere....Not too much of a traveller in me to do that.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
hree Bedouin men arrived with camel. Introductions made, they were three brothers, come for a ‘break’ and to do some fishing. They warmly invited me to stay on for some food when they had caught fish, and offered to share their water and delicious sweet shai.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
An army officer gives me a great hitch back down into the sultry lands as I make towards the Dead Sea that night. He’s fantastic, and insists on buying me soft drinks… He drops me off in a totally deserted stretch of road on the staggering banks of the Dead sea, with the warning that it is a military area. Later, and a good illustration of the warmth extended to me, a wealthy Palestinian family furnish me with cold, frsh fruit, crisps and water for my night under the stars.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Anyway, it is the first day of Ramadan, and the Egyptian pilgrims are out en force for the journey. I wanted to say, whilst out in the heat of Nuweiba port, I was smoking a cigarette – a lorry driver honked his horn, and I suspected I was in trouble. I went over, and Abdullah is beaming, and gesturing me into the cab. He explains that he will not see me outside in the heat, and insists I sit with him. He furnished me with cold green grapes (his cargo) and a glass of water. This is the true hospitality of the Middle (or Near) East.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Back in the fruitful slopes of the north of Jordan, one hitch brings me into contact with a contemplative, insular man of precious words called Mr Taisir. He invites me home to his family for the afternoon. Despite it being Ramadan, he insists on my eating. I’m the object of the families curiosity, and they’re all wonderful.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I find out he is a farmer, and later in the evening we walk amongst his land. He gets me to taste test for the best plums, sweetest grapes and juiciest apples as he is unable to given the sun has not yet set. I am privileged that evening to witness and take-part in a families Ramadan routine. Rugs are placed outside, the children set up the TV and the evening call to prayer begins. The wife and daughters brings out a glorious spread, which, when the time is right, is set upon by all gathered. It is so wonderful, I am reminiscing right now. Oh!
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Breaking the fast... Ramadan. Extremely privileged to be invited into this family.

Looks like goodness follows you wherever you go. People must find something very genuine and pleasant about you, even though they might be nice to begin with. Or else they must consider you a young man travelling alone and admire your ability to do this so far away from home. To be asked to share the Ramadan meal with the family was truly a gesture of kindness from their hearts.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Sequence of sunset on the Dead Sea.... this part of the coastline is deserted.

Some excellent pics!! Sorry to hear about your eyes getting stung lol

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
What my wail was about...

A very sincere wail if I may say so lol....Marital Status "Hopeful"...you'll need to find a travelling companion just like you  . Some amazing pics from Israel, especially of those around the wailing wall.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I celebrated a fantastic birthday (given my undertones of despair) in Tel Aviv, turning 23. The next day, on the 20th of August, marked a full year since I left home.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I turn 23

Only 23 and you've done more than what some would do in a lifetime. Congrats!!
 
planejamie
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:41 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 11:22 pm

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 18):
haha... yes. I am an English Instructor. I am based very close to Riyadh Gallery which I think is on the Northern Perimiter Road. I am based out of ALFAC Al-Faisal Academy. Does your father live out in the compounds? I am in a horrid little apartment but so far really enjoying the experience of working here. I love the heat! Like being back in Sudan

Ahh yeah, you should try to get a job at the British International School, my dad still lives out there on a certain huge 1km+ square one right under the climbout path for 15L at RUH... You'll love it out there, plus if you end up with a fixed job, you've got a tax free income provided you don't spend more than 90 days per year (I think averaged over 2 years) in the UK (works for my dad)
 
User avatar
NZ107
Posts: 4946
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RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sat May 19, 2012 11:43 pm

Well Luke,

Where to start!? May I call your experience epic and insane wrapped up in 2 words? I highly applaud you for this trip, being able to basically hitchhike from CPT all the way home.. Something I'd never ever feel comfortable doing - and something I think I brought up in an earlier TR! Amazing photos throughout.

Hmm, QR ground staff... I don't think we'll hear the end of that. So you're not informed about your booking being cancelled due to the connecting flight's cancellation? I suppose at least I'd rather be in that hotel than the horrible DOH transit area again. Especially since those guys recognised you on your return there. And Burger King - true class shown by the 5* airline. Well done Skytrax.

It's amazing how much hospitality you were able to bump into on that huge journey. Many people with very little being able to be so generous is great. Why can't everyone in this world be kind.. You would have been able to get through Syria and onwards..

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Instant mood-lighting from the off

I'm glad someone uses mood lighting.. My CX flights lacked that. You could see the glow from behind the curtain when looking forward into the Business Class cabin but that was it.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Piss covered floors in every toilet cubicle… disgraceful.

Eugh.. One of my pet peeves too. Just as bad if it's on a plane lav.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Please someone, what settings should I put a DSLR on for night-time flight shots!?

Haha sorry, I don't even know. You have to use manual settings, the highest ISO, the widest aperture and a decent shutter speed to stop blurring.. But then you still have to use some sort of post processing to get something visible. My next purchase (hopefully) will be a Canon 5D mkIII which will get rid of those issues by shooting at ISO25000+  

Nice to see that Aegean seems quite alright. Maybe I will join their FF programme for the ridiculously small amount of flying needed to get *G...

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Following this, everyone lounges, lazes, chats, neighbours visit, copious coffee is distributed… this goes on into the night. Fasting isn’t so bad when you follow this routine, as you eat all night, sleep the first portion of the day, and really only don’t eat for 6 or 7 hours.

That analogy makes it sound like the day is just turned on its head and everything is done in opposite ways!

That picture of yours at the Marienplatz in Munich depicts a completely different picture of the place compared to when I was there, having come out of the Ratskeller after dinner to about an inch of snow on the ground which had settled during my time inside the restaurant.

I bet that trip across Europe was a journey in itself. Although not as long or anything compared to the one getting to Athens, there must have been stark contrasts seen between different nations as you hopped through nations.


But I'm glad you made it back to Scotland (in the end) safely and I'm sure with plenty of memories. So thanks again for this great trip! I also wonder how many more epic journeys do you have inside of you before "luxuries" get the better of you..


Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
imiakhtar
Posts: 611
Joined: Sun Apr 02, 2006 3:35 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 12:21 am

Wow.

There aren't enough superlatives in my vocabulary to do this TR justice.

An extraordinary journey. When I last read your TR, you were in Tanzania. I guess I've got some catching up to do.

Also, please ignore the haters. The more detail, the better!

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):

Only 23 and you've done more than what some would do in a lifetime.

Indeed, quite humbling.

Thankyou Mr Addis

[Edited 2012-05-19 17:25:52]
Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?
 
signol
Posts: 2652
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:18 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 9:28 am

Luke,

fantastic, though I am a little sad. You've reached home, there is no more of this truly epic report / travelogue to come. Still, noticing your current location, there must be some interesting stories to come...
This journey is the dream of so many people, but only a handful have the guts to make it a reality. You have done so, and everyone reading on here will admit that. This series is one of the best ever.

Now, to comment more specifically  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
It seems QR is less so

Allow me to say it. QR are f***ing rediculous. I'm hoping to try them one day, especially after your glowing report in part 1, but since parts 2 and now this, am not so sure. Aloft, excellent, but on the ground, whereever, not so. I'd certainly think twice. And the cost differential will have to be worth it. Hopefully the new airport will help things, hopefully too that they are more organised than the Germans in that regard!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
I’m absolutely for rational security questioning, but this was all verging on the absurd.

