Monday, July 26, 2010

Petra Day 2, better than yesterday

To start this day I need to give a big shout out to one of our fellow travelers, Chris, who being a doctor, came prepared with medicine to fight certain travel sicknesses such as mine. A few doses of medicine and I was back on my feet, although not a full 100%, but there was no way I missing Petra.

Now a little background on Petra - there is more than just the Treasury.  You know the one that was featured in the Indiana Jones movie that I posted a picture of yesterday.  It’s an entire ancient city carved out of the sandstone rock face of those eerie gorges. In ancient times it was a major part of the camel caravan network mainly because they were smart enough to build an aqueduct system to control the water. Locals lived in the carved out city even up until the 1980’s! Today there is still a lot to see including the theater, monastery, temples, royal tombs, street of facades and of course the Treasury.

After entering the gates you pass by some tombs until you reach the tall split in the sandstone where the fun really starts. Anticipation builds as you walk down the narrow gorge with its tall sandstone cliffs because after every bend could be the infamous Treasury. And then, all of a sudden, there it was, such a monumental site! Carved out of the sandstone it welcomes you to Petra.

Now for anybody thinking of visiting, the park opens early and it is an absolute must to get there early! You literally can have the place to yourself.  The peaceful walk through the gorge is a nice highlight.  Later in the day the heat and the crowds can be overwhelming, as Steph can vouch for having seen Petra the day before at 3pm!

After a good photo session, we headed off to find the monastery at what’s known as the high place of sacrifice. We wanted to make the 800 steps climb before the heat of the day set in. The climb wasn’t all that bad because there were steps carved out of the stone to walk on.  However, we were at times being passed my the more leisurely tourists who opted to take a donkey up the steps!

At the top you go down a few steps then look off to your right where the monastery leaps out of the rock face.  It is in similar style to the Treasury with columns and carvings but much bigger. The doorway is several stories high!  I have to say that it rivals the Treasury for top attraction in Petra.

We met some of our group at the top and all decided we had to go inside the monastery. It’s not easy to get in because the door sits about shoulder level high. So with a little bit of brute force manpower, I hoisted myself up and in (also inflicting the first true scratch on our waterproof/indestructible camera - it survived!). From there I could help pull the other group members up. We did a group photo before heading out. Yep you guessed it, another jumping photo. We found out later that they discourage people going inside when we heard others being told not to enter!

On top of the mountain we did some more sight seeing and found a sign that pointed to the “End of the World”. That peaked our interest so we hiked to the viewpoint where, as far as views go, this could have been the end of the world. Nothing but wide-open desert and mountains as far as you could see. So, at the end of the world and no further to go we decided to enjoy the view and have a mid morning snack - the Jordanian equivalent to Fig Newtons!

After a hike down we stopped to admire the amazing mosaics - partly because they were under cover and it was starting to hear up. We then headed to have lunch in one of the many carved out tombs/rooms in the cliffs along the street of facades. High up in the cliffs we sat cooling off just taking in the views devouring our lunch of pita, hummus, cheese, fruit and juice. The scenery in Petra is amazing. The ruggedness and colors of the sandstone - breathtaking! Adding on the fact that everything is carved out of stone instead of being built, that firmly establishes Petra as a must see!

We casually made our way out of the park (an entire gradual uphill walk - ugh). But we weren't so tired when we got to the top that Steph didn't want to shop. She had eyed some belly dancers costumes over the past couple days (as they have loads of shops at the entrance to the park), so we haggled to purchase her next Halloween costume - a UK blue belly dancer costume, fully beaded and sparkly, for a steal!

Back at the hotel, after a bit of a rest, we hit the roof for a sunset which can only be described as a Hollywood film set. It was so surreal that it looked fake. What a way to end such an epic day in this Wonder of the World!

Petra Photos

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On to Petra

When we last left you in Jordan, we had just dozed off under the stars in our desert camp. Warm and cozy, we slept through the night, no street light peaking through the windows, no horns honking or garbage trucks banging around. However there wasn’t any sleeping in because at day break the morning light hits you like your alarm. As the sun gently rose, warming the dessert, we were tossing and turning wishing we could close the curtains to get an extra few hours of shuteye. Not today because our Bedouin hosts starting making breakfast and so we were up. We packed up our things, ate breakfast then headed out on one last jeep safari to exit Wadi Rum.

However we did hit one bump in the road. I woke up feeling fully sick; the night before I could feel it coming. Headache, fever, the works! Not good! It was so bad that I wasn’t even up for riding in the back of one of the open air trucks. I opted for the normal safari jeep while the others piled in the back of an open air truck to get one last dusty view of the amazing landscape.

Up next, one of the highlights of the entire trip, PETRA!

In Petra, our hotel rooms weren’t available yet so I had to beg to get a bed because I wasn’t going anywhere else. As the group took off for a mid day excursion into the valley that is Petra I was already in bed asleep.

We have traveled a lot and this is really the first time either one of us has been sick. Thanks to our tour itinerary, we had two days in Petra, so it was an easy decision to just hit the sack and let my body fight whatever bug it had. So a little sleep and hopefully tomorrow I’d be ready to rock Petra! Fortunately, Steph paid close attention to all that the tour guide was saying and she became my unofficial tour guide the next day!

With me down and out, Steph also took the opportunity to visit a Turkish bath after her Petra tour. I know, I know, we aren’t in Turkey but she said it was relaxing and topped off with a nice tea afterwards.

Oh, one random note – while I was writing the blog I put Petra into Google maps and it took me to Kentucky! Funny enough we have a Petra in Eastern Kentucky, I’m not joking check it out. I think Google might need to tweak their Petra map search.