And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. The last chapter dealt with canyons, horrible songs form the 70’s, and AMAZING hiking. And so, striking while the iron’s hot vs. “pulling another Croatia,” Team Taylor presents the 3rd and final installment of Jordan.
Friday: Bamboo saddles = TERRIBLE IDEA
So Friday started with something more precious than gold – AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP. We didn’t set out until 9 AM (that’s right, folks – Team Taylor gets up earlier on vacation than we EVER think about surfacing for work or on weekends), but we managed to dodge the big bus this time, opting instead for 4x4’s. Why, you ask? Because Team Explore was DESERT BOUND, BABY!!!!
Friday was one of the big highlights of the tour – a full day in the desert, complete with pretty much EVERYTHING you can do in the sand. We had an AWESOME drive into the desert (Omar was our driver, and homeboy knows how to buzz over some sand), stopping for some CRAZY photo opps, including this REALLY cool stretch of rock that has formed a natural arch. Check out the rough and tumble Muffin Puffin half of Team Taylor exploring the terrain, Lawrence of Arabia style! It was a decent climb up, so kudos to Brother Mark for figuring out a much simpler way back down.
As you can tell by the photos, this place is basically “Monument Valley on steroids.” Seriously – it was like staring at the surface of Mars – completely rock, barren, and filled with red and yellow dust. I was honestly mesmerized the entire day. Dad – it reminded me of trips out West, where the activity was staring out the window and taking in “beauty beyond” – something that I STILL love doing.
We rolled into our campsite around 11 or so and promptly devoured our lunch before setting off on the highlight of the day – A 4X4 TOUR INTO THE DEEP DESERT! Seriously – this…was…EXTRA…AWESOME. We spent 2 hours buzzing around, stopping for some AMAZING photo ops and for a chance to showcase just how FAT AND OUT OF SHAPE I WAS – that’s right, campers – Sammy tried to run up a sand dune.
So seriously, as the token idiot American on the tour, I found myself always at the forefront of foolishness. This time, however, I forgot that a) I wasn’t drinking water so I wouldn’t have to pee every 20 minutes, b) I hadn’t slept properly in a week, c) my fitness level at present is that of a 97 year old, and d) no amount of training is ever going to prepare you to hike up a sand dune. Consequently, halfway up I thought my lungs might explode. I took solace (momentarily) in the fact that I was the only one climbing, but then suddenly Carsten, the “great Dane” of the group (from Copenhagen – Yazz and Sam – I don’t think he shares our passion for Danish karaoke), began his ASSAULT of the summit. He pretty much walked straight up the damn thing without taking a break. T-bone – it was kind of like Cracker Tsunami at the Tongariro crossing: you sprinted up the mountain, I tried not to die en route.
After the 4x4, we returned to camp for the other “must do” in the desert – a TWO HOUR CAMEL RIDE. So a few things here:
1. Camels hate me and I hate camels. I am convinced all of them want to kill me and eat me, but perhaps not in that order.
2. My camel’s name was unpronounceable, so I called him Bob (no offense intended to my father-in-law there). I thought that by naming him we could bond and break the mold with my previous camel experiences. I was wrong.
3. Unpronounceable/Bob clearly hadn’t been fed since Lawrence of Arabia was running around this desert, as he stopped at EVERY BUSH AND PLANT TO EAT. My guide probably should have done something, but he was too busy ON HIS NOKIA PHONE to notice that we were 75 miles away from the rest of the group. I mean, for crying out loud, Sally’s camel was SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT and had more “oomph” than my dude.
Jenny and I had done previous rides, but I gotta tell you, this one was easily the most brutal. After 2 hours, all I could think was:
1. I will never walk properly again.
2. Adoption is our only hope.
3. I am glad I wasn’t born to be a Silk Road trader.
4. Please someone give me a beer.
That being said, it was HILARIOUS, and we have some CLASSIC photos, most of which are of the sky, random rocks, and sideways people, as trying to take a photo whilst sitting on a hungry, jogging camel with a driver not paying attention makes for a rather “post modernistic” photo shoot.
Dinner that night was GREAT – we had the traditional Bedouin and Jordanian dish of Mansaf, which is lamb and chicken cooked underground for hours with vegetables. It was UBER TASTY, and I ate about 10 times my body weight before spending the next couple of hours looking up at the night sky. As there was ZERO light pollution, the view was AMAZING. It was so good, in fact, that Perfect Pumpkin and I slept out under the stars! I hadn’t done that since I was a pup, so it was truly fantabulous (I mean, not quite as nice as learning about all of the animals featured in “The Wild West Show” – PHEEEEENOMENAL…FAAAAAANTASTIC…What the HELL is that?”, but it was still good).
Saturday: Strong swimmers only…and by strong we mean Michael Phelps
Saturday was a drive out of the desert and down to the very tip of Jordan – the town of Aqaba, where Jordan touches the Red Sea. From here we were only 1 mile from Israel and 12 miles from the Saudi Arabian border (oddly enough, JT didn’t want to take a day trip…), but rather than risk nightmare border crossings, Team Taylor opted instead for snorkeling and beach time at a nearby Beach Resort.
