A silly conversation…or maybe not?
The grandly name Palace Hotel in Amman was the humblest abode I have ever been in. (Save the camping stint in Naxos). $30 a night bought me a narrow bed, my one bathroom with leaking shower, a barely closing door and window and breakfast. For $25 you could share a bathroom, but there are limits to the extremes I will go to.
What the place lacked in glamour though, it made up for in atmosphere. This was a hotel where real travelers came, from many nationalities and of all ages. Sitting in the salon I could distinctly feel a spirit of adventure emanating from my dust covered fellow guests who were just coming back from a trip to Petra or about to set out for a desert tour of Wadi Rum. Stories flowed from table to table and I loved every moment. That’s where I met Dave, a photographer from Arizona who was only too happy to share my car and driver on my planned trip to the Dead Sea.
Off we went the next day with our trusted Hani and when we came to the turn off to King Hussein bridge on the desert highway, naturally we asked: “where does King Hussein bridge lead”.
“To Israel,” Hani replied.
“Oh,” we said, “can we go?”
“Because you have no business to go to Israel”.
“Of course we do, we want to look. Let’s go”
By now Hani shot us some concerned glances. “No,” he insisted, “You can’t. The soldiers will stop you. It’s impossible.”
“Can we take pictures of the soldiers then,” Dave asked.
Hani came to a full stop and turned around outraged. “They will take your camera if you are lucky, or they may shoot you”. By now he may have had second thoughts about the kind of passengers he had in his car.
Now Dave had a bright idea. “I know how we can get famous,” he said to me. “If we can’t go over the bridge, you start swimming across to Israel in the Dead Sea and when they start shooting, I’ll take pictures.”
“Dave,” I replied all serious, “why don’t you do the swimming and I take the pictures?”
“Because you are better looking and just think about the headlines: glamour granny gets shot whilst trying to take a look at Israel! Instant fame!”
We had a good laugh and Hani stepped on the gas to get us past the turn off to the bridge as fast as possible in case we had some more silly ideas. The whole thing was a lark but an essential truth about the essence of a real traveler’s soul was revealed: we feel the need to stick our nose where it is not necessarily welcome. We need to look behind the façade and leave no stone unturned. We love to admire the famous sights and the pretty picture like everybody else , but we also need to know what lies behind and, a true traveler is fearless.
I wonder what stories you have about situations when your traveler’s curiosity lead you into potentially dangerous circumstances. Please, do tell! Did you throw caution to the wind or did reason prevail?