October - November 2017
  • Day17


    October 23, 2017 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We had a rest day today and bypassed the itinerary. We got up to date with all of our washing; had an afternoon nap; explored the museum onsite at the kibbutz - Galilee Miracles Centre & enjoyed a walk along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was wonderful to just rest & catch our breath.
    The museum was fascinating & contained a boat found, not far from the kibbutz, in 1986 that has been dated to the first century BC!
    The boat was over 8m long & was made using 12 different types of wood. It was found after the waters had receded, during a severe drought & the tale of its excavation & restoration was really interesting.
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  • Day16

    Israel (Golan Heights)

    October 22, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    Today we had another beautiful day of sunshine & blue sky - the weather has been perfect thus far! We started out a little later today which was good, as we needed a moment to catch our breath.
    We are still located at the Kibbutz on the edge of the Sea of Galilee & essentially travelled north east today to the border regions with Lebanon & Syria - we were exploring the Golan Heights!
    Our first stop was Mount Bental, with a wonderful coffee shop (Coffee Anan) & lookout at the top. Mount Bental is a dormant volcano & is also a strategic UN outpost used to survey the happenings over the border in Syria. If you stopped & were quiet, you could hear the odd gunshot in the distance - we later found out that four missiles were intercepted mid flight the night before...
    From here we headed down the mountain & closer to the Syrian border, where we stopped, overlooking Golan Volcanic Park, & listened to a talk given by a recently retired Brigadier General & Chief of Staff (Northern Region) from the Israeli Defence Force on the current military situation & it's recent past - it was so fascinating & informative. From here we could clealy view the border fence & crossing, the destoryed town of Quneitra on the Syrian side, & the UN Peacekeeping base on the Israeli side. The difference in the fruitful abundance of the Israeli side in comparison with the desolate wasteland on the Syrian side was immense & incredibly thought provoking...
    We were back on the road again & heading north (only a few minutes up the road) to the Druze village of Mas'ade (Masada) - The Israeli Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority among Arab citizens of Israel. Mas'ade is a small town of approximately 3,500 not too far from Mount Hermon - the highest point in Israel & home to Israel's only ski fields (there was no snow there at this time though). We had a wonderful falafel for lunch here before continuing up into the hills, passing Nimrod's Fortress along the way.
    Our next stop was the ruins of the ancient (4500 BC) Israelite City of Dan (Tel Dan) & taking in the incredible history & beauty of this world renowned National Park. We saw where the spring that forms the Dan River is located & I even managed to dip my feet in a pool of cool waters. We saw a 700 year old flour mill & the oldest arch known in history - a Canaanite gate. After spending almost 2 hours exploring this ancient area we were back on the bus again & descending into the beautiful Hula Valley where we were just in time for a tour of the Hula Valley Bird Centre & a trip on one of their camouflaged tractor trailers to view the migrating birds come in to rest for the evening in the grassy marshlands. We saw flamingos, herons, cranes (they are so big & noisy), black ibis (a little more glamourous than the 'dump birds' we have at home), kingfishers, pelicans & ....a wild boar! It was incredible! The setting sun reflecting off the mountains boardering Lebanon created perfect picture opportunities & topped off the day.
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  • Day15


    October 21, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    We awoke to another jam packed day full of activities & places to visit. Our first stop was the ancient port city of Caesarea; the beautiful weather that we have experienced on this trip, has made for fantastic photo opportunities. The history of this once great city was incredible! Next we stopped just up the road to view the ancient aquaducts that brought fresh water to the city; amazing architectural & engineering feats & in a beautiful location along the Mediterranean Sea.
    The next hour was spent taking in the gorgeous views of the Israeli countryside (very similar to Australia) on our way to lunch at the ancient Tel Megiddo aka. Armageddon. Wow! The view was phenomenal! No wonder this was such a strategic stronghold for millennia! We could see the hills of Nazareth, Mount Tabor, Carmel Mountain Range & the Jordan Valley from here.
    After lunch we drove for another hour to Nazareth for a quick photo opportunity from the top of Mount Precipice. Hokey smokes, the view from here was breathtaking - way higher than Megido! We could have spent all day exploring the old city of Nazareth - we will definitely have to come back 😁
    We were back on the bus again for the 45 minute journey to the serene Sea of Galilee where we enjoyed a cruise before checking in to our accommodation for the next three nights - a kibbutz on the edge of the Sea of Galilee (Nof Ginosar). A beautiful, relaxing place to lay our weary heads after a long day of travelling.
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  • Day14


