My time in Palestine ended with a ride from the Golan Heights in occupied Syria at the headwaters to the Jordan river down to the Red Sea at Eilat--400 km away. I cycled from the mountains to the Dead Sea and continued south through the Negev desert.
After Eilat, I crossed the border into Aqaba. I hopped a bus to Wadi Rum and traded some time for free lodging & food at a Bedouin camp. After 2 weeks, I hopped back on the saddle and rode up to Petra. I spent 2 days wandering Petra's remains before continuing North. I felt that my legs were finally strong enough, so I decided to stick to the King's highway in the mountains for the rest of my ride to Amman.
As-salamu alaykum from Al-Khalil (Hebron)! A few days ago I took a bus from Tel Aviv, Israel to Ramallah, Palestine. And today I arrived to Al-Khalil from Ramallah.
As-salāmu ʿalaykum Arabic: Peace be upon you
Shortly after I arrived to Ramallah (after escaping the taxi cabs' persistent attempts to get me to go somewhere, anywhere with them), I sat down in the sun to eat before meeting a friend. As a white man with dreadlocks and a tiny pink bicycle, I'm always something of a spectacle, but I was immediately amazed at how friendly & hospitable people were to me--more so than in Israel.
As I was eating my lunch, a man young came up to me. He only knew a handful of english words. I offered him some food, but he refused. Instead, he just sat next to me, smiling. Ramallah is in the mountains, and it can get quite cold on an overcast day in Winter. The man took off his gloves and tried to give them to me. My hands were visibly cold, but I had to profusely refuse as I already had a pair of gloves buried in my backpack. He continued to sit by me for 20 minutes, offering me wifi or whatever he could. Eventually he said "money, money, money" over-and-over. My first thought was that he was begging for money, but--after another friendly Palestinian said hello to me, he informed me that the man was asking if I needed money. What kindness of strangers!
We passed Palestinian homes...the soldiers had welded shut the front doors and settler's graffiti tagged them with stars of David--ironically & ashamedly reminiscent of swastikas.
Today I took a long, windy road from Ramallah to Al-Khalil. I was very motion sick, and the cab was full of the driver's tobacco smoke. We wandered through the old city passing heavily-armed military and riot police. Many people told me that, if I wanted to understand life under the Occupation, Al-Khalil was the place to see it.
We saw a procession of settlers on a tour through the old city--an area that's designated as H1, controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and where settlers & Israeli military shouldn't be--but that's life under Occupation..
The markets in the old city have the now-commonplace wire mesh protection above--placed there to protect the shops from the trash thrown by the Israeli settlers living above. Still, the settlers throw bleach & urine down on the Palestinians below.
As we walked around, we passed Palestinian homes juxtaposed to Israeli ones. Many of the Palestinian homes were vandalized. On the infamous Shuhada street, the soldiers had welded shut the front doors of their shops & homes. And settler's graffiti tagged them with stars of David--ironically & ashamedly reminiscent of swastikas.
Shalom from Tel Aviv! It's hard to believe that--just last month--I was driving across the US. I sold my car in Wisconson, hopped a greyhound back to NYC, flew to Israel (layover in Germany), took a 10-day tour from the Golan Heights (along the Syrian boarder) to the Dead Sea (along the Jordan boarder), and now I find myself in a backpackers hostel just a short walk from Jaffa in Florientine, Tel Aviv.
When I'm not washing sheets...I'm contributing to open source projects and wandering the streets of Jaffa or schmoozing with Germans, Aussies, and Dutch 20-something-ers at the cheapest hostel in Tel Aviv.
While my previous international travels as a hobo were well-funded by my salary as an software engineer, my new vagrant lifestyle lacks any source of income. As such, I'm subsidizing my travel by worktrading my time for free lodging. In exchange for 27.5 hours of "volunteering" each week, I'm staying at this hostel for free.
When I'm not washing sheets or feeding ~100 backpackers vegan dishes (from 2 shitty hot plates!) with a 70 shekel/night (<$20 USD) budget, I'm still contributing to open source projects and wandering the streets of Jaffa or schmoozing with Germans, Aussies, and Dutch 20-something-ers at the cheapest hostel in Tel Aviv.
