Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The rider notes for the lead group (today it's the women, who are in Cyprus) are followed by notes for the other group(s). When the group rejoins in late February or early March, we will return to the original format for these pages.

BikeAbout Log

While Anthony, Ethan, and Padraic are traveling overland to Jordan, Corinne and andrEa are on Cyprus:

topics: car accident, pain, frustration; jump to dispatch


Rider Notes: January 24, 1998

Food of the Day: Halloumi cheese

Halloumi cheese click to view a photograph is pretty much the only vegetarian thing on Cypriot menus, with the exception of the always nutritious and fresh salads. Halloumi can be served fresh (cold) or fried, but is found most often cooked on a grill. Somehow (we really don't know how), it's not a melting cheese. It holds its shape — usually thinly sliced rectangles about 2 cm by 5 cm (1 in by 2 in) — no matter how you cook it, unless you chop it up with a knife.

Word of the Day: Nay and oh-houi — "Yes" and "no"

As if its not hard enough to switch languages in each country, sometimes the similarities and differences between the languages — especially as they relate to our own — are the most confusing. Prime examples are the ways we've learned to say "yes" and "no" in Cypriot Greek. In Olde English, the word "nay" means "no," and is the opposite of "yea," or "yes." Here, "nay" is the way to say "yes"! Yikes! If that's not the trickiest thing you've heard, the word for "no" sounds like a silly version of the English slang word "OK" or the French word oui, which means "yes." When someone here says "oh-houi," it may sound like a lazy way to say "okay," but it really means "no." We spent the first few days mighty confused.

Tech Fact of the Day: Safety

Safety, as a concept, can mean different things to different people, especially as it relates to cyclists. There is danger on any and every road, regardless of how careful any bicyclist is. Nothing we can do will absolutely guarantee our complete safety. For instance, biking with a helmet is the only way to go, but a helmet only protects your head and only to a certain degree. And all the reflective gear in the world won't ward off reckless drivers, anywhere, but everyone should always wear it, no matter what, just to be safe . . . or at least safer. We always do the best we can to be safe on our bikes, but sometimes it just doesn't matter.

Such was the case when andrEa and Corinne tried to decide their route from Limassol into Nicosia. After a day of errands in Limassol, they decided it would be "safest" to take a whole day to bike into the mountains, thus avoiding running out of either daylight or energy. They also looked closely at the main highway and decided to avoid the large number of speeding cars and off ramps, opting instead for the "secondary" road called B1. However, the B1 does not sport a luxurious "shoulder" (you know, the space cars use on the side of the road when they need to pull over in emergencies). Still, the speed limit was significantly lower, and there was considerably less traffic. Hence, it was decided that this would be the safest bet.

Wrong. There was an accident. A car hit Corinne's bike on this "safer" secondary road about 30 km (19 mi) outside of Limassol, even though there was no other traffic on the road. You can bet that the car was going way, way too fast. The police eventually told us that we would have been "safer" on the highway, and shook their heads with a tsk-tsk at our poor choice of roads. When we asked if it was legal to bike on the highway, though, we were told, "No, it isn't — it's too dangerous for bikes." So much for safe.

For a list of Web sites on bicycle safety (including some about those all-important helmets!), please visit the Bicycle Safety section of our Cycling Resources page.

Person of the Day: K. Serge

The gentleman who takes care of guests at the Luxor Guest House in Limassol is K. Serge click to view a photograph, a philosopher and traveler in mind and body. Serge was an instant admirer of the BikeAbout mission, and spent ample time conveying to us his theories and experiences on traveling, life, and love. He shared many insights with us regarding how to walk softly through the soul of existence, and urged simplicity in all of it.

Group Dispatch (Cyprus), January 24, 1998

picture of Corinne

For those who have been waiting a long time for this dispatch, we apologize. It's a long story, so we'll start at the beginning, two days before the date of this dispatch.

As you may recall, andrEa and Corinne left Haifa, Israel, on an overnight ferry headed for Cyprus. Their hope was to get new passports (to replace those that had been stamped by both the Egyptians and the Israelis) and hop the next boat to Lebanon where they would meet the boys, who expected to be in Beirut in about five days. Corinne and andrEa left with just enough money to cover their expenses. Or so they thought.

The overnight ferry trip to Cyprus began with a 90-minute interrogation in Israeli customs, where the attendant was concerned about our extended stay in the Palestinian Territories and the many other Arab countries we have visited. She asked many, many questions about every detail of our entire trip — beginning in Barcelona — and wore our nerves to the end. The only thing that saved us was the newspaper article about us that had appeared in Ha'aretz two days earlier, which another of the attendants had read. So we had a little help there explaining why we had so much luggage and electronic equipment.

