Welcome to my new blog Cork to Cape - the second leg of my round the world motorcycle adventure. As some of you know my first trip took me down through Central and South America on the back of a BMW R1100GS. This trip will take me from Ireland to South Africa on an F800GS. My goal is to take my time, enjoy the ride, meet new people and volunteer along the way. I welcome everyone to view and enjoy the blog, add comments and give me any advice on special places to see or people to meet. And, of course, if anyone wants to join me for a section of the journey or if there is a place you always wanted to visit, please come along.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The road to redemption.

Day 240

Mileage 21,310 (34,096km)

Back in Ireland with the siblings
They say it only rains twice a week in Ireland, from Monday to Friday and then from Saturday to Sunday, only twice. Coming home for Christmas and New Year’s was one of the best decisions I have ever made, not even the cold, wet weather could dampen the spirits of my family and friends as we gathered in Strabane to see out the old year and welcome in the new.

I arrived home, to Ireland, feeling discarded like an empty shell. Devoid of hope and lost in a sea of confusion, I was still in shock over the events that had led to this moment and stunned by the suddenness of losing the person I had expected to spend the rest of my life with, my ‘soul mate’, my best friend. I don’t buy into the idea of a ‘soul mate’ anymore. I no longer believe there is such a thing as the perfect partner and no two people are ideally suited for each other. It’s cynical, I know, but it would be a boring world if that were the case, thankfully we are all unique, with our quirks and faults, our gifts and abilities. It is through our actions that we define who we are. We all have a free will and a conscience, we can choose to do right or wrong, to be good or bad. It is rarely that black and white but if the outcome of our actions causes pain, emotional or otherwise, to another individual then it shows a lack of sensitivity to follow that path. Relationships are hard, they require effort, it is much easier to walk away at times than it is to continue.

The future I had expected is no more and the narrative of my past is now being cruelly rewritten. It was almost convincing enough for me to question my own memories. Utter fatigue plays foul tricks on the mind and had it not been for the support of my family and friends from around the world I would have begun to doubt my own sanity. Bathed in a deep, warm pool of love and understanding I finally began to find peace. I was home.

Ireland is a magical place, of course I am biased, but the generosity and hospitality of its people are second to none. Grounded in reality by the shared experience of a troubled past, we tried to live ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. The quick wit and the dry humor are merciless but beneath the tough appearances there lies a kindness and warmth that would melt the ice of the coldest hearts. I’ve always suspected the Irish climate has played a pivotal role in the formation of the national psyche. Where better to avoid the inclement weather than at the kitchen hearth drinking tea and telling stories or around the fireplace of the local pub sharing music and poetry. I could think of no better place I would rather be during these dark days than with my family, surrounded by the familiar sights and sounds of my youth. 

As the entire Anderson clan gathered under one roof the scene was set for several days of eating, drinking, chatting, singing, joke telling and general merriment followed by more of the same. I can’t remember how many cups of tea I drank during the days I was home but that may have something to do with the amount of whiskey I consumed in the evenings. I was reminded constantly of just how fortunate I am to have such a close, supportive family by my side when I needed them most. I am eternally grateful to each and every one of them. 

Petra, Jordan
Coming back to Jordan, home of some very painful memories, was challenging. I’d already pushed my flight back once so I could spend more time with family but I knew I would have to get back on the road eventually. The return journey was greatly eased by the overwhelming hospitality of Damo and Naomi, a couple of wonderful Australians living in Amman, who were taking care of my gear and motorcycle while I was in Ireland. As I entered the arrivals area of the airport a smartly dressed driver was holding a sign that read ‘Mr Irish Dave’ and by 2am I was back in Amman. As exhausting as the journey had been I spent another sleepless night toiling over what my next move should be. Throw in the towel or keep moving, since our breakup several attractive opportunities have presented themselves but deep down I knew it would be cathartic to finish what I’d started even though it has cost me so much. I made the decision to pursue several options, the first of which involved trying to transit through Saudi Arabia to Yemen where I could, hopefully, catch a boat to Djibouti. 

Obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia is notoriously difficult if you are not an arms dealer and my first visit to their embassy proved to be a fruitless waste of time. Reluctant to deal with a westerner I was refused entry to the building and directed towards a visa agency ‘on airport way, near bridge two’. Directions can be challenging in Jordan and addresses are rarely used, it felt as though they did not want to disappoint me with a flat no but they would prefer if I went elsewhere. Bureaucracy and fatigue do not go well together so I meekly agreed to move along and attempt what I thought would be the simpler task of extending my permission to keep the motorcycle in the country for a few more days. On entering Jordan a temporary importation license is granted for foreign vehicles allowing you to stay for up to 30 days. Mine was about to expire so I took a drive to the border in order to renew or extend my time limit. 