So here’s the thing – in Jordan, most beaches are public, but there are “beach clubs” where the tourists go to a) lock up their stuff, b) have better facilities, c) have access to a pool, d) be able to rent gear, and e) DRINK BEER!!!! That’s right, folks – Team Taylor FINALLY fell off the wagon in Aqaba! It’s the greatest city EVER!!!!
So seriously – our goal for the day was snorkeling, and this place did rent gear. However, the quote from the divemaster was “strong swimmers only.” Again, Sammy the Bull, considering himself the peak of fitness, didn’t think twice about paying the money for snorkel gear. However, the second his flabby ass hit those choppy seas, there was a moment of consideration for personal safety.
You see, Aqaba is “the windsurfing capital of the Middle East.” I’m not really sure how many other cities actually fought for that designation, but I’m pretty sure this place would kick all of their asses. THE WIND WAS LIKE 14,000 MILES AN HOUR. Jenny and I spent the better part of an hour trying JUST TO STAY ALIVE, as the waves were constantly flooding our breathing tubes, the current pushing us to Saudi Arabia, and the water so choppy that it kept knocking out masks off. Now don’t get me wrong, we saw lots of very, very pretty (and colorful) fish, but the coral and the water made it a trying experience. On the whole, I’m VERY glad we did it, but I think my next snorkel will have to be the reef. It’s time to see the real thing.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the club, including an hour snooze in a hammock! The weather was perfect, and Muffin and I were the ABSOLUTE peak of relaxation. Good times.
Prior to dinner, we threw caution and previous experience to the wind and tried the OTHER Jordanian Brewery – Petra. This stuff, with a logo that is CLEARLY a ripoff of the Silver Bullet, was 10%!!! Honestly, it wasn’t very good, but hey – we had to cross it off the list, right (insert Grimshaw shaking her head again here)? We had a team dinner that evening, which was DELISH. Roland (our tour guide) and I went head to head in a calorie consumption contest, unofficially declaring it a draw when we both passed 20,000. That orange mezze dip – RELIGIOUS. And I should probably mention the 5.5 dinar Amstel we had as a nightcap, but I’m pretty sure that any more dialogue about it will result in death threats from most of the tour group, as I was the guy who picked the spot. Oops…
Sunday: WOW – you really DO float!
Sunday was an easy day with only one activity on the docket – a visit to the Dead Sea. I really didn’t know what to expect on this one, but I gotta tell ya – it was CRAZY.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, some 422 meters below sea level. The water in the sea is 30% salt, which is roughly 12 times saltier than the ocean. Because of this, you are ridonkulously buoyant whilst floating. Case in point, check us out, bobbing up and down like corks and reading our book (I finished that book, “The Secret Speech,” on the trip, btw – it’s the sequel to “Child 44” and it’s AWESOME)! And I would simply be remiss if I didn’t note that some folks were able to bob and float better than others. Let’s just say that more than a few newspapers were “collateral damage” as a result of folks tumbling into water, with the best line of the whole day coming from Mike: “Darling, put the puppies back.” (Honestly, I’m still laughing as I type this). We spent about 90 minutes in the water, floating around and swimming through what can only be described as slimy olive oil. We even took time out to coat ourselves in “Dead Sea mud” as part of a scrubbing ritual. I mean, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good exfoliation every now and then?
This last day was an easy one, complete with the drive back to Amman and a farewell dinner at “Sam’s Diner,” which is what the tour group christened it after my 3rd visit. I mean, hey – good food CHEAP. Hitman, if they had places this cheap in London, I might have even paid for a meal once in awhile…okay, that’s just silly. Of course I wouldn’t have.
Team Taylor was asleep EARLY this night. Why, you ask? Keep reading.
Monday: Home Sweet Arctic
You know it’s gonna be a long day when your alarm goes off BEFORE the morning call to prayer. Oh, yes – who loves waking up at 4:15 to head to the airport? THIS GUY – but seriously, not so much.
We had a 5 AM cab to take us to Queen Alia Airport, where despite my BEST efforts, Team Taylor did NOT get the bump again. However, no complaints, as I got to watch Inception on the flight (as well as Jonah Hex, which was utter DONKEY TRASH) AND we arrived 40 minutes early! That set us up to cross off lots of to-do’s running around London, culminating with dinner at (where else?) THE DOOT, BABY!!!! We’ve only got 1 Doot run left – how on EARTH is that possible?
That being said, most of the "crossing off" we did was indoors, as it was (and still is) BLOODY FREEZING IN LONDON RIGHT NOW. Seriously, it was 85 when we left Amman and 28 when we landed at Heathrow! My bones still haven't warmed up. Just one more sign that it's time for Asia!
Okay, that’s WAY more than enough news fit to print, but now you’re all caught up with Jordan. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny