This is part of the fifth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Egypt
18/3/99 We sailed with busloads of people heading for the Haj in Mecca, only one visa per 1000 Muslims in each country are issued by Saudi Arabia each year to the pilgrimage. Jordan's only coast sandwiched between Israel and Saudi Arabia right on the end of the Gulf of Aqaba makes it a busy port but with great efficiency and a minimum of fuss, payment of $US 10.00 for paperwork and $US 25.00 for insurance we were on our way in 20 minutes. Rode to Wadi Rum for the night.
19/3/99 We managed to organize a seat with five others in the back of a jeep to see Wadi Rum. The whole day's drive, relaxed, did the usual to Lawrence of Arabia springs, his house, a couple of rock arches, sunset etc. As always it was the company on these sorts of trips that is one of the main attractions, seeing things through others eyes, hearing of their experiences in travelling. The scenery was itself magnificent with mountains rising vertically from the desert floor but the Sahara experience in Libya was too fresh in our minds to be totally in awe here.
20/3/99 Travellers like to tell of danger and difficulty while tourists like to have had a richer and more rewarding holiday than their friends. Petra is for tourists and not for intrepid "Indiana Jones and The Lost Crusade " adventurers. (The movie having been set here). The entrance to the town down a narrow gorge through two vertical mountains opening out onto the carved treasury is indeed captivating even amongst the hoards of tourists, horse carts and camels and drink sellers. The walk up to the monastery past the two restaurants, being the only food and water allowed into the area as picnicking of any kind is banned, past the donkey ride sellers, to get the sweeping view of Petra and the enormous monastery, itself carved into the rock face and still in excellent preservation despite its 2000 year age and semi submersion in windblown sands, is worth the effort. The most expensive entrance fee of any archaeological site in the world at almost $US 30.00. Whilst it can't in any way be justified as the money goes to Jordan's revenue and not to archaeological studies it is at least dimmed a little by the sight of the Urn, Silk, Corinthian and Palace tombs sitting regally on a mountain ledge overlooking the town and colonnaded street. The memory of the great Nabatean Kingdom is already fading as the vultures circle for more dinar as you trudge up hill the four km's back to the entrance gate, constantly harangued for a horse ride to aid your already tired legs. The retiree crowd almost unable to make the climb yet too scared to ride a horse, could have been bussed back from the service road if the authorities had any compassion.
21/3/99 Having purchased the recommended two day entry ticket we returned to the site again, this time taking to the high ground for the views and solitude. The sacrificial high place overlooks almost the entire site stretching km's in all directions. From here and overlooking the amphitheatre we relaxedly pondered on life at the place 2000 years ago and life here today, before, with weary legs, wandering out.
22/3/99 A cold, moseying day along the Kings Highway following the line of castles built by the Crusaders which stretches from Aqaba through to Turkey. We briefly viewed the hill top castle defences sharing tea with a Jordanian souvenir seller before crossing the enormous Wadi al-Mujib, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, and camping for the night on the shores of the Dead Sea.
23/3/99 Having found a spot right at the waters edge to camp and park the motorcycle for the necessary photo we awoke early to find the battery totally dead. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth where you can ride without getting the motorcycle submerged so we felt it ironical that nowhere else would a flat battery cause so much trouble as there is nowhere down hill to push. Luckily four friendly Jordanians assisted, pushing us out across the sand and dead sea mud to clutch start, but not before I had a swim in the 30% buoyant salty water. You first notice the slow motion waves, then that you can only walk out to mid chest before lifting off the bottom and whether lying front or back your head, bum and feet float well out of the water. And yes you can easily read a book lying on your back. This being one of our aims in travelling, now two achieved with Nordkapp, the other four, Southern tip of Africa and Northern tip and Southern tip of the Americas along with the highest navigable road in the world out of Lei in India, yet to be achieved. We drove through Amman visiting the Iraq embassy where we were tersely informed that to get a visa you needed an invitation from the ministry in Baghdad, perhaps we will visit later under a different regime. We headed out into the desert to Azraq for the night.
24/3/99 It seems the Sahara dust got mixed up with the Dead Sea salt and high humidity to cause the battery to drain and after cleaning connections it again seems OK. This Desert outpost is the crossroad for travellers in the middle east. With Iraq virtually closed there are vehicles here from Kuwait having to circle through Saudi Arabia, and Jordan if they wish to get to Syria. The high stacked F100 truck taxis ferry people around the region. Headed back to Amman passed some desert castles and getting set to cross to Syria tomorrow stayed in Irbid. Tea (chai) and coffee (coppie) drinks seem to have permeated the entire globe but don't expect your milk and two sugars or your flat blacks. Usually served sweet and without milk, different ground ingredients with local herbs and spices make every hot drink different. Your mental attitude when ordering has to be "this is not tea or coffee but a different hot drink" (by the same name) local to the area. Its price will range from a hospitable nothing to a touristic horror in a contrived Bedouin tent. One of the nicest "hot drinks" (coffee) we have had is by the roadside sellers in Jordan. The taste of coffee, non existent, but replaced by the aroma of cardamom. Heated in a water jacket around a small fire and kept ready for purchase.
25/3/99 Two borders today and Jordanian efficiency suffered
a setback as we weren't stamped into the country on our arrival, our passports
were collected from us on the boat from Egypt and handed back in Aqaba without
a stamp. We should have checked but with an almost full passport and most
stamps in Arabic only, one new one is hard to identify. The problem, would
Syria allow us in perhaps thinking we had been to Israel and used a second
passport to enter Jordan from Israel. After an hour of discussion and payment
of 4 JD each (departure tax) we were stamped in and out of Jordan.
Move with us to Lebanon
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,