It sounds about right. My only experience departing from TLV was not dissimilar. I'd arrived into Israel overland from Egypt, after staying with a friend for a week in Cairo. Security at TLV wen't so fussed about my checked luggage, but my hand luggage was searched and swabbed to the speck of dust. They even went through the photos on my digital camera. (Who is this? What is her (the friend in Cairo) address? Is she Muslim? When were you in Malaysia (photos of previous trip of Petronas towers)?) I too was led by staff afterwards to the front of the checkin line. My flight home on AZ via FCO was an anticlimax after that!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
From Luxor I took a train northwards to Cairo

Cairo was fascinating. I stayed with a friend, a 4 ft something, single girl who lived alone in an apartment in the Maadi area. She spread the rumour to the concierge that I was her cousin, as it is inappropriate to have male, non-family guests. Photos around the city seemed to be hit and miss - I was told off twice for taking photos, once of the Presidential palace, another of a Metro train!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I visited the Pyramids

We went in my friend's car, bypassing most of the touts but still had to put up with the camel ride sellers' hilarious jokes "taxi sir?"
For another view on the city, I'd recommend Ken Follett's novel The Key to Rebecca, set in the city during WW2.

I then took a bus to Taba for Israel - a short travelogue (or trip advice - I uploaded my text to wikitravel) is here:
http://www.signol.co.uk/middleeast05

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Scenes from Tel Aviv’s impressive city airport which features amazing approaches over the shorefront.

Nice, and you even managed to get a shot of the Shorts 360 still in the Air Seychelles livery  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
Well, Hoek van Holland would provide my first option

If you buy a ticket from a Dutch Railways office, it can be had for cheaper than the £80 requested by P&O... But then you'd have missed out on the crazy Cypriot!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
So I bring this to a close, signing off until my next adventure!

Looking forward to it!

Thanks

signol
Flights booked: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR, JNB-AMS-NWI
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 10:49 am

Hi there everyone. I'll respond to some of the very kind comments!


Hello James!

Quoting addictedMAN (Reply 17):
Thanks for posting such a detailed report of your trip. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it from start to finish. Aviation and Non-Aviation.

I am thoroughly glad it was a good read!

Quoting addictedMAN (Reply 17):
I have transferred at DOH in the past, and thankfully all went well. What happened to you is a disgrace to QR. They should be ashamed.

Yes it is. That said I have also had stress-free transfers... it is when the shit hits the fan that the whole process unravels. I think things will get better.... inshallah!



.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 19):
Although some previous misadventures made me opt out of airliners.net, I couldn't resist the temptation of writing a couple f lines to thank you for this trip report.

Hi Fabrizio. I am glad I could lure you back my friend for an encore . The comment is appreciate and well worded! Don't let misadventure put you off...

Quoting JL418 (Reply 19):
some will say that this report is too long, or doesn't feature enough airline photos or that you're biased towards QR: well, sod 'em.

exactly! They can't say I didn't warn them... I hope it wasn't too bias to QR as they seriously pissed me off!

Quoting JL418 (Reply 19):
one of the best pieces of travel literature ever published on this forum.

very kind...

Quoting JL418 (Reply 19):
I wish there were more 23-year old fellows capable of expressing themselves in the way you did.

That means quite alot... Re-reading it I think it is an appropriate summary...




.




Hi Brendan!

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 20):
As I hadn't read your first 2 parts yet, I read those first before reading this 3rd and last part. It has taken me quite a few hours but all I can say it was well, well worth it!!

My gosh you must have spent some time reading. well done!

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 20):
yes, thats the good stuff hehe

Delicious! I had such perfect weather whilst in the Netherlands... I think I was very lucky.

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 20):
haha, I actually work at one of those supermarkets as a manager  

Once again, thanks a lot

cheers,
adamspotter // Brendan

I was really fond of AH! They had neat shops/ nice branding/ quite good own brand beer! They have one right at the Hoek that gives out free coffee and cake. I took advantage!





.


Hi Flightsim...

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
You know that it is these sections of your reports that grab my interest.

I know... I know you love the travelling!

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
But honestly don't play with your health this way next time.

No... it isn't a game but sometimes when you are just by yourself you can't see sense.

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
just so that you do not begin pulling your hair in replying to my comments below  .

No... you know how appreciated they are.

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
..and get a job at the BBC...

With their budget cuts!? It is wishful thinking...

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
Amazing how you can rest your little head and fall off to sleep anywhere....

Ah ha... that is one of my great gifts is the ability to sleep almost anywhere contently. It is such a help on these sorts of travel. I just can't sleep when I know there are bed bugs about...

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
Looks like goodness follows you wherever you go. People must find something very genuine and pleasant about you, even though they might be nice to begin with. Or else they must consider you a young man travelling alone and admire your ability to do this so far away from home. To be asked to share the Ramadan meal with the family was truly a gesture of kindness from their hearts.

I think you hit the nail on the head with these two observations - I am 'humanist' so generally get on well and am friendly to people I meet (though not always if they are horrible or rude). But a smile can disarm most people. Then I am young! And people see this as vulnerability... and they take on a fatherly/ parental position. That was a real help... I tryed to put on a 'trustworthy' face too.

The Ramadan thing was such a thrill. I also broke it with some taxi-drivers in Amman but decided not to take a photo incase they thought I was wealthy.

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
Marital Status "Hopeful"...you'll need to find a travelling companion just like you

Perhaps one day I will come across her! ... Inshallah... it is difficult.

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 21):
Only 23 and you've done more than what some would do in a lifetime. Congrats!!

haha. Cheers buddy... got some more years still to go so hopefully get in another few more countries.





.


Yo Jamie.

Quoting planejamie (Reply 22):
Ahh yeah, you should try to get a job at the British International School, my dad still lives out there on a certain huge 1km+ square one right under the climbout path for 15L at RUH... You'll love it out there, plus if you end up with a fixed job, you've got a tax free income provided you don't spend more than 90 days per year (I think averaged over 2 years) in the UK (works for my dad)

That sounds awesome. I think it is better for me to be out of a compound to enjoy the 'Wild wild west' ... but I am envious of the freedom in the compounds. I hear there is alcohol distilling going on. Did you see it? Also RUH see's some great traffic types.... Yeah I should not be there that long! The tax-free thing is great but I don't make alot of money as it is anyway!





.


Nicholas! Thanks for the reply sir...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
May I call your experience epic and insane

You may. You may call it foolish or foolhardy too... Quite a few adjective are apt!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
being able to basically hitchhike from CPT all the way home

Fun times... It seems surreal to think about it but it was all 'take each day as it comes'

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
So you're not informed about your booking being cancelled due to the connecting flight's cancellation?

No... not a word about it. I got informed of the outbound LXR-DOH but that was all.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
than the horrible DOH transit area again.

I think they would have put me out there but transfer was over 24hrs which is not legal. Yeah better to stay in kul.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
Well done Skytrax

Yep... I mean they can't guarantee all flights... but I listen much closer to this forum. It would be a much more valuable resource if there was a good search engine that non-av buffs could navigate through.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
It's amazing how much hospitality you were able to bump into on that huge journey. Many people with very little being able to be so generous is great.

Nicely said... exactly... whatever people could give they would. And they wouldn't accept no. I only mentioned a fraction of these symbolic acts.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
You would have been able to get through Syria and onwards..

Yeah... sadly the officials were horrid. I explained the whole trip to them but to no avail. I would have had to send passport back to the Uk.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
I'm glad someone uses mood lighting.. My CX flights lacked that. You could see the glow from behind the curtain when looking forward into the Business Class cabin but that was it.

No... it was a very chilled out service. QR have a way of setting the 'mood'

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
Eugh.. One of my pet peeves too. Just as bad if it's on a plane lav.

They ought to divide the lavs into some sort of 'method category' as it is mostly the people that use hose vs. loo-paper that cause all the water on the floor. In this occasion though it was piss.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
You have to use manual settings, the highest ISO, the widest aperture and a decent shutter speed to stop blurring.. But then you still have to use some sort of post processing to get something visible. My next purchase (hopefully) will be a Canon 5D mkIII which will get rid of those issues by shooting at ISO25000+  

'I don't know.... BUT'! Thanks Nicholas. I was actually going to e-mail you about an Error 1 on my canon when zoom fully extended... but may just buy a new camera when I am back in the Uk. Time to move on from the old gal...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
Nice to see that Aegean seems quite alright.

