January 28, 2011

5 & 6 September 2010

5 September 2010

Today’s first leg too us to the Dead Sea. We went past the site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus and Mount Nebo where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice his son.

As the lowest point on earth you can understand the heat. It was phenomenal. I’ve never experienced anything similar. Everyone went for a quick swim but I skipped it. The salt content means that any kind of cut and abrasion stings like a bitch and I didn’t want that pleasure. I stood in the water and imagined the River Jordan meeting the Dead Sea and thought how amazing it was to be in the same landscape as Jesus.

I think we were only in the water about 45 minutes because of the heat. I think the temperature was in the high 40’s as on the night we arrived it was 55.

The rest of the day was taken up by the drive to Wadi Musa. The place where Moses struck the stone and found water. We arrived about 6 at the motel and they put on a buffet for us at 8.

Ange floating in the Dead Sea

Our group floating in the Dead Sea

View of the Dead Sea from shore

Kate (L) and Helen (R) soaking their feet in the Wadi Musa Spring where Moses is said to have struck the rock.

6 September 2010

Woke up to one of the most exciting days of the tour this morning.


We arrived at the site shortly after 7am and were met by our tour guide Arkmood. He was beautiful and so nice. He gave us an overview of the history that was going on as the site developed, and led us down to the Siq.

Through this walkway are many shrines to gods and depictions of them. In all the depictions the images have no face because the gods do not deal directly with humans. All the way through Bruno kept a running commentary of one liners. I just wish I could remember what half of them were.

After about 2kms Arkmood stopped us and asked if we believed that good things come to those who wait. With all of us nodding in agreement he motioned that something good was waiting for us around the corner. We all went to look and there was our first glimpse of the Treasury.

Before I forget, Arkmood asked us to come look at an inscription. Once enough heads were down he said “made in China”. His other throwaway line was “it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean”.
Back at our first view of the Treasury there were many photos taken. I don’t think to many people passed on the opportunity.
Bloody Camels

The Treasury

Once inside proper there were more photos taken, singularly and as the group in front. I had a lady ask me to take her photo too.

One of the things I can’t get over is the number of cats in Jordan and Syria. Every time you turn around there’s another one. Some of them are creepy.

Mother and Kitten. No idea what the kitten is doing. It's twisted around at an odd angle.

We were then led to the valley of something. I’ll have to Google it. (note I still haven’t done that). It’s basically where all the burials start to happen from. All the tombs started work from the top down. There are two eagles on the tombs. The right hand side takes the soul to heaven and the left hand side takes the soul to hell. On one side are the tombs of the average people and on the other side are burials of the wealthy.
Arkmood led us to one of the tombs to show us the natural colours of Petra. They are spectacular and beautiful. I can’t believe how vibrant they are and the way they all run together.

Sitting under a pistachio tree Arkmood told the story of how the Jordanians government decided to move all the Nabateans out of Petra. One old lady refused to leave her home. She wanted to stay surrounded by her ancestors. The Prince of Jordan visited her and asked her why she was being foolish and stubborn in refusing to leave her cave. She learnt then who he was and she came back offering him a knife. She asked him to stab her in the heart because she would have an honourable death. The Prince, at this, decided she could stay and he organised her to have a monthly pension up until she passed away.

From here we walked a distance further to where some Roman structural remains stand. Here the tour finished. We were shown the other two options we had and were left to our own devices. Our group went with the first option of climbing the 814 steps up to the Monastery.

In front on the Monastry

This trek nearly killed me. I have never experienced such tiredness and pain. Thank god Ange was with me cause I would have quit and never made it up.

But make it up I bloody did. It was slow going. I think it took about an hour and a half. When we got all the way up I started to cry. It was the sheer relief, the beauty of the Monastery itself and because Penny was cheering us on from the look out. It feels wonderful to know they were all waiting for us.

We stayed at the Monastery for about an hour or so before making the descent, which only took about 45 minutes. From here it was the walk back to the gate. Dear Lord, how I made it I will never know. Guess it helps to have two stubborn grandmothers.

Ange, Kate, Helen and I got a taxi back to the motel and spent the afternoon with our feet in icy cold water on the Wadi Musa spring. It was so cold we all lost feeling in our feet after a while, but it was great.
Even with the heat and the pain this day has been the best day yet!

January 27, 2011

4 September 2010

4 September

Today we drove back to Jordan. We left at 8am and reached the border shortly after 10am. From there it took nearly 2 hours to cross. I don’t know what the holdup was. There were a lot of cars trying to go through and I heard Drew having a conversation with someone about visas. I have a multiple entry visa for Jordan arranged prior to leaving Australia but the conversation sounded as though they wanted us to pay more money. Drew pretty much told them to get fucked, stood his ground and told them it wasn’t happening. Nothing was ever said about it.

