The craziest travel blog story!!!
Europe Travel Blog› entry 5 of 8 › view all entries
Well, the last 48 hours have been more exciting than some people's whole lives. Maybe that's an exaggeration but flying around the "Black Eyed Peas" is more hard work and stress than you can imagine. Especially when your bag has to be Fed-Ex'd to you from home because you weren't supposed to be on the whole month long trip in the first place and had merely two days worth of clothes because that's all you were supposed to be gone for but I suppose my life is just one big change of plans.
A couple days ago we flew into Tel Aviv, Israel and I found it to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes on. It was like nothing I expected with its white sandy beaches and great surf. A day after arriving, the crew took a trip to Jerusalem which is a trip I will never forget. The city is gorgeous and the sites are something to remember. I saw everything you only hear about in the bible and took LOTS of pics too. I walked the streets where Christ had to carry the cross, stood in the courtyard where he was tortured, felt the actual post hole where The Cross was planted in the ground, and entered the tomb where he was laid to rest (pre-resurrection of course). I even touched the Wailing Wall which is the 1 Jewish religious icon in the entire world. They say people go crazy after touching it and even 3 weeks prior a completely normal man from Sweden went crazy and threw his young son off a 13th story balcony in Tel Aviv and then threw himself off. I have to admit, I did feel an eerie presence in a place most would consider to be holy. At any rate, I don't think Im crazy…yet ;)
Just as it was time to leave the holy land to take "The Peas" to Ethiopia, we were informed that we couldn't fly directly over the Sudan (which is very hostile) from Israel due to flight restrictions for a number of obvious reasons we had to fly to an island off the northern coast of Egypt, stop, change flight numbers and then continue to Africa as if we never came from Israel. As if I wasn't already stressed about retrieving my bag from Israeli customs which was a two hour interrogation and lots of yelling and fighting, all over a bag L Upon arrival of our mid-stop destination on the beautiful island nation city of Larnaca, Cyprus I noticed a coffin of a soldier with a 60 man detail being carried onto a military aircraft parked next to ours. I later found out that it was remains of a Greek soldier who served 33 years ago recently found on the Turkish side of the island in the mountains who happened to be one of a few that were found out of 1600 troops that went missing during a Greek invasion. The man who told me was a Greek soldier 33 years ago at the time all of this took place and he was very proud to see one of his fellow soldiers finally getting laid to rest. The northern half of the island is claimed by the Turks and the southern half Greeks. This territorial feuding has been going on for a very long time and there is actually a physical line that separates the two countries made of land-mines. Count me out of that adventure.
Once we were out of Cyprus, we flew our route over the Mediterranean passing the northern coast of Egypt and followed the colossal Nile River south for at least a couple of hours into Africa before we shifted our heading. Flying directly over Cairo, we could see the Red Sea on the East and the pyramids to the west. They were a little small to catch on camera due to our altitude but at least I got to check another one of the "7 wonders of the world" off my list. Flying over Sudan was a little bit different story in that being at a high altitude meant that you were safer from becoming a target. As we were flying over Khartoum, I saw something on the ground that looked like it could've been a cluster bomb. It was an intense un-uniform sequence of flashes I have never seen from that high up before and it was way too big to be anything else. Nothing would surprise me in this region due to the genocide going on right now.
Finally, we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which has an altitude of 7600 feet. That's even a few thousand feet higher than the mile high city of Denver. To top it off, there is always smoke in the air from the natives so as you could imagine, breathing is extremely difficult. I really didn't know what to expect about the culture after being surprised in Israel but it turns out, it's exactly how I pictured it. I've never been so nervous in my life about a layover. It's literally been life and death the last 24 hours here in this hostile territory near the Sudan yet seems to be very rewarding in other ways. People don't just expect tips in this third world country, they demand them. When your multi-million dollar airplane is sitting on their territory, there really is no logic to argue with them. On the way to the hotel, I felt like I was going to be killed. Every street corner, there are men with AK-47's standing guard and I still don't know if they themselves are trustworthy. You don't walk down the street alone, nor would it even be smart to drive alone and just today, the other mechanic that is helping me out on this trip got robbed $60 from a 14 yr old kid on the street. The first stoplight we pulled up to after leaving the airport, a guy laid another guy out on the street with one punch and then a 14 yr old looking girl with her baby stepped over him to get to us begging for money. When we got to our heavily guarded compound of a hotel, we all checked in and found ourselves very nervous. Half the crew's rooms were in the older, outside corridor with very dark exterior hallways and it still didn't make us feel any better that we were being escorted individually by guards. I walked in my room only to find my balcony door wide open. Everyone thought about pairing up and sharing rooms and some insisted in staying at the much nicer Sheraton where the band was staying. We tried to see if there were any rooms available so we went for a drive to see if there were any left. This was going to be a long-shot due to the fact that the next day was going to be their millennium "new year's eve" celebration. The reason for this is that they are dictated by their Julian calendar, unlike the rest of the world's Gregorian calendar. By the time we got to the hotel, there was only one room left and two of the girls took it pretty much leaving the others screwed.
In the mean while, the band had invited us to come to a party in the ballroom of the Sheraton and we weren't passing any rock*star parties up no matter how tired we were and we were by the way… VERY TIRED! I won't go into many details of the partying (lol…yeah right) but there must have been over a thousand people there easy and we got to hang with the VIP's in their little section of about 25 people. I definitely got to hang out with Fergie after we took the after party to one of the band member's hotel room. She is one of the most down to earth people I have ever partied with and so is the rest of the band. It felt like we all knew each other for years putting our arms around each other and talking about stupid stuff. They made us feel extremely welcome and insisted we hang out again in a future stop which won't be too far away J
As I type this, the "new year's" celebration is culminating outside my hotel at a perfect distance for the firework display from my balcony. Not many people can say they have witnessed two millennium "new year's eve" celebrations. Come to think of it, not many people get to do what I do so I would definitely consider myself blessed. Most people don't believe what I do on an almost daily basis but I thought I would at least share my story to the one's who do. All in a couple days work in the life of Brian J
P.S- As a new update, I flew over the Turkish/Armenian border today where Noah's ark is supposed to be up in the mountains. The peaks were really high. Didn't see the ark though…lol