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A Long Strange Day in Jordan

656867-1060908-thumbnail.jpgA typical day in the life of a Wandering Walker. We woke up in Eilat, Israel, a resort town on the very southern tip of the country. We took a cab to the Jordanian border, leaving our car at the hotel so we could cross over on foot. Driving in Jordan = bad idea. It took several border agents and stampings, and a full page out of our already overcrowded passport, but we managed to make it across. Once on the other side it was the usual game of haggling for a driver. Problem is, there’s only one guy who controls all the cars, and miles and miles of desert. So after making a big show of refusing to pay what he was asking and then taking a 5 minute stroll around the desert to look for “other options”, we returned with our tails between our legs.

The car we got into was wonderful. Nice driver who spoke English, air conditioning, the whole nine yards by Jordanian standards. For about 5 minutes anyways. Soon we were pulled over to the side of the road and told to get out. Figuring the odds had finally caught up with us and we were going to be kidnapped and ransomed we got out and switched into his “brothers” car. Not quite as nice, being held together by what looked like a few pieces of string and a prayer to Allah. And clearly his brother was on some sort of suicide mission, trying to scare us by taking his hands off of the wheel and swerving off the road to gauge our reaction.

656867-1060910-thumbnail.jpgBut hey, we’re used to this, no big deal. Until we pulled off the road an hour and a half and greeted by a machine gun toting guard. Our driver got into some sort of shouting match, then got out of his car and hugged the guard. Then we were told to get out and come with the guard. We followed him to a gate and were asked if we “would like to see the King’s palace”. Not seeing a plethora of options we said sure. So we were motioned into the gate, made to sit on a couch where I almost knocked another machine gun over with my bag, and all stared at each other. This lasted for about half an hour until we were told to get up, that we would not be seeing the inside of the palace, and were then sent on our way. We later found out that this whole little scene was quite extraordinary as the land we were on was strictly forbidden and that the guard would lose his land, his wife, and all of his possessions if anyone found out he let us through that gate.

656867-1060915-thumbnail.jpgThirty more uneventful minutes and we arrived at our hotel in Petra, which is situated right at the entrance. And so we ventured in. This is one of those times where there’s no way to describe what something is like. Petra is probably the most beautiful place we’ve seen the entire trip. I will say that I was not aware that the Petra experience involved the level of audience participation that it did. I thought you just go in and look around at all the ruins. Turns out it’s a 4 – 5 hour hike through the desert. But what an amazing hike it was. The colors in the rock, the carvings, the natural scenery, the camels, the Bedouins, all of it was simply awe inspiring.

656867-1060920-thumbnail.jpgWe managed to hike all the way through to the very end. It was pretty late in the day at this point and there were almost no other people around, especially up that far. We decided to follow the “sign” to see the view atop the large boulder. When we got to the top we met a very cool guy about our age who apparently lives on that exact spot in a tent where he sells a few trinkets out of. His family has been there for generations. While not living in his tent he pretty much operates as a Syrian gigolo. He wanted us to watch the sunset and stay for the night up there, but we decided we should get on our way before it was pitch dark. It’s a pretty treacherous and rocky path back down and the light of the moon probably wouldn’t have done the trick.

656867-1060930-thumbnail.jpgAbout halfway back we decided to swallow our pride and take a camel back. We negotiated a price with a thirteen year old Bedouin boy to borrow his camel and both hopped aboard for the final couple miles back. Needless to say by the time we got back we were exhausted. We went out for a Jordanian Mezze Platter in “The Cave” for a late dinner, which we were told would be enough for one but turned out to require three waiters to bring it all over. We ate until bursting and headed back to the hotel to crawl into bed and die. But unfortunately my night was not over as a small work crisis kept me up until almost 2am. Making for a long strange day…

Click here to see all the pictures form Petra