stories of stamps

Shuffled from desk to desk, showing your passport and visa to numerous officials, being asked to sit down over there and then moved over there, trying to remain polite and patient answering question after question, again and again…border crossings, inevitably, often become the bane of traveller’s journeys.  The one small element that works in their favour, however, is that they can provide fodder for some highly entertaining, sometimes embarrassing, but always worth telling, stories.

My tale of border crossing starts in the middle of a stifling hot day one Ramadan just having passed through to the Israeli side of the Jordan-Israel King Hussein border bridge. And it was hot, so understandably given the daylight hours fasting, everyone was a little on edge. We had crawled through the queue, bags on our back surreptitiously taking sips of water only to sweat it all back out before shuffling up another place. Whilst my bag went through the scanner without a hitch, the same couldn’t be said for me. An under-wired bra, it seems, is enough to set off the sensitive metal detectors. I tried to explain this, but with the heat and the fasting, it just wasn’t going down well. So off I was taken frantically hand signalling to my partner who I was travelling with at the time, and led behind a curtain. “Clothes off!”. I looked in dismay and horror at the lady in front of me. Sometimes, when one is travelling for several months, it gets to that unfortunate stage when you haven’t quite had time to wash those underwear, and you dither about whether to turn them inside out but in the end just think well hang it, no one will know, commando it is. Unbeknownst to the poor security lady, and all too known to me, today was that day. So, flushed with awkwardness but also inwardly laughing at the situation, I then had to mime and gesture that I needed a minute to make some sartorial adjustments. I knew she understood when she too starting laughing and backed out of the curtained stall. Happily, my bag had come with me to the cubicle so I was able to sift through and find a bikini bottom to quickly slip on. Then my bag was back off through the scanner (came through clean), I resumed undressing and was searched by a still chortling security guard (also clean), and could at last continue on my way through to Jerusalem.

And here are a few others heard so far…

Nick, Ad, Martin, and Jan

Four motorcyclists travelling in Central Asia, whose tale to tell was of crossing from Uzbekistan into Kyrgyzstan, battling bureaucracy and deciding to wait it out.  Having been pulled over for “speeding”, despite slowing to the requested 40km/hr (a fact that was all but irrelevant to the border guards who sensed a money-making opportunity) instead of coughing up and paying the fine (read here bribe), they agreed instead to prop up their bikes, crack open a beer, and settle down by the roadside, intending to doze and chat until the guards simply gave up on them.  Aided by Dutch Ad donning his recently purchased (and slightly ridiculous) Turkmenistani hat, which was received with great entertainment and laughter from the guards, their bribe-dodging tactics succeeded and sure enough, some time later, the four were allowed to continue on their way!

Follow Nick here:


That moment that every traveller waiting in an airport dreads, when the adrenalin rushes through you and mild hysterical panic sets in, you question what you should have/could have/would have said and done differently… it is of course, a bomb scare. But imagine if it originated from your very own bag! Watching on with a rising sense of unease as his bag, leaving Israel and bound for X, was surrounded by armed officers, carefully lifted off the scanning belt, and taken to a special table to which he was then beckoned, shown a scan of what resembled a home-made bomb, a rectangular block amidst a tangle of wires and what looked like a fuse, and asked to explain himself. Not recognising the device in his bag, Richard explained that he had no idea what it was nor indeed how it got into his bag, but as far as he was aware there should be nothing at all suspect boarding the plane with him. The response was enough to make anyone’s blood run cold. He was to open the bag and show the officers just exactly what was going on. Gingerly easing open the zip, with a palpable sense of terror in the air, removing the few clothes between himself and imminent death, Richard sent up prayers and closed his eyes. Only to open them and let out a somewhat hysterical giggle when he realised that what had looked so suspicious was in fact just his camera, phone, and laptop charger haphazardly wrapped around each other!


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