Once we were finally over the border we drove another few hours to Jerash. We arrived just before 1pm. We got off the bus and were stunned at how obscenely hot it was. I don’t know what the temperature was, but it was in no way pleasant.

The temple structure at Jerash is purely Roman. It is also huge. Like Palmyra, only 30% has been excavated. Going by the size of 30%, the whole site would be enormous.

I can’t remember the name of the guide so we’ll call him Larry. He was very knowledgeable.

The first part of the site was a large round structure surrounded by 80 or something columns. The ground in the area was slightly raised, giving it an obscure look. This look was caused by a series of earthquakes in the area.

Rounding a corner and going up a few stairs we reached an amphitheatre. Not as large or impressive as Jordan but still very interesting. There were carved circle holes in the wall that allowed you to hear the person on the other side talk but also amplified the sound.

Two men demonstrated how well the sound carried. One played the bagpipes and one the snare drum. It was loud and fun and a little strange to see bagpipes. I guess this is another area where I don’t know enough about the history of the area to know if they’re traditional or not.

Ange had to go sit down at this point. She’s been feeling unwell for a few days now and the heat was too much for her.

We continued on up the hill to an area where an original mosaic still exists in really good condition. Its stunning. To have survived time and elements like it has is nothing short of amazing.

Larry led up around then to the top of the Temple of Athena. This part was intricately decorated. One of the columns they call the humming pillar because it moves and makes noises in the wind. You can put your finger under it, safely enough, and feel it as it moves. From here we walked down a flight of stairs. When we reached the bottom someone asked what area we were in now only to be told it was still the Temple of Athena. The place would be almost as big as a football field.

I enjoyed looking around the site. As far as first true Roman sites go, this was fantastic.

We had lunch in the parking lot then packed up and drove back into Amman. We arrived about 4ish. We spent the night in the same motel as the first night we arrived but in different rooms.

Our groups decided to get taxis into the city. We found a place to stop for tea and ordered drinks. After 45 minutes we hadn’t seen either the water or the drinks so we got up and left. This started the seemingly aimless wandering that I seem to loathe so much in the heat. It didn’t take long though to find a nice place to eat. As soon as we walked in the waiters started moving tables together. Menus came over quickly and our drinks order arrived within minutes. It was wonderful. I went typically Western with my choice – burger, fries and a Pepsi. This place had free wi-fi so those who could got their internet fix while they could.

January 26, 2011

3 September 2010

Slept really well last night. I wasn’t expecting to because it was my first time in a tent. Almost wish it was always a tent if I could sleep like that.

We were up early today as we left for Lebanon at 7am. Getting across the borders was easy enough this time. Showed passports, paid the exit fees and carried on.

Our first stop was Balbeck. It is a set of ruins of a similar age and style to Palmyra with many sections build, changed and destroyed during the same period. We weren’t on the site for very long but we got the chance to run around taking lots of good and silly photos.

View out towards the hills

The coloumns were wider at the base than I am tall.

Lion head fountain.

Roman mosaic
The guide took us to a Lebanese restaurant for lunch but all of only picked at what came out. Everyone’s bellies have been a little dodgy from the last couple of days so no one was to game to eat much and to then get back on the bus.

It was then on to Beirut. This really is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Even with the scarring on many of the remaining buildings. The smell of the Mediterranean was brilliant. You don’t realise you’ve missed salty air til you get it back.


Helen, Penny, Bruno, Agnes and I went for a walk around some of the back streets to see some of the old area. Some of the restored old buildings are just incredible.

Kate went off in a taxi to find her uncle’s war grave. She made it there and back but didn’t manage the photo she wanted as her camera and phone both died. Always the way when you want something badly enough.

Ange ended up staying at the McDonalds. She was just too sick to go anywhere.

Doves of peace on concrete road blocks

Old Beirut

Verses the new

Motar damage to a building sandwiched between new buildings
The five of us decided while we were walking to try and find a beach. We walked around with no joy for a while. We asked a few locals but they didn’t understand what we were asking for. We got in a taxi then to see how we would go but he kept pulling over to let more and more people in. Each time someone got in they did a double take to see all of us already in. Westerners really stand out surprisingly. When the cab started going up a hill and out of town (we think) we got him to pull over and we got out. It seems that only people with money were getting near the water in the area we were in. Then we turned around, got in another cab and went back to find Ange and Kate.

Thankfully the drive home wasn’t as long as we thought it would be. The mini bus wasn’t the most comfortable mode of transport because it was so cramped.

It was fantastic to have a shower when we got back. They have been the best of the tour so far. Hot (ironically) with good pressure.