We were finally allowed to board the boat and lock our bikes in the car park. We had "deck" tickets, which in our experience has meant that you get a chair in a sitting area inside the boat, rather than a cabin in which to sleep. However, as we wandered from one end of the not-very-large craft to the other, it became clear that the "deck" — where indeed there were chairs — was on the top of the boat, with a mere canopy overhead and no real walls to keep out the cold. Hmmm . . .

To make matters worse, since we had so much precious luggage that we could not let out of our sight, we were not allowed to sit in the lounge for very long, and then told that we had to sleep outside with it. If we wanted to sleep inside, we would have to leave the luggage sitting around on the decks and in the hallways. Neither of these things was a viable option, though, because we have no sleeping bags and we couldn't store our luggage anywhere safe. Hence, we spent the night in a chilly hallway, sleeping on top of our stuff (which was pretty uncomfortable) and subject to the comings and goings of people at all hours.

Regardless, we survived, and arrived stiff and exhausted in sunny Limassol, Cyprus. click to view a photograph Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily and Sardinia), has been divided between people of Turkish descent and people of Greek heritage since 1974 when, with the help of the Turkish army, the northern third of the island was taken over by the minority Turkish Cypriot community. Whereas the 80% majority speaks Greek and is part of the Eastern Orthodox Christian church, those seeking closer ties to their Turkish background speak Turkish and are Muslim. Today most Greek Cypriots live in the south and the Turkish Cypriots live in the north. They are divided by a UN-patrolled Green Line, the only one remaining in the Mediterranean today (since those in Beirut, Bosnia, and between Israel and the West Bank were dismantled).

Throughout history, Cyprus was subject to many of the same conquerors that have swept through this part of the Mediterranean — the various Middle Eastern empires, Rome, Christians and Crusaders, Arabs, the Byzantines, and ultimately the Ottoman Turks. The entire island was bought and sold a number of times, most recently in 1878 when the island was leased from the Ottomans by the British, who then just took it outright in 1914. Greek and Turkish Cypriots were divided as to how to manage the island during a struggle for independence. Each community wanted stronger ties with their respective home countries than the other community was willing to allow. In 1960, when independence was finally declared, the constitution guaranteed representation to both communities. Unfortunately, conflicts made the reality a different story. In 1963, the Turkish representatives withdrew from the coalition government. Each community, intertwined with the other, governed itself. Finally, in 1974, when the president of Cyprus was forced out of office, the Turkish army invaded and established the northern third of the island as a safe haven for the Turkish minority population. This breakaway zone declared independence in 1983. There is a still a great deal of tension between the two communities and almost no communication between the two parts of the island.

The night before, on the ferry, we had brushed up on all this history, as well as the current money and language systems, and were ready to find our way to our embassies, which were in Nicosia, 85 km inland and up past the mountains. We knew it would be rough day of biking and, since we had several errands to run first, we so decided to spend the night in Limassol first. click to view a photograph

The first thing we needed to find out was when the next boat was schedules to leave for Lebanon. We needed to e-mail the boys with information about our anticipated arrival there. Imagine our shock when we found that there were NO passenger boats at all to Lebanon. Imagine our frustration at hearing the cost of going there by plane. Imagine how quickly we found the first Internet café in town to e-mail the boys about our new dilemma!

Blocked along one road, we searched along another. We explored the different options of getting from the southern part of Cyprus — our present location — to southern Turkey. It turned out this was more impossible than getting to Beirut, due to the internal Cypriot political friction. Returning to the BikeAbout itinerary would prove harder than anticipated. So, with daylight time running short, we made a prompt decision to spend more time in Limassol, where we had met a new friend named Serge (see the Person of the Day). We did still think getting new passports was worth a shot, as well as attempting to find transit to Lebanon. For this to happen, we would still have to make the hearty trek to Nicosia and jump through the various bureaucratic hoops at our consulates for our new passports. So we called Christina, a friend of a friend, who was hard to reach because she's quite busy with four-month-old Sara. Weren't we incredibly lucky when she said that we could stay for free at the Amnesty International office where she works?

Which brings us to today. With the sun shining, the sea on our right, and delightful conversation with Serge and a good day of rest behind us, we were ready to take on the mountains up to Nicosia. We set out into the beautiful Cypriot landscape . . . once we finally passed the touristic menace that lines the shore. (Cyprus is a very touristy place, because it is so beautiful. However, too much tourism is not good for any one place, and we could see the effects all around us. Although the nature is really breathtaking, tourism is centered around building more hotels and restaurants for tourists. This unfortunately makes the real culture and life here get lost in all the neon and souvenirs.)

