Thursday, 2 December 2010

Jordan - Part 2...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so when I last left you, we were knee deep in famished horses, hungover legionnaires, and cheap hummus. So I figure it’s time to keep the non-alcoholic party goin’! And so, I present to you Part 2 of the Jordan adventure – drum roll please…

Tuesday: Can you hear me now? Nope? Good…

So Tuesday started EARLY – 6 AM brekkie for a 7 AM departure. The crowd was energized, the weather perfect, and the breakfast hummus soaked in enough oil to kill a small horse or burn down a small city. All was right with the world until we got onto our bus – which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since independence. The tray tables were covered in old food, which was less than stellar, but that was remedied with a simply closing of the tray tables. The fact that the bus was a SIBERIAN ICEBOX, however, was apparently trickier, as we couldn’t seem to get the AC to turn OFF. Again, this was remedied by more fleeces (or jumpers as we would say here – OSC – not that kind of Jumper…ah, how I miss the Hard Rock CafĂ© in Lisboa), and all was right with the world. But then Mohammed (our guide) got on the mike:

“Amman…amman….amman….is the capital…capital…capital…city of Jordan…dan….dan”

That’s right – static and echo together, baby – bring it on! We tried to fix the mike, but there was no saving it. However, between an Aussie, Scot, Canuck, Yank, and loads of Brits, we did manage to piece together 60-70% of the presentation en route to our first stop of the day – the Baptism Site.

Okay, so this spot is apparently where John the Baptist performed the baptism of Jesus. This was truly a surreal experience for the following reasons:

1. How do you really get your head around a claim like that? This guy was struggling. Mohammed said that this exact spot had been conclusively proven to be the place, and when I asked him what the evidence was, he simply said, “I don’t know – but it’s been proven.” I can almost see Richard Dawkins shaking his head…
2. We could see Jericho just across the water – seriously, THE Jericho! Joshua was nowhere in site, but it was CRAZY cool all the same.
3. We actually got a chance to step into the River Jordan and were literally 20 feet from the Israeli border. It was such a weird juxtaposition – a peaceful, flowing stream surrounded by fences and barbed wire.
4. Every time I said, “I can’t believe that’s Israel,” Mohammed corrected me and said, “That is not – it is the West Bank of occupied Palestine.” This seriously happened to me about 87 times – I’m glad they don’t cane tourists for slips of the tongue.

We had about an hour in the site, which was truly amazing. Obviously, as a Christian, I truly want to believe that this is the site where this happened and that we were truly, literally walking in the footsteps of Christ. I will confess that I struggle with how they could know for certain that this was the spot, but I’m also conscious that this is just on of the many things a believer must take on faith, and I will rest contentedly in the knowledge that, even if it wasn’t that spot, it was certainly near by.

After that, we rolled over to Mt. Nebo, the spot where Moses a) saw the promised land and then b) later died prior to crossing the river Jordan. I gotta be honest – whilst this was really cool, unless the view was different back then, it did NOT look too promising. There were some fertile patches to be sure (which, after coming out of the Sinai peninsula, I’m sure looked VERY inviting), but there was a LOT of rugged, inhospitable, uninhabitable terrain en route to that lush area. Regardless, the possibility of walking in the footsteps of Moses was somewhat overwhelming and was a truly magical moment.

Next up was the city of Madaba, where we (mercifully) only spent about 10 minutes checking out a single mosaic from the 6th century of Jerusalem. It was very cool, but there really wasn’t much going on in Madaba, and I’m glad we bounced quickly. It should be noted that we almost got rooked into a 10 JD (Jordanian Dinar – equal to the pound) buffet lunch, but a few of us struck out on our own and managed to find a kabob shop that spoke ZERO English but did speak hard currency. The reward was a 1 JD lunch that was SO GUUUUUUUD (semi-peppy cheekies – after all, it wasn’t that big).

Next up was a 2 hour drive to Kerak, an old Crusader castle established around 1100. This was REALLY cool, and I basically spent a solid hour drawing a fake sword, charging down stone stairs, and yelling, “Cry God! And King Richard!” No one seemed terribly impressed…least of all my wife. But hey – it was like being on the set of “Kingdom of Heaven” – which I actually haven’t seen, for the record.

We then had a 3.5 hour drive to Wadi Musa, where we checked into our hotel before dining at…wait for it…wait for it…MYSTIC PIZZA, BABY!!!! That’s right – Julia Roberts’ reach knows no bounds! It actually was a tasty pizza, but washing pizza down WITHOUT A BEER was a truly novel experience at this point in my life. Team Taylor promptly passed out, where we slept good until 4:30 AM, when Sting’s greatest hits kicked off again…

Wednesday: Petra – there are no words to describe this place…

Wednesday was, in a word – AMAZING. Seriously, so often you build a place up in your mind only to be disappointed or find it’s smaller than expected. To quote our guide Roland: “No matter what your expectation of Petra, it will NOT disappoint.” Truer words were never spoken.

