We cast across the water to Aqaba- it takes a brief hour, sitting among the many pilgrims on their way to Mecca (the border with Saudi Arabia is close) and talking with new friends, a French-Algerian and a British-Moroccan girl who are Muslim and forward-minded.
In Aqaba, we hug farewell and climb into a minibus for Amman: the Dutch bloke, Billy and me.
The minibus is not on its first legs. A hard stink of petrol fills it, and the engine makes worried noises. We chug at quarter-speed up a long hill North, and after half an hour turn round and bomb back down to the port, baffled.
Our Arabic is shite, and Police is the only English word he knows. He uses it often. Stopping unexpectedly in Aqaba town centre, he offers Police as an explanation, and comes back with a bag of sandwiches and bananas. Pulling up at a checkpoint, he says Police and hands them the bananas. A man gets in. Later, braking into a lay-by, a police car screeches up behind us. “Police”, says our friend and gives them the sandwiches. We give up trying to understand.
Billy’s fast asleep on some seating in the back which shifts and hops with the bounce of the bus. Christian and I sing Cypress Hill songs and then attempt sleep, a tangle of legs trying to share the same bench. It doesn’t work.
I move to the back of the van and bed down on the ridged metal floor, Billy’s bench hopping close to my head and the petrol stench stronger than ever. I enter a strange space you couldn’t call sleep, but couldn’t call conscious either: moving towards Amman in a bouncing, crinkle-cut pod made to punish the traveller.
Overland travel is lush.