The 5-Star Bandits

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
Trip End Jun 19, 2006

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Monday, April 24, 2006

Back on the road, and heading north, Steve and I left the Canadians behind in Petra, and made our way to Madaba. A quaint wee town, only 30 kms from Amman, it's a little bit of a backwater, but peaceful and untouristic because of that. Noted for its excellent Byzantine mosaics, the guide books will tell you that it's a great base for exploring the surrounding area, including such sights as Mt Nebo (from where Moses is believed to have first caught sight of the fertile Jordan valley, the Promised Land) and the Dead Sea.
Well, it would be a great base, if there was any sort of cohesive public transport connecting Madaba with the outside world. It's the one main problem with getting around Jordan as an individual backpacker, especially if you are travelling up from the south. Buses either don't connect, or run once a day, or only go part of the distance. The silliest example is the King's Highway. A picturesque road running through the hill country along the Israeli border, winding and twisting through the ranges past such attractions the famous Karak castle, it seems like a ideal place for a tourist transport route. Instead, minibuses will only go halfway along the road in either direction, but without meeting up in the middle. There's a 30 km gap, a public transport dead zone, that without your own car, you will inevitably end up needing to hitch across.

This lack of transport options became apparent to Steve and I shortly after we arrived in Madaba, and made our way down to the bus station intent on getting to the Dead Sea for an afternoon dip. We arrived at 10:45 and were told that the bus to South Shuna (our first connecting stop on the torturous route to the Dead Sea) was leaving at 11 am. 3 hours later, we were still waiting. Mind you, it had been a hilarious and slightly surreal 3 hours at Madaba bus station. As we sat there, watching the buses flow by, we befriended a old local guy called (what else?) Mohammed, a dead-ringer for Baron von Munchausen and a die-hard WWF fan. After the usual exchange of names and nationalities, and in Steve's case, a swift denial of any pro-Bush tendencies, Mohammed inexplicably launched into a series of impressions of 1980's WWF wrestlers that had me convulsing with laughter and Steve and I dredging our brains for long-forgotten wrestling war-cries and killer moves. The climax was definitely seeing Mohammed, his flamboyant moustache a-quiver, flexing his biceps and posturing aka Hulk Hogan!

Eventually we made it to the Dead Sea, after 4 and a half hours and a combination of bus, hitching and walking. Hot, sweaty, and a little strung-out from the ludicrous effort it had taken to get here, we found ourselves at the Jordan Movenpick. Having abandon our quest to find the Tourist Rest House, the usual bathing site for tourists and locals alike, we decided to chance our arm at the Movenpick. Strolling through like we owned the place, as if our travel-stained backpackers clothes belied our 5-star status, we soon found ourselves at the Movenpick private beach, smothered in therapeutic black Dead Sea mud, and basking in the afternoon sun. Of course, the famous waters beckoned, so before long we were floating high on the salt-rich waves and posing for photos with arms and legs high aloft.

Between this, the mosaics (which are excellent, by the way) and a superb sweets & pastry shop we discovered on our travels, Madaba kept us amused for about a day & a half...which was okay, except that we were there for 2 days. I knew I'd done my dash for Jordan, and with Steve keen to get to Israel and me worried about getting my Syrian visa at the border, we were both keen to get back on the road. So it was to be Amman the next day, and then a parting of ways. One more friend behind me alas, but another good friend made.

Onwards to Syria now - fingers crossed I can get in!!!

Ciao all,
Luv Connor.
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