Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off to Petra... with some side trips to Wadi Rum and Jerash!

I called this one the Scream Cave!
I had to take a  minibus to get to Petra, they only leave Amman when are completely full, so imagine, tons of backpackers and locals with their bags on a crowded bus!  So basically it was tight ride, I arrived without any hotel reservation, since I arrived around 1 pm this was not a big deal. I always recommend having reservations if arriving at night. Our first option, using wiki travel, had no availability, but we quick found a place for some 30 bucks ... Which was ok, Spartan but ok...

We immediately walked the kilometer to the ruins, don't bother with a cab, it's almost a straight line and hard to get lost. I highly recommend buying a two day pass, in the afternoon it's at times overcrowded, so try to reach the upper levels in the afternoon and just pass by the monastery. Save your shots till morning, it will be worthwhile. I didn't do it, but I heard from several people that the Petra at Night tour is not worth it, again I didn't do it but it seemed a bit of a tourist trap. We had a great dinner at a local place, a mixed grill that filled two people for about 6 JD. A tasty combo of meats really close to the Roundabout which serves as one of the main reference points in the small town.
Me talk pretty one day... Letail? lethal, little? hehehe

Early morning.. no tourists! :)

Look Ma! Just me and Petra!

The next morning we woke up really early, just after 6 am and made our way back to the ruins. So worth it, out of this world, seeing the early morning sun rays reflect on temples, funerary structures and other buildings and caves is a feeling that is just out of this world, and trust me, I know those kinds of feelings hehehe. That afternoon we headed over to the desert, after consulting a few travel agencies that quoted us some out of this world rates, we went back to our hotel and asked about overnight stays, he gave us a decent price on a tour, including a cab to Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum is really cool, speeding around in a 20 or 30 year old Land Rover with no windows or such luxuries like Seat Belts! We visited a few sites and were left on our own, our driver also played the role of tour guide but usually just said go up that way, and I’ll wait here... Even with the lack of a guide, the daytime experience was fun... Running up sand dunes over 30 meters high, slipping a few times on the reddish sand. They have some great hidden caves with carvings that were 100s if not even a 1000 years old. What can I say, climbing a rock formation and starring almost endlessly into the desert, makes you see how small we really are....
Me... :)
Just me and nature...
you can make, trust me , you can make it!

After that we made it to our camp site, a simple Bedouin style tent. In a few hours it would be dinner time and the weather was starting to get cold. Dinner was basically some grilled meat with fresh Greek/Israeli/Palestine salad. You know the Tomato n Cucumber mix that everyone claims as their own unique contribution to world cuisine... Hehehe Now the logistical problem was how to get to Amman. Unlike normal countries with even sporadic bus service, getting back would require either a 15 km walk to the highway and then try to flag a probably full minibus or backtrack to Aqaba or Petra. Since time was short I went to Petra, totally in the opposite direction and via the local route. Once I got back to Petra it was time to haggle again for my super full minibus back to Amman. 
A long ride later I was back in Amman, at the bus station I flagged a cab and made my way to the roman ruins at  Jerash. This is one of the best preserved Greek Roman cities out there, you can get really close to the sites and many of them have almost no tourist, unlike the massive crowds in Greece, this was a calm experience.  The funny part was getting out, my cabbie said he would wait outside the North Gate, sure no problem, except it was closed and a nice 2 meter gate with a few sharp rusty nails was in my way. Hum... Ok, time to climb and jump, got a funny look or two but how many times do you jump in or out a tourist site... Though so! ;)
again... almost no tourists... gotta love Jerash...
ahh Classic Argentine behavior... Gates? No Exit, that can't stop me!

That day I learned from my cabby about the Smolensk disaster, weird feeling checking into my hostel with my polish passport on such a day. After some Google time, I discovered that I couldn't get a Syrian visa at the border or even in Amman! . More of that in the next post.

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