Absolutely. Would happily fly them again. A warmer service would be appreciated.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
That analogy makes it sound like the day is just turned on its head and everything is done in opposite ways!

Exactamundo. Pretty much how it works. I was told during Ramadan with the teaching that it will be teaching till 2am at night. It works well enough and generally great atmosphere.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
having come out of the Ratskeller after dinner to about an inch of snow on the ground which had settled during my time inside the restaurant.

ha. This is why I wanted to get through before Winter set in. It had actually snowed two days before... I think it is probably quite nice in snow.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
I bet that trip across Europe was a journey in itself. Although not as long or anything compared to the one getting to Athens, there must have been stark contrasts seen between different nations as you hopped through nations.

the BEST part of this trip was seeing the transition between Africans and Western. Sometimes gradual/ sometimes suddenly/ but always a transition which I loves. Europe was great... less photos... but still a brilliant trip. I was really fortunate.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 23):
I also wonder how many more epic journeys do you have inside of you before "luxuries" get the better of you.

2. Exactly two. If all goes Ok it will be one in Eurasia and then another in N/S America. I am just earning some cash to make it a reality.

Thanks Nicholas.





.

Mr Imiakhater!

Quoting imiakhtar (Reply 24):
Wow.

There aren't enough superlatives in my vocabulary to do this TR justice.

Thanks... very kind.

Quoting imiakhtar (Reply 24):
Also, please ignore the haters. The more detail, the better!

I hope they are not too many... and they have been warned!

Quoting imiakhtar (Reply 24):
Indeed, quite humbling.

Thankyou Mr Addis

Cheers!




.



Hello Signol! Thanks for a great reply...

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
fantastic, though I am a little sad. You've reached home, there is no more of this truly epic report / travelogue to come. Still, noticing your current location, there must be some interesting stories to come...

I was a little sad/ lost when I finished it all too... But there's plenty more adventure out there!

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
This series is one of the best ever.

excellent... so kind of you to say so!

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
QR are f***ing rediculous. I'm hoping to try them one day, especially after your glowing report in part 1, but since parts 2 and now this, am not so sure.

I know... I am not sure how to read them. Emirates are now top of the bill for me. Though they don't answer the call-bell.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
And the cost differential will have to be worth it. Hopefully the new airport will help things

It should help... yes the issue is QR is always great value.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
They even went through the photos on my digital camera. (Who is this? What is her (the friend in Cairo) address? Is she Muslim? When were you in Malaysia (photos of previous trip of Petronas towers)?) I too was led by staff afterwards to the front of the checkin line.

That's INSANE! I suppose they have to probe alot into people's business. But there gets to a point where it is ridiculous. I probably would have been detained if they had asked for my camera as I would have refused to let them see. I don't mind friendly questioning... but it wasn't anywhere near cordial.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
She spread the rumour to the concierge that I was her cousin, as it is inappropriate to have male, non-family guests.

cunning. Yeah they are a bit protective about that. I think I barely talked to one female in all my time around that area. Lots of wonderful Sudanese girls chatted to me.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
Photos around the city seemed to be hit and miss

Generally I found photos elicited a little suspicion in this part of the world. Hence poor photos on Suez which they're uber protective of. Lots of tanks etc there.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
I'd recommend Ken Follett's novel The Key to Rebecca, set in the city during WW2.

It's on my 'To Read' list and I have alot of time to do that at the moment.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
I then took a bus to Taba for Israel - a short travelogue (or trip advice - I uploaded my text to wikitravel) is here:
http://www.signol.co.uk/middleeast05

Excellent! Thanks... did you get a stamp here then? That is what I feared... not the Israeli one but more the Egyptian exit stamp. It is an unusual confluence that part of land. Especially seeing each country from the shore.

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
you even managed to get a shot of the Shorts 360 still in the Air Seychelles livery  

Haha... I thought that was their livery and was a little confused. . . ! Cool city airport indeed...

Quoting signol (Reply 25):
If you buy a ticket from a Dutch Railways office, it can be had for cheaper than the £80 requested by P&O... But then you'd have missed out on the crazy Cypriot!

Yes. I was aware of this option vaguely... But it felt important to try to hitch it. Incidentaly... Calais / Dover is one of the only crossings you can hitch on due to the ticket being per car (not passenger). But I had heard all sorts of price for this hop... I love the ops at Calais. It has a great buzz about it. . . but it aint pretty.


.
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
signol
Posts: 2652
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:18 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 11:21 am

Hi Luke,

thanks for the reply  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
Hence poor photos on Suez which they're uber protective of.

I took a bus straight to Taba, interestingly it went through a tunnel under the canal, so I didn't get to see it  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
It's on my 'To Read' list and I have alot of time to do that at the moment

Currently only £1 on Kindle - I finished it myself only 2 days ago!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
Excellent! Thanks... did you get a stamp here then?

Yes, I figured I only had another 18 months and 4 pages left in my passport, it wouldn't make a difference. At the border they offered to stamp a piece of paper but with the Taba stamp, it was pointless.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
Incidentaly... Calais / Dover is one of the only crossings you can hitch on due to the ticket being per car (not passenger).

Since my wife hates boats, we haven't used the ferries for about 5 years. The tunnel though uses the same system, we're going on a road trip to the Loire this summer - with 2 children under 4 it should be fun  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
2. Exactly two. If all goes Ok it will be one in Eurasia and then another in N/S America

Let us know if / when you do, I did a 4 month trip around South America (albeit in 2001) so may be able to offer some thoughts... Catherine, the girl from Cairo, was one of my travelling companions then too.

Keep it up!

signol
Flights booked: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR, JNB-AMS-NWI
 
LH4116
Posts: 1183
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:39 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 11:26 am

Once again Luke, thanks for sharing your great adventures with us. An inspiring, interesting and entertaining read as always. Just amazed how you managed to soldier on, despite the illness and setbacks! Can't wait to hear more about your recent adventures in the Arab peninsula.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Not a terrible looking bed in all fairness.

Must say that the room looks quite nice, and with that view it's simply breathtaking. I would just be sitting glued to the window all day long. Must surely have been an interesting feeling to wake up in the middle of the night and see all those planes parked right outside.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Please someone, what settings should I put a DSLR on for night-time flight shots!?

You don't. Just keep the camera in the bag, sit back, relax and enjoy the takeoff  
I almost never bother with the pics since they'll end up blurry anyway, no matter how hard I try.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
My only gripe is that the sausage looks pretty anaemic, and I don’t think QR have quite tuned into the ‘art’ of the sausage akin to the British and the Germans.

Well bare in mind that they don't have pork sausages in Qatar, only bland substitutes. So I suppose that's where the problem is.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
Ranking as No1 airport in Europe for customers

Really? Why do they consider it to be Europe?

As for your flight with Aegean, it's an airline with a special place in my heart. From what it seems the flight looked really nice, clean aircraft and smartly dressed crews. I am for sure quite tempted to try them out soon, heck I'm even obliged to do so  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
It was a veggie breakfast dish of scrambled (we guess) and seasoned vegetables. I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Must say that for such a short flight, the brekkie looked very generous. Although with the israelis not eating pork, I think they could've picked some other breakfast dish instead of just making it a bland veggie one.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Fresh orange and Tuborg tonic.

Hehe, had no idea Tuborg made tonic water. For sure that can looks like their beer  

"Wheels Up!"
//Jonas
SAS Plus is Business Class made faux!
 
MSS658
Posts: 2454
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:16 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 12:38 pm

Hi Luke

Thanks for sharing, enjoyed the read!
Sorry to hear what happened! Hope you are better now.
What I don't get about QR is that they offer a top notch product in the air while they can't maintain a decent hub in DOH....

Greetings
Marc
Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 9:09 pm

HI R.

Quoting signol (Reply 27):
I took a bus straight to Taba, interestingly it went through a tunnel under the canal, so I didn't get to see it  

Yeah I hitched just outside this tunnel. Massive security but they seemed unbothered by me thankfully.