Approaching the border I pulled over at the first of three checkpoints on the Jordanian side and began to explain my predicament. The police officers were friendly enough but they shook their heads together after inspecting my paperwork and repeated a phrase I’ve heard many times before on this trip, “You have problem”. Phone calls began back and forth between the various border agencies and as the sun began to set I wondered if I had made a mistake by trying to play by their rules. Finally, I was allowed to proceed to the next checkpoint where the entire procedure repeated itself in a surreal episode of deja vu. It was dark by the time a very senior looking police officer approached and informed me that I would have to leave the country and return tomorrow in order to extend my stay. I’d left most of my gear in Amman expecting this to be a simple case of paying a small fee but the customs officials were determined to do it all by the book. When I refused to leave the senior police officer suggested I overstay my welcome, break the law and pay a small fine upon leaving, considerably less than the cost of the extended import license. 
Jordanian 'Rorschach' Sandstone
The following day I tried to track down the mysterious Saudi visa agency with my vague directions. Making the assumption that ‘airport way’ may be in some way connected to the airport I traced a route along all the possible roads that led out of the city in that direction but to no avail, so, I returned to the Saudi embassy and asked for a more accurate location. I spoke to a different set of officials who gave me a completely different set of directions but by now the day was wearing on so I decided to give it another go the next morning. Returning to the Amman apartment of Damo and Naomi, with its armed guard stationed outside, I spent the afternoon working with Damo on his bike repairing some damage  to the front end after a mishap in the desert.

For the third day in a row, after yet another restless night, I tried to pursue the Saudi visa option, finally tracking down the agency that processes applications for foreign visitors. In Jordan there is a term used to describe how well connected you are, often referred to as simply ‘wasta’. The king of Jordan would, presumably, have the most wasta and I, as a foreigner have no wasta. It’s all about who you know in positions of power and achieving  the simplest of tasks without adequate wasta can be next to impossible. The staff at the visa office were most helpful and, initially, quite positive about my chances of obtaining the 72 hour transit visa required to race across the country and into Yemen. That was until they asked what type of vehicle I was driving. I had assumed that would be obvious, I was wearing a full motorcycle outfit and carrying a crash helmet after all, but as soon as I mentioned the bike attitudes changed and my lack of wasta sealed the deal. Saudi Arabia shares an odd paranoia with much of the Middle East when it comes to motorcycles and a transit visa would not be issued for all motor vehicles of the two wheeled variety. And so it goes, I am now dealing with yet another rejection and my options for moving forward are gradually falling by the wayside. A solution is out there and it will present itself in time if I am patient. With rejection comes time for reflection.

It feels as though I’ve just woken up to find myself middle aged and single, Beth helped me feel young. For the last 10 years I’ve had it pretty good, plenty of adventures with the person I loved and I am thankful for all of it. I felt lucky to have found a kindred spirit, someone to share my hopes and dreams with. I would often wake early in the morning and quietly watch her peacefully sleeping, thinking to myself how fortunate I was to have her in my life. I swear it wasn't as creepy as it sounds. I don’t know at what point she turned off her love for me but I realize what has gone can never be recovered. I’d rather she be happy with someone else than unhappy with me. I still choose to look back and cherish the good times we had and try to learn from the mistakes we made. I’m not sure if I will ever love or trust again, it’s still too soon to say and to consider it, even now, feels like betrayal. I’m sure that will change with time, I hope it will. For now I’m taking it one day at a time while dreading the nights when a chaotic state of mind takes over and my thoughts run amok. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve slept well over the past month and even those were with the help of either alcohol or medication, sometimes both. I miss dreaming. Days pass by in a haze of hyper-reality and I struggle to focus on the simplest of tasks, like this blog for example. I feel as though I need to recalibrate who I am and reconsider what direction I want to take my life. I want to learn to put myself first again, it’s time to begin the process of moving on. 
Riding with Damo in Wadi Walla, Jordan


Lego Jedi said...

Dave. Thought you would appreciate a big loud "Raaaaaaaaaaaa". spoke to Nick who had spoken to Holly. We are all thinking about you. Look after yourself and stay in contact. Raaaaa Tom

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jacqueline doherty said...

Hi Dave
I have just been reading a lot of your writings of all your adventures
To introduce myself I am in the camera club with your Dad. I love chatting to your dad as he has such a posotive view on life and can be quite funny too. We chatted quite a bit this Tuesday at the club and I asked about the son who was travelling the world and sending postcards along the way, so he filled me in and I was so saddened by what happened. Life throws stuff at us that we least expect let alone know how to deal with. and yes thank goodness for family.
I will try and keep track of your travels and I love the detail. It`s like `captains log on the starship enterprise seeking new life and new civilisation-to boldly go where no man has gone before !!`
I pray for you on your trip of a lifetime and for your peace of mind. May God go with you
love from Ireland Jacqueline