What happens when you anger the travel gods: Part 2
It is somewhere around 3am and we are in a taxi on our way to meet the taxi driver’s friend and see the place he has for rent. We pull over to pick up his friend and it gets real cozy in the car. There are now three of us in the back and three in the front (yes, six grown men all squished together in a car). The owner is on the phone and the phone goes back and forth between him and George. Only later would we find out what that conversation was all about.
After arriving at the house, the owner proceeds to show us around. It is not a terrible place, but it does err on the side of sketchy and there are cockroaches running around (just a few, but enough to get my attention). A discussion ensues about the price and whatnot. During the talks we are apparently that a woman will come each day to clean and provide “other services”. It is at this time that we learn that she was the person on the phone that the owner and George were talking to in the car (of course she was). We politely turn down this most generous of offers. A decent rate for the place is negotiated and we are told that we must provide the owner with our names and passport numbers. While this is going on, we realize that he thinks we are staying for three days and we are only staying for two. That apparently changes everything. His price for two days is more than his price for three days. UGH. After another lengthy discussion we realize this situation is not working out and we get up and go outside.
I realize that he still has the paper with our names and passport information and tell the others to get it back. An argument erupts as the owner refuses to hand us the piece of paper. It is 5am and I could punch someone (or everyone). About this time a car pulls up with a number of guys in it. One of them gets out and Bob and George explain the situation to him. I am not privy to any of this conversation as the group has decided to stop translating for me. All I know is that after some time, the man from the car says something to the owner, who promptly gives the man the piece of paper, he tears it up, and hands it to me. The sun is just starting to come up. Someone is going to pay dearly for this.
The decision is made to take a taxi up to the top of a hill overlooking the city, watch the sun rise, and eat the other half of the watermelon that Fred has been to gracious to carry around with him all evening. I will admit that the view from this hill was quite amazing. While we are up here I am able to get the others to fill me in on what happened back at the place with the owner and the men in the car. It turns out that the men were Secret Police and the guy who helped us was a captain or lieutenant. If that weren’t enough, after hearing our ordeal, he apparently offered to let us stay in his house for the weekend. I ask the obvious question I know everyone reading this is thinking, “If he offered his place, why are we here, why are we not at his place sleeping right now?” The answer I got was “Uhhh, because we turned it down.” “You did what? Why?” “Ummm, I’m not sure. It just happened.” BIG FAT GIGANTIC SIGH. Being able to stay at the house of a Secret Policeman would have more than made up for the craziness I had endured up to this point. Seriously, think of the story I would get to tell. It would have been legendary.
We take a taxi down to the city in search of a hotel. The first few options don’t work out and we end up in a taxi with driver who claims to be Catholic (he keeps showing us the picture of the virgin mary that he has) and who insists that he knows some churches in the area that have hostels where we could stay. By this time George has been relegated to the back seat because of the aforementioned subjects he wants to discuss. We go to a couple of churches, but none of them will take foreigners, especially Americans, because they will get harassed by the Secret Police. Fred is trying to get Bob to tell him where the area of town is that has the cheap hotels, but Bob has pretty much shut down at this point, claiming he is sleepy and can’t talk. I might have wanted to slap him silly. Fred finally gets the info he needs and we proceed to that area, which turns out to be the area where George met that group of homosexuals. It is now 8:30am. We find a hotel and get two rooms. The price per person? $10 a night. Oh yes. Exactly what we could have paid at the very first hotel we stopped at last night. At this point I have the feeling I might just kill someone. It is a good thing for them I was too tired to act on those feelings.
The hotel is horrible, but it has beds and that is enough. We sleep for the next five hours. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing actual touristy type things. We were right next to the old city and so we walked through the Souk El-Hamidiyeh (a large market), the Umayyad Mosque, Straight Street, and other places that are referenced in the Bible. It was a beautiful area with so much history. It was crazy to be there. While there was still drama during this time, it was nice and calm respite from the events of the last day.
The evening was pretty uneventful. The only issue was finding a place to eat that worked for everyone and by everyone I mean Bob and George who were constantly vetoing all the options that were presented. We did decide that tomorrow we would try to rent a car and go in search of a famous castle in the area. I can hear people saying “bless his heart, he still believes things will go smoothly.” Yeah, I don’t have a good answer to that. Sleep came quickly and easily that night.
Stay tuned for the final post. There are plenty more shenanigans to come.