Day 27 – Petra, Jordan

We woke up early this morning hoping to do most of Jordan in one day.
We are starting to feel the pressure of the making it to Aswan, Egypt
in time to catch the ferry to Wadi Halfa, Sudan by next Saturday. The
ferry only leaves once a week on Sundays. Despite getting up before 7
AM and leaving last night’s hotel in Amman shortly after, our (naive)
plan of swimming in the dead sea, hiking around Petra, and motoring our
way through Lawrence of Arabia’s Wadi Rum was not to be. We had planned
on heading straight west to the Dead Sea from Amman. However, we ended
up on a twisty canyon road (thanks to me leading us slightly off track)
that seemed to descend indefinitely before spitting us out into valley
containing the dead sea. It was much more fun that the straight road
would have been, I am sure.

We passed a few hotels and one public beach, but we were intent on
finding our own private cove to go for a swim. The road was carved into
vertical bluffs so there didn’t turn out to be many places where we
could get to the water. When we got to the southern end of the sea and
still hadn’t found a place to go in, Tom and Jerry were in agreement
that we try to find a way to get close to the water from the salt flats
that we could see on the southern shore. I have gone swimming in enough
prairies lakes to know that what they were looking at were mud flats.
But they would have to find out for themselves.

We would our way down rough gravel roads, and with the help of a few
locals pointing the way around washouts, we finally got to the mud.
Away from the shore it was actually dried out and somewhat firm (or so
I thought). After successfully descending a challenging hillside full
of loose boulders, I parked my bike on the dried mud for a photo op.
While the bike was in the viewfinder, she went rubber side up for the
first time this trip. And I wasn’t even within ten paces of her. The
kick stand, which I had even placed on a rock, managed to push the rock
into soft ground until the bike fell over. Bah.

Riding around on the mud flats was a lot of fun. I even caught some air
when I rode through a ditch. The ground was too soft and the shore too
steep to get the bikes much closer than about a kilometre from the
shoreline. Tom and Jerry wanted to go into the water here. I tried to
persuade them how much nicer it would be to jump into deep water from
the rocks on the east shore. They just told me to “ditch the comfort
zone”. At first I was reluctant to go in at all. I thought it was about
the worst place they could have possibly picked. Then Ted appeared in a
mirage and told me to “man up”.

I was expecting the mud squishing between my toes. What I wasn’t
expecting was how scalding hot it was. I probably should have guessed
it when another person (there were only us three and a couple of Arabic
tourists on the entire coast) came running back after taking a few
steps into the mud screaming and grasping his feet. I had mistakenly
assumed he had cramped up, and that the yelps of Tom and Jerry as they
plodded towards the water had more to do with sinking in to their knees
than the temperature of the mud. Even after running into the water 10
paces it didn’t get any better. The water might as well have been
poured from a whistling tea kettle. Neither was I expecting the salt
crystals to lacerate my feet as they sunk a foot into the quicksand.
Nor was I ready for the sting of the extremely salty dead sea on my
wounds. Still there is no feeling like floating effortlessly on top of
the surface of the water without any effort at all. I guess that makes it all worthwhile.

After the dead sea we rode the King’s Highway to Petra. The suffocating
heat of the dead sea valley was replaced by a cool mountain breeze as
we ascended to heights that I had not imagined existed in Jordan. The
desert scenery was breathtaking, with deep valleys strewn with boulders
the size of houses stretching into the distance. Despite the chaffing
from the salt and having skipped both breakfast and lunch to try to
accomplish too much in one day, I had a grin on my face. I was riding
my motorcycle through stunning desert vistas.

My smile faded every time we rode through the dusty rubbage-filled
towns, however. Then it was time for evasive action. Packs of kids
would run in front of you to slow you down while their buddies throw
rocks at you. I avoided most, but one big one rung off the side of my
helmet. They would also throw sticks on the road right in front of
you. Then you would go around the next corner and a cute kid would be
smiling and waving (as opposed to shouting and throwing things), and
instead of waving back, you’d be ducking behind your windshield. It’s
strange because without exception the kids in Syria were all of the
smiling waving type. What is different about Jordan?

Overall the people of Jordan have gone out of their way to help us.
Last night a policeman who was on foot commandeered a van to lead us to
a safe place to park our motorcycles in downtown Amman. Today when we
stopped to ask directions to the dead sea, a friendly motorist lead us
to the right road. With the exception of the stone throwing brats, we
have been treated exceptionally well in Jordan.

I am looking forward to tomorrow – we get to spend the first half the
day hiking through Petra and the second half riding through Wadi Rum.

I have managed to upload a few trip pictures from Turkey and Syria. They can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/14077797@N06/sets/72157605843603639/

Updated with Tom’s photos now!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tdsmith/sets/72157605843004857/

3 thoughts on “Day 27 – Petra, Jordan

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