The walk into Petra begins with a descent into the Siq al-Barrah (the canyon). This is AWESOME – it’s like something out of Indiana Jones meets the Utah desert – CRAZY formations along with sculptures and irrigation canals all side by side. A 1.2 KM walk brings you to one of the most iconic spots on earth – THE TREASURY, BABY!!!!! Guys, you all know this – it’s the entrance to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! Come on, say it with me: “Only the penitent man shall pass…only the penitent man shall pass…”

We had a 3 hour tour (a 3 hour tour) of Petra, and it was just AMAZING. We are talking about a city carved out of the SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN, filled with temples, cisterns, housing, tombs, monuments, amphitheaters, and colonnaded streets. INSANE! We spent ALL DAY in this place looking around, and how could I forget the best part - there were DONKEYS EVERYWHERE!!! Seriously, I even found Ray and Matt wandering around - check out this photo. :-) We even went BACK in that evening for “Petra by Night.” The evening was exciting in a different way, as you followed luminaries down to the Treasury (“Indy! You must hurry!” ; “Only the power of the Grail can save him now.”), where we were treated to mint tea and a concern of Bedouin instruments. And whilst the concert was, well, RANDOM AND SHORT, complete with some dude giving us a soliloquy at the end about instruments before kicking us out, it was WELL worth the 12 JD. We also got to see this BEAUTIFUL sunset - check out those colors!

After that, it was back to the hotel, which was HILARIOUS, by the way – no hot water, a trickle from the nozzle for a shower, and our shower curtain was actually TIED to the shower rod. However, we apparently got the “honeymoon suite,” as some folks didn’t have shower curtains at all and had a drain plug that REGURGITATED THE WATER back into the bathroom floor. And is now a good time to mention that you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet regardless of the activity – you put it in the trash can. Yeah….I’ll let your imagination run with that one for awhile. Resume reading when your stomach has settled.

Thursday: Little Petra and Petra

We started this day with a trip over to “Little Petra,” which is where the camel caravans were actually held and where most of the actual “day to day living” took place. Whilst small, this place well surpassed my expectations, as it was a FASCINATING glimpse into life 2500 years ago for the Nebateans. It was ALSO a fascinating glimpse into how much capitalism has poisoned society, as there was a bloody SOUVENIR SHOP IN EVERY NOOK AND CRANNY OF THIS PLACE. Seriously, one woman had set up a tea kettle and jewelry shop on a rock cliff – AMAZING!

After Little Petra, we were given the option of being dropped off “at the back door of Petra.” This sounded GREAT, as it meant we’d get to skip the 1.2 KM walk into the canyon. What we failed to realize, however, is that the “back door” is actually 3 KM from the site, meaning that we had to walk FARTHER in totally exposed space. Basically, we had donkeys walking passed us thinking “What the hell is wrong with those guys?” All the same, it made for a nice walk…all 50 minutes of it…

We spent the day visiting the rest of Petra, with the highlight being the 2 hour walk through a series of AWESOME tombs up to the High Place of Sacrifice. Once there we had an AMAZING view of the city, as well as the surrounding countryside (which was just STUNNING). Of course, there was that awkward moment where Laura the Soprano and Helen the Lobbyist burst into song, covering "On Top of the World" by the Carpenters (who were then later joined by Sally to form a white British version of the Supremes), but my therapist says I'll recovered from that nicely. We visited the Royal tombs, the Byzantine Church, and the remains of another Crusader fort, all of which were just AMAZING. Honestly, this day was one of the 2 highlights for me, and is honestly one of the most amazing travel days that I’ve ever had.

Dinner that night FINALLY broke the streak, as we found a place called the sandstone restaurant that served “soft” drinks and “hard” drinks. And what did they have – LOCAL BEER, BABY!!!! Grimshaw – not even Jordan can keep this guy down!!!! Consequently, Sam and Jenny each dropped $10 USD on a can of beer.

Let me just say that, whilst I’m glad I tried it, drinking beer brewed by cats who don’t actually DRINK beer does not make for a rewarding or refreshing experience. “Philadelphia Lager,” coming in at 5%, was kind of like drinking flat Miller Lite. Yeah…you heard me – give me the Silver Bullet any day over this stuff. Actually, you can even give me the Champagne of Beers – I’ll dance with the Lady in the Moon a hundred times before I try another one of these.

Team Taylor then passed out, another AMAZING 3 days in the books.

Okay, that’s enough for round 2 and certainly all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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