Quoting signol (Reply 27):
Yes, I figured I only had another 18 months and 4 pages left in my passport, it wouldn't make a difference.

Now I wouldn't have minded if this had been the case... even with my Exit stamp from Jordan into Israel I managed to get into Saudi Arabia.

Quoting signol (Reply 27):
The tunnel though uses the same system,

nice to know for future reference!

Quoting signol (Reply 27):
Let us know if / when you do,

Thanks... always good to pull on knowledge!




.



Mr Jonas... good to hear from you.

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Once again Luke, thanks for sharing your great adventures with us. An inspiring, interesting and entertaining read as always. Just amazed how you managed to soldier on, despite the illness and setbacks!

It was only the thought of home that got me motivated towards the end...

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Can't wait to hear more about your recent adventures in the Arab peninsula.

Ah ha. Since arrival in Saudi I have not taken a single photo... so there may not be too much of the adventuring you are used to...

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Must say that the room looks quite nice, and with that view it's simply breathtaking.

I guess it wasn't awful... but it the things that you can't see that made it a dive. But yeah.. good views.

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
You don't. Just keep the camera in the bag, sit back, relax and enjoy the takeoff  

haha... sound advice.

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
don't have pork sausages in Qatar, only bland substitutes.

Yep... I mean it seems pork (in economy) is mainly only served on Far Eastern carriers as part of an oriental dish. . .

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Really? Why do they consider it to be Europe?

I seemed to remember it was in some source. Of course it isn't Europe... that has me confused now.

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
it's an airline with a special place in my heart.

A special place in a few members hearts now...

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Although with the israelis not eating pork, I think they could've picked some other breakfast dish instead of just making it a bland veggie one.

I reckon so... it wasn't that it was bland... it was just lacking a 'showstopper'! The Greek yoghurt was amazing though...

Quoting LH4116 (Reply 28):
Hehe, had no idea Tuborg made tonic water. For sure that can looks like their beer  

It is odd at first sight.... they do a variety... I am still a schweppes man!




.


Mr Marc. Thanks for the reply!

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 29):
Hi Luke

Thanks for sharing, enjoyed the read!
Sorry to hear what happened! Hope you are better now.
What I don't get about QR is that they offer a top notch product in the air while they can't maintain a decent hub in DOH....

Greetings
Marc

I think they have never been interested in investing and improving the transfer process whilst the NDIA was on the cards... more fool them as alot of people find it offputting. They'll have lost a few customers at least.
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
kazim786
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:19 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Sun May 20, 2012 10:08 pm

I don't care about what others say about the reports being long and tedious to read, I think they are great, I enjoy reading them and seeing your snaps. Keep up the good work mate!  
 
User avatar
turk223
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 4:16 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Mon May 21, 2012 3:55 am

Summed up in one word; fascinating! You should write a book!
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Mon May 21, 2012 9:44 am

Quoting kazim786 (Reply 31):
I don't care about what others say about the reports being long and tedious to read, I think they are great, I enjoy reading them and seeing your snaps. Keep up the good work mate!  

Hi kazim! Many thanks and I am glad to see you don't mind the wordy reports... I will say that it can be difficult for people with slow machines/ slow internet... but this is life!



Hello Turk223... I wonder how it was reading this in Barbados!

Quoting turk223 (Reply 32):
Summed up in one word; fascinating! You should write a book!

Cheers pal... I wish I could write a book. I love writing indeed... but lots of people seem to do what I do (although not foolish enough to hitch it!)
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
User avatar
NZ107
Posts: 4946
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:51 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Mon May 21, 2012 9:55 am

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):

Nicholas! Thanks for the reply sir...

Most welcome, Luke!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
You may. You may call it foolish or foolhardy too... Quite a few adjective are apt!

I was going to throw in some harsher adjectives in there but I thought better of it as you might be offended by them 
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
It seems surreal to think about it but it was all 'take each day as it comes'

Amazing to think that way but at least it meant you could take a donkey through the middle of Africa and not worry about some meeting the following week..

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
but I listen much closer to this forum. It would be a much more valuable resource if there was a good search engine that non-av buffs could navigate through.

Precisely. I can trust the reporters here. And yeah, a shame about the ancient software but something we'll have to live with.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
exactly... whatever people could give they would. And they wouldn't accept no. I only mentioned a fraction of these symbolic acts.

Amazing. You'd be hard pressed to find a western country in the same light. I know I'd feel some sort of guilt in obliging to them giving heaps of what they have to you.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
They ought to divide the lavs into some sort of 'method category' as it is mostly the people that use hose vs. loo-paper that cause all the water on the floor. In this occasion though it was piss.

You can add in the "I have never seen a western toilet before so I'll squat on the toilet seat instead" people too.. Haha ok enough of this topic, I'm grossing myself out!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
'I don't know.... BUT'! Thanks Nicholas. I was actually going to e-mail you about an Error 1 on my canon when zoom fully extended... but may just buy a new camera when I am back in the Uk. Time to move on from the old gal...

Haha! You know I would have just googled it and tried to find a solution. What it tells me is that either the contacts are dirty (use a rubber on them), the contact pins have burnt out or your lens is just stuffed.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
I was told during Ramadan with the teaching that it will be teaching till 2am at night. It works well enough and generally great atmosphere.

Haha sounds like another experience coming up!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):
ha. This is why I wanted to get through before Winter set in. It had actually snowed two days before... I think it is probably quite nice in snow.

Yeah, fair enough.. Much more adventurous than taking a direct flight from TLV back to Western Europe too. It was nice but it was damn cold.. I went for a mini spotting excursion at MUC and lasted 70 mins with the bitter cold wind in my face and some very light snow (probably frozen drizzle) before calling it a day.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 26):

2. Exactly two. If all goes Ok it will be one in Eurasia and then another in N/S America. I am just earning some cash to make it a reality.

Wow. I do wish you luck for those.. I'd portray parts of South America to be more dangerous than Africa.. But you could probably easily avoid these trouble spots. You may as well come down here and pay me a visit! Or I'll find you somewhere in the Americas/Asia...


Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
gabrielchew
Posts: 3731
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 5:43 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Mon May 21, 2012 10:31 am

Wow Luke, that was quite the report. I am completely in awe of your travels. Camping and hitching across the world might not be as comfortable as flying and hotels, but your experiences are just mind blowing.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):

Disclaimer
Despite a hailstorm of feedback that my reports are too long, I am throwing caution to the headwind and concluding my report in this series. The size of reports has been discussed to tedium on this forum, and is an unknown entity. Ultimately those with good internet connections and lots of free time don’t mind large instalments. Here are some handy hints for those against long reports;
- Press ‘back’ icon immediately before the damage is done
- Bookmark it and come back to it at the weekend with some Rich Teas, or a beer
- Open the folder, go and do something mundane, and come back when it is loaded
- Wait till you’re in a Costa Coffee hotspot, open page, hibernate your laptop and read later from comfort of own home

Thanks for the heads up! Sustenance was duly sought! (Whilst I still think the reports are a *little* long, I think I've got used to them now. However, it would be great if you posted it in more sections (within the same report) so it's easier to find the "Quote Selection" button...I had to do a LOT of scrolling!)

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Finally Rasmita voiced it all “ Sir, it appears that your reservation has been automatically cancelled. This is because your connecting flight is no longer operating, therefore, you will not be travelling on today’s flight”.

That's so awful. I think someone at QR HQ has blacklisted you. There is no reason you should be delayed for over a day before your conward flight was cancelled, You should have been rebooked, andput on the plane as normal. Completely terrible customer service from QR. Good that you gots food and accomodation (even if it was pretty poor quality)

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Sad times as the flight I should have been on pushes back – good view from room.

Great view - that's some consilation prize

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I must emphasise, the atmosphere on this flight super sleepy. Perhaps it suited most in this sense, and I was happy to relax.

I like those late eveing flights back from the Far East. I did HKG-DOH a few years ago, getting into DOH around 2300. Lovely relaxed flight.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
As a whole – the mealtray,

Looks very nice

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I am often found to be hiding my whisky as the FA’s pass, so that I might nurture this on the stunning descent into my destination.