As described (see the Tech Fact of the Day), road B1 — the "secondary road" — seemed to be our best best from the point of view of cycling safety. Plus, it brought us into close contact with the scenery and vegetation in the Cypriot countryside. The lush fields and sloping hills began the slow climb into the mountains click to view a photograph, and from the elevated road we could see out to the sea below and across the vast horizon of the island.

Then . . . not 35 km (22 mi) out of town, disaster struck: Corinne was hit by a car. So we never made it up that amazingly beautiful landscape on bikes. Our journey was first to the tiny local police station, then back down into Limassol in an ambulance, then back to the police station to get our gear, and finally to Limassol again to spend the night. We would have to wait until the next morning, when we took the bus to Nicosia.

Corinne was VERY, VERY, VERY lucky with the whole thing. You could see on the bike rack right where the car hit her. It usually has a bar that looks like a vertical line; now it looked like this: >. We don't think Corinne would have a leg anymore if it hadn't been for the rack and her panniers, which absorbed the initial impact after the metal. But the extended fall/tumble/skid didn't help either, and she was very banged and scraped up.

When andrEa, who was about a kilometer behind, came down the hill and saw what had happened, she freaked. Corinne's face and body were bleeding, her tights and shirt were somewhat shredded from sliding to a stop on the road, and she was slightly delirious. Corinne also couldn't stand or sit still because she was very angry that the person who hit her hadn't even stopped! Plus, in the shuffle of cars and trucks and people who DID stop, we realized that we had permanently lost one pannier containing her jeans, a cozy warm biking jersey, and a full set of silk long johns. Her sunglasses were gone, too, and we knew we couldn't afford to replace all these things, which was very annoying.

Again, however, we were very lucky. The video camera miraculously survived, and the only major damage to the bike seemed fixable. None of the other equipment was damaged either, although we realized that if the car been an inch or two closer, it might have sucked the B.O.B. trailer underneath the wheel, which would have meant fatalities all around. We realized this as we tried to reconstruct the accident with the police, who were dead set on the concept that there was no car, and that Corinne had simply fallen off her bike. As often as this happens, there was no way it was the case this time. Her reputation and relationship with the pavement is fairly embarrassing and consistent, but this time it wasn't her clumsiness that did it!

After filling out a police report we went to the hospital, where Corinne's wounds were cleaned and covered, and her head was x-rayed. Tests confirmed that she was OK, but the truth of the matter was that it was difficult for her to walk, especially up stairs, and biking wouldn't be possible for at least a few days. Then police insisted that we take a taxi back to the station to get our things and leave again, which would have easily cost $50 that we didn't have to spare. Eventually, we convinced one officer to get us from the hospital, and another officer (from the immigration department, no less) to drive us back to Limassol. We were glad that this particular day was over.

Meanwhile, Anthony, Ethan, and Padraic were on their way to Jordan.

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While Corinne and andrEa are on Cyprus, Anthony, Ethan, and Padraic are traveling overland to Jordan:

topics: border crossing, Dead Sea, Jordan River Valley, Jericho; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: January 24, 1998

Person of the Day: Donald and Alma Barker

Donald and Alma Barker, a South African couple that has lived and worked in Jerusalem for seven years, graciously offered Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic warm beds, delicious food, and stimulating conversation on their last night in Israel. The boys would like to thank the Barkers for their generous hospitality.

Place of the Day: Allenby/King Hussein Bridge

The Allenby (or to use the Jordanian name, the King Hussein) Bridge is named after General (later Viscount) Edmund Allenby, the General who led the British forces that captured Jerusalem and Damascus from the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. The bridge crosses over the Jordan River and is the only border crossing between the West Bank (as differentiated from Israel) and Jordan. As the crossing closest to both Jerusalem and Amman (the capital of Jordan), much of the traffic between these cities passes over this bridge. However, as a military-controlled crossing, there are no facilities for the granting of visas to travelers. Hence, all those who pass through must already have Jordanian visas.

Group Dispatch (Israel and Jordan), January 24

picture of Padraic

To understand our trek today, please review the report of our passport and visa tangle

Because it is impossible for us to cross the border directly from Israel to Lebanon (since the two countries are basically at war with one another), Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic hoped to bike to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria. However, because neither Padraic nor Ethan had Syrian visas, the guys had to make the trip via Amman, the capital of Jordan and the site of the nearest Syrian Embassy. With these factors in mind, Ethan and Anthony arranged to bike south from Haifa and meet long-absent Padraic in Jerusalem (not Ramallah, as originally hoped), from which the next day they would make the one-day ride from Amman.