    October 20, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    Today we drove north of Tel Aviv to the city of Haifa at the foot of the Carmel Mountains. On the way we stopped at the small village of Zichron Ya'acov where we visited the Aaronsohn Family Home & N.I.L.I. Museum. We learnt all about the sacrifice this family made to provide intelligence to the British forces on Turkish movements from 1915-1917.
    The acronym N.I.L.I. stands for "Netzah Israel Lo leshaker" - "the Eternity of Israel will not lie", taken from 1 Samuel 15:29. It was essentially the first Jewish underground.
    The goals of N.I.L.I. were:
    ▪To assist the British army in winning the war against the Turks by collecting intelligence material
    ▪To support the Jewish community in Eretz Israel who suffered from famine & disease
    ▪To draw the attention of the outside world to the situation in the country
    ▪To further the Zionist dream of a National Homeland
    Due to the assistance of N.I.L.I. spy ring, the British (& allied forces) succeeded in conquering Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, & this accelerated the end of the war in the entire region.
    At the port city of Haifa we stopped for a wreath laying ceremony at a small cemetary where 19 members of the 4th LH Regiment are resting in peace after fighting in the battle of Semakh on 25th September 1915.
    The drive back to Tel Aviv was 1.5 hours on the coast road & many wonderful landmarks were pointed out along the way. Once we arrived back at the hotel we went for a walk along the beach to the old port of Jaffa & explored her hidden pathways & history.
    Another great day done & dusted.
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  • Day13


    October 19, 2017 in Palestine ⋅ ☀️ 35 °C

    We left our hotel in Jordan at 8.30am for the 1 hour journey to the Jordanian border, crossing through the beautiful Jordan Valley. The valley is lush & green & sits at least 400m below sea level, once here, all the bags came off the bus & were x-rayed etc...(& Pauly's binoculars were freed from their restraints with minimal fuss & lots of cigarette smoke). Next we were back on the bus travelling for approximately 10 minutes through 'no man's land' (our view was sniper towers, trenches, barbed wire & desolation) to the Israeli border crossing. Here, the bags came off the bus again & were x-rayed whilst we obtained our visas, passed through security checks & moved to our buses (all new buses & drivers as our Jordanian guides did not cross into Israel). Interestingly, the binoculars were of no interest to the Israelis, however my 5 kg of authentic turkish delight was a different story 😁; but once they had performed all of their necessary security checks I got my loot & was free to go. The Israeli guards were very thorough but made us feel very welcome - a dramatic difference to what we had experienced entering other countries. We were now officially in Israel & on our way to Tel Aviv!
    The first city we spotted was the oldest in the world - Jericho! Unfortunately we did not have time to stop but we will definitely come back on another visit!
    Lunch was held in Tel Aviv at the Rishon Le-Zion Museum where we learnt about the history of the Jewish nation & the Israeli flag, amonst other things.
    This afternoon we were treated to a wonderful concert at Jaffa Railway Station, on the Tel Aviv foreshore, by our concert band (The Perth Hills & Wheatbelt Band). They flew in from Perth this morning along with all other ('Option B') tour members - there are now 180 of us in total!
    After another long day, we enjoyed a scrumptious buffet dinner at our wonderful accommodation - Dan Panorama Hotel, before a quick "hello" & welcome from the Australian Ambassador to Israel.
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  • Day12


    October 18, 2017 in Jordan ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    After a wonderful 8 hour sleep at our hotel in Amman, we awoke refreshed & ready for another big day. We had a special tour organised for us in the morning on a steam train from Amman's Hedjaz Station to Zizah Station, the latter of which was significant for our Light Horse troops in WWI, as it was here where they helped protect the Turks in the region against the Bedouin tribes who would have slaughtered them if they surrendered to the Aussies. The incident was known as the Zizah Farce.
    We were extremely privilaged to have been given the opportunity to ride on this train as it is very rare that it operates. Needless to say we drew crowds of locals who greeted us all with with lots of curiosity, smiles & waves. We saw many things of interest whilst on the one hour journey, including the old city's viaduct (from Roman times) & Bedouin communities in the arid countryside.
    After lunch we took a special journey to Es Salt's Turkish Memorial where we held a special wreath laying ceremony in honour of the fallen Turkish troops who battled here in 1918. The grounds of the memorial site contained a cave that was discovered in 1953 that held the bodies of 300 Turkish soldiers. It had been beautifully restored & made for a poignant display. We were privileged to have Colonel Christopher Buxton from the Australian Defence Attache in attendance, as well as the Turkish Ambassador to Jordan, the latter of whom was deeply moved, as this was the first time any Australian group had honoroured the fallen Turkish soldiers here. It was a very special moment that we were able to share in.
    As an added bonus today, we witnessed a police motorcade escorting Australia's Govenor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, from the airport - he had just arrived in Amman for trade talks. Our group leaders, & the Consulate staff had tried in vain to have him join us, but unfortunately his time was limited. Apparantly, he was most upset at the missed opportunity.
    We are off to Israel tomorrow where we should be at the border crossing by 9.30am; then the fun will begin again for Pauly & those dastardly binoculars....
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  • Day11