Ha, I've done that a few times. Nothing like enjoying a spirit whilst on approach

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
Ultimately I stayed too long in one position on the geographical dancefloor, and cumbersome Syrian stamped on my toe.

Described beautifully!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
On the 1st of August, violence intensified to its most detrimental yet, and on the 3rd of August, after 19 hours in a terse immigration interview room on the Syrian border, I was denied access and removed back to Jordan.

What a shame - Syria is a beautiful country. I loved travelling around the country, although that was back in 2004.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
Time is my friend tonight, and with nothing better to do, I explore the fortress. Except, I am not within, and so I must play a tedious game of security checks along each corridor I walk. These are not light-hearted encounters either; curiosity caught the cat, and with one carpark deceptively named ‘the vineyard’, I plod off to investigate. Nothing in the name, so I return. Except, I am stopped by an overzealous security guard. He questions me so aimlessly, that I am a bit impatient. I ask him if I constitute a security threat, given he had just seen me walk past him 2 minutes prior, not go out of site, and return. He was extremely curt in his reply. It all seemed a bit absurd. This happened twice.
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
So before even reaching my check-in desk, I have been subjected to 1.30hrs of security nonsense. As a ‘risk’, I am accompanied to check-in, where a sharp looking agent checks me in nimbly, and requests Miss IDF accompany me to outsized luggage.

Urgh, such a hassle. It's one thing putting me off Israel.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
These rarely make it home, and are dotted amusingly around the arrival hall’s ceiling.

Ha, very nice

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
he’s won the lottery. Sudan, closely followed by Egypt, compounded by a very confusing attempt to get into Syria. Rejected. Reattempt to enter Jordan

I bet he couldn't believe his luck!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
“Tea or coffee” – Coffee, please . 4 Sugars. The meal is a great event. The scenery is brilliant, and I am audacious enough to ask for a bit of a hair of the dog. Promptly a can of Tuborg is winded towards me. Hurrah. I was not positive that they would stock it onboard.. The FA’s also furnish me with another meal plate when I explain I am still a little hungry.

I love A3 - such a nice little airline

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
Bus to centre of town. It is a nice, warm Greek morning, and I am delighted to back in Europe.

I can only imagine how you'd be feeling. Nice to be "home"

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
The next day I was admitted to hospital with an advanced stage of malaria, to which I was treated for over a week, before being released to continue the conclusion to my journey – all of which you are warmly invited to view via pictures in the travelogue section.

Ah, so it was malaria?! Shame it wasn't caught earlier. How long had you had it for? Since Africa pre Malaysia?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I visited the Pyramids. I hadn’t intended to, but a crook let me in for about a dollar in the back entrance. He asked him for a tip, and I sang him ‘Flower of Scotland’ (My patriotic second national anthem) as a gesture of thanks which left him and his cohorts a little vexed.

I bet they loved your "tip"!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
I walked two days along a path most frequented by camels, out to a ghost Bedouin town Ras Abu Galum. The first evening I set off, I was enchanted by the waters of the Gulf. They were so utopian in colour and appeal, so starkly contrasted to the fragmented, desolate coast – teeming with glorious reef and fish. I slept outside in a disused café that night, and watched the tremendous sunset over the reddened, mysterious mountains of Saudi Arabia. Slept deeply under the stars…

Wow, looks amazing.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
The pilgrims help themselves to my food and water whilst I am
asleep… grrr.

B@stards!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
Reading...

I remember trying to take a photo of myself on the Dead Sea. Ended up stumbling and falling, with the resulting photo of me screaming in the seathing shallows having scratched a large hole in my back - still, got a nice scar to remember my trip by!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 9):
What my wail was about...

Haha, you are so witty!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
I admired the weakening high of my extraordinary dosage of anti-malarial I was administered (flown in from Thessaloniki no less),

So that's why Greece is bankrupt - htye've been flying your drugs around!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
My one little thrill was when I saw a young man walking towards me in the hot sunshine. As he passed, his face broadens into a smile, he hands me an ice-cold litre of Coke with “For You!” and keeps on walking. Amazing.

So many nice little gestures

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
Sarajevo is a wonderful city, really chilled out and rather bohem I was pretty addicted to the Burek snacks (meat, potato or cheese? ) which are delicious filo pastry fast foods weighed in a no-nonsense fashion.

I loved Sarajevo. Did you have a cevapi?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
Rain finally catches up with me

4 months without rain...pretty good going. I was happy to get 2 rain free weeks in Indonesia

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
15 minutes of cold sweat panicking later, my man drives into the petrol station forecourt, and returns my diary. I think the dramatic, awkwardly long hug lets him know my gratitude.

Phew, close call. Looks like a lovely chronicle of your trip...keep it safe!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
The White Cliffs of Dover (a sort of sentimental homecoming site) come into view, and we dock.

Of all the place to return to the UK, having the White Cliffs as a backdrop must rate up there with the best.

Congrat on the amazing trip. I don't think I have it in me to travel like that, but should probably give it a go sometime. Also, how do you "thank" your hosts (car/accom)....I guess you can't carry gifts for everyone?

Thank you so much for posting Luke!
http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights: LHR-CDG,LHR-BKK-AKL-TBU,EUA-TBU-NAN-WLG,WHK-AKL-BKK-LHR
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Mon May 21, 2012 10:33 pm

Hello Nicholas and Gabriel.... and thanks for your generous replies...



.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
I was going to throw in some harsher adjectives in there but I thought better of it as you might be offended by them 

haha... go on... do it! I'll begin a post in the FB page! No I actively invite constructive criticise and perhaps people moaning about being PC.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
you could take a donkey through the middle of Africa and not worry about some meeting the following week.

Well.... I suppose I will never have the luxury of this time at any other time in the future so long as I get a career.... it is a great feeling of freedom

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
I know I'd feel some sort of guilt in obliging to them giving heaps of what they have to you.

It is possible... but I will always insist but then they insist a little bit more. They will always feel happier to have offered you their hospitality. We've alot to learn!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
Haha! You know I would have just googled it and tried to find a solution. What it tells me is that either the contacts are dirty (use a rubber on them), the contact pins have burnt out or your lens is just stuffed.

Well... I know your an encyclopaedic source on all things Canon! I tried those two things to no avail so may consider a new camera before my next biggie trip.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
I went for a mini spotting excursion at MUC and lasted 70 mins with the bitter cold wind in my face and some very light snow (probably frozen drizzle) before calling it a day.

You are a true servent to the aviation! Next trip I will probably encounter more chilly conditions.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
Wow. I do wish you luck for those.. I'd portray parts of South America to be more dangerous than Africa.. But you could probably easily avoid these trouble spots. You may as well come down here and pay me a visit! Or I'll find you somewhere in the Americas/Asia...

Yes... I think I would be more worried in those areas. In such places I normally will just get a bus. E.g. many parts of Bolivia/ near big cities and anywhere in mexico. I have had many friends encounter problems whilst there...


.


Salam Gabriel!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Wow Luke, that was quite the report.

Many thanks... well it brings that chapter to a close.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
might not be as comfortable as flying and hotels,

Eventually I will enjoy those things. Inshallah. Well... I did fly a little bit! I do crave luxuries now and again.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
I still think the reports are a *little* long, I think I've got used to them now.

haha! You don't have to be so diplomatic... That disclaimer was aimed at you!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
However, it would be great if you posted it in more sections (within the same report) so it's easier to find the "Quote Selection" button...I had to do a LOT of scrolling!)

I agree... You see I found it a little more tricky with this report as I didn't get too many of the boarding details so as to break it up. As such I am grateful for your quoting as I know it can be a real pain in the arse. In the same vein... that reply was so generous it could have been over two posts to make quoting easier... !