After a frustrating day of wrong turns, flat tires, and broken spokes, Anthony and Ethan finally made it to Jerusalem just as dusk (and Sabbath) fell, and found Padraic, freshly arrived from the United States, at the bus station. There the reunited threesome also met Leon Gork, a veteran tour guide and the treasurer of Jerusalem for Bicycles, who had very kindly arranged a place for all three of the guys to stay. With Leon driving his car and the boys following as close behind as they could, they made their way through the dark streets of Jerusalem to the home of Donald and Alma Barker (see the Persons of the Day).

Over coffee, the guys enjoyed an informative, but too short, chat with Leon, an expert on Jerusalem. He cleared up some of the questions Anthony and Ethan had about the city and promised to email a few of the articles he has written about various Jerusalem and Israeli landmarks. This will certainly help us all with our dispatch writing. BikeAbout would like to express its special thanks to Leon for all his help and wisdom.

After Leon left the guys settled down to delicious barbecued-chicken dinner with Donald, Alma, and another guest.

Which brings us, finally, to today's ride. The boys' intention to hit the road early faded first when they felt the chilly air outside of their blankets and again as they filled up on second helpings at breakfast. They also spent some time transferring their freewheels and tires onto the new wheels generously supplied by Francis Kelsall of Wheeler-France. We all hope that Anthony "Master Spoke-breaker" Ziehmke and Corinne "Magical Rim-bender" Whitney will not have the same effect on these wheels.

And then they were off. From the Barker home, they descended over a thousand meters (3200 feet) to the Dead Sea. click to view a photograph The fierce cross-wind, which seemed at times to pick their front wheels off the ground, made parts of the descent pretty scary, but the view of the Dead Sea and the Jordanian mountains click to view a photograph was spectacular. And, this same wind pushed the boys into Jericho click to view a photograph once they had reached the Jordan River Valley.

Well known to us from the Bible, Jericho is also notable for other reasons (see the Tech Fact of the Day). Though you wouldn't know by looking at it, Jericho is the site of one of the world's oldest known settlements, dating back 8000 years. More recently, in 1994 Jericho was the first Palestinian town to be switched from Israeli control to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority.

From Jericho, it was only a few kilometers to the Allenby Bridge (see the Place of the Day) crossing point to Jordan. After a quick lunch in town, the boys rolled up to the border. They had not even made it through the Israeli checkpoint when they discovered they would be turned away because they had no Jordanian visas. Ugh. No one had ever mentioned to them that without a pre-acquired visa, they couldn't cross here! And the nearest crossing at which the necessary visa could be received was the Sheik Hussein Bridge (or Jordan Valley crossing point) near the Israeli city of Bet She'an, 90 km (56 mi) north up the Jordan River Valley. This was a blow. It was already 1 p.m., meaning that they had only four hours of sunlight left. Still, the strong wind blowing from the south made the ride seem like it was easily manageable, and, by 1:15 p.m., after a quick snack, the threesome had begun riding north, enjoying the views of the mountains of the Western Bank of the Jordan River Valley. click to view a photograph

With the tailwind, they started off quickly and made good time. That is, until the wind changed direction . . . and the clouds rolled in. Of course, just as the first raindrops began to fall, Anthony got a flat tire. He quickly changed the inner tube while Padraic and Ethan threw on their wet weather gear. It hardly mattered. The heavy rain pushed by gusting northerly winds drenched them within minutes. And the rain and vicious headwind lasted for much of the remaining 45 km (28 mi) to the border crossing. They spent most of the only interval between storms waiting while Anthony fixed yet another flat. The flats, the rain, and the wind meant that they had to ride the last 8 km (5 mi) in wet and increasingly cold darkness. (Anthony and Ethan were so wet and cold that, once they reached the border area, they changed every article of clothing they were wearing for drier wear. They had to do this in the cold night air without the cover of a bathroom since security at border crossings is very important.)

Once through the border formalities, the guys rode their bikes into Jordan and immediately onto the top of a service taxi for a 40 km (25 mi) ride to the city of Irbid, Jordan's second-largest city and the nearest urban center to the Sheik Hussein Bridge. There they quickly found a reasonably-priced hotel, hung wet clothes from every hook, and flopped into bed wondering if they'd ever be completely warm or dry again.

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