    October 17, 2017 in Jordan ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    What an eventful day! It started at 3am this morning when we were roused from our sleep by a wake-up call so that we could be on the bus at 5am for our journey to Cairo's airport. Our flight to Amman, Jordan departed at 9.15am so we had plenty of time to get through the four security check points & two pat downs before we boarded the plane (with plain clothes security guards) for the 1.5 hour flight. In hindsight, this should have been our first red flag on how strict Jordan is on those visiting the country...
    We arrived safely at just after 9.30am local time & proceeded through customs (& more security check points) to the baggage carousel. Now the fun begins....Pauly's bag, along with a number of other tour members' luggage did not arrive on the carousel.... After discussions with Jordanian Security Forces, the bags were located but further inspection & questioning was required...Almost 3 hours later, & after segregation & questioning (via translator), Pauly was freed to us with his secured contraband item, for which a refundable fee of $54JD ($115AUD) was required. We have been told that the fee will be refunded to us at the Israeli border on Thursday, upon which our binoculars shall also be freed from their secure, plastic prison 😂...Second lesson learnt on this trip - don't carry binoculars into Jordan; ever!
    After all of the excitement at the airport, we were then on our way to the hotel (beautiful, by the way) before heading out to the ancient Amman Citadel (built around the time of Alexander the Great). Most of the buildings still visible at the site are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. The major buildings at the site are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace. This stop also provided incredible picture opportunities of the beautiful city of Amman.
    By the time we finished & had navigated our way back through traffic to the hotel (imagine traffic being slightly less crazy than Cairo, but a whole lot more scary! - I am not sure that driving tests are compulsory in Jordan, before being issued a licence...), we were well & truly worn out & enjoyed an early night with dinner in bed at our beautiful accommodation - Olive Tree Hotel.
    Tomorrow we meet the Australian Ambassador to Jordan & Jordanian dignataries for a wreath laying ceremony at Es Salt before we board a restored WWI steam train, from Amman's famous Hejaz Station, for a journey to Zizah Station, where a very important event occured in relation to the Middle East campaign in WWI...
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  • Day10


    October 16, 2017 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We awoke to another glorious morning in Cairo, with the honking of car horns our new 'normal'. We were on the bus at 8am & headed to one of the seven wonders of the world - the Pyramids of Giza! It didn't take long before we spotted them in all their glory, sitting right alongside the city fringe - you could have Pizza from a Pizza Hutt that was less than 100m from the Sphynx!
    We were in complete awe at the magnitude & splendor of them - they were breathtaking! The biggest one, known as the Great Pyramid or Cheops, was the burial site for Khufu who ruled during the Fourth Dynasty in the first half of the Old Kingdom period (26th century BC) - we even got to trek inside & visit his burial chamber located about two thirds of the way up! It took about 15 minutes to walk up via steep passages, some of which were incredibly expansive, & low, close tunnels; completely worth the $12AUD each for the privilage, albeit slightly terrifying & almost overwhelming knowing you were inside one of the most ancient & mystical structures on the planet!
    Next, we drove around to the 'Sahara Desert side' of the pyramids, this is where we got the perfect picture opportunities, with all 3 of the major structures visible. It is from this location that we also began our iconic camel ride - a highlight of the trip so far! We were speechless & the view from the Sahara Desert, looking at those ancient marvels & the glistening city beyond, was a memory that will be etched in our memories until the end of our days.
    After our ride we boarded our bus & headed back towards the 'city side' of the pyramids where we viewed the mighty Sphynx statue before heading back to the hotel for a restful afternoon; many in the group were coming down with the lurgy and this time allowed us to pack & prepare for the 3.30am wake up tomorrow morning for our flight to Jordan.
    After a quick tidy up at the hotel, we ventured out for a walk in the crowded, dusty streets before coming back & preparing for our trip to view a laser light show at the Pyramids, before a formal dinner at the famous Mena House Hotel; another historic site in WWI history, as it was here that our ANZACs were based before moving through to Israel (then Palestine).
    Another fantastic day done & dusted; we are ready for Jordan tomorrow!
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