Sunday, April 25, 2010

I had a dream...

Above: Mr Felix at the Hillary Step on Mount Everest.

The Hillary Step is a 15 metre (5 storey) vertical rock wall, the last hurdle before you reach the the summit of Mount Everest. The summit is a further 100 metres further up along the ridge, with a 3,000 metre drop on both sides.

I had a dream...
I am dragging my bicycle up the vertical edge of the Hillary Step, cycling to the summit of Mount Everest.

Night is closing in.

I am almost at the top of the Step. I am jammed between the rock and an ice overhang. I hold tightly onto my bicycle, shivering in the cold.

I look up and realise that to go on may be extremely foolish.

Cycling along the icy ridge to the summit is close to suicide. To be able to do it, I will need to cycle at top speed.

One slip and I am dead.

Perhaps, I think, discretion is the better part of valour, and it may be sensible to just stop here and return back down the mountain.

I can't make up my mind.

I figure I've got one shot in a hundred of making it, but is that enough? I hate the shame of giving up, but then again, pride can be destructive.

I decide to turn back. My stomach sinks...
I wake up.

The Jesus Route begins in Jerusalem, goes north through Damascus and Aleppo in Syria, east to Mosel in Iraq, then continues straight across Iran to the city of Meshad.

From Meshad, the route crosses into Afghanistan at Herat, and pushes onto Kabul and Jalalabad in the far east of the country, bordering Pakistan.

Crossing into Pakistan, it goes through to the ancient city of Taxila and nearby modern day Maree, north west of Islamabad. From Islamabad it’s just a short hop into India, and up into Srinagar and Kashmir.

Iraq and Afghanistan are pretty much out of the equation to be begin with, for obvious reasons.

However, it is possible to enter Kurdish northern Iraq through Turkey, and I did hear of a backpacker who got through to Mosel, with a military escort.

It is also possible to go to Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, although 'backwards' from Pakistan. However, the word is that it is best to fly from Islamabad, rather than catching the bus. The route goes up through the Kyber Pass from Peshawar, and these areas are unstable. Cycling would indeed be suicide.

I don't fancy ending up on Al Jazeera.

It gets worse...

Now, here in Amman, Jordan, with a brand new Israeli ‘Entery Prohibited’ (sic.) stamp in my passport, it’s now probable that Syria and Iran are off the map, the politics of passport stamps being what it is.

That really only leaves Pakistan and India as sure bets, and it may be that this trip is doomed before it has begun.

Tomorrow I leave Amman, and cycle 85 km up to Irbid in the north of Jordan. On Wednesday or Thursday I expect to be at the Syrian border, and will then find out whether I am ‘allowed in’, or not.
"Ah, Mr Feeliks," says the man at the Syrian border with the bushy mustache and large belly, "we've been expecting you!" He grins.
If do get into Syria, I continue on, and see if I can get an Iranian visa in Damascus. Whatever happens then, I can at least cycle up to Turkey, and attempt to get into northern Iraq.

That would be something at least.

If I’m not allowed into Syria, I can also, I figure, say goodbye to Iran, and the trip, pretty much is stalled, just like on the Hillary Step.

“What is Plan B, Feely?” asks Mr Pumpy, cheerfully, as we sit watching the tube with four Japanese students and a one-legged Egyptian ex-bus driver, at the Cliff Hotel in Amman.
"Ah, I'm still working out the details, compadre," I say, looking back to the teev, where Al Jazeera is rolling out the latest explosion somewhere in Pakistan. It looks bad.
“Ah, Feely," he asks again, after a moment, "do we have a Plan B?”

Outside in the street, through the lattice windows, comes the sound of car horns blowing and young men shouting. Barcelona has just beaten Xerez 3-1 to stay top of the Spanish league, and Jordan is erupting.


Of course, the dream may have nothing to do with the route itself. It may have more to do with why I'm doing what I'm doing, and the demons that drive me on.

Maybe it really is time to stop?


  1. Perhaps you can go to an Australian Embassy & claim that you lost your passport, and get a replacement issued sans the Israeli stamps.

  2. Yeah, cheers, I could do this, but I kinda balk at it. These days things like a lost passport isn't as funny as it used to be, and I have a totally clean record re passports and the like, so I'm loathe to blemish it.
    I'll be at the border in a couple of days, and try to talk my way in. You never know...
    cheers. :)