Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March Trip part 2- Jordan

Warning! Picture Overload! Jordan is beautiful!

In the morning we looked around and thought- this looks like southern Utah!  But then we hiked into Petra! And wow! This place is amazing!!!!  And while much of the scenery does look like Utah, this place is more intense  than Utah.  Some of the rock and colors are so beautiful and we have never seen before.  There's camels, just hanging out in the desert.  I've never seen a camel in Utah.

And then there's Petra the city!  Wow!  It's amazing what they built here 2500 years ago.  They were clearly a smart people that did tremendously well serving the trade route through the desert.  They offered safety and shelter if you were traveling through the desert on this route.  The Nabateans built the city, carving caves and buildings out of the red rock.  Knowing water was a necessity to live in the desert, they built cisterns, and water paths to route water to the cisterns from throughout the city.  It's incredible.  The Romans eventually caught up with them and built a few roads and buildings though out the city as well. In it's heyday, more than 20,000 people lived here.  It's fascinating.   In the end the Romans found the Nabateans weren't interested in being overtaken and instead of continuing to work with them, the Romans moved the trade route to go by sea, and so the reign of the Nabateans in the desert came to an end.  Until the 1980's the site was still occupied by many Bedouin families living in the desert.  Most have been relocated, but there are still some Bedouins living on the outskirts of Petra.

After eating breakfast, we headed into Petra with our local bedouin guide for a 10 hour tour.  We asked to push a little faster so we could hit the road before sunset.  They like to finish the tour at sunset at a great viewing spot, but we were planning to catch a desert sunset tomorrow night and wanted to see the beauty of the area that we drove through in the dark last night.

We hiked in to Petra through one of the back entrances.  Using this entrance we were able to hike to the Monastery.  When you enter the main entrance of Petra, many day tours don't make it to the Monastery as it is at the far end of the city and a long climb up.  We spent an hour hiking to arrive at the Monastery and since it was still early in the morning, it was not crowded at all.  We were able to enjoy the beauty of the structure.  Our guide pointed out cisterns that had been dug nearby and through out the day showed us many water routes and remains of clay pipes built throughout the city. This was fascinating to see.

From the Montasery we hiked down into the heart of the city. Here we found mounds of ruins not yet restored.  We were able to explore some of the ruins from the Roman Era, and many from the heyday of the Nabateans.  The coliseum, the caves and tombs of the rich, and the caves and tombs of the not so rich.

We hiked to the high place of sacrifice where animals were sacrificed to the Gods.  The view points were spectacular.  Then we hiked to an overview of the Treasury.  And then down to the ground in front of the Treasury.

This is the carving you see in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and many pictures of Petra.  This was the entrance to Petra, and here travelers and traders would pay their fees to the Nabateans, hence the name "the Treasury".  In front of the treasury is a 1 km long narrow canyon with tall cliff walls, know as the Siq.  Through this canyon is how most travelers entered Petra, and today it is how most tourists enter Petra.  We hike about halfway through the Siq along the Roman paved road, admiring the beautiful towering walls overhead.  Our guide stopped to point out the carvings of Camel Caravans in the walls.  They are faded and most tourists passing us by didn't even notice them.  Along the walls edge are rock carved posts for Camels to be tied up to, and Rock carved shallow water cisterns for the camels to drink from.

We then turned around and hiked back to the end of the Siq to get the "traditional" view of the entrance of Petra.  It was beautiful, even in the slight drizzle of rain now falling on us.  Our guide offered to walk us out through the Siq and get us a ride back to our B&B to pick up our car since it was raining.  But we opted to continue our tour and hike out on the Bedouin trails back to the Bedouin village.

Luckily the rain lightened up as we hiked and we were thrilled we choose to continue as the trail back to the village, called the Rainbow trail, was absolutely spectacular.  The rock along this path was truly beautiful, striped and swirled with several different colors.  Even after hiking a mile we found more caves and roads.  Clearly those not lucky enough to live in the city of Petra lived in it's surrounding areas.  It was an incredible end to a spectacular day.  Just as we reached the road we were using to exit Petra, it started to rain harder.  Luckily the gate had an overhang we hide under as we waited for a car to pick us up and drive us the mile or so back to the B&B in the rain.

As we checked out of the B&B, the owner mentioned Little Petra and explained it's history to us.  It was the first city built by the Nabateans and is a much smaller scale.  As they realized the extent they could build their city they moved it to where Petra stands today.  In Little Petra they found a tile mosaic and colored plaster, giving us hints of what the inside of these caves were decorated with.

We then made the drive back to Aqaba, and a few miles south along the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba off of the Red Sea to Tala Bay Resort.  We checked in to our small condo within a huge resort.  After the long hike today, the short felt heavenly!  And we were grateful to do laundry in the condo!

The next morning we were up and going again! This time we were off to drive an hour back towards Petra, but turning off to head to the Wadi Rum desert.  Another UNESCO site, this area is beautiful!  We drove to the village and found the guide service we had hired for the day.  We had planned to hike Burdah Rock Bridge, but the weather was forecasting rain today so the guide service was concerned the rock and trail would get slippery if it rained and altered our plans to their typical one day desert tour.  While I was disappointed, I was also exhausted and sore for the day before and willing to accept the altered plan.  While the only rain that fell that day was short lived, it was chilly and very windy, all day long.  The kids were happy the day had less hiking too.  And the truth is-- it was still a great day!