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
There is no reason you should be delayed for over a day before your conward flight was cancelled, You should have been rebooked, andput on the plane as normal. Completely terrible customer service from QR. Good that you gots food and accomodation (even if it was pretty poor quality)

Precisely. It was shoddy work throughout... the fact they have not even justified it with an acceptable excuse is shambolic. It appears they just want to hang tight until the NDIA opens...

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
I like those late eveing flights back from the Far East. I did HKG-DOH a few years ago, getting into DOH around 2300. Lovely relaxed flight.

It is good... much more relaxed when everyone is quiet.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Nothing like enjoying a spirit whilst on approach

phew... not the only one! Most FA's don't really seem to mind.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
What a shame - Syria is a beautiful country. I loved travelling around the country, although that was back in 2004.

I was GUTTED! And the people are extremely nice I have heard too... did you get the visa in London? They were just having none of it. I can only trust the way fate works things out though...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 34):
It's one thing putting me off Israel.

That. And for me the visa situation. Israel is also pretty pricey to travel around. It was definitely worth the visit though.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Ah, so it was malaria?! Shame it wasn't caught earlier. How long had you had it for? Since Africa pre Malaysia?

Indeedy... I guess I needed to have something exotic for the whole time I was in Africa. I was barely ever sick during the rest of the trip and I drank only local water as a general rule. I had had it for...ahem... 6 weeks.... hence my shame with hindsight. Pre-Malaysia... yes... hence my dramatic (think Team America scene) vomiting outside SZV airport...

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
I remember trying to take a photo of myself on the Dead Sea. Ended up stumbling and falling, with the resulting photo of me screaming in the seathing shallows having scratched a large hole in my back - still, got a nice scar to remember my trip by!

Shit! The rocks are lethal around there. I had to hitch further along the coast to find two dudes to ask to take the photo... quite a mission but a priceless photo. So you were in Jordan eh? They have really polluted and ruined alot of the shorefront...

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
So that's why Greece is bankrupt - htye've been flying your drugs around!

haha.... and they were useless to as they were out-of-date when they arrived. Urgh. EU Health Insurance should have reimbursed them!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
I loved Sarajevo. Did you have a cevapi?

ah ha. No I don't think did... but I think I had the variation on it in Greece no? Pretty sure!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Phew, close call. Looks like a lovely chronicle of your trip...keep it safe!

Massively close... that diary actually meant alot more than some of the photos.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Of all the place to return to the UK, having the White Cliffs as a backdrop must rate up there with the best.

It is a great home-coming for sure... it reminds me always of Robin Hood.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 35):
Congrat on the amazing trip. I don't think I have it in me to travel like that, but should probably give it a go sometime. Also, how do you "thank" your hosts (car/accom)....I guess you can't carry gifts for everyone?

Thanks Gabriel... it was great fun. I will never relive that experience again... it was a once in a lifetime. But... interesting about the 'thank-you' thing. Now... as much as I would like to cart around 325 miniatures of Macallans... it wasn't possible. But I get what you are saying... So here it is - the exchange. Much of my gratitude could be expressed through dialogue. Often that is what people were looking for. I made sure to make an effort when getting hitches that I always engaged and talked to them with some of their language too. What else? I tried not to take my camera out till the very end. I got a photo of almost everyone I hitched with. I would often share any food I had with me or if it was a massive favour I would buy them lunch. I often got asked for some booze... I only ever once bought someone a beer in South Africa. But I would often share my beer with others... I don't know. I feel the intrinsic non-material exchange will always suffice.

Cheers Gabriel! Saudi is going well... going to take some internals next month on NAS to Gazan and do some snorkling... yahoo...
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
User avatar
NZ107
Posts: 4946
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RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Tue May 22, 2012 9:50 am

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
haha... go on... do it! I'll begin a post in the FB page! No I actively invite constructive criticise and perhaps people moaning about being PC.

Haha, don't worry - you got close to saying it yourself.  And I don't think I can construct around it either  

I think I'll try keeping our friendship intact  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
Well.... I suppose I will never have the luxury of this time at any other time in the future so long as I get a career.... it is a great feeling of freedom

Yep, sure enough I could possibly say I could have put myself into a similar situation but I felt as though I needed to get onto the working bandwagon as early as possible. But in saying that, I'm not disappointed about what I was able to do in Europe etc while I had boundless free time.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
It is possible... but I will always insist but then they insist a little bit more. They will always feel happier to have offered you their hospitality. We've alot to learn!

Yep, sounds just like Chinese families at restaurants all trying to pay at the same time.. The happiest of them ends up being the one who succeeds in getting his (usually male) credit card swiped. What a world we live in!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
I know your an encyclopaedic source on all things Canon! I tried those two things to no avail so may consider a new camera before my next biggie trip.

Haha. I do wonder if you'd prefer a compact over a DSLR though seeing that you're travelling so much/far.. Not sure how you felt carrying that thing around with you compared to say a Canon G series which is at the top end of the compact scale. Unless, of course, you like your interchangable lenses and having the potential to stalk people  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
You are a true servent to the aviation!

To an extent I'd say - yet to find that truly adventurous mode leading me to far off places and more exotic aircraft. I was astounded at how cheap the BG DC-10 flights were........

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):

Yes... I think I would be more worried in those areas. In such places I normally will just get a bus. E.g. many parts of Bolivia/ near big cities and anywhere in mexico. I have had many friends encounter problems whilst there...

Good to see a sensible side somewhere in you haha.  


Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
volvair
Posts: 167
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:29 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Wed May 23, 2012 1:38 pm

Luke,

congrats on all the three great pieces of your adventure! Thanks for letting us in on your epic journey. For you, I hope you recovered well and also that this wasn't already *the* trip of your lifetime and there will be much more to come! I am about your age and can only imagine what new insights, views, perceptions you have taken away from your journey - not only about the places you visited but also about yourself and where life might take you.

Cheers, O.
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Wed May 23, 2012 4:41 pm

.

Hi Nicholas. I thought I should follow-up...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
but I felt as though I needed to get onto the working bandwagon as early as possible.

well - it is what society dictates of us. And it is perfectly rationale. I was also torn after seeing many of my friends get their feet very nicely in the doorways of oil companies. But I take solace in the fact that nowadays many employers will see the advantages of independent travelling... it can be great fodder during an interview too.

As a recent example - I went for an English Invigilating position interview. The interviewer was Egyptian and we talked for 20 minutes about the diversity of Egypt. I got the position!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
sounds just like Chinese families at restaurants all trying to pay at the same time..

Hmmm remind me to invite some Chinese to dinner. Yes the world is full of juxtapositions like this. Planning on getting into the far North-West provinces of China when I next go travelling and hopefully passing over into Uzbekistan.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
What a world we live in!

!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
I do wonder if you'd prefer a compact over a DSLR though

Nice thought... I certainly would prefer video functionality now. The DSLR is clunky as hell - but I have no extra equipment/ large camera case so it is Ok. I think I like it for the flexibility of settings but appreciate you can probably now do this in a compact. Will research further. What else... oh... it also seems to have less moving parts therefore can take a bit more rough and tumble. I've had it -15 to 60 degrees...!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
Unless, of course, you like your interchangable lenses and having the potential to stalk people  

I use neither. I would guess the true art of a DSLR is wasted on me...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
I was astounded at how cheap the BG DC-10 flights were........

Hmmm... Saudi Arabian Airlines offer some pretty good fares between Jeddah and Riyadh. With a massive range of equipment... I might try this. 747-300 or something? Is it unusual?



Hello 'O'

Quoting volvair (Reply 38):
congrats on all the three great pieces of your adventure!

Many thanks! I suppose it is something different in the forum and was good fun to write. . .

Quoting volvair (Reply 38):
also that this wasn't already *the* trip of your lifetime and there will be much more to come!

haha... no. But it is likely the pinnacle for me. I should have two more extended trips before I settle into a career!

Quoting volvair (Reply 38):
not only about the places you visited but also about yourself and where life might take you.

