Week through Jordan with GAdventures
I flew from Heathrow on Friday evening and landed in Amman after midnight. A lot of people on the flight seemed to be transiting elsewhere so getting through immigration was easy, just a JD40 via fee and almost no line. I grabbed a taxi to my hotel and got there around 2am. The streets were pumping; it's Ramadan so people make the most of the evenings. The traffic wasn't too heavy but what there was, was fairly hectic even though there was a heavy police presence.
In the morning I moved hotels to the one my tour is starting from and went out to explore the city. Had a late lunch at the Book Cafe then headed up to the Citadal. Impressive views from the top, especially of the Colosseum in the valley below. It was scorching hot and I was silly enough to choose to walk back uphill to the hotel in the hottest part of day, the high being around 38 Celsius. Not normal for Jordan apparently and should be back down to the low 30s later in the week.
In the evening I met the rest of the group and we headed out for a cheap meal of Humus at Hashem, one of the recommend restaurants in Amman. Following that we headed to Book Cafe again which it turns out seems to be the local watering hole of our guide. He's half Jordian, half Croatian, and Croatia was playing in Euro 2016 that night so he was keen to watch. The rest of the group was tired so I was the only to stay out and watch the game with him which was a below average affair that Croatia lost to Portugal.
Got back to the hotel just before 1am to find out that I've got a roommate who snores and grinds his teeth.
+26/06/2016The Dead Sea
In the morning we headed out to Jerashal where our guide took us on a two hour walk around the ruins of this old Roman town. It was actually really well paced; I have a tendency to get bored on these but he was really informative and paced the walk nicely through the heat.
Afterwards we headed out to the dead sea, something which I've wanted to do for a while. It was stinking hot by this time and the water was lukewarm but the bouyancy of the water was remarkable. You bob around like a cork in the water and it's hard to keep your feet pointing down as they have a tendency to want to pop back up to the surface. Was great to just lie on your back and float effortlessly in the water. After the sea we chilled at the resort and fresh water pool for an hour before heading back into Amman.
Dinner was at a restaurant called Jafra where I shared a Lamb dish (Sajeah?) that went down well.
Long drive day today down to Petra with a couple of stops along the way. The first was to Mt Nebo which has some historic religious relevance then on to Madaba where we had lunch and visited St George Church which has an impressive old mosaic of the region.
The highlight of the day for me was a visit to Karak Castle. It's sadly pretty run down having been damaged by a quake in the early 1900's but what's left gives you a good idea of the size and scale of the place and just how hard it would've been to attack. The walls are massively thick and it perches at the top of a steep hill over looking the valleys below.
In the evening we reached Petra where I and most of the group skipped the candle light tour. It sounded very touristy and you would be stuck there two hours listening to a talk and a music show. Happier to get any early night and prepare for the 25km walk tomorrow. We have the whole day at the site and leave at 6am to beat the rush.
We were up early for a 6am departure for Petra which was just down the hill. We had the place to ourselves to start and didn't see any other tourists for an hour or two and even then, not many. Tourism to Jordan has been hit hugely by the trouble in neighbouring countries even though Jordan itself seems perfectly safe to visit.
After you enter the main gate you walk through a narrow canyon for a while before the arresting view of the Treasury, which is carved into the cliff at the end of the canyon. Continuing on there were caves carved into the cliffs and even a colosseum carved out of the rock.
We stopped at the stall of a women who married a local Bedouin man and whose son was just opening it up. He'd gone to school back in NZ for a while so it was kind of funny to hear a kiwi accent amongst the tourist shops.
We then explored some more tombs carved into cliff side before walking down to a church where the only part left was a mosaic floor and opposite the old Roman ruins of Petra.
Next was a climb up the hill, something like 850 steps, to the monastery at the top. This is another tomb carved into the cliff though a bit more weather worn as it's less protected from the wind and rain.
A second climb followed, of over 600 steps, to a hilltop in middle of the valley where sacrifices used to be made. After this the group split in two, with some of the girls descending while the rest of left the beaten track and took a hiking trail to a viewpoint above the Treasury. This was the hardest but most fun walk.
We had Lamb Mansaf for dinner then some of us headed out to the “cave” bar by the Hilton. As it's Ramadan this place was absolutely dead but the hotel owner drove us down there and had a surprise, driving us out of the town to a camp site where we had to close our eyes while they hit the lights which lit up the cliff sides surrounding the camp with 100s of lights. Really beautiful and we had the placed to ourselves.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
We had a late start the next morning, not departing until 11am, then drove out to the desert. It was a scorcher so we had a late lunch then chilled out until it got a little cooler later in the afternoon.
We had a three hour 4x4 drive out around the dunes and hills which was quite spectacular with pillars of sandstone jutting out of the sand. There were some nice photo opportunities and plenty of fun to be had scrambling up the rock faces.
We stayed the night out in the desert and this included a small walk out under the star filled skies and a small campfire and cup of tea. It always nice lying under a clear sky with no light pollution nearby.
+30/06/2016The Red Sea
We were up at 5am for a camel ride back to the town. I don't know why I still sign up for these but it was one of the least painful rides I've suffered through. Once this was over we headed for Aqaba and an afternoon on the Red Sea.
Matt and Mallory both had there diving licences so the three of us went for a dive, something that's been on my must do list for a while. None of us had dived recently so we had a quick refresher before exploring a ship that's been sunk to make a reef. This included rising up into an air pocket mid ship.
The rest of the afternoon was a boozy affair full of music, sun and fun. Great day that left me slightly sunburnt the next morning.
+01/07/2016Aqaba to Amman
Last day was essentially just a drive back to Amman. We finished the day with a meal at Ayman's which I thought was a cool experience but I think the girls would have preferred to go out to a restaurant. Last up we hit the market were I wasted some money on a random mask that I have no idea what to do with before retiring for the night as no one wanted to hit the bar and as it was Ramadan and after 11pm a bit hard to manage in any case.