Our guide was very friendly and promised to teach both Calvin and Savannah to drive his stick shift truck in the desert.  Our first stop was a tall sand dune which we hiked to the top.  After getting pelted with wind and sand and watching the clouds go by and making a few time lapse videos, we headed back down the dune.  We watched a couple try to surf the dune, but they didn't make it very far on their snowboard.  But I'm sure it was fun to try.

Our next stop was a narrow rock canyon carved by thousands of years of wind and water.  On the walls were several petroglyphs from long long ago, marking water and animals for those who might come to the area.  The Nabateans also roamed these deserts, and knew it's secrets.

And this was how our day went, drive then stop and view, then drive more and stop and view.  About every other stop we were offered Bedouin tea, and the guides would all take smoke breaks and visit.  There was no rush, an easy day of nature and beauty.  Since we don't drink tea, our stops were maybe slightly shorter than others.  Our guide was happy to go at any pace we desired.  He answered all our questions about life in a Jordan Desert, and the business of raising camels for milk or racing.  We learned a lot.

For lunch we stopped near a canyon wall with another group and the 2 guides made us a delicious local lunch.  They built a fire to warm up, and to cook over. Pita and hummus and cheese, oh yummy.  And a local sort of bean stew was warm and yummy.  my favorite spread is the baba ganoush, it is so delicious.  It was also nice visiting with another group of travelers.  A older couple and their son from the Netherlands, and a solo traveler- an American currently living in India as a teacher.  We enjoyed chatting with them and hearing their experiences.

The kids favorite part was driving in the desert.  Our Guide Habis, was very patient with each of them (of course, he promised to be the best teacher- boasting of teaching his 9 year old nephew).  He told them how to use the clutch and did the shifter himself for Calvin.  But since Savannah had more experience he just talked her through shifting.  They both had fun driving across the desert sands.

At one stop we saw the rock bridge we had planned to hike too, way up high...  And the kids declared they were happy with the altered plan.  Wadi Rum is strikingly beautiful.  Several movies have been filmed here, including the Martian and Rogue One.  They say they have sunsets that make the sand look as red as the sand on Mars.

We did stay for sunset but it was not a huge experience as the clouds were mostly covering the sky and the sun only peeked through for a moment on it's way down, but it was still beautiful, as most sunsets are.  It was a fun day.

Our third and final full day in Jordan started with us sleeping in!  We were excited for a "break" or a slower paced day.  After resting in the morning, David and I contacted one of the dive centers at the resort and made plans to leave at 11am for a few hours of diving, lunch, and a short cruise on the Red Sea.  Savannah wanted more rest, but we convinced her to come along.  She and Calvin would do a discover dive, and complete their first scuba dive.  They loved it!  The boat and crew served a fabulous lunch on board and David and I completed 2 fun dives.

Just after we descended on our first dive, I was starting to wonder just how out of shape I was.  There was no current, but I was completely out of breath swimming.  I was falling behind, wondering if I why I was so out of breath and thinking I must still be worn out from all our hiking.  As I was starting to think through what I was experiencing, shortness of breath, not being able to keep up with our group, I was starting to think through how long my air would last (the faster you breath, the faster you run out) and thinking maybe I need to ascend and cut my dive short, we were still "near" the boat.  As I was waiting for the dive guide to turn and check on me, as I was falling behind the group, I started to notice a noise when I would breathe in.  It was different than an air leak sound, and in paying attention, it was a squeak on my intake of air, but no noise when I would breathe out.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my equipment, and maybe I was not getting enough oxygen.  David finally looked back at me and I attempted to signal to him and ask him if he could hear me squeak.  But without being able to talk, it can be hard to communicate while diving.  And we didn't have our gear, only borrowed gear, and so I did not have my slate to write on.  Finally the dive guide looked back and asked if I was okay, and I was able to signal to him that I was not ok.  He came over and I tried to ask him if he could hear me breathe and the squeak.  He, being experienced, and somewhat interpreting my signals, grabbed my "octopus" (which is a second regulator that all scuba gear has- in case your dive buddy runs out of air and needs to share with you), and handed it to me.  And at that moment I thought "Duh! Why didn't I try that already!" so I switched regulators and oh JOY! I could breathe!  It was amazing to me, how I could not tell when I first descended.  Sure it seemed a little "hard" to breath, but there's always nerves, and a little anxiety on the first dive, that I didn't realize it was actually HARD to breathe because I was missing oxygen, until I could actually breath again.   And then I thought how often we experience this in life in other ways.  We don't recognize that we are missing a spiritual connection, and we are just in survival mode, until that connection is brought back to our lives and we breath it in and go "yes, I was missing this and I need it!"

That evening we went into downtown Aqaba to walk the streets and through the markets and have a great local dinner. We picked up some local delicacies to bring home. On our walk we happened into a local pita shop where they were making tons of pita and several varieties of Baklava.  The shop owner or manager waved us in as we watched from the door, and gave us several samples to try.  He did not really speak English but he was so kind.  We took home several baklava's for breakfast and a bag full of fresh delicious pita!

We loved our time in Jordan.  The people there were so kind and friendly, and helpful.  The country is filled with beauty. And the food!  Oh the food is delicious!  We would love to go back.

The next morning we packed up early and headed to return the car and repeat in reverse what we had done 3 days before. Back to the border crossing, and then to the car rental on the Israel side.

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