Trip Start May 01, 2010
33Trip End Jul 10, 2010
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Where I stayed
Well last time I left you we had just arrived in Jordan at the town of Aqaba. Aqaba is Jordan’s tourist centre on the Red Sea of which they only have a small amount of coastline on (Drive along the coast for only a little while and you will hit the Saudi Arabian border). The town itself is mostly hotels along the water with a town centre containing lots of souvenir shops and restaurants all underneath a giant flagpole of 130m with the Jordanian flag flapping (second tallest flagpole in the world apparently). Being Jordan’s only window on the Red Sea the city has a lot of trucking and port activity so it is not the prettiest city. Our plan was to stay here two nights and see the ancient city of Petra (2 hours away) and hopefully snorkel the Red Sea one last time.
Our hotel was the Intercontinental which we were lucky enough to get at a very cheap rate on a basic room
There was still some sunlight left so I decided to check out the beach and investigate the local marine life. Although the beach was nice there was not even a little coral, just a plain sandy bottom with a few crabs. I figured that I could probably do with a swim after all the Middle-Eastern deserts I had been eating so I just had a bit of a swim instead of a snorkel. Dinner was a very plain and limited buffet at the hotel but it was nice to eat without having to go anywhere.
The next day we got up at 7:30 (not a time associated with holidays) and met our taxi driver for our trip to Petra. Before we left we stopped at a shop to stock up on water and surprisingly paid only $1 for 3 x 1.5 litre bottles of water when we are used to paying $2 for 600ml here. Jordan seems a bit cheaper than Israel and not as cheap as Egypt but as a tourist you end up paying 3-4 times the price of everything even with haggling which is a bit frustrating
Our driver (Issam) stopped at a lookout at the top of a mountain where few Bedouin were selling jewellery. The Bedouin are nomadic desert people of the Middle East who live in large tents and tend to their goat herds. It is amazing to see their tents out in the middle of nowhere made of old bits of cloth and then see a satellite TV dish poking out the side. On the drive through the desert to Petra we saw a lot of Bedouin camps and it was nice to see camels in the desert that weren’t all trussed up for tourists.
Well we arrived at Wadi Musa which is the city closest to Petra and grabbed a quick snack (falafel with hummus) before heading to the Petra visitors centre. On arrival at the ticket booth we were told that entrance to Petra for the day was around $200! I knew that it should only be about $100 so a small ‘discussion’ ensured between me and the staff. Basically they wanted us to prove that we hadn’t come to Petra from Egypt or Israel for a day trip rather than staying in Jordan. Day trippers have to pay the $200 but we should only have to pay $100 because we were staying in Jordan. He wanted passports as proof of our stay but we didn’t bring them and he didn’t want to ring our hotel to confirm or anything helpful like that
The walk to Petra is a bit of a killer in the heat so we decided to ride the first half on horses. The horses could only go quite slowly because of the rocky and uneven ground but it was still a lot better than walking. After only a kilometre or so we arrived at the entrance to the Siq which is a natural path through a canyon to the city of Petra. The canyon was amazing and almost worth seeing as a sight in itself. The Siq is quite narrow in parts and winds through the mountains in a way that barely seems natural. Along the walls of the canyon are gutters which have been carved in the rock to funnel water along the canyon walls down to Petra. The canyon walls were rich in colour and textures and I’m sure would have been an absolute playground for rock climbers. There were many layers of colour in the rock and I wished we had Dax’s geomorphology skills on hand to explain it all! At that time of day the narrow canyon provided cool shade us in which to complete the walk to Petra.
As we came to the end of the Siq we saw our first glimpse of Petra, the most famous facade of Petra ‘The Treasury’ peaking through the gap in the end of the canyon walls. As we walked out of the canyon which had been almost silent save for out footsteps and the odd horse and cart we came out into an open sandy area with a few restaurants, camels and quite a few tourists. Petra is known as the ‘Rose City’ and is an ancient city carved into the rock faces around 2000 years ago
We spent several hours wandering through the city and admiring the buildings and tombs. There was a large amphitheatre which could seat several thousand people and had been used and improved by the Romans during their time. We climbed inside some of the tombs and again were amazed at the colours of the rock. Some sections of rock were stripped as if painted and on others you could see the heavy marks of the tools used to carve the spaces in the rock. The whole city was one of those places which you just wish you could have seen during it’s prime. It must have been an amazing place!