Absolutely... definitely learned alot about myself and human interactions during the trip. I easily learnt more in these months than I learned in all my four years of university. Whether these lessons will make me financially prosperous is another argument!
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4050
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Thu May 24, 2012 2:12 am

Wow. What an epic! As you know very well, I am a huge fan of yours, and appreciate the sense of "travel" and not "tour" that you embody. Thank you very much for taking us with you on your incredible adventure -- and most importantly, thank you for inspiring me that travel is made up in the end of interacting with people and realizing we are not that different from each other.

I noted with disdain your disclaimer in the beginning about people complaining about your trip report, length, etc. May I please take this moment to ignore such feedback! This is YOUR trip report - tremendous hard work goes in on putting a report up, and I am sure as much as we A.Net reporters may disagree on airlines, on service, with each other, we know the hard work goes in. So don't forget that ... people always have the choice not to read.

Again, thanks so much for taking me with you on this journey. Here are some more direct comments that stood out for me.

Saludos,
A.

PS: If you are ever in Venezuela, you have a place to stay.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Admittedly I am a little peeved, having being so prepared for the flight, and unprepared for the bad news. It is the first time I have even been denied boarding to a flight. Rasmita explains that she cannot pursue my quandary any further in lieu of the DOH based customer services opening hours. Qatar? Are you there? Global airline, destination across an array of continents, destroyer of the time zone…. And oh, we have to wait till Qatari time 0900am before I can proceed. The first of many farces.

= QR ground service is absolutely a joke ... while on the air, I find them OK ... but their ground service is one of the weakest of ANY airlines I have encountered. I am not surprised by this ... sadly, there will continue to be hordes of drones who will fly them and their cheap fares.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Rasmita scribbles out all the required vouchers and syas “ QR have an agreement with Burger King, so as a result, you will only be able to use your food vouchers at the specified branch”.Of course! Here is one of the world’s alleged 5* Airlines, and yes, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Lunch, Dinner at Burger King. Pathetic.

= WTF.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
On arrival into DOH, my transfer is yet another nightmare. Despite being 10 minutes off an official transfer hotel voucher, and with my flight coming in anyways 70 minutes early, I am denied transit accommodation. I don’t agree with this. I am recognised by a transfer staff member who I overhear sniping “ oh, it is heeem, here to cause trouble again” to a colleague . There you go – a snippet of QR ground staff’s attitude.( Latterly, proof reading this report, it is hard to believe they said this, but I tell no lies).

= Aah ... Doha. As I have said, along with CDG, probably the rudest airport staff in the world.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
There enlies the problem with QR; their dismal transfer process. Treating a passenger as good as gold within the airframe is all in vain if they have to endure surging crowds, piss-filled toilet facilities and discourteous/ ignorant/ arrogant/ rude/ utilitarian/ unconcerned/ overworked QR staff. In one vexing exchange on this forum, it was insinuated that I was a BA Pom-pom girl. Well, whatever, but at least for the majority of times, if you’ve a customer service issue, BA(and others outwith my experience) respect your complaints with a bit of decency and concern. Here in DOH, you would be easier getting water from a stone.

= Well, do keep in mind that there are a handful of people who would do justice to the forum by acknowledging their employers ... thankfully, most A.Net trip writers are genuine aviation aficionados.
Live, and let live.
 
gabrielchew
Posts: 3731
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 5:43 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Thu May 24, 2012 11:25 am

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
haha! You don't have to be so diplomatic... That disclaimer was aimed at you!
Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):

I noted with disdain your disclaimer in the beginning about people complaining about your trip report, length, etc. May I please take this moment to ignore such feedback!

Sorry about causing a ruckus....I do enjoy your reports...Honest!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
In the same vein... that reply was so generous it could have been over two posts to make quoting easier... !

Ha, a new post for each comment perhaps!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
phew... not the only one! Most FA's don't really seem to mind.

Even on bmibaby. I took this yesterday with you in mind. My, er, tonic water, a few minutes before landing in BHX....
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/DSCF1664.jpg

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
I was GUTTED! And the people are extremely nice I have heard too... did you get the visa in London? They were just having none of it. I can only trust the way fate works things out though...

Yes, got the visa in London without a hitch. Was easy back in those days (how old do I sound!), especially as a student.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
So you were in Jordan eh? They have really polluted and ruined alot of the shorefront...

I was indeed in Jordan (here &
here. The place I went to was really beautiful, away from 'Amman Beach'.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
Cheers Gabriel! Saudi is going well... going to take some internals next month on NAS to Gazan and do some snorkling... yahoo...

Glad to hear it's going well. Looking forward to your flights. Hope you haven't stolen any more shopping baskets...
http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights: LHR-CDG,LHR-BKK-AKL-TBU,EUA-TBU-NAN-WLG,WHK-AKL-BKK-LHR
 
CaptainRed
Posts: 784
Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:22 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Thu May 24, 2012 11:41 am

Hi Luke,

wow, what an amazing series of wonderful and exciting reports with again some truly amazing pictures. Sorry to read about the malaria problems you had during your travels, but so good to read that you didn't let this ruin your experience and that you were still able to see the positive things and get the most out of your travels. Really impressive.

Thanks again for these reports, enjoyed every little detail about it.

CaptainRed
 
kiramakora
Posts: 472
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:00 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 3:36 am

I am not surprised by Qatar Airways. They are truly horrible.
 
User avatar
NZ107
Posts: 4946
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:51 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 8:17 am

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):
But I take solace in the fact that nowadays many employers will see the advantages of independent travelling... it can be great fodder during an interview too.

Yeah, I'm sure your stories would be much more interesting than my travel stories!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):
As a recent example - I went for an English Invigilating position interview. The interviewer was Egyptian and we talked for 20 minutes about the diversity of Egypt. I got the position!

Haha that's pretty cool. It also helps that you're not someone who's ignorant about what's going on around while visiting these countries - or there could be a fact that you can't escape it.. I don't know.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):
Hmmm remind me to invite some Chinese to dinner. Yes the world is full of juxtapositions like this. Planning on getting into the far North-West provinces of China when I next go travelling and hopefully passing over into Uzbekistan.

Most interesting route. Just hope you pick the right season to be trekking into that area of the world!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):
Nice thought... I certainly would prefer video functionality now. The DSLR is clunky as hell - but I have no extra equipment/ large camera case so it is Ok. I think I like it for the flexibility of settings but appreciate you can probably now do this in a compact. Will research further. What else... oh... it also seems to have less moving parts therefore can take a bit more rough and tumble. I've had it -15 to 60 degrees...!

All new DSLRs these days have video, including the entry level 1100D. Then again, one of those could easily be cheaper than a G1X though you have an option of an older G series. The G series cameras have manual settings so yeah, you can do those things in a compact. Moving parts - hmm if you're mainly talking about the lens, I suppose you're right. Anyway, I guess the choice is yours and if you were fine carrying that thing around for a year, you should be ok with any DSLR!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):
I use neither. I would guess the true art of a DSLR is wasted on me...

Never too late to start! Though I'd probably suggest leaving that until you finish up on these trips etc  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 39):

Hmmm... Saudi Arabian Airlines offer some pretty good fares between Jeddah and Riyadh. With a massive range of equipment... I might try this. 747-300 or something? Is it unusual?

That'd be pretty fun. I don't think it's unusual (ie getting the 743 on such a flight) but I have no idea about their schedules. Only one way to find out! Or you'll be taking a flight to KRT, CGK or something on them if you wanted a trip on the 743!

Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 2:06 pm

Good tidings..




. Hello Alex -

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
Wow. What an epic! As you know very well, I am a huge fan of yours, and appreciate the sense of "travel" and not "tour" that you embody.

My gosh... what kindness. I reckon there is a certain mentality you need to truly enjoy countries. Hopefully I have found it...

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
thank you for inspiring me that travel is made up in the end of interacting with people and realizing we are not that different from each other.

You don't seem like a man that needs inspired... The biggest stigma is placed on all sides between white/ black people. But I felt not an iota of difference the majority of the time. I was really happy!

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
ignore such feedback! This is YOUR trip report -

Thanks!

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
we know the hard work goes in

precisely...

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
PS: If you are ever in Venezuela, you have a place to stay.

Fantastic... I am planning a bit of an American (S&N) epic if my funds have not run out. Will keep you in the loop!

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
absolutely a joke ... while on the air, I find them OK ... but their ground service is one of the weakest of ANY airlines I have encountered. I am not surprised by this ... sadly, there will continue to be hordes of drones who will fly them and their cheap fares.

Of course... Qatar capitalise on this. Undercutting competitors by just a little but enough to woo people in ( I am guilty). It will be interesting to see if the whole product adjusts well to NDIA.

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
WTF

ha. Even more WTF is the lack of apology or explanation they could give when I wrote to them.

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):
people who would do justice to the forum by acknowledging their employers

If this is more rampant than it seems then absolutely people should start declaring this information prior to writing their report.

Many thanks Alex.






Gabriel...!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 41):

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 36):
haha! You don't have to be so diplomatic... That disclaimer was aimed at you!
Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 40):

I noted with disdain your disclaimer in the beginning about people complaining about your trip report, length, etc. May I please take this moment to ignore such feedback!

Sorry about causing a ruckus....I do enjoy your reports...Honest!

haha... it was more tongue-in-cheek. I put my hands up and admit this was a lengthy series!

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 41):
. My, er, tonic water, a few minutes before landing in BHX....

Nice! Did you get the essential ingredient from the lounge or your stock of miniatures. I've started putting booze in my contact lens bottle. How desperate (and cunning) is that!?

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 41):
Was easy back in those days (how old do I sound!)

The good ol' days of unchallenged dictatorial rule. I suppose it is good in the long run. I even tried at embassy in Amman. I think Brits have stricter regulations on us (compared to Germans at least). I would have had to sent my passport to London.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 41):
Glad to hear it's going well. Looking forward to your flights. Hope you haven't stolen any more shopping baskets...

No... but I got shooed out of a shopping mall for wearing not particularly short shorts.... grrr...!





.


Hello Captain

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 42):
wow, what an amazing series of wonderful and exciting reports with again some truly amazing pictures.

Many thanks... this is very kind.

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 42):
you were still able to see the positive things and get the most out of your travels. Really impressive.

Thankfully it was very difficult to see the negative for me. But of course many others are too influenced by the negative. But I think the tide is turning in Africa...

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 42):
Thanks again for these reports, enjoyed every little detail about it.

CaptainRed

Wonderful!




.

Hi kiramakora

Quoting kiramakora (Reply 43):
I am not surprised by Qatar Airways. They are truly horrible.

At least on the ground/ transfer side of things I concur.



.

Hi Nicholas

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 44):
or there could be a fact that you can't escape it..

No. I couldn't escape it. The prospect of a foolish white man to vent all your political/ economical/ social woes/ worries/ complaints proved too irresistible. Thankfully I relish a good old debate!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 44):
Just hope you pick the right season to be trekking into that area of the world!

No. Lots of seasonal considerations. Should hit that part of the world in Spring time if it all goes nicely.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 44):
Anyway, I guess the choice is yours and if you were fine carrying that thing around for a year, you should be ok with any DSLR!

I feel quite happy with it...

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 44):
Only one way to find out! Or you'll be taking a flight to KRT, CGK or something on them if you wanted a trip on the 743!

They put them every-so-often on the JED-RUH run. I will likely give it a try... it'll be a disappointment to get the regularly subbed Airbuses though.
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
gabrielchew
Posts: 3731
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 5:43 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 2:29 pm

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 45):
Nice! Did you get the essential ingredient from the lounge or your stock of miniatures. I've started putting booze in my contact lens bottle. How desperate (and cunning) is that!?

Booze in a lens solution bottle....very inventive Luke - I like your style. Is that the only way you got it into Saudi!? Mine came courtesy of BA, and my own personal minibar at home.
http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights: LHR-CDG,LHR-BKK-AKL-TBU,EUA-TBU-NAN-WLG,WHK-AKL-BKK-LHR
 
AA787
Posts: 517
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2004 7:46 am

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 2:32 pm

Luke your trip reports are spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing.
ET In NYC
 
FlyingFinn76
Posts: 1698
Joined: Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:10 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 4:08 pm

Hi Luke,

Absolutely speechless here once again! An excellent final account of your adventure, I especially liked your trip back from Greece through Europe. Agree with you on the Balkans - people there are very friendly and it is genuine. They might not have as much there as we in the "old Europe" but they certainly aren't skimping when it comes to sharing or just being friendly to a stranger in need!

Flights look interesting too. Agree about Aegean, it is a class act. Actually it is funny considering the disgraceful mess the whole country of Greece nowadays is how both of their main airlines manage to still provide excellent service, affordable fares and just keep flying... Go figure.

Qatar ground handling looks to be an absolute disgrace - I can't really understand how an earth can they only offer food at a Burger Kind and that's it? That's appalling! And that transit meal - well a nice idea to offer something but ugh, looks disgusting IMHO! A five star airline? Yeah right - maybe in the air but it is minus five on the ground so the result... well do the maths  .

And yes, that Israeli security paranoia is just plain stupid and a major inconvenience to just about anyone.

That bout with Malaria sounds scary - I can't believe you really put off without going to see a doctor for all those weeks (months?)! I know you Scots (just like we Finns) are stubborn as hell, but that is a bit too much - you could've easily been killed!

Now waiting for some interesting observations about Saudi - since you are known to be quite a friend of the tipple that should be interesting...  
 
lukeyboy95
Topic Author
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH

Fri May 25, 2012 8:15 pm

Hi Gabriel.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 46):
Booze in a lens solution bottle....very inventive Luke - I like your style. Is that the only way you got it into Saudi!? Mine came courtesy of BA, and my own personal minibar at home.

Quite cunning I thought. It's 100mls (and I have heard that you can get away with bigger bottles since it is medication?). Because I can't 'save' a miniature! But I do save the bottles of the miniatures and insist my parents take them (as they always buy booze on Ryanair the fools...) ...

On taking alcohol into Saudi. I decided to drink mine on the flight over. But it isn't HALF as strict as they make out. My security screener was on his mobile as my bag went through and there is no customs.




.

Quoting aa787 (Reply 47):

Luke your trip reports are spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing.

Mr AA - thanks for the comment. It always helps with the writing to receive nice remarks.... !






Hello P.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
Absolutely speechless here once again!

Ach ach you are just too kind. You'll always find the words...

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
I especially liked your trip back from Greece through Europe. Agree with you on the Balkans - people there are very friendly and it is genuine. They might not have as much there as we in the "old Europe" but they certainly aren't skimping when it comes to sharing or just being friendly to a stranger in need!

Indeed. I was happy about this part. Although a little concerned on how people would react to me - it turned out to be a great little bonus on the end of the trip. I wouldn't have seen some great countries if I had followed my Turkish route.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
Actually it is funny considering the disgraceful mess the whole country of Greece nowadays

Precisely. May that keep themselves insulated. I suppose with escaping Greeks/ visiting austerity-imposing Germans (et al) traffic is probably buoyant for A3 and erm.... OA? !

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
hat Israeli security paranoia is just plain stupid and a major inconvenience to just about anyone.

I still haven't had a defensive comment about the state of security so can assume that most people concur it is OTT paranoia. Still I wait in anticipation.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
I can't believe you really put off without going to see a doctor for all those weeks (months?)!

I repent! I repent!

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
stubborn as hell

No we're not!!! haha... I think in history it is how we achieved great things. Now it is pure folly on my behalf. Tail is between my legs writing this report.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 48):
waiting for some interesting observations about Saudi - since you are known to be quite a friend of the tipple that should be interesting...  

ha! Well - we're on a break. I'll post two reports likely - on getting out here and one of internals (with observations). Photo taking is IMPOSSIBLE here sadly...

Hope your well and flying high!
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one

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