Though Tel Aviv does have the highest concentration of vegans per capita than any city in the world, it's a very hedonistic city, and I'm looking forward to cycling the open road. But it's been nice to get travel tips from fellow travelers in this hostel. Indeed, the logistics of traveling between at-war countries (ie: Israel & Lebanon) is a non-trivial act. Their knowledge & tips have proven invaluable in my planning.
After my 1-month commitment to volunteering at this hostel has finished, I'll have 2 months left on my Israel/Palestine visa. After that, my plan is to cross into Jordan and then fly from Amman to Berut, Lebanon.
After that, I head West to Africa or East to India. I'm still undecided..
After a week in Buenos Aires, my injuries sustained by 10 days of backpacking in Patagonia have mostly healed. I initially only intended the 123 km circut at Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile to take 7 days, but complications with rangers, a blizzard, and increasing pain in my ankles, feet, and--worst of all--my knees slowed my journey; fortunately I over-packed food.
my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
After 3 weeks in Santiago de Chile, with a brief weekend visit to Valpariso and Maintencillo to visit friends, I woke on Saturday--the first day of my 2 week vacation--at 05:30 to catch a plane to Punta Arenas. I had a rough sketch of plans from the time my plane arrived in this southern Chilean town until the time I was to arrive in Buenos Aires 2 weeks later, but my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
I arrived to the airport with a overly-stuffed backpack full of instant, no-heat, vegan, dehydrated trail food (couscous, instant potatoes, raisins, mixed nuts, tortillas, peanut butter, oil, and various soup & spice packets). My pack was bulging with two gigantic ever-running holes on the critical sides along the main zipper. My couchsurfing host amazingly had a half meter of webbing to give me just before graciously driving me to the airport, but I hadn't time to sew my pack before the flight. I hastily pulled out my ~50ft of paracord, and tightly bound the pack with the entire length. I waited in line with all the other backpackers headed for Patagonia, sacrificed a lighter to the airport security, and boarded my plane.
After my arrival to the Punta Arenas airport, I searched for a bus to get to Puerta Natales--the gateway town a short 3 hour bus ride from the Torres Del Paine National Park. The information desk told me the inter-city busses picked up at the airport, but required tickets purchased in advance. I awaited one of these busses a few hours later, standing in a line with backpackers more prepared than I. When a bus arrived and my neighbors presented their pre-printed tickets, I asked the bus driver in my broken spanish if I could pay for the ride now. There was no issue; I was told to get on the bus. Moreover, I somehow blended-in with the group, as the ticket man walking up & down the isle demanding ticket proof never approached me.
After a sleepy ride on the bus with more comfortable chairs than the plane, we arrived to Puerto Natales' main bus station. I previously searched for the cheapest hostel online, and walked there with my fingers crossed. They had a 13.000 CLP bed in a mixed dorm, and offered cheap luggage store during the trek for 1.000 CLP. I separated my items, leaving my electronics and some superfluous clothes & toiletries behind. I spent the rest of the night sewing long patches of webbing to pack's critical rips. I ate dinner and went to bed early.
The next morning, I had a fast breakfast, grabbed my webbing-patched pack, and was on the bus to Torres Del Paine by 07:30. The scenery was mostly the same--Patagonia is mostly large, empty fields with cows--with only the occasional mountains & glaciers, to which I intended to immerse myself in shortly.
we had to ford a river...I stubbornly didn't want to remove my boots, so I decided to jump...While I was able to jump to the sandbar without issue, I did so immediately after I had thrown my backpack directly into the water
We arrived, stood in line, paid for entry, and watched a bilingual video about the rules of the park. Their biggest concern was wild fires, as careless tourists from Czech Republic & Israel have tragically burned down nearly 500,000 hectares in 1985, 2005, and 2011. Personally, I didn't even have a stove. Everything I had could be rehydrated cold--though I would never do this again where the water source is glacier melt and the temperature is regularly less than 10 degrees!