By midafternoon the sun was really starting to bake us so we decided to walk back to meet our taxi driver
The trip back to the Hotel was uneventful but we were glad to get back to the air conditioned room and out of the sun. The following day was our last day at the hotel but we were given late checkout which meant we could stay in the room until 4pm which was perfect for our afternoon flight.
I had organised a snorkelling tour so I was up early to wait in the lobby for my pickup. The dive company was obviously pretty dodgy (Red Sea Dive) because the whole trip was pretty terrible. I was watching the hotel lobby door carefully for around half an hour but no one came to pick me up. I gave the company a call and they said they came to pick me up but couldn’t see me in the lobby which was a bit hard to believe considering I was standing there with a mask and snorkel in my hand and the hotel staff said they hadn’t come because they know who they are
When we finally got to the dive site I was told we would be there for around 90 minutes. The site chosen for that day was a ship wreck probably only 100m off shore. When we arrived in the battered van I was told ‘Put your fins on and walk backwards down to the water there. Don’t touch anything because there are some dangerous things about. The ship wreck is out there’ after which they turned their back on me and began setting up the two nervous looking Canadians. I would hate to think if it was my first time snorkelling because there was no instruction or anything. Anyway I swam around the coral for a bit which was quite disappointing and nothing like Dahab in Egypt before swimming out to where the wreck was supposed to be.
The wreck was sunk on an angle with the shallowest part of the wreck at around 10 metres deep and the deepest part at around 25 metres. There was quite a bit of wind and the sea was choppy so certainly not ideal for snorkelling but the water was clear enough and I was looking forward to seeing the wreck. As I got further out from shore I saw a dark shape looming in the water below which was a bit unnerving but as I got closer it resolved into the shape of a ship. The ship sunk around 28 years ago so it had layer of marine life over it although not as much fish activity as I had been expecting
This was the perfect chance to practice some freediving so I took a breath and dove down. The ship was on it’s side and didn’t seem to have many fish around it but once I was down near the deck I could see the various larger fish hanging around under the shadow of the communications mast. It was fun to dive right down and see the ship up close and peek in some of the portholes which only contained wreckage and sand not skeletons and treasure chests. I don’t know what it is about wrecks but I always feel a bit nervous diving around them as if the ship’s rigging will somehow entangle me and drag me down to Davy’s locker (yes I am a big baby)! After about half an hour I was down near the starboard side when I was surprised by a few scuba divers next to me who turned out to be the experienced Lebanese divers in our group. After a quick wave I gave them their space and watched as they swam the length of the wreck. On one of my dives I noticed the captain’s controls on the boat and tried to move the levers but after 28 years the levers nor the boat, were going anywhere.
Although the marine life was disappointing it was a perfect spot to practice my freediving and I’m glad to know that I can dive to at least 10 metres on one breath and explore a bit before coming up for air
After the snorkelling I was taken back to the dive shop where we sat around yet again with no explanation for a while before I was dropped back at the hotel. The Canadian’s survived their first scuba experience though the girl sounded like she had done some damage to her ears because she had not been taught how to equalise and as a result had constant pain and ringing in her ears. Nice one guys! So for a 5 hour snorkelling trip I was in the water for only 90 minutes and the site was only 10 minutes from the hotel. Not to be recommended but glad I saw the wreck.
We both visited the hotel gym in the afternoon which was by far the best hotel gym I have seen. Having travelled for a few months we thought it would be good to get a bit of exercise and the gym was huge with all sorts of machines and free weights. Usually our hotel gyms seem to consist of an ancient treadmill, a broken cross-trainer and foam mat for stretching which usually has more chunks missing than a shark attack victim. I guess we have been staying in the wrong hotels!
A quick shower and change of clothes and we were off to Aqaba airport. There was the usual security both on the road to the airport and inside but all without hassle. Next stop the capital of Jordan for a quick stop over before we leave the Middle East.
Not long left on our trip now. Looking forward to seeing you all again.
Daniel + Ly